Friday, September 26, 2014

The time-honored "What are you looking for?" question!

"What are you looking for?" and its abbreviated versions of "looking for?" and "look. 4?" are questions you're bound to be asked while conversing with  fellow gay brethren.

So what am I looking for? My answer is often vague and non-specific.

To many, it's annoying, they want a clear-cut answer, say like: "I fancy bj's in sports car in dark alleyways or on top of Mount Kilimanjaro, you know for extra privacy!" or "My friend has a place, available for 30 min every day after 6 p.m., he likes threesome and you should too, so let's hook up the three of us and have our daily allowance of testosterone-infused menage a trois".

But this kind of specificity isn't for me. So why gay-landia you keep on shunning my "je ne sais quoi" answers?

Now I ask you, do you actually know what you are looking for? I don't want to get philosophical, but the question itself should not be taken lightly.
I mean, what are we really looking for? As gays, as Lebanese, as Arabs, as citizens of the world?

For some things are clear, simple, one-layered and carry no ambiguity, but for many of us, things are never so crystal clear and brighter than the sun.

I understand that for many gays, the looking for part has been dumbed down to a night (or day, for that matter) of fornication, and you know what that's all fine and dandy.

I, on the other hand, don't know if I should look for sex or not, a sex buddy or not, a friend or not, a lover or not, a new job or not, a life outside of Lebanon or not, a new haircut or not, a...well you get the picture.

I still have a lot of un-answered questions in my life, and I know for a fact that I am not the only one. It might strike you as being lost, confused or whatever, but it's still better than a generic and the lip-service answer that you most often get.

Next time someone answers your "what are you looking for?" question with "I don't really know" that's okay! Chances are you don't know either!

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Multi-Gender Society: A Harmless Reality.

A Bissu practicing his role as a spiritual leader

Middle Eastern and Western societies are or have traditionally been narrow-minded as far as the roles of sexes, and subsequently that of genders, are considered.

Gender identity is complex and sometimes difficult to comprehend but to put it simply, a gender is defined by a set of social norms affixed to your biological identity. These norms are often rigid and changing them takes time and requires an adequate environment to flourish.

Most societies had and still have some pretty specific ideas on what a man or a women should be or do. The two-gender societies can seldom accommodate for anything different from this rigorous vision.

But what if a society was able to deal with the natural differences that exist within it in a peaceful and harmonious way without the need to engage in a bitter fight for equality? The answer might just come from a special tribe in Indonesia: the Bugis.

The Bugis divide their society not into 2 genders but 5. Yes, five genders! They acknowledge three sexes (female, male, hermaphrodite), four genders (women, men, calabai, and calalai) and a fifth meta-gender group: the bissu.

The calabai and calalai roughly translated mean false woman and false man. The term might seem derogatory, but in reality calabai and calalai are accepted in society and are not harassed.

A calabai is anatomically a man but prefers to lead a life somewhat similar to that of a woman. Most importantly, a calabai is the person everyone refers to in weddings. A calabai would oversee the whole preparation and gets the final say.

A calalai is a born female but lives her life as a male in terms of clothing, work, and so on. Though not a must, but some calalai take wives and even adopt children.

The bissu is the gender that combines all genders; they don't have to be but can be hermaphrodites. Bissu play the vital role of medicine men or spiritual guides, they offer blessings and oversee the harmony and spiritual balance within society. Some westerners refer to bissu as transvestite priests, but this is incorrect as bissu have their own special dress code different from that of women.

It is easier to understand the Bugis society as a pyramid, at its base are the men, women, calalai and calabai and on top of which the bissu sit. But most importantly, they believe that all of these genders must harmoniously coexist.

What's more surprising about this tribe is that they actually converted to Islam a long time ago, but they kept many of their pre-Islamic habits and incorporated them within an open and tolerant system that believes in the basic tenets of Islam.

Unfortunately, fundamentalist uprisings with strict interpretation of Islam attacked the Bugis tolerant model, forcing many bissus to abandon their ways. Some survived the persecution and continued their age-old traditions.

So beyond the cultural aspect of it all, the Bugis teach us that gender and sexual diversity do not destroy societies, but indeed they can help it to live more peacefully.

The Bugis model is quite unique and does not apply to most socities, certainly not ours, but if a small society managed to find an ingenious solution to embrace its intrinsic diversity and make everyone, no matter how different, to feel welcome, why can't we at this day and age do the same?

