Yes, You Can Be Gay and Middle Eastern

When Rima first realized she was bisexual, she wondered, “What will God say?” Rima grew up in a religious, conservative family, and she didn’t encounter too many people like her — until she started searching the internet. 

This Lebanese woman was one of a handful of LGBTQ Middle Easterners featured in the Human Rights Watch’s new campaign called “No Longer Alone.” While many Westerners consider the Middle East a place that hates LGBTQ people, this series reminds us that the region has many powerful queer voices of resistance.

The campaign touches on a number of important points. For one, coming out publicly isn’t always safe or necessary to make a change. A few individuals in the film had their faces cut out of the frame, including Rima.

Even as Lebanon grows more tolerant, the country’s laws against homosexuality remain in place. And LGBTQ people still face discrimination and violence all over the world.

The series also shows us that minds can change. Dalia, an Egyptian lesbian, saw her father shift from hateful to tolerant. After contemplating suicide, Iraqi Omar was surprised to find his family and people of all sexual orientations standing by him in support.

We need to hear more stories like these.

Focusing on homophobia in Middle Eastern countries can be a good way to gloss over human rights abuses at home. When Western countries position one region as “backward,” they can use that to show how “tolerant” they supposedly are in contrast.

Some Middle Eastern governments use their opposition to LGBTQ rights as an identity piece to distinguish themselves from Western countries. Take Iran.

Activist and academic Zeinab Peyghambarzadeh, who is bisexual, told Autostraddle last year that she doesn’t expect her home country to change its laws on LGBTQ and women’s rights, but the government may let up on enforcing the discriminatory laws as time goes by.

Progress looks different wherever you go. And same-sex marriage isn’t always the progress people crave.

After Taiwan became among the first Asian countries to legalize marriage equality, a queer Jordanian researcher told Autostraddle, “Who decided that equal marriage was the direst demand? Did this decision come from all peoples of the community or just those privileged few? If we truly seek communal liberation, then it is imperative to speak directly to the community — not over it.”

As Rima told the Human Rights Watch: “To lesbian, queer or bisexual women: I want, first of all, to send you my love. If they don’t like what you are, they are wrong.”

Photo Credit: Jenna Jacobs/Unsplash

34 comments

DAVID fleming
Dave fleming3 months ago

Excellent

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Graham P
Graham P3 months ago

Great post,Thanks.

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Jan S
Jan S3 months ago

Thank you

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Chad A
Chad Anderson3 months ago

Nice!

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Colin Clauscen
Colin C3 months ago

I feel sorry for a gay person living in an Islamic country

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DAVID f
Dave fleming3 months ago

Thank you

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heather g
heather g3 months ago

People being gay is a reality - that's the way life has been since time immemorial.

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Mark T
Mark T3 months ago

Ty.

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Winn A
Winn A3 months ago

I hope and pray that someday in the not to distant future it won't be a problem in Any Way, anywhere, to be gay. Get over it people. Gay or straight it doesn't matter. Let's be kind to one another and accept each other just as we are. Thanks.

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Donna T
Donna T3 months ago

thank you

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