I understand you now ~ Jordanian Play heavily criticizes the Government
I went with my family to watch a play yesterday -my first Jordanian play, if you will. I wasn’t expecting much, because from my experience, the art scene in Jordan is disappointingly limited. cliche-full, and child-like, as it has not achieved any sort of maturity, let alone originality.
The name of this play was “I understand you now”. It was political satire that drew a contrast between the average Jordanian’s frustrations with the government (including lack of true democracy) and his abuse and dictatorship as the “man of the house”.
Frankly -and this is a big statement for me to make, as I am very difficult to impress- the play was one of the best written works I have ever come across. Every line was purposeful, and offered a unique -sometimes even poetic- social or political critique of our people and/or governments. Much of the criticism was daring, as it targeted ministers, prime ministers and even the king himself (who attended the play a couple of weeks ago). Knowing how fear-struck artists in Jordan are about critiquing the government (due to Jordan intelligence threats) I was taken by surprise.
As an artist and writer, I believe that play was a leap forward for Jordanian artists. I can imagine that the playwright, director and cast took a huge risk upon their decision to bring all this criticism to stage.
That daring trust in the truth of the average Jordanian’s life makes me question my own work and how comfortable it is to lay under the headlights exposed and honest.
Homeless for the Holidays: New York City’s Homeless LGBT Youth
Executive Director, Ali Forney Center
Published in the Huffington post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/carl-siciliano/homeless-gay-youth_b_1158040.html?ref=gay-voices#s555253&title=Envy
You weren’t born to be abandoned
You weren’t born to be forsaken
You were born to be loved
You were born to be loved
Over the past few weeks I have been meeting with homeless LGBT youth. Each young person was, at the time I met with and photographed them, struggling to survive out on the streets as they waited for one of the few youth shelter beds in New York City to open up to them.
Their stories do not fit in the traditional narratives of the holiday season. No warm family gatherings for these kids. No presents, no feasts. No “sleeping in heavenly peace.” Many have been cast out of their homes, driven out by homophobia. Made to know that being LGBT makes them unlovable in the eyes of their families. Made to know that being gay made them disposable.
Nor do their stories conform to the traditional narrative of “coming out” that the LGBT community likes to tell. Coming out for these kids was not primarily experienced as liberating and freeing, nor was it experienced as finding acceptance in the broader LGBT community. For these kids, coming out meant being driven from their homes, denied love, denied all economic support, made to suffer utter destitution. And, shamefully, despite the numbers of homeless LGBT youth across the nation reaching epidemic proportions, their plight has not been at the forefront of the attention of the LGBT community.
And their stories certainly belie the notion that the citizens of our city, state, and nation can find some safety net to protect them. I noted with sorrow that, as I was photographing these abandoned children on the piers and streets along the far West Side of Manhattan, I could often gaze upon the Statue of Liberty downriver, with its promise:
Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!
Alas, there has been little political will to protect these kids. In New York City there are merely 250 youth shelter beds funded by the city and state, though there are 3,800 homeless kids, 40 percent of whom are LGBT. Both Governor Cuomo and Mayor Bloomberg have sent the distressing message that these kids do not have any right to be sheltered, with the governor having cut New York State support for youth shelter beds by 50 percent in the last year, and the mayor having repeatedly attempted to cut youth shelter funds in half, as well. How fitting that these kids, whose desperate conditions speak so profoundly of unjust economic priorities, so frequently found refuge with the Occupy Wall Street movement when they could not find a shelter bed.
To be a homeless LGBT youth in New York City means battling the cold, desperate to find somewhere warm and dry at night, knowing it would be a catastrophe if your shoes and clothes get wet. It means being exhausted, suffering chronic sleep deprivation as you try with little success to rest on the subways and train stations and on the streets. It means being terrified, afraid that the police will kick you out of the subway cars and train stations, afraid of violence when you have to sell your body, afraid that you will be beaten or robbed while trying to sleep on park benches or under bridges. To be a homeless LGBT youth in New York City all to frequently means being hungry, forsaken, alone, brutalized.
