Feature: Gay testimonies from the Emirates
The removal of an anti-gay video, made in the United Arab Emirates, from YouTube has started the first stirrings of positive dialogue around lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues in the Emirates.
PinkNews.co.uk, with the help of Gay Middle East, spoke to two gay people in the UAE to get their stories.
I just want parents to hear how their kids feel, how I felt and couldn’t be heard because I didn’t dare to speak out.
I was really bullied in school and called names. I remember vividly being called ‘daga’, I don’t know an equivalent offensive term in English, it’s like someone who is very submissive, flamboyant and being taking advantage of.
I felt ashamed inside, like I have a dirty secret, so I felt I had to hide, or answer back: ‘Ha! You’re daga yourself’. So we traded insults and I felt compelled by shame and guilt to act like a macho man who bragged about dating girls, etc.
One day in high school, an imam came to do a lecture and told us: ‘If you masturbate you are going to go blind and go to hell.’
I couldn’t understand how my parents didn’t go blind. So I asked: ‘But why aren’t my parents blind?’ And I got suspended.
That was the limit of our sex education.
In our biology class we had all pictures of pregnant women cut off, and at grade 6/8, I can’t exactly recall, they one day suddenly separated the girls and boys. We went to gym and the girls vanished. Years later I learned that they had a special lesson about what it means to have a period.
We just didn’t have a clue about sex or sexuality, basic biology, not even from the internet because all the sites were blocked. So for me and my classmates we had to learn how to hack websites, at the age of 15! We were so repressed and sexually frustrated – even my heterosexual classmates.
On top of it all I was ready to explode psychosocially with my ‘dirty’ secret. With my parents completely revolted by these subjects and unsympathetic to any discussion of sexuality or intimacy, I had no one to talk with for a long while.
Beneath it all I started believing I was mentally sick, that I had an illness. I even had a crush on a guy but that made me feel disgusted, guilty and ashamed of what I felt. The pain and hurt was so intense that I felt like committing suicide.
I don’t know how I survived high school; carrying that ‘dirty’ secret felt so heavy, so painful, and I almost lost hope. It took long term psychotherapy to work through this, and I still carry scars.
I guess hope kept me going… I just kept on thinking, this is going to end one day, I am going to have my dream of finding a boyfriend, sharing a life with him and a cat.
I eventually felt more at peace with myself and could say to myself: ‘Yes I am and that’s ok,’ and really feel and mean it. Now I can speak the truth, even if my voice shakes.
But many people that went through this still can’t speak and live with their burden of a ‘dirty secret’ with grave consequences for their entire lives. Many kids and adolescent youths are being traumatised for life right now, like I was, and like many adults that continue to be.
Campaigns were launched, for example, the recent one against the Boyat [“masculine”-appearing women], telling us how girls should behave and that anything else is sick and abnormal and needs to be treated and cured by hormones and or ‘psychology’. Or alternatively how men should behave and how, as a contrast, sick and sinful homosexuality is. This is done without anyone even having a chance to listen to our experiences.
So this is why I welcome dialogue as a first step; rather than campaigns, let’s have a dialogue in our society and especially with families. Let’s speak about sexuality not only homosexuality. Let’s try to understand the youth and give them some hope. I am not even asking that people completely accept things, just that they allow us to be heard and listened to, and, most of all, offer some hope for our youth.
I discovered my sexual orientation at a very young age. And as I was growing up, I tried very hard to change to what my surroundings taught me. That a man is supposed to be with a woman, and that’s how life is. The years went by, and after trying innumerable times, it just didn’t work out, and I just learned to accept myself the way that I am.
I was not thrilled about the idea, and every night before I laid my head on my pillow, my prayer was: ‘Oh God, please don’t let anyone find out this little secret of mine.’ Moreover, I used to have nightmares about being publicly humiliated for who I was and I was always insecure about myself in everything I did.
In late March 2011 I finally packed up my courage and posted to the world on Facebook that yes, I’m gay! And there’s nothing you can do nothing about it. And, as if being possessed by a demon, it felt as though I just came out of an exorcism. I felt a burden being magically removed from my shoulders. There was a smile on my face that made me look like the most idiotic person on earth!
That status received only three ‘likes’ and well over 80 comments, three quarters of which were saying my account was hacked and the rest were all hate.
Not one person supported me.
After explaining everything to everyone who had a doubt and after gaining a bit more courage, I told my parents. At first they were neutral and affectionate because of my emotional situation at the time. Then, they thanked me for my honesty and we decided to talk the next day. We discussed and it was an average conversation. It was very hard for them to absorb what’s going on. The mood was a mix of anger and concern. And then later, adult gossip started spreading.
My parents were humiliated by other adults and naturally, I got all the blame. I was threatened by my own mother that if I didn’t bluff everything, I couldn’t call her mum anymore. I promised her that I would do whatever she wants because she was so hurt, and tiptoed back into the closet. (Later I came out fully once more and for good.)
A few weeks later, we had a more open-minded conversation that cleared up a few bumps here and there. I discovered that my parents are completely against homosexuality, and are disgusted by gay people; calling us ‘filthy pieces of trash’. Out of anger, they even preferred my death over me being gay.
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I faced many friends who supported me and still continue to support me and believe in me, and these people have been the flame of my heart. I will never forget them for being there for me when I needed them.
On the other hand I faced a few self-appointed homophobic judges on my way, which I just learned to ignore and walk over. It was really sad that the biggest homophobe I’ve ever met in my life was my own best friend. No matter, for freedom there must be a sacrifice and that was a sacrifice I was willing to make.
I live a happy and loving life, filled with great people who I love and am loved by, so what I would like to tell you guys as LGBT people around the world is to be yourself. Don’t let anyone say a word against who you are because ‘baby you were born this way’!
And to the LGBT people in the Arab world, be yourself but don’t demonstrate it. In an Islamic country, men are forbidden to show love to even women in public, let alone other men!
Speaking of Islamic countries, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) follows the Sharia law as the guideline of life for its citizens and people. And in the Sharia law, homosexuality is taboo. Therefore, members of the LGBT in the UAE if spotted by four eyewitnesses performing homosexual acts become subject to flogging, hormonal treatments that usually lead to death, imprisonment or in extreme cases a death sentence!
They say man is responsible for his own ruin; well if you provoke certain people who are sensitive on this matter with acts they don’t approve of, they automatically ensure your end. So, being wary is keen.
I love you all, and make sure you don’t die a copy, because you were born an original.
I’d just like to conclude by saying thanks to Lady Gaga; I love you so much. Thank you for lighting the path for me! Your spiritual support is what keeps me alive. God bless the LGBT.