Former Cirencester soldier claims she was banned from Swindon mosque after sex change
11:52am Thursday 5th September 2013 in News
A FORMER Cirencester school pupil and former soldier who converted to Islam after having a sex change has hit out at Swindon mosque elders she claims banned her because of her new gender.
Lucy Vallender, 28, who grew up in Cirencester but now lives on Manor Road, Swindon, says she had the operation in 2010.
In September last year she converted to Islam, became the second wife of a man she met online and started attending the Broad Street mosque.
She has now spoken out against the mosque claiming they asked inappropriate questions and told her to pray with the men. She also claims the police have not helped her to address the issues of discrimination.
A spokesman from the Broad Street Mosque this week catergorically denied her claims.
Lucy said: “At first at the mosque they didn’t ask any questions about my gender. But after a while they asked what my boob size was and whether I had periods.
“They said I was swearing and abusive, but I wasn’t. They also said they didn’t want me to pray with the women because I was looking at them. They said I had to pray with the men. It was demoralising. I said I was a woman, and then I left.”Lucy Vallender claimed
“They said I was swearing and abusive, but I wasn’t. They also said they didn’t want me to pray with the women because I was looking at them. They said I had to pray with the men. It was demoralising. I said I was a woman, and then I left.”
The mosque has denied they ever asked Lucy, whose Islamic name is Layla, inappropriate questions. They have also said she was never banned from attending the mosque.
A spokesman from the mosque said: “Layla joined our Islamic (Tajweed) ladies class at the end of last year as she wanted to learn Arabic.
“She did not know any Arabic when she joined our school but over the months made brilliant progress. She participated in class and was welcomed by all the women until her departure in June this year. We had no idea of gender reassignment.
“Layla did not declare her change on the school submission form, we only learned of this when she wanted to get married. Unfortunately she was not happy to submit her document such as passport or birth certificate required as per the process for the Islamic marriage (Nikah).
“Apparently, Layla also had the same issue with other administrations, nevertheless we offered to help but she found the request offensive.
“She took a very aggressive approach towards her teacher with intimidating SMS and personal harassment after classes. We understood she had a similar issue with other institutes and previous employers. We had outlined the zero tolerance policy for abuse towards the volunteers and a formal consultation was conducted.
“Needless to say that Layla had accepted her conduct and apologised to the volunteer teacher and had stated that she is moving to London for marriage and would most likely not return to the classes.
“Layla was not banned from the mosque or asked to join the men for prayers, we respect the rights of women and wouldn’t even consider such an action. On the contrary we had wished Layla all the success in her marriage and new beginnings with her move to London.
“We appreciate Layla’s article detailing her struggles and challenges in life complicated with both the gender change and then conversion to Islam. It must have been tough for her to share this experience publicly and we admire her courage.”
When asked whether she had sent aggressive messages to her teacher, Lucy said she had only asked about why the mosque was asking about her breast cup size and whether she had periods.
She also said that a birth certificate or passport was not necessary for Islamic marriage, and the mosque was only requiring them to establish whether she was male or female.
Lucy has said she does have paperwork to prove she is now a woman, but was unable to show this to the Adver at the time of going to print.
A spokesman for Wiltshire Police said: “We can confirm that we have been looking into the welfare of this individual following concerns raised by a partner agency.
“The woman involved has been offered full support by Wiltshire Police throughout this process.
“At no stage has she been told that she will be arrested if she attends her local mosque.
“It would be inappropriate to comment any further.”
In 2011 Lucy, who is a keen gardener and can often be found growing red basil in her plot near her flat, moved into Swindon and started rekindling an interest in religion she has had since she was at school.
She considered Buddhism and Judaism before deciding to become Muslim. “I went to Oxford for the day and then I saw the stall,” she said, “That’s when I decided I wanted to be a Muslim.”
Seven months later, Lucy started attending classes at the mosque on Broad Street.
“There are a lot of transsexual Muslims but they haven’t come forward. I was just looking for something different. Islam is just so lovely and peaceful.
“I was searching for a direction and a point to life. I love it.”
Lucy started attending lessons at the mosque to start learning more about her new religion and the Qur’an.
Although Lucy no longer attends the mosque, she continues to be a practising Muslim and prays at home.
The mosque have said Lucy has not be banned and is welcome to contact them to discuss her return at any time.
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