Because we have the right …

You took away my right to have a family with your traditions, with your religions, with your lies and your ordinary lives, you took away my right to be a member of a family that loves me no matter who I am, and no matter who I was born to be. 

You took away my right to enjoy telling my best friends about my love for my boyfriend, you took away the right to be out as a man who has love for a man; the right to join in the conversation without having to turn ever “he” into a “she”. The right to ask my mother for advise in my love life, to fall in her lap crying when my heart is broken. 

You took away my right to work without people looking at me from underneath their glasses, trying to figure out my sexual orientation. You took away my right to take a phone call from my boyfriend in the middle of the office, without having to run to the bathroom and whisper my “I love you” to him. 

You took away my right to walk the streets proudly holding hands with my significant other, to print a kiss on his face as we part ways heading to our work. You took away my right to introduce him to people as my boyfriend, instead of “my cousin”, “my best friend”. 

You took away my right to have a wedding that I dream of, you took away my right to mourn a breakup, you took away my right to be a human, just like you. 

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That’s why we fight now, that’s why we have the right to fight you, and your homophobia, and your ignorance, and your ugliness, that’s why we have the right to respond.

You started it, by taking away our right, we’ll demand it back, we’ll get it back, just wait and see.

Join in, blog, tweet, write statuses on Facebook, fight for your right, use the official hashtags: #LebLGBT, #DekAbuse. 

If you don’t know about the Dekwaneh incident, read more about it here: 

Lebanese official arrests and harasses gay and transgender people

 

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Ashamed of my Body

All so convinced that you’re following your heart, cause your mind don’t control what it does sometimes. We all have our nights though, don’t be so ashamed, I’ve had mine, you’ve had yours, we both know, we know.

You hate being alone, you ain’t the only one. you hate the fact that you bought the dream, and they sold you one. 

Darake Ft. Rihanna – Take Care 

His body is the body of an underwear model, his teeth are bright like the guy on TV trying to convince you that buying this tooth paste or that teeth brush will get you laid, his face is structured like the statues of Greek gods. He is a perfection in every physical aspect. His tattoos are designed perfectly to showcase his physic, his heart is shrinking under the pressure of all these muscles he is building layers above layers on his chest. 

And he added me on Facebook. 

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It was puzzling for me, honestly, as I sat there trying to understand the reason why someone like him add me to Facebook: I wasn’t going to accept his friend’s request, as I never add people I don’t know to Facebook, but I was puzzled with the reason of why someone like this guy would add me to Facebook: It wasn’t the smart comments I made on a mutual friend’s post which made him add me, as his comments assured me that he has the brains of a woodpecker, so, it wasn’t for the pleasure of deep and intelligent chats that would explore the universe and its mysteries. It wasn’t for my good looks either, I’m, at most, cute, and I have been abusing my own body with fatty food and stressful smoking for years now. If it wasn’t for my eyes, which everyone claims to be pretty, and my well studied demeanor, I don’t think I’d ever get laid in the first place. 

I deleted his friend’s request, finally, after I came to a conclusion that I was satisfied with: I noticed that every single picture of him, posing in a way that always shows his humanly impossible biceps or his perfect six abs, got 100s of likes from his friends; he has 100s of friends who are all sexual charged, just like him, and he has been collecting more gay men to left his low self-esteem up high with every like they click under his topless photos. 

I tried to put this story behind me, but I was still puzzled with it for another hour or two, I wasn’t puzzled by the reasoning (if any) behind this guy’s friend’s request. I was puzzled now with the reason why I was extremely surprised for getting the friend’s request in the first place. 

I am ashamed of my own body, that’s for sure. I hate the gym, I just can’t stand the gym, and I’d rather be online surfing Wikipedia for some historical event that no one else in the world cares about other than me and the guy who wrote the Wikipedia page, than to go to the gym, work out for hours, and be happy my biceps are bigger by an inch, which will disappear anyways if I did not work out tomorrow, and the day after and the day after that, and the day after that. 

