Saturday, 19 November 2011


Because Blogspot is so un-user friendly, and I am unable to respond to comments on my blogs, I have migrated to wordpress:
Let's see how much better I fare there.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

A National Day of Egyptian Gays

My attention was recently drawn to a Facebook page calling for “A National Day of Egyptian Gays”. The page is a brave attempt to rally Egyptian gays to stand proud, and “not bury one’s head in the sand for longer”. What (to me) seems like hundreds of Egyptians commented on this page and mentioned it on twitter. Although there were a few positive comments, the rest were hateful, ranging from use of offensive language, all the way to calls for our execution.

I see the future of LGBTs in Egypt as grimm. I do not want to be naive, thinking that we will be recognised as equals, accepted and given rights without a fight. There will be a fight, and this will start by us coming out, demanding our recognition as humans. The fight for our rights will be bloody, and lives will be lost.  It does not require any extrasensory perception to arrive at this conclusion. I hope that as we enter this battle, we are prepared.

And I voice my concern, is this national day of gays in Egypt a good idea? Is shocking people this way going to support our cause, or harm it? Is the time ever “right”? I think that there is never a good time for anything, so do not respond to me saying it is not the time for it. But I do think there are times that are more appropriate than others. There are also ways more appropriate than others. How to measure this “appropriateness”? I have no idea.

One of my dearest tweeps drew a very suitable comparison. Remember the march in Tahrir square for International Women’s Day last March? Women, who are mothers, sisters, daughters, breadwinners and much much more, were harassed mercilessly during this march. If women received that kind of harassment, I do not want to imagine what a National Day for Homosexuals will be like. But I do know that, just because the women and women rights supporters were harassed, does not mean one should stop protesting or fighting for their rights.

It is also imperative that we not only rally gays to stand up, but also our straight friends, family, and allies. It will be easier if we have support of as many people as possible.

I hope this day is not orchestrated, or twisted to become, another opportunity for our beloved government and security apparatuses to crack down on a minority, and to present itself as the upholder of Egyptian morality, in an attempt to garner back the public’s appreciation.

I am proud of being gay, just as I am proud of everything that I am. I do want to stand and fight for my rights, but I refuse to put myself in a vulnerable position, and present myself and my friends on a golden platter for the government to attack. Not in this way.

When do I think is a good time for us to come out? Now is as good a time as any. How should we come out? I think coming out to those who are around us, those to already know us and know that we are not "freaks", might be a less threatening and more successful endeavor. But this topic is a whole other post.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Merciful Death

It is easy to support a cause like euthanasia  from a distance, but once you are faced with an ill loved one, you see things differently.

Euthanasia, or merciful killing to those who are terminally ill, was a big topic when I was in university, and we were required to write many essays about it, and discuss whether we support it or not. My stance was always the same, my arguments flawless. I supported merciful killing. If someone had specifically requested to be killed when they become terminally ill, their wish must be respected. As for those who did not state their wish, their next of kin must put the comfort of their loved ones first. Killing them while they are in terminally hurting, or unconscious is the most humane and merciful thing to do. No-one deserves to lie in a hospital bed, with tubes in every orifice, plugged into machines. This is not living. This is not what it means to be alive. Even if they are not in a hospital, and they are not hooked up to machines. Their existence is a battle, a burden, and a pain to them and to everyone around them.
I fully supported pulling the plug. 

Until I stared at a loved one who is dying slowly every day. Too slowly. They die a little by little, but are never dead.

How can I make such a decision? Such an irreversible decision! I have hope they will improve. Is this the end? Am I strong enough to decide that this is the end? 

I cannot take this responsibility, of killing someone. Death seems to us like a much better place to be than their existence floating between life and death, but I cannot pronounce the end.

It is different to discuss euthanasia as you stare into the eyes that you once knew and loved.

Does killing them mean that you have failed them?