Is there a more terrible expression of homophobia in our times than tens of thousands of teens being cast out of their homes and made homeless in our streets? How horrible it is that kids are made to experience such brutal abuse, just for being who they are? I believe that these youths are, without ever intending to be, unsung heroes of the LGBT movement. They are heroic because of the terrible price they pay for their honesty.
I thank all of the youths who told me their stories, and allowed me to look into their eyes and photograph them. It was courageous of them to do so — for many teens being abandoned by their family and becoming homeless is experienced as humiliating and shameful, something you don’t want people to know. I hope that we will care enough to listen to the devastating stories these kids have to tell. I hope that we will have the courage look into their hurt eyes. I hope that by doing so, we can find the compassion and resolve to protect them.
Every young person deserves to be loved. If so many LGBT youths are denied love by their families, then the LGBT community needs to give them love. We need to assert their human worth and value, despite actions by their families and their government that speak to the contrary. We cannot allow them to be left to fend for themselves in the cold.
The Lesbian Scene in Jordan: All You Need to Know
I will approach this subject through the lens of a new comer, who is not a part of the mainstream Queer female community in Amman. Kindly be advised that the views I express here are my personal views, based on professional people watching and limited contact with the community (please do not consider them blanket statements, or take them as unquestionable truths).
What is the Lesbian Scene like in Jordan?
Lesbians have conquered the Ammani landscape, since the advent of ROYGBIV. I have made it through a year and a half as a native Jordanian lesbian; this victory somehow qualifies me to write about the Kingdom’s lesbian scene.
Lesbians in Jordan bear a resemblance to the city’s skyline, with its house-mounted hills, dominating features, and dryness. Those who have come to constitute “Jordan’s lesbian community” often come off as unfriendly to the new lesbian tourist as the dented roads and broken speed bumps of Amman.
As an outsider looking in, the young mainstream lesbian scene in Amman seems hungry and carnivorous; it views every new queer female as fresh meat to be consumed and re-consumed by the entire group of friends, with a side of much expected lesbo drama. People like me, watch it happen over cosmopolitans and long island teas, and think to themselves;
no thanks, I’d rather be celibate and grow
cobwebs in Virginia (pun intended).”
Why is it so Difficult to Break Into Jordan’s Lesbian Community?
True, the LGBT community in Jordan is highly exclusive. Directly approaching a group of lesbian-heads poking a cloud of cigarette smoke and viscous gossip at books @ cafe is ill-advised, unless there’s a common friend stringing you together. However we must all admit that it is offensive for a stranger to self-declare you as gay, while simultaneously attempting to trigger a “get to know you” conversation using your gayness as a foundation. Such an approach can be intimidating to the lesbian comrade chilling at a cafe, given how taboo the subject is. Your direct approach may come off as judgmental, since you’ve simplified this girl’s entire being into who she shares her bed with.
I have been a victim to that kind of approach in Jordan, must I say by straight people, and in all honesty, I did not enjoy being outted (to myself).
As a new lesbian, it is crucial to keep in mind that the community’s exclusivity is more of a defense mechanism against homophobia, rather than an arrogance and simple lack of trust. I find the lesbian scene in Jordan to be very reactionary.
Naturally, years of discrimination, exile and name-calling can elicit a bitterness towards new faces. Human beings, at large, tend to abuse those they categorize as “weak” by using the same methods implemented against them by those they categorize as more powerful. It is a means of self-validation and revenge. For example, domestic abuse against women is more prevalent in lower-income households, because modest men are often “emasculated” by the affluent landlord, the wealthy client, and the government official who shames him into subservience for a petty work permit. Consequently, these men from find the need to replicate the abuse they experience onto groups of people they perceive as weaker; in this case, their wives.
Believe it or not, the same scenario applies to lesbians; intolerance by parents, bullying by schoolmates and unflattering comments by emo-looking hunks on rainbow street is replicated in the interactions between old-timer lesbians and “weaker” new lesbians trying to break into the community. A new lesbian has to “pay her dues” so to say.
