Monday, December 03, 2007
I think most of us have gone through the experience of having to lie about our sexuality when a direct question is put to us. Since coming-out and revealing one's sexuality in this society is not something to be taken likely or done without ample thought of its consequences.
In particular in the Egyptian or Arab context, coming-out to one person you know, might mean coming out to a dozen (at least) who you do not know. Hence the consequences have to be weighed carefully.
On a personal experience, after having been away from Egypt for a long time and returning as a gay man, my first experience of this situation was with my old school mates in my "home coming evening."
It was in 1999 when contemporary gay life was booming in Egypt. That evening my friends unknowingly chose the gayest place in Egypt to go arrange for our get together on a Thursday night.
Of course, the subject was bound to come out when, few minutes after midnight, the place became predominantly gay. I was lucky, then, that I wasn't personally acquainted with any of the gay crowd there except one tourist I had met the previous day for a coffee and found a bit too camp, hence coffee was the extent of our relationship.
The comedy started when my friends started noticing the unusually expressive hand gestures, the closeness of the bodies, and the obvious gay environment particularly as they all are well-traveled people. And there started the comments and the subject was wide open, like you know what!
I managed not to use my vocal chords to reply to any of the homophobic comments they started exchanging, and kept nodding and painting a smile on my face. However, the silence act did not last more than ninety seconds after which I found myself exploding in their faces.
Arguing their flawed logic whether it ranged from morality, decency, social or religious grounds, and, believe me, they didn't spare me any argument to throw in my face about how "unnatural," "indecent," "immoral," "anti-social," "sick," and of course the famous "sacrilegious" behavior this all was.
I found myself as if in an arena with six hounds attacking me with their collective age of social brainwashing, monolithic attitude and religious dogma (of all denominations, just to increase the open fronts.)
In my enthusiasm I got very immersed in responding, until the inevitable question came up which I should have seen coming: "Why are you so worked-up about the issue? Why are you so defensive of it?"
And there I felt like a ten-ton brick fell on my head. I should have seen it coming with how much I was so red and engrossed in the conversation. Twelve eyes stared in my face for seconds that felt like eternity.
I felt all the blood in my body rushing to my head, feeding those few poor grey cells left puzzled on how to act after my hot blood and big mouth put them in such an unenviable position!
Would they trigger that mouth to spit-out in those six dear faces the truth about my sexuality for the first time ever? Alternatively, what plausible lie could be put on those lips that would satisfy the curious questioning minds in front of me?
I was lucky, or maybe I was just being myself ("gay").
In 30 seconds, the compulsive liar in me burst into them claiming professional interest in human rights, of which gay rights are part. Although not entirely a lie, it certainly was not the main reason I was playing the defendant role.
That evening was the last with my childhood friends. I did not want to be put in that position again, and hence I found myself avoiding them for any other occasion to meet up over drinks or socially. Now that was the price for not coming out to them.
In fact, that night, I reached a conclusion that I could not comfortably socialize openly with so called friends unless they knew about one major aspect in my life: that I am gay. That is the price which some conservative societies and their taboos levy on us for staying discrete and unseen.
It is not a cheap price; it is years of intimate memories of childhood friendship that are lost.