Mauree Turner on Making History as Oklahoma’s First Nonbinary Muslim Lawmaker


mauree turner

Mauree Turner for House District 88

In an exclusive new interview, Mauree Turner, a 27-year-old criminal justice advocate, takes ELLE.com inside their campaign to become the first nonbinary state legislator and the first practicing Muslim elected to the Oklahoma state legislature.


Oklahoma has one of the highest rates of incarceration in the world, and a good portion of the state’s residents are affected by the criminal legal system. I am one of them.

My dad was in and out of a prison for minor property offenses until I was 13 years old, so I saw firsthand the many barriers he navigated while the government bolstered a narrative that he didn’t deserve a second chance in life. In some cases, it can be near-impossible for the formerly incarcerated to pick back up the pieces and start over—which also makes it hard to reconnect with family and find employment.

I never thought I’d run for political office, I’m much more of a community organizer and I prefer to be behind the scenes. But growing up with an incarcerated parent opened me up to the fact that in Oklahoma vulnerable populations often get middle of the road solutions. I knew if I wanted to change that, I had to do it myself.

mauree turner's family

Turner (far left) with (from left) sister Alishia, dad Gil, and sisters Annie and Zinat. This photo was taken in the summer of 2002 at “Redemption Church,” a program in Oklahoma for families with loved ones transitioning back into life after prison.

Courtesy Mauree Turner

Even though my Baba, which is Arabic for “father,” was incarcerated for a large part of my childhood, it always felt like he was around. I grew up in Ardmore, a small town in Oklahoma near the Texas border. My mom did her best to make sure my siblings and I were in contact with him, taking us to see him at the minimum security facility where he served time.

It wasn’t until he was released that I began to truly understand how Oklahoma’s criminal legal system continues to restrict people long after they’ve left the physical prison. It took my Baba ten years to land a stable job, in part, because of the stigma that he was inherently a bad person for going to prison, that he chose a life of crime over family and community.

I can’t ignore a call to action.

I always thought I wanted to be a veterinarian, but the more I learned about my father’s experience, the more passionate I became about criminal justice reform. While interning for the Oklahoma chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations during my junior year of college, I found my true calling: community organizing. It was there that I came to realize how communities are at the center of almost every conversation we have—and why it’s important not just to talk about communities, but also to talk with them.

I told myself I would never get into politics, but when people started asking me to run for office, I reconsidered. I can’t ignore a call to action.

This content is imported from Twitter. You may be able to find the same content in another format, or you may be able to find more information, at their web site.

I never expected my campaign to garner the attention it did. Some people accused me of picking a marginalized identity just to win the race. My mom is Baptist and my Baba is Muslim. My siblings and I were raised with principles from both faiths, but Islam is the religion that called to me.

mauree turner

Turner (far right) with brother, Carlton, and mother, Dana.

Courtesy Mauree Turner

Instead of listening to the outside noise, I continued to propel forward. I began hearing from young folks all around the world about how my campaign was empowering them to live a little bit more boldly as themselves. That’s something I always took for granted growing up.

When I was in the second grade, I sat with my mom on the bottom bunk of my bunk bed and told her, “I don’t see a difference in boys and girls other than how they use the restroom.” She listened to me, and let me know it was okay to be myself, to show up in the fullest way possible. To be able to fall into that place at home is a privilege in and of itself, because many in the LGBTQ+ community don’t have that kind of support.

I can’t give someone a playbook on how to come out, but I can help create a safe space for others to be heard and feel loved—just like the one my mom provided for me. I know who I am. I’ve lived in this body for the last 27 years, and I’m very confident in the power that I hold.

This content is imported from Twitter. You may be able to find the same content in another format, or you may be able to find more information, at their web site.

When I won the election, I became the first Muslim lawmaker in Oklahoma and the first nonbinary state legislator in U.S. history. My dad texted me, “So cool!” Now I can’t wait to roll my sleeves up and get to work for my community. I’m so ready for this.

This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.

This content is created and maintained by a third party, and imported onto this page to help users provide their email addresses. You may be able to find more information about this and similar content at piano.io



Source link