Why So Hungry?
Blame it on the unavailability of queer women in Jordan, or the risks a lesbian exposes herself to whenever she outs herself to a new love-interest. One of the most frustrating aspects of being a single lesbian in Jordan is the self-consciousness that your gay-dar should never be trusted, since culture and religion draw a sharp line between a girl’s tendencies (what she likes) and her actions (what she’s willing to admit and act upon).
I’ve come across quite the number of raging homosexuals in denial, banking on their self-control in respect for tradition and God.
As a single lesbian, I admit it’s extremely difficult to identify queer women in Amman, and even more difficult to approach them unless you have a common friend. Naturally, this limits your pool of candidates, and so don’t be surprised why groups of Jordanian lesbians tend to be extremely incestuous.
The Jordanian Online Lesbian Community
When I first got to Amman, I was disgruntled by how difficult it was to meet fellow queer females. There was no “correct” way of doing it. I resorted to facebook groups and other websites, such as afterellen.com, in search of Jordanian lesbians who would have mercy on the new lesbo in town. I found posts by foreign lesbians, who were in Amman for a visit, or a temporary stay. I found a couple of posts by Jordanian lesbians, who offered help. Given the how closed off the rest of the community was, I was suspicious of the Jordanians who were open to meet with new lesbians.
My hesitance was later justified, when I heard stories from acquaintances who did fall victim to the welcoming posts, only to find themselves in a car with two lesbians, and one bottle of vodka to be chugged.
I am not saying you should not reach out to the online community; I am simply encouraging caution.
Online Resources For Lesbian Women in Jordan
MyKali is an invaluable source to the LGBT community in Jordan. If you have ever googled Jordan LGBT, then you have probably found yourself surfing through this online magazine. Although the magazine –and all other Jordanian online resources for that matter- cater mostly to gay male audiences, I am of MyKali’s columnists (my articles go under - “Lesbo and The City”. No I didn’t pick the name), and I’ve been trying my best to focus on lesbian topics. MyKali is putting in much needed effort into involving queer female writers nonetheless, the deficiency of lesbian-specific information and resources can be frustrating. The limited information is what compelled me to start my own blog; Queer Girl’s Ink - Jordan(www.queerink.tumblr.com).
One thing I realized as a consequence of my experiences as a lesbian in Amman, is that you should be proactive, if something does not exist in Amman (and many things don’t exist in Amman) then you must be the one to create it. Call it proactive.
The lesbian scene in Amman is hard to crack. However, I realize now that being a gay woman in Amman is not as terrifying as I first thought it would be. You may have to rely on coincidence, common friends, or the internet to meet your first lesbian in Jordan, but once you do, you’ll witness a small community germinate around you.
Believe it or not, this society is making strides. To say “I have a gay friend” is not as suicidal as it used to be.
I have noticed that straight friends, near strangers and family members, who have been suspicious of my sexuality, try their best to signal their suspicions, while letting me know that “it’s okay”. The way they their sentiments are expressed is extremely politically incorrect, but that’s beside the point. I find their sincere effort to be a step forward. Straight people are confronting my sexuality, instead of blocking it out. Straight people are learning how to co-exist with my gayness. Perhaps, they are even beginning to like it.
So to the new lesbian in Jordan, I will say; Amman is a harsh city, but don’t be disappointed. It takes a little bit of patience.
Alyah Al Aswad
- 6 notes
- middle east
- women's health
- human rights
- Alyah Al Aswad
- gay community
- lesbian scene
- social equality
- Arab LGBT
- jordan LGBT
- jordan lesbians
- Jordan Lesbian Scene
The son of same sex parents speaks in Ottawa speaks against marriage discrimination. Absolutely worth your time.
End LGBTQ marriage discrimination everywhere. In Muslim and Arab countries too. In Jordan even.
