A few years ago, some of my friends had a gathering at one of the famous bars in Downtown Cairo, named Carlton. I wasn’t there, but I still remember that day and I have hated the bar since then. My friend texted me saying that her group got kicked out of the bar because they were with gay and trans people. Staff asked them to leave, explaining that gay people aren’t welcome.
That’s pretty much the situation in Egypt. You have to keep your identity secret, or else you will face unnecessary problems.
I remember writing about how is it like to be a queer in a Middle Eastern country a couple of years ago. That happened a while after the above-mentioned incident, but I don’t think things have changed since then. In fact, I think that things have gotten worse. Last September, a very well-known Lebanese band, Mashrou’ Leila, got banned from performing in Egypt after one of the biggest pop concerts in Cairo. You might be thinking that something extreme happened! Well, I’m sorry to disappoint you. This only happened because a rainbow flag was raised during the concert as a kind of support to the LGBTQ+ community.
The incident went viral on social media. No not for support, of course! Loads and loads of angry comments and hatred for the LGBTQ community was all over Facebook and TV. A 22-year-old student, Ahmed Alaa (who raised the flag), was arrested and accused of “debauchery,” “inciting sexual deviancy” and “joining an outlawed group,” in addition to more than 56 others who also got arrested according to Mada Masr, So we can say not only the society is homophobic, but also the country, the law, and even the government itself.
I personally wasn’t exposed to the LGBTQ+ community when I was younger – I pretty much didn’t know it existed. Homosexuality and the transgender community was, and still is, kind of a taboo. But as time goes by, you actually get to know that those “sinners” are your brothers, sisters and close friends. And I didn’t get why the society would be offended by someone who wants to own their bodies, by someone who wants to do whatever they want to do with their own time. And every time I get into an argument with someone who gets freaked out by homosexuality or by LGBTQ+ advocates, I reply “Why do you even care about who sleeps with whom or who’s attracted to whom? Why does it offend you that much?” It’s not that surprising when they just keep bluffing or don’t know what to say.
And every time I see someone raises a flag, or someone shares a post or an article about how stupid it is to be a homophobe – or any small effort to support the LGBTQ+ community – it makes me proud. It gives me a push because I’ve seen and experienced how homophobia affects people’s lives. I’ve seen people leave the country, people get arrested, and people get depressed. It’s heartbreaking that someone has to go through all of this, just because they have a different orientation than ‘the usual’ or ‘the permissible’.
So fellows, as we celebrate the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia, I want to say that you give us faith with every achievement. You give us hope and you give us pride. And you shouldn’t feel afraid to be who you are. Don’t listen to them when they call you sinners, because you’re not. You’re heroes. Hating is the real sin. Violence is the real sin. Denying someone’s right to their own bodies, and violating their personal space are the real sins. So happy IDAHOT, everyone!