I should be satisfied with my body, I mean, I’m slim in a healthy way, I have a belly, but it’s more of a pump on the road rather than a gigantic tummy that people we’d think I’m hosting an alien baby in there. I’m tall, but not too tall, and my body hair is strategically located in the right areas to make me look fabulous. 

Yet, I feel horrible whenever I get naked, alone in the shower, in bed with my boyfriend, as I’m changing my clothes to go out in the morning and walk the dog. I feel horrible when I’m walking in a gay bar here in Beirut to find that everyone has a body that, in my head, looks better than mine, that every t-shirt they wear would fit right around their biceps, and hug their six abs perfectly, while my t-shirts are loose around my body. I blame myself for not working out, not spending a lot of money on a gym that I’d force myself to go to, and I’d still have the same anxieties regardless of how many cardio classes I attend or how much weight I can carry with one arm. 

In my head, I blame the media, every single aspect of the media is imprinting expectations on the images of male and female bodies. Magazines, TV shows, advertisements, porn movies, even waiters in high class cafes, even the people who are indirectly pressuring me to conform to this image when they conform to it themselves, making me the odd one out. 

I know, logically, that I’m fine, I’m a good looking man in his late 20s who still has the world ahead of him, but in my heart, I feel bad, horrible even, every time I see a man who conformed to these expectations and managed to “get there”. Why is it too hard to accept all kinds of people, of all colors and shapes and sexual preference? 

Everyone is selling and I’m buying it regardless of how my brains are trying to force me not to: Underwear models are perfect, porn stars are perfect, guys in the street are perfect, I don’t look at them anymore to enjoy a glance of the male body beauty, but rather to feel bad about my own body. I am ashamed of my body, and I want to change it, but I don’t want to spend my money on a gym I’ll feel forced to attended, I want to look like that guy on Facebook, but I don’t want to be him. I don’t know what to do, I honestly don’t. 

I don’t want religion in my life, But …

I get email notifications of blogs I follows, yes, I’m that lame, I still use email notifications once in a while, and honestly, I find it cute to wake up to a new post by someone you care about, despite the fact that you never met them before. The Pink Agenda author, who is an interesting person, usually, with posts that are sometimes too personal for me to understand, wrote an hour ago this post: Is Islam Evil & Why Does Muhammad Look Mongolian?.

I read the post on my email, then gave it another read on his site, before I wrote him a comment. As a person who comes from a Muslim background, I felt like he sees Muslim people like this:

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While, honestly speaking, Muslim people are more like this:

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Yes. Muslims are a nation of family guys, with lots of misconceptions about the world, falling from the skies without parachutes and trying to enjoy it. Honestly speaking, they’re not all the bearded men you see on your TV waving guns and promising destruction on the safe families back in the States, and to steal your child’s lollipop while they are at it; those men exist, yet, they are a very small percentage of the Muslim community. I kid you not, I did not think that I’d ever write a post defending Islam, that religion basically was curl to my mother (and every woman I know), it was the reason why my father and I don’t see eye-to-eye on anything, especially that fact that I’m gay, and also the reason why I hated Fridays when I was young. You imagine to wear a dress-like thing called Abbayya and put a stupid hat on that mess up your hair and go to the mosque for two hours while some clerk is speaking in a sleepy voice. Yet, what religion is not exactly that, anyway? Isn’t Christianity all about Sunday Church and being anti-gay? Isn’t Judaism all about funny hats, hating on women and messed up hair?

Anyway, here is my comment on that article; I hope that it would open up a conversation here.