Day 24: Iraqi Mail ~ Alyah Al Aswad
Single, Lesbian and Pregnant ~ Huffington Post Article by Stacyann Chin
Everyone in my building knows I’m a dyke: largely because I have lived in the same Brooklyn building for more than a decade. In that time I have been the odd girl with the wild hair, the barefoot woman comparing mangoes and the flesh of a woman on Broadway, the quirky lesbian who changes girlfriends every two years or so, and finally, I thought, established homosexual neighbor, part of eclectic landscape, known, tolerated, even accepted. Over time, I have become a fixture in this big old community that is quickly suffering the ravages of gentrification. Old women from the Caribbean are used to my flirting with them on the elevator; telling them they are not allowed to look this fly on such a nice summer day, “Don’t you know lesbians live in the building, Mrs. Johnson?” They usually blush, and beam, and tell me I should behave, “Don’t you see I’m too old for anybody (man or woman) to look at me dat way, child.”
The Black boys who grew up on the block are respectful. Their eyes may light up and ogle the gorgeous women who come in and out of the multicolored apartment on the 4th floor, but they are always careful of what they say out loud. They tell me how much they like the view, but assure me they don’t have sticky fingers. The old men, are reserved, but polite. The plethora of younger, middle-class, Asian, queer identified hipster folks, who pay way too much for these under-serviced apartments wave and smile and tell me how pleased they are to be living in a building that already has an LGBT person. The new White residents, complete with alabaster skin, blond hair and designers dogs confess quietly in the foyer that they’ve read my book, or seen one of my shows. Friends in the building tell me of the gossip they’ve heard about the kooky Jamaican girl in the lime green cargo pants who only dates women. In a pleasant sort of way, I thought myself done with coming out, especially inside my own communities.
Then I got a baby bump, and promptly perplexed my collection of very diverse friends, neighbors and acquaintances.
The moment I began to show people started doing under-cover double takes, especially in the elevator. The building is old, so the ride up is very, very slow. People sort of talk normally to me, but they no longer look in my face, or at my boobs. They stare straight ahead and glance sideways at my protruding stomach every ten seconds or so. Not one person has taken the plunge and asked outright if I was pregnant. Not even when I have been sick, and spitting up in Ziploc bags, did anyone query why I was hurling into a plastic bag two minutes before I got into my apartment. People just talked about the weather, or the economy, or the fact that the new white people are complaining that the heat in the building is too high and now management has turned down the heat and the rest of us Black folk are freezing.
Finally I got tired of the weird glances and started explaining, unasked, that I was 4 months pregnant, or 5 months along, or expecting a baby in January, and that I am on bed rest and that I have been vomiting for the entire 7 months I have been knocked up. People try to hide how surprised they are. I can see them swallow the questions and blink back how confused they feel. I almost enjoy seeing them journey from “Aren’t you a lesbian?” to “Are you going with men now?” to “Aww, shizzle, I can’t ask her any of those questions so I might as well smile and nod.”
One woman I told shrieked, in an eerily squeaky voice, “Lord Jesus! I dunno why this elevator smelling so stuffy these days. I think I go make a complaint to management about it today.” Then she told me she liked my shoes and hastily exited the lift.
The silence is immediate when I happen upon a group of tenants gathered in the lobby. Everyone nods and waves and watches as I slowly waddle my way to the car parked on the street out front.
Most of the other LGBT faces offer up congratulations, until they find out I’m doing it without a partner or co-parent. Lips are pursed. Sighs are delivered. And then silence ensues. They don’t approve. Some of the braver ones go on to say, “Well, I would never choose to do it that way — not that I think anything is wrong with it. It just doesn’t seem right to me. But I suppose if you believe you can do it…” That long pause is usually followed with questions about why I didn’t adopt. Apparently, single parenthood is okay for kids without anyone, but somehow unacceptable as a biological choice.
Some people are less tongue-tied than my immediate neighbors. They just blurt out whatever comes to mind. “Shoot, Staceyann! I thought you was a lesbian! How dat happened?”
