#Middle East
28 January 2007

Story - Stunted growth

You walk steadfastly, looking fabulous while you embrace the person you were born to be. People stare. They size you up, either hoping to make eye contact and start seducing you or to make sure you’re not looking better than them. These are your brothers, sisters and everyone in between and you feel at home and so out of place.


Though you don’t look like the stereotypical gay man, you definitely turn a few heads. And although you feel like you are above all the cattiness people resort to, you know you are ready to claw anyone’s eyes out in a second. Most of your friends are women and you are their first stop when it comes to advice on fashion or men. Your relationships all fail miserably but no one around you stays in one for too long anyways.
You’ve settled into this life quite comfortably over the past few years and this is who you are, without a doubt. Then the phone rings and it’s the call. Your voice isn’t as high anymore and your hands stop flailing. Though they can’t see you, something about the way you carry yourself changes. You become different, more masculine. All this, for a seven-minute phone call with your parents. They ask the obligatory questions about your schoolwork, if the apartment is in order, the weather. And just when they think they caught you off guard, your mother sneaks in a question about a girlfriend or lover. You manage to bluff your way out of yet another attempt and the coast is probably going to be clear for yet another few weeks. The phone call ends, and guiltily, you become more comfortable in your skin again. The bitter aftertaste of feeling like you’ve betrayed the person you’ve worked so hard at creating lingers. You try and rationalize it to yourself but you know that no matter how far you’ve come, you’re always back to square one when it comes to your family, your origins.
Picture your family as Arabs living in the Middle East and your original people are staunchly homophobic. You dread every moment where you have to go back to the person that you were and you spend every second back home performing to mask every detail of the more flamboyant, confident person you have become. Whenever a family member you aren’t out to calls someone a faggot, the best you can do is politely disagree. When hear about fellow gay men being raided and jailed for having sex with each other, all you can do is demurely protest this crime against humanity and hope that they are surviving under the horrible conditions they must be in. And eventually, you realize that soon enough, you are going to need some proof that you are indeed, straight if you don’t want to end up like them. And one day, try as you might, you may in fact have to move back to your home country depending on your immigration papers here in Canada.
But this is the situation you are in and this is the life you are meant to lead, whether you like it or not. Some might think that living here only means you can party at the best gay clubs and fool around with whomever you want without society wagging its finger. But it’s so much more than that. It’s about all the smallest little details that have a domino effect on every aspect of your life that we take for granted.
And when you end that phone call, you breathe a little easier because you know that you are safe for whatever time you have left. Maybe one day you can muster up enough courage to truly face the demons that roar at you back home. For now, all you can do is continue building yourself up for what quite easily could be the most daunting challenge of your life.