The Bugis' society is indeed exceptional and inspirational, but each society should find its own unique way of dealing with sexual and gender diversity. The forward-thinking Bugis found solutions to problems that countries on the cutting-edge of human rights only recently found.

Lebanon is trailing far behind. Though the LGBT community made great strides to push things forward, it's a fight far from being won. Every now and then a blow or a set back  reminds us of how far we really are from reaching the finish line.

The events of the past couple of weeks showed us that we live on thin ice. Mr. Antoine Shakhtoura won favors among the country's homophobes. Even Mr. Marwan Charbel proclaimed his antagonism towards homosexuals; a threat as he reckons.

It would help if Shakhtoura and Charbel paid a visit to the Bugis and witnessed first hand that gender diversity is not an abomination nor is it a threat to society. In fact, it's a richness worth celebrating!

Colorful celebration in Bugis society  with bissu at the forefront.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

اما انت؟ فلا ادري

خذ وقتك وتعمن بجسدي. لا تترك جزءً يهرب من عينيك القاتمتين ونظراتك المستخفة والمستهزئة.

التقط الصور بهاتفك واحتفظ بذكرى فتحك المبين وألف القصص عني وتشارك بها مع اصدقائك. اخبرهم عن قوتك ورجولتك وكيف ساهمت بتطهير المجتمع من امثالي. ارسل صوري لمن تشاء وارفقها بوجوه ضاحكة وساخرة لتنقل لهم حقيقة مشاعرك واتبعها بكلام قاس ومهين بحقي كما سبق واسمعتني.

حقق معي واسألني ما تشاء. جسدي وملامحي تربكك،أرى الحيرة بادية على وجهك. تصنيفي يؤرقك: رجل ام انثى؟ ام ماذا؟ 

تحاول اخافتي بصرخاتك ونبرتك الحادة، تحاول ان تأخذ مني سرا لا احاول ان اخفيه اصلا. لا انكر انك مخيف، ولكن لا اخاف من نبرة صوتك ولا من صرخاتك ولا حتى من سخائك بالضرب، ولكن ارتعد خوفا من فقدانك للمشاعر الانسانية. عندما يتخلى البشر عن الرحمة، التعاطف، وحتى عن الشفقة...عندها اخاف. نعم لقد اخفتني، اعترف!

اتدري؟ لقد ربحت تلك الليلة، نجحت بكسري لقليل من الوقت. على رغم من قوتي لكن المذلة والمهانة كسرتني

ولكن دعني اخبرك شيئا: انتصارك لم يدم طويلا. لملمت جراجي و ضمدتها ورفعت رأسي عاليا. انكساري لم يدم كما كنت تتمنى.

اشفق عليك. تتعبرني مسخا بينما في الحقيقة انت المسخ الذي سلخ عنه اسمى العواطف الانسانية ليستبدلها بالحقد والتزمت وضيف الافق والجهل. قد اغير هويتي الجنسية ولكنني افضل الموت على ان اخسر انسانيتي كما فعلت انت.

ما حدث معي اكد لي انني لست وحدي، اشكرك و من كل قلبي. كل من وقف معي ولو حتى بالكلمة، ساهم في رفع رأسي عاليا وذكرني ما هي القيمة الحقيقة للانسان.

انا لست مسخا، انا لست ذكرا او انثى، انا انسان كامل.

اما انت؟ فلا ادري...

Thursday, April 25, 2013

May it Never Happen Again

Eat or be eaten. Be strong or else you have no chance. It's a jungle out there.

This is the kind of mentality most of us are subjected to or believe in.

We live in a culture that idolizes power in all its forms. We need to make money by the bucket load to benefit from the power it gives us. We envy high ranking individuals and we admire them at the same time, we read their success stories in newspapers, in memoirs and day dream that one day we will become like them.

No one wants to be weak, because weak people get crushed, walked upon, mutilated and dehumanized. They endure this in silence, often their cries of help are never heard.

That logic is inhuman, cruel, flawed but it's reality. It's the life we live.

Perhaps I being pessimistic, anyway I haven't been cheerful lately or too optimistic.

And then there was the Ghost incident. A municipality revolts for its insulted dignity. It managed to track down the source of all evil. All fingers pointed to Ghost, that dark hole in Dekwene's glistening forehead.

What's a good municipality to do? Mr. Shakhtoura found the answer. After all, he is entrusted to have all the magical answers to all the woes his beloved city suffers from.