Straight men (especially if they are religious or of color) tend to be very offended, or very proud. “I don’t see why you need to have children by a man if you don’t want us that way. I believe you give up the right to have children if you don’t want to go with a man. You tricked some poor man into thinking you straight, didn’t you?” Or, “I knew it! I knew you would cross back over! You too sexy to be a lesbian! I mean, look at your breasts! And your shape! I knew you would find a man to turn you normal!”
Sometimes I walk away. But I really want to punch them, and stomp on them and tell them how bigoted they are. More often than not I say, in a calm voice, that I paid to have myself artificially inseminated at a fertility clinic. When I am feeling confrontational, I tell them I bought the sperm from a homeless man who needed money for his girlfriend’s third abortion. This usually sends them into cardiac arrest, which renders them silent just long enough for me to escape. Or it makes them pop a religious vein and spew a series of even more ignorant responses, about the unnaturalness of artificial methods of reproduction, how God did not intend that children be made in test tubes.
Straight women look at me with a combination of pity and anger. Many of them haven’t found Mr. Right yet, and the biological clock is also tick-tick-ticking away for them. They want children, but so many are unable to shake how they were raised to make the choice to have a child on their own. To them it’s a failure to concede the hunt for a good husband. They usually make comments like, “I’m not sure children were meant to be raised without both parents. I mean, if something happens, like say, a parent dies or the father leaves and decides not to be there for the child, well, that’s different. That’s playing the hand you were dealt. But to intentionally rob a child of a father… I just don’t know that that is a good thing.”
I even had one woman tell me that the IVF is why I am having all these problems with my pregnancy. That God must not be pleased with the artificial seed growing inside me. She went as far as to suggest the child could have birth defects and learning problems and gender confusion because I did not lay with a man as God has decreed for women to do.
It took me about ten seconds to restrain myself, to decide not to slap this person in the face for wishing ill on the child I already adore more than I have ever adored anyone. I quickly remind myself that a physical altercation with this nitwit would only further stress my already taxed body. I wish I could explain to every idiot who says some stupid crap like that, how proud I am of my choice to become pregnant. I wish I could show them how it has changed me, made me more of everything, more of myself. I am thinking of getting cards printed, with a prepared rant of some kind, complete with choice cuss words, to hand out when folks get ahead of themselves.
It’s a veritable minefield just walking outside.
I am on bed rest, and don’t get out that often, so it’s always a shock to me, to have folks respond so strongly to my pregnancy. And now that my belly is miles ahead of the rest of me everybody knows on sight about my condition, which means I have no control over people’s reactions. Old women smile and ask how far along I am. Touchy-feely, granola types touch my belly uninvited and offer to give me reiki to open some chakra or other. Strangers assume me heterosexual and ask me about my husband, or “the father.” They are quite confused when I say I used a donor, that this kid does not have a father. Even in my obstetrician’s office I have to constantly correct the nurses who insist on calling me, Mrs. Chin. One day I got so tired of it that I sat up in my chair, and from the back of the room I shouted, “Nurse, I have told you a hundred times. I am not married. I am a single lesbian who got pregnant by artificial insemination. I don’t have a husband. I don’t have a boyfriend. I don’t even have a girlfriend. I’m doing this solo, so I’m definitely not a Mrs. anything. So could you please remember to say Ms. Chin?”
She mumbled an apology and handed me my receipt. As I walked back to my chair I reveled in the discomfort of the “legitimately pregnant” heterosexual women squirming in their chairs and avoiding my eyes. Later that day I got an email from a woman thanking me for speaking out. She is 44 years old, a lesbian and she did an IVF pregnancy. She said she could never be that out about her process, but that it made her feel visible to hear me articulate it in that space, with such pride. Her note brought home the irony of me assuming everyone in that waiting room heterosexual while I was protesting others doing the same to me.