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Constructing Ancient Sexuality

Any “thing” we interpret is a direct application of who we are, how we experience the world around us, how we contextualize this “thing” within our limited understanding, where we come and where we are going, and of course what we want to be true.

Think of two women walking down the street. I might regard them as a lesbian couple, someone straight will interpret them as two friends, and this straight person’s traditional mother will note that one of them has childbearing hips, making her a very suitable potential wife for her son.

We apply our ideas of normality to these two unsuspecting women. I find comfort in seeing lesbians on the street, I want to see, and therefore I see. The aforementioned straight person will interpret things the within his own frame, must be friends…maybe sisters? And the mother can only see women in terms of their baby-making potential, just as she was regarded when she was younger, and  this is the only way she knows how to view women.

This is just illustrating how we apply our understanding of the world to everyday sights. It actually has nothing to do with this post.

Similarly, we apply our normative understanding of the world to our interpretation of history, as have historians and archeologists for years, forgetting that thousands of units of time and space stand in between.

Yes we LGBTs and our friends know that sexuality is fluid, and labels suck. However, scholars and archaeologists (aside from many of those who are specialized in the theory of sexuality) often try to analyse, define and label ancient sexuality using modern terms and constructs (think of the gay caveman discovered a few months ago), despite the lack of evidence for this intangible entity, and despite their biases and constructs that affect their interpretations.

Approaching the interpretation of ancient sexuality is tricky. Some scholars of the theory of sexuality ascertain that a discourse on sexuality is modern construct, and “the norms, the practices, even the very definitions of what counts as sexual activity have varied significantly from culture to culture” (Halperin 1990: 3). How do we approach ancient sexuality when we are barely able to define modern sexuality?

How do we venture into the murky waters of defining the gay caveman as gay, or as a transgendered person, or a transsexual, or a third sex? Perhaps before archaeologists labeled him, they should have specified whether they were defining him according to the modern archaeologists/modern world should regard him, or how he (or she) defined himself? Do archaeologists have the duty of attempting to interpret ancient sexuality as they would have experienced it? (Which is not easy, given the scarcity of tangible archaeological or textual evidence of sexuality, which comes with its own set of problems and biases).

I can fill many posts about ancient sexuality…

I leave you with a quote by David M. Halperin, Professor of the History and Theory of Sexuality (amongst other topics):  

“…sexuality…is an area of discussion in which many different social projects (marriage, luxury, politics, housework, inheritance, to name but a few are contexts. Sexuality, as cultural historians view it, it not so much a subject in and of itself – a unitary category of analysis – as it is one of the languages for defining, describing, interpreting and (hence) transacting all manner of other business.

HALPERIN, David M. et. al., eds. (1990): Before Sexuality: The Construction of Erotic Experience in the Ancient Greek World. Princeton.

Monday, 22 August 2011

إنت بتكتب عربي عربي، ولا عربي مصري؟؟

"دا يا عم راجل ميا ميا, و ابن حلال , بس العربي بتاعة مكسر شويه , و بيؤلك انو خريج مدرسه كبيره , و الله البه ابيض"

هل فهمت الجملة السابقة؟ هل قرأتها بصعوبة أم بسلاسة؟ هل لاحظ وجود بعض الأخطاء؟

»ده يا عم راجل/رجل مية مية، وابن حلال، بس العربي بتاعه مكسر شوية، وبيقولك انه خريج مدرسة كبيرة، والله قلبه أبيض«

اللغة العربية المستخدمة بمصر ليس لغة مكتوبة، ولكن بعد ازدياد مستخدمي شبكات التواصل الاجتماعي، أصبح المصرييون يستخدمون المصرية للكتابة.

ولكن للأسف بما أننا »جيل ضايع مش بيعرف عربي كويس«، فتكثر الأخطاء الإملائية، والنحوية، بالإضافة إلى علامات الترقيم التي لا ندري عنها شيئاً، ومما يؤدي إلى عدم وضوح المعنى وتغيير طريقة النطق.