I was born to a Muslim father, and I know Quran by heart, and while I consider myself to have my own relation with whatever-higher-power-out-there, I still do not see Islam as a religion that calls for violence. The parts of Quran that you speak of, calling for Jihad, also comes with lots of undoubtable phrases that such Jihad should be done while not harming a woman, a child, an old man or even a tree. That Jihad should be done by the order of a reasoning leader, and done for the reason of spreading the word of Islam in other nations (which can be done by a TV channel nowadays, if someone is interested in such a matter) or to protect other Muslims around the world.
I don’t think that we should paint any violence done by any individual according to what religion they believe in. I know this will sound silly, but it’s like blaming McDonald’s for every fat man dying of a heart attack!
That said! I do not justify the Boston attack at all, and I consider it an act of terrorism: yet, the religion of the criminals who are behind it should not be an issue to discuss at all; they took their own sickness out on people, the religion was their justification. If they weren’t aware of Islam, they would be serial killers, or murderers, yet, they used Islam as a way to justify their hideous acts to themselves; and we should not encourage other people to use the fact that they were Muslims to also justify an attack on a certain religion; that’s sectarianism.

Finally, I don’t consider myself a Muslim, and I do believe that Islam has its faults and has its good sides, and I do believe that it’s faults are more than its good deeds, yet still, it’s a religion that is still developing itself, maybe in 600 years we would see an Islam that is closer to the current understandings of liberal Christians.

I, personally, do not need religion in my life, yet some people might need it; and there is no religion that is better than the other; there are religions that passed by the timeframe needed for it to be civilized, while others are still in the process.

Also, I leave you with this video, in part because it’s super funny, and also, because it somehow speaks about this kind of discrimination when the guy pretending to be Princess Jasmine speaks about her lost Aladdin, saying things like:

Hey, I’m OK, but I’m slightly scared. My husband’s a mark for the War on Terror. Aladdin was taken by the CIA. We’re not Taliban, you’ve got the wrong man in Guantanamo Bay. Prince Ali, where could he be, drowning in wawa! Interrogation from the nation of the “free”! Bin Laden’s taken the fall, We’re not trained pilots at all, Jafar went crazy and no one put up a fuss. We’re for freedom, Genie can vouch for us.
Bush was crazy, Obama’s lazy, al-Qaeda’s not in this country!! Set free my Prince Ali!!!

Reinventing

I’m gonna break the cycle; I’m gonna shake up the system. I’m gonna destroy my ego. I’m gonna close my body now. I think I’ll find another way: There’s so much more to know. I guess I’ll die another day: It’s not my time to go.

Madonna – Die Another Day

 As our bodies shatter, we reassemble ourselves in all sorts of acts to recreate the glory that once was our souls. These souls, now hiding in the shadows, are waiting for the right person to put our body parts together. We recreate, we rekindle, we remove parts, we reinstall others, we redesign our faces, our feet, or big bellies, our fat thighs, our body image, and we reinvent ourselves, over, and over, and over, and over.

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I’m sitting inside the bus, getting myself together for a trip that would last around 40 hours, not knowing that the seat I got is broken, and it can never incline, which meant that I’ll be sitting like a rock statue for the next 40 hours, resulting in a back pain that I would ignore while I enjoy my first hours in Egypt, a country I visit for the first time. I was 21 at the time, I was naive and heartbroken.

I pick up the phone, and I call Hussam, a short and tearful goodbye with promises to meet merely months after this departure, a meeting that never took place ever since. As I head to Egypt, I start to think to myself, maybe it is a new beginning, maybe I will be accepted, maybe I would stand against the stream and open my arms wide, and maybe, for the first time in my life, I won’t drawn.

For a year or two, as I go through life in Egypt, I struggle, as you do, in finding my place among people, and I struggle some more with finding myself among all the places Cairo can provide you: What am I? Am I the young romantic writer destined to become a columnist one day in one of the Egyptian newspapers? Am I the new hot dude in the gay community in Cairo? Am I a journalist with a thirst to the unknown? Or am I the Syrian who is missing his country and family and wants to go back? I needed around 5 years to find out the answer to that question: That was about the time that I left Cairo.