But the coming out process continues. In ways I never imagined. Mid-examination, medical personnel will ask if daddy and I have been abstaining as is recommended for women who are placenta previa. The forms in the hospitals all require father’s name and mother’s name, never just a partner. They suggest you ask him to do this, or include him in that, or talk to him about something or the other. Friends and family members speak of my donor as the baby’s father, or the baby-daddy. There is no room for the woman who has decided to do this alone. The registries in the three places I am registered, buybuybaby.com, target.com, and babiesrus.com, all have advice for what to do with your partner as you prepare for “the shared joy of your baby’s birth.”
I find myself saying, over and over again, “No. I’m lesbian, so I don’t have a male partner. And yes, I’m single, so I will be doing this alone. And I must point out that ‘alone’ does not mean I don’t have help. I expect my vast village of friends to be a part of our lives. But there is no father, no partner, no husband, no lover. Legal responsibilities are solely mine.” Everyday, I find myself needing to affirm that this was a willing choice, that though I may have moments of doubt or loneliness, I’m largely at peace with my path. I have to assure all sorts of people that this baby is wanted, and loved and will be amply provided for with respect to diapers, and discipline and encouragement and the space to be whatever he or she can be in our not-so-traditional family.
Because difficult or not, shared joy or sweet sorrow in solitude, I am awaiting his arrival, preparing for her presence, knowing with everything in me, how proud I am, how lucky I am, to be a single, Black, self-employed, radical, progressive, lesbian artist who is 31 weeks pregnant with a child she has wanted for more than a decade. That miracle is in itself a thing to celebrate, even if the experience has sent me back, reeling, to traverse the coming out process yet another time.
Day 22 Writing Prompt
Singularity for a Lesbian - at 23 in Jordan
I know I’ve been limiting myself to the 30/30 challenge, and have only been posting poems. Frankly, the poems have been consuming much of my time.
Last night, the girl I had been dating and I broke things off. It is the most unoriginal thing to say, but the idea of being alone is daunting. But its my first time, so its weird to me.
Given my long struggles with my sexuality, I only began dating when I was 20. I cannot say I was single before that; because, first, I wasnt really in the right market (as we all know, i thought i was straight), and second, I actually had it set in my mind that I’d say no to anyone who came along; if it was a man, it was a no because they never appealed to me in that way; if it was a woman, I’d say no because I was terrified of committing sin. Naturally, since I come from a Muslim conservative Arab background, I needed time to grow the balls to say fuck you, I’m gay.
Having said that, may I say I’m 100% single for the first time in my entire life. I’m putting effort into staying on the right track - mentally and professionally at least.
For those of you who read my poems, you can tell I’ve been struggling with my admiration for a straight stranger . This woman has SCT - straight, curious, and terrified - a very common Jordanian syndrome. I would never try to cure it, because I’m scared it would be manipulative.
I believe the general sense of homophobia and conventional association of homosexuality with pedophilia, or even rape, in the Arab World makes me so uneasy that I am absolutely crippled; I do not make the slightest move on a woman. Even my mother thinks LGBT people are sexual predators; one time I told her I work with gay refugees, she told me to be careful because they may corner me and rape me. Obviously, she does not accept the insane fact that gay men are not attracted to women (Side note: I love my mother). Consequently, I’m always scared I’m derailing a good girl’s future by tempting her into Lot’s flood. If I like her and she is capable of being straight, then knowing how difficult it is to be gay here, I find it selfish to make a move. So for now, I am satiated by this woman’s mere existence. She is beautiful and shy.
Good day, people.
Change in URL address
I changed the blog’s URL address today (from poetx.tumblr.com to queerink.tumblr.com). I really hope this move does not cost me any site traffic. I had to make the change, because I realized that poeple to read what the url says before clicking on it (big AHAA moment), and i felt that “poetx” is basically expressionless and it says nothing about what this blog is about. If I read poetx.tumblr.com, I’d pass.
My two major audiences are poets/writers at large and the LGBTQ community at large. So I went for “queerink” to appeal to both groups. It also closely resembles this my blog title.
Big news! I have updated the “about”, “poetry” and “articles” sections. Please check it out, your feedback is welcomed!