Monday, January 2, 2017

Why do we die

To Mounia. Rest in Power.

*****

Why do queer arab people die?

Because our life a series of trauma. Because every time we come out, there is one heartbeat that makes our soul shake, one moment when we are so vulnerable, one instant when we do not know whether or not the person standing in front of us will reject who we are.

Because going home is a burden, a step backwards, a step back in the closet. Because what we learn on this campus we need to unlearn in our country. Because a 'relaxing break home’ is only a reminder of why we left in the first place.

Because every time we board a plane to New York City we sigh in relief, we rewire our brain to English, we change our mannerism, we become more us. Because when we get our passport stamped, we remember that it is temporary. Because our visa expires, our safety expires.

Because our names are enigmatic, our faiths are perplexing, our heritages are confusing. Because we are the children of rich cultures that we are told to forgot, to ignore. Because it hurts, us and our parents, when English starts coming to us more naturally, than our mother's tongue.

Because our parents don't know how many times we've been called a sinner, a deviant, in our own country. Because our friends don't know how many times we've been told that we do not belong here, to go ‘home’.

Because post-Orlando, this is who we have become. The shooter and the shot, the culprit and the victim.

This is why we die.

We are loved as much as we are hated; celebrated as much as we are condemned; in different places, at different times. And every day is a choice, to embrace our Arabness or to embrace our queernes. Because both cannot exist, in one body. And this body cannot exist in one home.

'Too foreign for home.
Too foreign for here.
Never enough for both.'
Ijeoma Umebinyuo

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Home

I never stopped writing, except I just wrote in my diary. I didn't think any experience I was living was valuable enough for me to share anymore. Being gay in Lebanon is outrageously fun, exciting, depressing and angering. Being gay in New York City is not as impressive. Who cares about the boy who left after all. Strong enough to write but not strong enough to stay; back in Beirut a couple of weeks every year to get drunk and go to the beach like every other young person who left; so out of touch with everything that's happening in what should be his home; complains about the trash, the hot water, the internet, the roads, the drivers, the politics. I am "the one who lives in New York" now, the one who seasons his sentences with some English words, turning his rolled r's to soft ones. Who would want to know about my life: you probably have a friend like me and you probably want to punch him in the face every time he talks about how they do it in Amerka, Canada, Fransah or whichever first world country they could afford to travel to.

I am on a plane to Japan and this is the 12th page I write in my notebook. The first 5 pages were about how great my life has become and how happy I am. Those pages, I wrote for me but when I switched my audience to you, I realized the cost at which my happiness came. I left a lot behind and I will never know what my life could have been if I had stayed. It is May 17th. Happy IDAHO. Thanks for being stronger than me, than I will ever be.

But here are some updates. A lot has happened, in the past three years. I am 10kg heavier and have a scruff now. I went from being a mathematician to being a philosopher, from being an objectivist to being a realist to being a perspectivist, so from thinking there is good in this world to thinking there is just a world to thinking there is just what we think this world is. I fell in love, hard, like I had never fallen before and I got my heart broken, hard, like it was never broken before. I did activism at school and then at a national legal non-profit. While working there I celebrated being able to get married in a country that isn't mine. And that was probably the most horrible thing to realize. That's when I started actually thinking of the future I'd build, of the family I'd have so far away from the closest think I have to a home. That's when I realized that my child might not speak Arabic... my child will not speak Arabic. Could I even spend a summer in Beirut? On the Mediterranean shores, with a man and a child? Is that something that will ever be possible?

My child won't taste my mother's cooking, they won't mix three languages in a sentence. My child will be the child of an immigrant. Lebanon will only exist through the stories I tell them. My child will probably be American. I guess my child will just not be like me... but more than that, my child will be foreign to me and I will be foreign to my child.

But my child will never listen to the sound of a bomb, my child will never see a dead body. My child won't have to calculate the time at which the power is coming back or avoid the area where their friend got stabbed. My child won't get calls from me asking them to come home because someone made a speech and now people are shooting their guns. My child won't have to see their friends leave the country to have a decent life, they won't have to leave their country to have a decent life.

I always think of "home" and what it means to me. People in the United States always ask me about Lebanon with an intense curiosity but they never ask me why I left: they know why I left.

Am I staying here after I graduate or am I going back "home"? When I think of home the first thing that comes to mind isn't my mother's cooking or my childhood. It isn't my high-school friends or my old neighborhood. When I think of home, I remember the pain and the trauma, all the things I did to survive and escape. I think of the fear and the shame, the feeling of being out of place. Whenever I had any hope it was not hope for my country to get better, it was hope for me to get out and find a home somewhere else.

Why did I chose the United States out of all places to go? Because there is nowhere else to go if you have no money. America did seem like this place where you could make it if you had nothing. I got a scholarship, I got a spot at a good school and I went. It was not because I think America is great, not because of the "freedom, liberty and the American dream." I am as much as a foreigner here than I am in Lebanon. And maybe that's what I will always be.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

A First Kiss


            I decided to ignore the warnings, the stories and the rumors.
            I kissed him goodnight, in the middle of downtown Beirut.
            Everything I expected from a first kiss was there: the pounding heart, the butterflies, the thrill, and the joy… But one unexpected thing happened.
            When we opened our eyes, we saw a policeman calling us.  We just ignored it and walked away, until he started screaming.
We ran. We acted like we were guilty of something, like what we did was wrong, like we were criminals, caught red-handed.
            Luckily we both got home safely. Stripped of all dignity, humiliated, scared, annoyed, confused, but safe.