In all respect and with no abuse of his power position, he goes into Ghost and sniffs like a trained dog for drugs, prostitution, and most importantly for all signs of gayness. Jackpot  ya Shakhtoura, ya 7ilwa, ya ammoura.

Shakhtoura and his minions aren't happy with what they saw. Gays all around. Kissing and holding hands. OMG! But above all what angered them is the sight of cross dressers, transsexuals and Syrians that walk on their two legs after 7 p.m. After 7 p.m., how could they?? Abomination!

Mr Shakhtoura almost fainted, he ordered his minions to arrest these creatures. But this isn't over, the sex of these transsexuals needs to be determined. Enno chou hawde? Rjel aw chou? The case cannot wait, Lebanon's reputation is at risk, especially of its fortress: Dikwene.

This is not the first time something like that happens and I fear it won't be the last.

But why? Well the answer is simple, we are a marginalized minority. Though we might not consider our sexual orientation as an identity but when you are persecuted because of that, it suddenly becomes one.

We are in a weak position, we don't have complete and equal civil rights like our fellow citizens.  As a minority whose rights aren't respected, we often suffer the blunt of power abuses. The Ghost incident and the many that preceded it prove just that.

The LGBT community can be blamed sometimes for not doing enough, for not rising above individual aspirations, and for not acting as a single front, as a strong lobby. Unless we are powerful enough and influential enough, things will remain static.

I know it's not all gloom and doom, there's a light at the end of the tunnel. Things will change and should change. But change requires double the efforts we are currently deploying.

Though it might be too late for the many that were insulted, maltreated, and lost some of their humanity in the process, but we owe it ourselves and we owe it to them to do something.

The pain of these victims will forever haunt them. The weakness they felt and their helplessness at the moment of their arrest will remain in their memories as a dark reminder of how far we still have to achieve to become a country that respects diversity and basic human rights.

Monday, September 17, 2012

The Pope, The Smoke and The Dead Who Can Dance

It's been a while since I wrote anything. My blog missed me, and I missed it. Fear not my love, I am back for a while, I don't know if I will stay for long, but I will try to!

The past weeks were kind of hectic, lots of work to do and lots of nights out and about in the city before the summer bids us farewell. So instead of focusing on a single topic like I usually do, I will share some random thoughts about what things that sparked my attention.

The Pope:

The head of the catholic church visited Lebanon. Believers were happy and anxious to meet him and attend the mass he held on Sunday. Lebanese officials all lined up to welcome the Pope. In essence everyone was seemed fine with the Pope's visit, except for a few groups including such as radical Muslim clerics, atheists and some members of the LGBT community, especially activists.

Being a member of the Lebanese LGBT community I find the position of some LGBT activists quite intriguing. During the papal visit, my twitter feed was flooded with jokes and satire targeting the Pope and the Catholic church.

While I understand many of the criticism facing the Catholic church, I don't accept the stereotyping culture this church faces among activists whose sole purpose is to fight the stereotyping the LGBT community faces.
How come it is not acceptable to portray all gays as Wajdi Majdi style (effeminate and always horny) while it is perfectly acceptable to portray every catholic priest as a pedophile and a rapist? In this context papamobile becomes rapemobile, the pope becomes a child predator and all the associated ramblings.

You can be atheist, you can be anti-catholic, you can express your opinions regarding that matter, however, if your stance against Catholicism based on the assumption that priests are de facto child rapists than you are standing on thin water.

It is perfectly acceptable for me that someone rejects Christianity or Catholicism because he/she cannot agree with the basic tenants of that faith. But we must not forget that, for better or for worse, millions out there still believe in that faith.

Ideals and principles are universal. You cannot accept, tolerate, or encourage hateful stereotypes against a group of people, a given church, creed, or race and then be pro-freedom of speech, pro-human rights, pro-equality when it involves the group of people you identify with. This is racism (or some sort of of -ism, whichever suits in this case) at best, akin to how Israel is a democracy, but only if you're a Jew.

The smoke:

After seven arduous years, civil society activists scored a victory by banning smoke in closed public spaces. The law caused an outrage among the owners of  restaurants, pubs and night clubs and the hordes of Lebanese smokers.