I’m sitting inside the airplane, getting myself together for a trip I did not expect, less than 24 hours ago I was standing in the middle of Tahrir square, reporting about what is happening there, and  now I’m on a plane I did not plan to evacuate Egypt to Jordan, I thought, from my whole heart, that I will be back in Egypt in couple of weeks, which never actually happened. I call Jimmy, and we have one more goodbye, we were dating for a couple of months by then, we were getting ready to move to the next phase of our relationship, when I went out the door and I never returned.

As I sit there, in my father’s living room, with my grandmother crying and asking me to stay in Syria and never leave again, I think to myself, maybe I will be able to find my place here once more, maybe I can have friends and family and become who I really want to become, maybe I will plan my life around Syria again, and maybe this time it would work.

For six months, I went through life in Syria, I struggled to find a good home and a good life and a good job; as I’m settling into this new life, getting to know real people, and having the best relationships I had in my life, I was offered to come to Beirut for work. Was it needed? Did I really need the change in my life? Did I have to? I cannot tell, what I know is that I couldn’t say no to this job offer. I packed my back, and in less than a month, I was out of the door.

I’m sitting inside the car getting ready for the three hours trip to Beirut, worrying that the police at the borders might not like me that much and I might end up in some unknown prison, I make a final phone call to my boyfriend, who will follow me in couple of months; I couldn’t handle anymore reinventing, I couldn’t handle reimagining my life, I wanted him and  no one else, and I did not say goodbye, I did not reinvented the world around me, I decided to put my life back together.

Now, as I plan to go to Canada, I know that I’m facing the struggles of settling in yet another new country, Beirut is expensive, heartless, yet beautiful and welcoming. I’m facing the struggles I’m going to face once more when I move to Canada, but at least, for once, I’m facing it with someone I love.

Aside

In the Darkest Hour

It’s like a record going round. Yes, it’s going round, going round, going round. I know I should wanna take it off But I find it hard, why do I find it hard?

I used to have a vision I was sitting somewhere up there Looking down on myself doing right For once in my life.
It changes, hope my life changes. Gets alright somehow. Oh, I’m waiting for tomorrow. I hope it changes, can’t just stay the same, I’ve been out of luck for so long and I don’t get much so there’s nothing much to lose.

Will Young – Changes

It’s hard on him, I understand, I relate. He is sitting there in the shadows waiting for a break in the routine of his life, hoping that his heart would beat again with a joy other than the joy of love. Love makes you happy, but it doesn’t make you complete. He, and I, know that.
He feels stuck, like he has been tide up to a rocking chair that keeps on going back and forward until he can’t feel his toes anymore, and can’t handle his aching emptied head.
Inside his head, he is screaming with agony, like a mother watching her child taken away from a window on the third floor, helpless to get the child back, yet dying a sudden death on all emotional levels: like being stuck at the everlasting moment of the pain of the bullet as it enters his brains. Depression is a bitch, especially if you can’t answer yourself the question that is on the minds of everyone who loves you: “What the hell is wrong?”
He is homesick: It’s clear to me. However, what is he going back to, exactly? a ruined country, a city with  no future, a war that is closing its teeth upon the souls of its people; and chewing. The sound of breaking bones and spilling blood is echoing in everyone’s ears around the world: but who is listening anyways? Who cares for the lives and the separations of the roots in Syria? No one. No one cares.
ImageWhen asked by a friend on when I’ll ever return to Syria, I told him that Syria has been “destroyed beyond fixing, the country is gone mad, and no one can save it anymore. It is now the rule of the  jungle, and the rule of every man for himself.”
So, why homesick? to the bombs? to the deaths? to the unspeakable reality that is being whispered everyday in the ears of the dead and in the wounds of the martyrs? to his family? to his loved ones? That is a concept I’ll never come to understand, simply for lack of experience: Me: family-less, rootless, lost between the countries of the world not finding my own since my very own existence. No toys from childhood to remember, no one to call me son with a loving tune to cherish, no beginning anywhere. 
I’m lost in my own mind while he is lost in his own abyss: trying to find a place for himself in a new city, a new country, with friends that are only mine, with dreams that are only mine, no friends but my own, no dreams for him but the shadows of my plans. If anyone should be blamed, it should be me; for allowing him to love me; to leave everything and come for me, solely me, and now that he misses everything else, he has nothing but me to blame.
… yet he doesn’t.
He doesn’t blame me, he sits ideally on the couch dreaming of what used to be; he talks to friends and family members planning trips to visit that I’m too worried to understand or support. He waits; and the waiting lingers, and the distance between my office and his couch looks bigger and bigger everyday.
Like a haunted ghost, while the ghost haunts the innocent people who just moved to the house, the ghost itself is haunted by his own past, can’t let go of his own stories; and he takes it out on people, rattling houses, creating noises, and scaring children.
The war in Syria is tunnel; and we are walking blind in that tunnel; smashing into one another; breaking each others backs with pain and suffering we carry on our own; and there is a light at the end of the tunnel; but it might very well be a train coming towards us to end our stories, once and for all.

