|Jennifer Josef, ILGA-ASIA|
|Jennifer Josef, ILGA-ASIA|
Confessions of an Egyptian gay man -- I happen to be gay. I say that like its insignificant, like it shouldn’t be an issue. But it is.
I remember feeling attraction towards boys / men definitely before the age of 6. Around 4 maybe? I knew I was “different”. I must have figured out early on that this “difference” was not “normal” because I never talked to anybody about the feelings and attractions I was experiencing.
I was 12 when it hit me one day. I feel this and the feelings are so strong and have been there for a long time – actually they never went away. Thus, since I’m having all those feelings that must mean I’m GAY. I still remember that moment quite vividly, probably because strong emotions were attached to it. It was like a realization. When I said the words ‘I am gay’ to myself, it was like Whoa… Its like when a doctor tells you that you have cancer and the kind that is not going away. You just sit and take it all in. Except in this case I was telling myself. I remember going to school the next day feeling extremely self-conscious. I kept looking around me to see who was looking at me in a different way as if I had a sign on saying, “I’m GAY”. Although I didn’t know it at the time, looking back at it, I probably thought if I could know about me then maybe my friends / classmates knew also. Of course, at that time, nobody could tell. It was my paranoia. This paranoia would stay with me for many years. Can they tell? Do they know? What will happen if they know?
My family is Muslim. Growing up, my parents were spiritual and were definite believers of Islam but they did not really practice the rituals (praying 5 times a day, going to the Mosque on Fridays, etc). Around the age of 11, I started becoming aware of how homosexuals were viewed by my immediate and extended family, by religious figures, by lay people in the street – by society at large. Homosexuality is sick. It’s a sin. It’s abnormal. Homosexuals go to hell. Homosexuals are perverted creatures – almost not human. Homosexuals are disgusting. “Normal” people (heterosexuals) need to stay away from these perverted, deviant creatures. Is it any surprise that I started to internalize these messages? If the people I loved and supposedly loved me, if the people I respected, admired and cared about me held these beliefs about gay men then I must be wrong. I must be a MISTAKE. I am a SIN. Hey, even God believes (according to the Koran) that homosexuality is wrong and only love, sex, and relationships between men and women are correct. Are “natural”. If God knows everything about everything then he must know that I’m having “those” feelings. So he must know that I’m gay. So he must be angry with me – will bad things start happening to me?
The clear message I was getting from everything and everyone around me – including God is that I cannot be that way, that I have to change. And God doesn’t make mistakes. God is perfection. So I must be wrong.
This conflict began within me regarding who I am (which was wrong) and who I am supposed to be (which is right) by the age of 12. How did this affect me? Affect a 12 year old boy? My self-esteem was crushed, I experienced depression for the first time as well as suicidal thoughts. I was in so much pain, so much conflict, so much confusion that at times death seemed like a way out. A relief. But guess what? Suicide is a sin in Islam. So dead or alive, I’m sinful?? Wow! That must mean I’m really BAD. Why am I this way? Why can’t these feelings go away? Why can’t ‘this me’ go away?"