هل يرجع ذلك إلى النظام التعليمي الضعيف؟ أم لأننا لا نجد ما يربط ما بين الفصحى التي نتعلمها في المدرسة وبين اللغة التي نتحدثها في حياتنا اليومية؟

لا أنكر إني كتابتي بالعربية مليئة بالأخطاء، خاصةً النحوية، وكثيراً ما لا أستخدم علامات الترقيم بطريقة صحيحة، ولكني على الأقل أحاول، وبالفعلى لغتي العربية المكتوبة أفضل بكثير من صاحب الجملة المذكورة أعلاه.

هل ذلك يرجع إلى كوني من الطبقة المرهفة التي لها وقت ورغبة في القراءة، وتستطيع شراء كتب؟ لا أعتقد، فلا أقرأ الكثير بالعربية، أو على الأقل لا أقرأ الكم الضخم الذي قد يثري لغتي.

أعتقد أن تمكني – حتى إذا كان ضعيف – من اللغة هو ثمرة إصراري على تحسين لغتي، وإطلاعي على قواعد اللغة (والموجودة على الشبكة العنكبوتية بوفرة ولا تتطلب مبالغ لشراء كتب أو حضور دروس)، أصبحت على دراية بالقواعد البسيطة التي تحول كتابتي من كارثة ثقافية إلى منظر مقبول، وأسلوب كتابتي  دائماً قيد التحسين.

وهنا أسأل: إلى أين نذهب بهذه الكتابة »المكسرة«؟ هل يجب علينا أن نقوي لغتنا العربية المكتوبة؟ أم يجب علينا الإعتراف باللغة المصرية كلغة مكتوبة، مثلما قام موقع ويكيبيديا؟ هل علينا العمل على تكوين قاموس للغة العامية المصرية، التي أصبحت الآن لغة مكتوبة، وتدرس قواعد هذه اللغة العامية في المدارس إلى جانب اللغة العربية الفصحى؟ 

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

The Blog Formerly Known as A Gay Girl on the Nile on the Blog Formerly Known as A Gay Girl in Damascus*

I am gay and I exist.  I am hidden from almost my entire world. Tweeting, and occasionally blogging, provides me with a looking glass to not only look out into the world, but to also tell my world – or whomever is paying attention – that I am here, I live, I feel, I am alive, and I am hidden right under your nose.

My relation with the virtual-world hinges on it believing me and supporting me, since those close to me would not believe me if I told them, and would not support me if they believed me.

I have a cause, and I need support. We all have many causes. To get the world to support me, the world needs to believe me.

Am I worthy of people’s belief and support? Or am I another hoax?

You have my word that I am real. Unless I am really a middle aged madman with too much time, then my word is as good as dictator’s promise for reforms.

Well over 2000 people were following the Gay Girl in Damascus blog. Well over 2000 people have been touched by inspiring stories of a brave young woman, defying the odds and living openly as a political activist and a lesbian in a homophonic society under a suppressing dictatorship. Most did not doubt for a minute the authenticity of this woman called Amina as they shed a tear when they read about her loving father shaming the fearless and emotionless governmental thugs as they came to arrest his daughter in the middle of the night. Even as her blogs took a slightly surreal twist, with her being on the run, many believed her and offered support  and prayers (and even jobs). Her dramatic Hollywood-style-middle-of-the-day-“go-get-my-father”-arrest/kidnapping did not raise more than a few eyebrows, as those following her in the virtual world scrambled to their keyboards to demand her immediate release.  But questions began being asked, the fabric of the hoax unravelled…. And the rest is Google-able.

Implications? My cause has been undermined by a silly hoax. Like many anonymous and semi-anonymous gay bloggers in the Arab world have been, I have lost some credibility. We will eventually get over this hoax, and recoup our credibility, but many people’s lives have been put at risk (see this, for example). Real people. 

