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“Waqfet Banat”, a book from ASWAT

in PALESTINIAN TERRITORY, OCCUPIED, 15/06/2010

“Waqfet Banat” is a sincere narration of personal stories shared by Arab Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Intersex (LBTQI) women; stories we were often unable to share with those closest to us.

Introduction:

It is amazing how one single aspect of ourselves can arouse and create much controversy, secrecy, disapproval and difficulties.

It seems that we are turned against ourselves, our families and our society, simply because we are perceived as different from them, and we can never be accepted as we are.

But do our differences make us our own worst enemies? Are they a reason for us to try to kill ourselves, again and again? Can we possibly reconcile every aspect of our past identity with our newly found one? Should we expect to find unconditional love? Are we really loved for whoever we are, everything we are and everything we are not, or does love come with certain pre-conditions?

Today, for the second time, Arab women make a decision to no longer remain silent; they choose to speak about their most intimate and challenging times, their coming out journeys, not only to family, friends and society, but specifically to themselves. These stories were written as the need to tell and share them, and document our life experiences became a deep part of our self-empowerment process as individuals and as a community. We believe we must tell our stories, not only from a religious, political, parental or societal perspective, but also from the vantage point of our inner personal experience and the struggle with our sexual orientation and gender identity.

Although our stories are filled with sadness, pain, suffering and challenges, they are also stories that show our pride – the pride one feels in a world where freedom is not a given, and in a world where our friends, family and society challenge very important parts of our being.

Whether the writers are totally, partly or not yet “out of the closet”, each story offers the LGBTQI community and the broader community, particularly the Arab public, a different perspective on sexual orientation and gender identity. These stories emphasize the basic need each of us has to belong, to be supported and to be loved for who we really are and whom we are with, for each aspect of our identity, including our sexuality – without any camouflage, without living a “double life”, and without lying about our sexual orientation and/or gender identity.

"Waqfet Banat" is here not just to document our struggle and the struggles of marginalized groups in a hetero-patriarchal society. It also serves to open a window of hope to those who are questioning their sexuality, their sexual orientation and/or gender identity; and who are wondering if they alone, or if they are abnormal in a world that condemns everything that stands outside the boundaries set by modern society, and by the three monotheistic religions and the parental expectations of accepted social norms.

Creative ways to struggle and gain self-empowerment are born out of oppression, marginalization, and disentitlement. In these stories, our writers protest against the ongoing oppression they face, and writing becomes a tool in their activism against discrimination. Once again, the LGBTQI community reaches out to the broader community to help dispel much ignorance, and to broaden the knowledge and resources on the LGBTQI experiences and struggles.


“Waqfet Banat” shows the tensions between love, pride, social norms, religion, sexual and political identities, and society. “Waqfet Banat” is also a product of life experiences and an exploration into some journeys that helped to shape us.

This publication is unique as it holds the personal narratives of the writers. With each copy read, there is one less person who feels alone; and with every copy read there are friends, lovers, parents, partners and siblings who will gain a deeper understanding of what an Arab LGBTQI might be feeling or struggling with. With each copy read, more public awareness is raised about the struggle of the Arab LBTQI community.

In "Waqfet Banat", we say to everyone who believes, for one reason or another, that they are not the “norm”, that despite all we have faced in our daily lives, we still stand firm, in the forefront or in the backdrop, in our desire to create an inclusive society for everyone. We support one another and all those around us and we say, “Yes, I am different, and Yes, I am proud. I go forward on this journey that I choose to take and to explore”.

 

 

 

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