Wedding Bell Blues

You should marry me, I know you don’t agree. There’s no two ways about it. 

I should marry you, but I haven’t a clue, of just what to do about it. 

I know I’m tired of sleeping all alone, oh, you and I should really make a home... for two. For three. For four!! For more!!

Nina Simon – Marry Me

Late night Monday, two gay guys, and two lesbian girls sitting around the white plastic table. A dog, the color of Champagne, is sleeping on the dark brown leather sofa behind us, with her ears standing, monitoring the world, making sure we’re not going to run away. In our hands, we are holding playing cards; bored to tears with playing the same games over and over again; discussing the possibility of buying ourselves a “Clue” or “Monopoly” or something. 

What was it that brought marriage to the table?! I honestly can’t remember. We were listening to Adele on repeat; until we managed to phase it out into a whispering back noise while we play, so, I’m sure it wasn’t one of my collection of sappy songs. Oh, yes, the dress. We were talking about how the girls wear make-up and dresses to weddings; and how one of them really refuse to put any make-up on her face. I searched my memory, and the only memory of a wedding was so far deep in my past, I can’t remember anything other than me being so little, I was allowed to join in the women’s wedding side. I was maybe ten, and I was wearing a red bow tie that made me look charming.

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“I would like to have my own wedding.” I tell my two lesbian friends visiting, aiming the hint indirectly to my boyfriend, half joking, “I have it all planned in my mind.” 

One of the girls laugh, and she ask me to “tell us” about this perfect wedding of mine.

I want it to start in the late morning hours, I want it to be on a shinny Spring day, I want it to fall on a day when the weather is sweet and inviting. 

I want it to be on the river, a shiny bluish river where little boats goes around waving to us. On the other side of the river, I’d like to see an old building; to be the backdrop of photos to be taken on that day. A beautiful church, maybe, or an old historical building. 

I want to wear white, “but no dress for me, girls,” I want to wear a white suit with a bow tie that will make me look charming; I want it to be this sweet cute little suit, that will allow me to move freely, yet I’d look elegant in it. 

My best man is going to be my best friend in the whole wide world; Nadia. My girl is going to be my best man, she is the one for the job. 

I want the centerpiece on the tables to be a small rock bowl, with clear water in it, and on the face of the water, I want Lotus, tons and tons of Lotus just swimming in that clear water. 

For the tables; I want them all to be big and welcoming; with no nametags on them, you can sit anywhere you like, no one invited will clash with anyone else. No seating plans ahead.

DJ or band? I really can’t decide. Maybe both? as long as it’s cheerful songs to fill the air and for people to dance. 

“I know my vows,” I smile as I tell my friends, “I know them by heart, and honestly,” I look to my lover, sitting across the table from me, making silly jokes one after the other while I’m describing my wedding blues, “I got them all inspired by you.” 

I’d like to have my wedding sometimes in my 30s. I’d like to have it in a place where my friends, from across the globe, can come and visit. I want to marry my lover, my man. It’s crazy for me to think about it, while living in the Arab world where the tiniest of gay rights are ignored. 