My fellow smokers, I understand your urge to smoke while drinking and I understand that Lebanon faces more serious problems than public smoking, but I don't understand your bashing of this law for the following reasons:

  • The owners of these venues were given a whole year to adapt themselves to the new situation. Many chose to ignore thinking that the law won't be implemented. 
  • We cannot solve all of Lebanon's problems, but if we managed to solve one problem, is it wrong? Is it not worth doing?
  • Non-smokers have put up with smokers for a long time. Every time we went to a pub or a club we came out smelling like chimneys. Ya3ne ma3le mar2oulna yeha. You cannot go on forever acting as if it's your God-given right to annoy others.
  • In almost all pubs and restaurants, you don't need to walk more than 10 seconds to reach an open space where you can indulge as much as you want in smoking. 
  • It is funny how many mentioned that this law will hurt tourism. Seriously? Do they realize that smoking is banned in the world's top touristic destinations? 
  • With time, everyone will get used to the idea. Smokers will adjust and will adapt to the new situation. Just don't encourage them to disobey the law.

The Dead Who Can Dance:

Yesterday night was quite exceptional. Dead Can Dance (DCD) performed live in Zouk amphitheater and I was lucky enough to attend the event.

I fell in love with DCD thanks to the sublime movie Baraka. Lisa Gerard's voice is out of this world, when she sings it's as if she invokes spirits and her voice penetrates deep in your soul.

Although there was some delay in the schedule, but last night was perfect. The weather was breezy and fresh, the venue is beautiful and the band is as unique as it can get. When Lisa Gerard performed the Host of Seraphim, she sent shivers down my spine; not just my spine all across my body. It was a magical moment, in a magical night.

I wish I had one tenth of their talent, alas, I don't. Anyway, I am more than happy to remain silent, close my eyes, and just listen to Lisa's voice on and on.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

مصطلحات تخدم اهدافها

للكلمات معاني و مفاهيم، لها القدرة على أن تؤثر بنا، ولنا القدرة ان نحورها حسب اهوائنا.

يحاول المدافعون عن حقوق مختلفي الميول الجنسية ان يستنبطوا كلمات جديدة لوصف من يصفهم المجتمع بالشذوذ والانحراف وشتى انواع النعوت القاسية. وقد روّجوا (ونجحوا الى حد ما) لإستخدام مصطلحات جديدة لاستبدال تلك التي تحمل في طياتها اساءات وتجريح، لذلك تحل كلمة مثلي بدل من شاذ أو لوطي أو غيرها من العبارات.
ولكن في سعيهم لإيجاد البدائل لأوصاف كافة أطياف الميول الجنسية والأنواع الجنسية المختلفة، قد وقعوا في فخ الترجمة الحرفية من اللغات الأوروبية للعربية. لذلك يصبح الbisexual مزدوج ويصبح الTransgender متحول النوع الاجتماعي (اي والله مش اختراعي).

طيب وما المشكلة في الموضوع؟
بالنسبة لي هذه الكلمات أو النعوت تبدو ثقيلة وغريبة، تفتقر إلى سلاسة اللغة الأم المستعارة منها. ولكن الأهم  أنّ هذه الالقاب لا تُفهمني غايتها. ما معنى مزدوج؟ مزدوج شو؟  لا أعرف، شي بحيّر.
أما متحولي النوع الاجتماعي...يا ربي دخلك، بدا منجم مغربي و ضرب بالرمل.

جندر، تجندر، مجندر، جندرة، غندر،غندرة. ضعتوا؟ أنا أيضاً. على كل حال تجندرنا بمعرفتكم.
جندر هي الكلمة المُعرَّبة ل gender والتي تشير الى الهوية الاجتماعية والنفسية للذكور والإناث وما بينهما. بذلك تسعى الكلمة أن تنطلق من الهوية البيولوجية للفرد لتبني هوية أوسع ضمن أُطُر اجتماعية وثقافية معينة. الحركات النسائية بشكل خاص  فضَّلت هذا التمييز بين المكون البيولوجي والتأثيرات الاجتماعية على الصورة والدور والمكانة المخصصة للذكور والاناث.
إنَّ المرادف اللغوي لكلمة جندر بالعربية هو الجنس، وقد تبنى النشطاء العرب الكلمة المعربة في أدبياتهم. ما العيب في استعمال كلمة الجنس للاشارة لنفس المعاني التي تشير إليها كلمة جندر؟ اللغة العربية، كما أغلب اللغات، تستعين بنفس الكلمة أحياناً للدلالة على أمور مختلفة. طيب، فلنستعمل إذاً كلمة جنس في هذا الإطار، ولنحمِّلها المعاني التي نريد. ولكن بما أنَّ الكلمة هي جنس، يفضِّل بعض النشطاء خاصة المدافعين عن حقوق المثليين النسخة المعربة على غرابتها وثقل دمها.
هل يحتقر بعض النشطاء الجنس كنشاط جسدي، لذلك يُفضِّلون أن يستخدموا كلمة "أطهر" للدلالة على مقاصدهم؟ أم الخوف من أن يفسر المجتمع صراعهم على أنه واجهة لنيل حرية جنسية جسدية غرائزية يدفعهم لاختيار شديد الحذر للمصطلحات؟ أم هناك تفسير أو تفسيرات أخرى؟

