17 August 2012

Gay In the Middle East

Mithi, mun harif, shaadh, mithli al-jins, and cheth all these words both good and bad  mean the same in Arabic, all describing a gay man.  Gay men in the middle east are not readily accepted,  although you may not think so if you ever visited the middle east. With their fitted pants, fitted shirts, their sweet aroma of cologne that isn't greasy, men are so well groomed (a facet of gay culture). However in the middle east there is no gay culture comparable to the west.
In the middle east gay culture is similar to India where many men live a double life. Many get married to please their family and have children to satisfy family honor. And on the side have a boyfriend or causal sex. Some have come up with ways to hide in the most socially acceptable and surreptitious ways like wearing Abaya and sneaking off.  It is often viewed that in the middle east getting married is like getting job. As long as you have one, you are completely socially acceptable, the rest, just keep quiet.
Many who engage in same sex affairs don't necessarily regard themselves as gay or bisexual. Partly because the boundaries of sexuality are less clearly defined thanking the west. Also because Arab society is more concerned with the sexual act than sexual identities or orientation.

When a young man grows up in a place where the prevailing idea is that there is nothing manly about being gay. In fact it can be viewed as shameful. Somehow being shameful feels worse than being wrong. If one seems too feminine for the expectations of the macho culture. He can be mocked for his girlish mannerisms beat up and ostracize or even accused for bringing shame upon their household, the result is despair and often tragedy, some have seek asylum elsewhere.  However, some Middle eastern parents who sense that here son shows no interest in girls there first thought of many is to seek medical help.

Meet Ahmed, he recalls an encounter from a friend.
"Ahmed tells of a friend whose father discovered he was having a homosexual relationship and after beating him, sent him to a psychiatrist. The treatment involved showing pictures of men and women, and gave him electric shock if he looked at the men, Ahmed said. After weeks of this he persuaded a woman to pretend to be his girlfriend. His father was happy for awhile, until he found a text message from the boyfriend on his mobile phone. The beatings resumed and eventually he fled to the United States."¹

So many stories like the one Ahmed told happen everyday, his encounter is a bittersweet one that he had a chance to leave his hostile environment  while others do not. I am starting a another series to further more on the topic. I do feel that the exposure we see in the west is normally the most extreme. With the hanging of gays in Iran or stoning them.  I want to focus on the ones that have to stay in the closet, that want to free. That live in the middle east who are not in fear of being hanged, but fear of being beat up and bullied by peers and family or even jail. I think they need a voice also and the ones that are trying to make a difference in the world. So stay tuned, and tell me what you think about being gay in the Middle East!. Thanks for reading!

¹unspeakable love: gay and lesbian life in the middle east by Brian Whitaker
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