But here is hoping ….

The Enigma of Sex

But swimming in your world is something spiritual. I’m born again every time you spend the night.

‘Cause your sex takes me to paradise. And it shows, yeah, yeah, yeah. Cause you make feel like, I’ve been locked out of heaven for too long, for too long

Locked Out of Heaven – Bruno Mars

Sex, or at least the way I’d like sex to be, is something brutally honest; something that is overwhelmingly powerful, yet sweetly performed; it’s something that ranges between prehistorical needs and futuristic values; it’s the stream that divide the world apart, yet the chain that holds the oceans together. Sex, however, is only merely something; no matter how perfect it can be, it’s only a part of a much bigger dynamic in a relationship where sex plays the role of a physical connection, yet it does not replace or even measure up to the emotional, spiritual, mental and social connections that a relationship requires.

Yet, gay people in Lebanon, and in the Arab world, pay too much attention to it; and not just “it”, but the minimum requirements of it: the most important aspect of an Arab gay man maturity is knowing the “role” he wants to play in sex: am I a top? a bottom? versatile?

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What brought me to this topic is couple of things:

Firstly, my friend Pierre is visiting from Syria, and has been living with me and my boyfriend for the past week or so. Pierre, bless his soul, is a traditional gay man from the Arabia, he is trying his best to educate himself about his sexual identity, and he has developed a good sense of that. Yet, he still result to labeling others, especially gay men, according to his perspective of their sexual preference in bed; I will admit that I am guilty of doing the same thing personally multiple times before; mostly jokingly; yet sometimes, I find myself even doing it in my own mind; this guy is a bottom for sure, this guy might be versatile and so on. I don’t like labels, and I train myself not to fall for labeling anyone; as stereotyping is the main concern of an LGBT activist in the Arab world; yet you find yourself labeling certain people with certain personal and physical trends with certain labels regarding their sexuality; while I’m educated enough to understand how fluid the sexuality of any person can be; and how changeable it is. The smartest thing I learned to do is to adapt to change; especially in our world of constant changes; so why am I not giving the same doubt to the sexuality of other people?

That brings me to the second point I have, which came from an Egyptian friend of mine, she was visiting Beirut couple of months ago when I introduced her to a lesbian friend of mine; saying exactly that to her: “This is so-and-so, she is a lesbian”. The question, which turned out to be both logical and valid in my Egyptian friend’s mind, is simple: “Why did I need to know that? Why did you tell me?” Knowing my friend, she won’t change the way she treats so-and-so based on sexuality, so, why would it matter to my Egyptian friend if so-and-so is lesbian, bisexual, straight or trans? I tried to logically explain to myself why was I labeling my own friend; and while I managed to come up with an excuse about coming out of the closet and normalizing and all that nonsense; I still felt weird about this trend in my own personality. I do point out sometimes to my friends that this actor or that singer are LGBT. Some based on true knowledge, others on pure rumors. Why do I do that? I’m not sure.

One of the main jokes of my friends is  to try to subtly, but fail miserably, find out who is the top and who is the bottom in my own relationship. I heard jokes about the matter, friends even made assumptions of their own and ran with it; which I kinda found both weird and somehow rude. I made a speech once, half drunk, how firstly, my sexual relationship with my partner is fluid and changes according to desires and needs of both parties; and secondly that my private life is called private for a reason.

Let me quote Homos Libnani on this one:

No one can be purely bottom or top. And no one can stay in a relationship where they are only perceived as far as their categories. Human sexuality is much more fluid than that, and it takes a lot of courage and commitment to accept it’s just a part of you, but not you. There are other parts to look for besides spending your life proving to yourself and around you that you’re the best bottom or the best top.

Finally, it seems to me that this problem is not limited to the Arab world alone, here is an example, of a funny, yet somehow wrong, video parody of the beautiful “Girl on Fire” song by Alicia Keys.

Be careful, this song is surely not suitable for work environmental. 

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