So much time and energy and emotions have invested in trying to free someone who does not exist. Could we not have invested that time garnering more support and press for the tens of thousands political prisoner in the middle east, who are real but are barely alive, almost falling off the edge of existence.

But rest assured – as assured as one should be in the virtual world- our causes are real. We are gay and suppressed, we are Arabs and suppressed, we are a minority, and still suppressed. We – Arabs, gays, minorities - want respect, tolerance, equality, dignity, and that thing called democracy.  These things are real. And as long as you believe these, then that is all that really matters.

But have we heard the end of this Gay Girl in Damascus tale? Or are there more shocking revelations still to come?

My prayers go to the real bloggers who have been jeopordized by this silly joke, and to those who are really arrested and really deserve someone to campaign for their freedom.

*My blog used to be called “Gay Girl on the Nile” (not after GGiD), but I changed it before “her” arrest because it sounded too much like GGiD, and because sapphist is such a cool underused word.

Saturday, 11 June 2011

Good Girl Guilt: “I am a good girl. I am a good girl. I am a good girl”

It starts a teenager. Whenever a girl gets physically close to a male, be it just touching, she would hate myself for days…or weeks afterwards. The shame and guilt that she forced upon herself was unbearable. In order to get over these feelings, she would convince herself that this was a mistake that would never happen again, She is, after all a good girl, she would tell herself. She would block any sexual feelings as something evil. A while passes, and she is remerges a virgin (metaphorically or literally), after having convinced herself that she has never been close to a boy, she is a good decent girl.
Another boy comes a long, and following whatever happens, the shame and guilt resurface, she convinces herself that she is a decent girl, pushes her sexuality far away, and the cycle continues over and over.

Does any of this makes sense? No, it does not. We grow up so damn confused. It is not only bad enough being normal teenagers with raging hormones and a keen curiosity about our bodies and the bodies of others; but we also have to try to live up to the expectations that our societies have of us, and that in turn we have of ourselves. Good girls do not touch boys, and those who do are forever labeled as whores and a plague of shame is slated to attack their entire family.

As we grew older, we became more comfortable with our sexuality. But still, we have to pretend to be a virgin (metaphorically or literally), make him work hard for us, “earn us”,  give him bit by bit to show that we are not eager, that we are respectable. All the while we just want to get sexual fulfillment. And every time we get more intimate, we are thinking to ourselves: am I whore? Is he judging me? Did I make him work hard enough? Will he tell his friends? 
How can we ever have good sex if we always associate with it being a sin?

Friday, 8 April 2011

Gender Bending Part 1: Stop. Think. Accept

It was a nice summer afternoon. My girlfriend and I were invited to a gay friend’s party, a different crowd than we normally hangout with. As we walked into the door all guests– who were all gay men -  stared at my girlfriend, their eyes full of interest, curiosity, and lust. They were pretty much undressing her with their eyes.

Something wrong with this picture? They’re gay, why are they lusting after my woman?
Because they think she is a young sexy man, just their cup of tea.

My girlfriend can be classified as butch, although she is such a girl beneath the tomboy exterior. People on the street call her “Mr”. Wherever we are, I hear people asking each other “is this a man or a woman?”

It does not bother my girlfriend, but it drives me mad sometimes. I get upset that people regard her as a freak show. They give themselves the right to point and snigger amongst themselves. They give themselves the liberty to laugh at what is different, and at what they do not fathom.

Their responses baffle me when they find out she is a woman. For example when women try to kick her out of the women’s carriage on the metro, they always give two reasons for their confusion about her gender: She has short hair and no earrings. Is that all it is to differentiate between a man and a woman? Hair and earrings?!

It intrigues me that, in Egypt at least, people are not able to explain why they really think she is a man and not a woman. Earrings and hair is just an excuse to vocalize what they are unable to comprehend and digest. Their gender perception is very narrow.