            Today, whenever I pass by downtown Beirut, whenever I think about him, hear his name, whenever someone ask me about my first kiss, I do not remember touching his lips, running my hand through his curly hairs or trying to control my pounding heart.
No. I just remember the angry and disgusted voice of a policeman, the awkward looks we got while running in the crowded street and our awkward laugh while saying goodbye like what just happened was the most normal thing in the world.

            I think about how no one should ever have to face such humiliation. But then the Dekwaneh abuse happens, and what I thought was the worst kind of humiliation possible, an incident I have been afraid to share for a year now, seems stupid and ridiculous.

            I open my diary, read what I wrote that night, one year ago, and try to put myself in their shoes, multiply this page on a diary by a hundred, by a thousand.
But I can’t.

            Instead, I just do what I would have done if I had to face a similar situation. I write. And today, I am sharing what I wrote, to everyone who has ever been humiliated, by a person, by a city, by a country.

Friday, May 10, 2013

The Ink


Because the first time I really felt free was that day spent at Brighton while seagulls were peacefully gliding above the pier.
Because Elphaba didn’t let anyone pull her down, she flew away when everyone told her she couldn’t even if she is always seen as wicked.
Because Jonathan Livingston reached the highest skies by leaving his flock, flying alone and reaching every limit.

On a finger that will stay ringless as long as I’m in my country, the seagull will forever stay. 



I have had this dream of flying away for 4 years and when it finally hit me, I started having doubts about it. Why would I ever leave home? It did not make sense.
And then, thanks to Mr. Chakhtoura and Marwan Charbel, I came back to my senses.
I want to leave the country I have learned to understand, the city I have grown to love, the people with whom I have spent my life because of them.

I think that fighting back can change something but how absurd is it? To fight for a justice that is given to me elsewhere? To fight for rights that are as basic as the ones we are fighting for?
At the end of the day, I am just checking another box on my calendar, another number on my countdown.

“The Motherland don’t love you. The Fatherland don’t love you. So why love anything?” (Vampire Weekend – Ya Hey)

But then I read this:
“Think about the experiences of marginalization, oppression, and violence you may have lived though, and learn about the ones you haven’t. Take your time to realize what kind of world you’re living in. In whatever way you can, learn to fight back”

            Discrimination only fuels your power to stand up for what you believe in. The world we live in is far from being even close to perfect and for an Idealist like me, it is every man’s duty to help it reach this utopia.
            Fight, fight back, in whatever way you can.


Monday, April 29, 2013

Marathon for Equality.

I can't stop stressing about how important it is to raise your voice, to speak out.
It helps you let go of your emotions and lets others identify to your story. 
Now is the perfect time to do so.

Join the Marathon for Equality!

If you're short on inspiration, just read what happened in Dekwaneh again and let that anger control your fingers. Write about homophobia, the LGBT community in Lebanon. Share anything you feel like sharing.
If you still can't find inspiration, think about food! (It seems to always work for me...) The three submissions with the highest number of "Likes" will win a dinner for two at Bardo.
Once you're done, send your article to raynbow.org@gmail.com to share it on the LebIDAHO website and the Lebanese LGBT Monitor.

Winners will be announced on the 17th of May, the International Day Against Homophobia.

Don't forget to spread the word. Use the hashtags #LebLGBT and #DekAbuse.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

A Call to Arms

We are scared because the law is not on our side.
We hide because the law is not on our side.
We pretend to be someone we're not, we live this double life alternating between the person everyone wants us to be and the person we really are. We live for those couple of hours every week during which we can be true to ourselves, whether it is by writing in our diary, on our blog or spending the night in a gay club. But eventually, we go back to hiding our true identity because the law is not on our side.
We try to fight, we do it in secret, behind our mask, our anonymity. But we quickly lose hope because our efforts are fruitless in a country like this one, where traditions are so rooted into everyone's mind that even the most logic reasoning cannot budge it. We stop trying, eventually, because the law is not on our side.

Now, thanks to Antoine Chakhtoura, the law is on our side. For once we can fight back with confidence and hope because every single decision he took was wrong and illegal.
And for that Mr. Chakhtoura has my sincere gratitude.

His accusations had no proof and he refused to investigate.
His raid and his closing down were illegal.
His arrests and his questionings were illegal.
His verbal, physical and sexual abuses against  Lebanese citizens were illegal.

Everything he did was morally and professionally wrong.
Fighting back became so easy.
This is why I am asking each and everyone of you to join us. Spread the word, raise your voice: tweet, blog everything that passes through your mind with the hashtags #LebLGBT and #DekAbuse and we will share what you have to say.

What happened in Dekwaneh last week? Read the article on NOW Lebanon.
Share this flag & spread the word!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

A Transition


This is how my life feels right now. This totally useless phase you have to go through even if you don’t know why.

You have to sort all your possessions in three different categories. The things you want to take, the things you want to leave for later in life and the things you will never need.
You have to sort your memories in your mind. Forget and let go of all the boring details of your past but cherish the moments that shaped you, let them leave their scar.
You have to sort the people around you. The ones who don’t need to know where you’re going and what you’re going to do, the ones who need only a simple goodbye and the ones you have to spend as much time as you can with because you can’t really say goodbye.

But there is the laziness, this complete and utter indifference that you feel towards your duties.
So you do nothing.

You go back to your calendar.
27th of March. Four months, twenty days left.

Go back to square one and repeat for the next 143 days.