A gay message from the Emirates

Published: March 1, 2012

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.

Gay Star News, with the help of Gay Middle East, spoke to two gay people in the UAE to get their stories.

Abdullah’s story:

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.

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