Being a closeted member of the LGBTQ community in a strict cultural household, especially in an Arab one can be difficult for anyone. Today we interviewed someone who identifies as part of the LGBTQ community, and was raised in a strict Arab household. To respect the individual’s privacy we will leave him anonymous, but we decided to ask him a few questions to better understand the struggles that Arab LGBTQ individuals go through. Today we would like you to meet the closeted gay Arab.
“When I was 9 years old, I remember flipping through a magazine that features male models and feeling a different type of emotion. I didn’t quite pinpoint what that emotion was until a little later when I heard about the concept of being Gay or Lesbian from a classmate in school. Over the years I came to the conclusion that I was a gay boy that had to hide his true identity from so many people. I am the closeted Gay Arab.”
1. How was it like living in a conservative household with your parents?
I grew up Muslim, and I still consider myself a Muslim. Living with my parents was very difficult because I had to hide who I was. It’s kind of like sheltering yourself away from people that raised you and should protect you. I knew that if I opened up, I would get a negative response… actually worse than just a negative response. My parents just have a very conservative mindset, as most older generation Arab parents do. They were born and raised in Iraq, and came to Canada for a better future. Hearing this from their only son would most likely petrify them.
2. Do you plan on ever telling your parents about your sexuality?
Gosh… I thought about this a lot being closeted gay Arab man. Right now I haven’t even found someone that I would like to date or even settle down with. Dating is another thing that is looked down upon. I’m 23 years old and my mother sometimes shows me pictures of random girls and I have to pretend like they are what I’m interested in, and comment on them. But to answer your question at time I did think about doing it. I think first I need to find the one, and then I will have to see. It haunts me because sooner or later they will have to know.
3. Who else did you tell your story to?
Basically all of my friends know about my sexuality. Those people are my biggest support system. I love them and thank them for accepting me whole.
4. What are some of the struggles you have to face in the Arab community?
It’s all about the terrible stigma around the LGBTQ people around the various Arab and religious communities. Like yes I am Arab, yes I am Muslim, and yes I am also gay. It is possible to have this intersectional identity. I think it’s hard because I know they won’t accept me for who I am. I’m very comfortable and happy with who I am; I’ve literally embraced it. I just wish people that I care about like my parents, family members and my community do too. I think I’m just getting tired of the fake act now.
5. What is one thing you wish the people from the Arab community knew about LGBTQ community?
WE ARE ALL HUMANS! Period. But in all realness, we are. We are just as human as heterosexual individuals, we get hurt, we have hearts, and we would love to express ourselves and be your friend. I just want people to know that times have changed, and this is not some sort of mental disease. It’s how we were made, and there is nothing wrong with us.
At the end of the day being a closeted individual of any conservative community can be a daunting experience. It’s inspiring to see so many individuals who live through it, and still get the chance to experience and learn about who they are. I hope this article helps individuals better understand that people part of the LGBTQ community are just humans. Everyone deserves to be treated with respect, and kindness. That is a motif we all should learn to live by. Thank you to this particular individual for being so brave to share his story and struggles.
by Mariam Asif – YLT Staff