My girlfriend friend really pushes the gender boundaries. Does this affect how LGBTs are accepted? Perhaps a blurry line between genders can indeed make our acceptance more difficult. All over the world, transgenders often fall of the LGB”T” wagon as they are thought to give “LGB”s a bad image. Tolerance amongst members of the LGBT “community” is worth a post of its own!

I know we are not about to be accepted today or tomorrow, but on the long run, people fear and dislike what they do not understand, and would probably have a harder time accepting our gender-bending brothers and sisters, and by default the rest of us.

Regardless of annoyances, my girlfriend has no problem being accepted by whom she works with and the straight community she lives in. She is successfully shattering images of what women should look and dress like. She makes people think about how they perceive genders, and although the average citizen might not have the mental mechanism to really think it through analytically, they still give it a thought.

She makes people stop, think, and eventually accept. This is what we really need.

Friday, 1 April 2011

To Cut or Not To Cut: That is a Free-Willed Woman’s Decision

I had heard and read about labiaplasty before, but I recently watched a documentary (Perfect Vagina, 2008) that resonated with me. I had been discussing and reading about Female Genital Mutilation, and it seemed to me that FGM and labiaplasty were not very different.

I hate to compare a crime that is forced upon unconsenting young girls, one that is dangerous to their health; with a practice carried out by consenting women who are making their own decision regarding their own bodies in order to feel better about themselves and to improve their sex lives, thereby empowering themselves. 

But I am going to anyway.

Labiaplasty is the surgical reduction of the labia major and/or labia minora .While some women may have their labia “trimmed” due to medical reasons, such as damage during childbirth, most women who opt to have labiaplasty do so for aesthetic reasons. 

According to the World Health Organisation; “Female genital mutilation (FGM) comprises all procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.”

Which sounds to me as though labiaplasty fits under FGM. But is labiaplasty a form of FGM and should therefore be banned?

Supporters of labiaplasty – as well as supporters of aesthetic plastic surgery in general - say that women undergo labiaplasty to feel better about themselves, sexually and physically.  It is not FGM, which is forced upon women and effectively deletes their hope for pleasurable sexual relations.

I say to that, young women in communities that practice FGM are often too young to understand the implications of FGM, and many of them see it as a rite of passage that makes them “big girls”, aims to and control their sexual desires, in their mind a good thing. If given the choice, they might choose FGM, something they see as empowering. It protects them from lascivious acts and ensures that they find a husband.
Their societies force them conform to what other women do, so they can fit in better.

Many women who undergo Labiaplasty suffer from pressure as well, from peers and sexual partners. Through various media, such as scantly clad models which we all know are not representative of what a woman looks like, women form ideas of what a perfect vagina looks like: shaved, in proportion, disturbingly looking like a little girl’s. They go under the knife to reach this aesthetic ideal they see.
Their societies force them conform to what other women do, so they can fit in better.

This brings us to the question of free will – what is it? It requires education and independent decision making. Young women who undergo FGM are not educated about it, and about sexuality. Their decision making ability in this matter is therefore nonexistent. This is the difference. Women undergoing labiaplasty should be educated, and fully understand what they are doing. With the knowledge they need in their hands, they should be able to make a pragmatic decision, and the right decision as to whether or not they need labiaplasty, and whether or not to under go it.

"Women come in all shapes and sizes" it is often said. Genitalia do as well. It is very easy for me to say that women with non-porno-star-looking-labia should love their bodies, and accept them without mutilating them, but I am not in their shoes. I can only hope that before they go under the knife, they are sure it is their own decision , and that it is an educated decision.

"The Great Wall of Vagina: Changing Female Body Perception Through Art" is an art exhibition where  four-hundred women from 20 countries, aged 18 to 76 had heir vaginas cast for this project. The casts are displayed in large panels, showing the varying shapes and sizes of labia.  According to the artist, Jamie McCartney, the project is all about saying to women “Look! This is what normal women look like!” For more info. Check it out, it is really cool and has a short video on the project. The exhibition will premiere at the Brighton Festival in May 2011.