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?