لا أقصد بمقالي هذا انتقاد النشطاء، بل لفت نظرهم الى أنَّ  المصطلحات التي يستعملونها تبدو أحيانًا غريبة وبعيدة عن واقع الناس، حتى أنَّ نسبة كبيرة من المعنيين الرئيسيين بأجندة النشطاء لا تفهم المقصود منها. من المهم أن لا يتحول خطاب النشطاء إلى نص درامي مأخوذ من مسلسلات مروان نجار، حيث الحوار والتركيبات اللغوية تبدو بعيدة وغريبة عن الطريقة الي يتكلم بها اللبنانيون واللبنانيات في حياتهم اليومية. فالمطلوب من النشطاء تبسيط المصطلحات والإيمان بقدرة اللغة العربية على التعبير عن مسيرتهم النضالية من أجل عيش حر وكريم في وطن يعاملهم كمواطنين درجة أولى، لا كبشر مُحتَّم عليهم العيش ابدا في الظلال والمواقع الخلفية.

This article was written for Barra Magazine, issued by Helem. I would like to thank the Barra Magazine team for publishing my article, special thanks to Ahmad for his help. 
I highly encourage to read the magazine, it has lots of interesting articles. To Helem and the Barra Mag team, keep on the good work, we are proud of you.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Joe Maalouf, Yet Again!

You will have a hard time keeping up with all the controversies Joe Maalouf gets himself into. It's within his nature, he lives for controversy and sensationalism and makes bucket loads of money along the way. I don't blame him for that, we the viewers encourage him to push for more fadayi7 w sarsara.

A few months ago Joe M. began his crusade to purge the country from the vice of low-end movie theaters. He started in Tripoli and back then I commented strongly on the issue warning that he is a big threat that should be taken seriously.

Now he's back and this time he caused some serious harm. Apparently some 30 men or so were detained after he talked about yet another shady movie theater. It's not really clear how big  his role is in these arrests, and some have cautioned to wait for hard evidence that the police acted upon information he divulged.

So is he really responsible for outing these men? I cannot imagine the shame and humiliation they are enduring now. What about their families? They must be really shocked that their loved ones got caught  in such a mess. These men were outed in a horrible way over which they had no control whatsoever.

Siding with the weaker link, some gay activists outed Joe M. so he can taste some of his own poison. My gaydar whispered in my ears a long time ago: he's gay, gay I tell you. I firmly believe that many many people, gay and straight, were almost certain he was gay long before his outing.

Being gay doesn't change much for me. He's a horrible person with backward views and an arsenal of weapons at his disposal. He's well connected and he will use the media for more vehement attacks on the gay community especially gay activists. He will deny what activists asserted regarding his sexual orientation and accuse them of defamation.

If anything, this whole incident proves how precarious the situation the Lebanese gay community lives in. Many of us have been fooled by the skin deep enhancements we have experienced over the past years. The few pubs and night clubs we enjoy don't change much. It all boils down to the fact that it is still illegal to be gay in Lebanon.

Joe Maalouf and many others will continue to prey on the gay community. Maybe outing Joe M. will weaken him and will put him in check, or maybe it won't. But other media personalities will come and fill his shoes, and many will be just as homophobic, if not more.

We need to look at the big picture, which is how to block self-righteous wannabes, à la Joe Maalouf, from bullying the marginalized gay community of Lebanon. This cannot happen if laws don't protect sexual minorities and if society continues its slow march towards more rigorous interpretation of religion.

Joe Maalouf is a homophobe, a self-hating gay, but it's not the issue. As long as our society is fine with homophobes, and by large our society still is, we will continue to witness events like this.

This is a reminder and a call for action for all those who believe in human rights and equality to increase their efforts to achieve a just and egalitarian society.