Receiving backlash on his previous article, Ahmed AR was soon to rediscover the harsh realities of being a gay man in Egypt, stigmatised by society and state alike.
I wrote a piece two weeks ago titled On the Gay Movement. The ultimate goal of that piece was to humanise gay men and perhaps, in a way, get a debate started that would (hopefully) lead to acceptance and understanding.
That didn't happen
Granted, some of the comments I had read showed a certain degree of support towards the LGBT community, however, a big chunk of them were just malicious and downright fucked up.
This piece isn't meant to challenge anyone, and is probably one of the most difficult pieces I'll ever write. I understand the risks of speaking out, because let's face it, anyone who knows me personally knows that I am Ahmed AR (and that I was never huge on sharing terribly personal and scarring experiences publicly).
I work in development, I run a tiny non-profit that focuses on developmental projects in rural Egypt. I am also a gay rights advocate, having worked on LGBT rights in one of Egypt's biggest human rights organisations. Over the span of my career, I managed to build some connections with the LGBT community. After I was fired from the aforementioned organisation almost two years ago, a lot of my cases did not find other organisations and people to turn to, so they'd often times still contact me. Whether it was transgender people looking to leave the country to get sexual reassignment surgery, or a young lesbian girl from Mansoura who needed an out of the country after her family found out she's gay; I've seen it all, and I'm unbelievably grateful I have.
A few months ago, after landing in Cairo airport from a short overseas work trip, I realised how bad the harassment of gay men is, because it happened to me. I stood in line of passport control, and when my turn came I was asked to step aside. A few minutes later they took me to a room where there was no less than 10 police officers standing around. I was asked a few questions about the nature of my work, my sexual preference, I was threatened, tossed around, and eventually faced with some very dark experiences.
The rest is history.
I realise now that I cannot write about this in as much detail and strength as I'd like. That's my issue to deal with though, not yours.
I've spent the past few months trying my best not to be resentful of everyone around me. Although I am completely aware that what happened to me was no one's fault except for ignorance, negligence, and hate by the government and society, I can't help but feel this sense of culpability for just being gay.
I've come across multiple cases since; gay men who were also sexually abused, humiliated, and tortured. When you've gone through the same thing yourself, your 'empathometer' implodes because, not only do you feel the exact same feelings they are, but also because ultimately you realise that the majority of people around you have this sense of entitlement to remind you that you deserved this.
And that's the thing: it's not just the government's fault. It's the fault of every hypocritical neo-liberal douche, every single closed-minded fuck, every single silent queen. You helped make this something 'okay' with your silence and bigotry.
I'm not sure why I wrote this piece, I'm definitely very bitter writing it. I'm hoping it's a stepping stone till I have enough courage to speak out publicly, or maybe it's just my 39 fever talking, or heck, maybe I'm doing this for attention, God knows. At the end of the day, I will keep fighting to the best of my ability until gay men are no longer prosecuted for being themselves.
Thank you fambam, Funky, NB, B, D, Sherida, Schlomo, Sonson, Loulie, Beebz, Lala, Imz, Foufs, Sherryberry, Fatoum, 7aloumy, Rouj, and anyone who I may have forgotten, for giving me the strength to carry on, and the courage to write this (I hate using nicknames, but I had to, to protect the ones I love). I am forever indebted and grateful.
Photo of graffiti on Mohamed Mahmoud Street courtesy of Your Middle East.