Unspeakable Love: Gay and Lesbian Life in the Middle East

Unspeakable Love: Gay and Lesbian Life in the Middle East

Brian Whitaker

Language: English

Pages: 264

ISBN: 0520250176

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


Homosexuality is a taboo subject in Arab countries. Clerics denounce it as a heinous sin, while newspapers write cryptically of "shameful acts." Although many parts of the world now accept sexual diversity, the Middle East is moving in the opposite direction. In this absorbing account, journalist Brian Whitaker calls attention to the voices of men and women who are struggling with gay identities in societies where they are marginalized and persecuted by the authorities. He paints a disturbing picture of people who live secretive, fearful lives and who are often jailed, beaten, and ostracized by their families, or sent to be "cured" by psychiatrists.

Whitaker's exploration of changing sexual behavior in the Arab world reveals that—while deeply repressive prejudices and stereotypes still govern much thinking about homosexuality—there are pockets of change and tolerance. The author combines personal accounts from individuals in the region with a look at recent Arab films and novels featuring gay characters and conducts a sensitive comparative reading of Christian, Jewish, and Islamic strictures around sexuality. Deeply informed and engagingly written, Unspeakable Love draws long overdue attention to a crucial subject.

Copub: Saqi Books

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kilometre from here … All we get by holding the meeting with the prime minister is symbolic legitimacy for the community. What he gets for sitting down with us is the mantle of enlightenment and pluralism.45 More recently, Zionists have latched on to the idea of using gay rights to improve Israel’s image abroad – a tactic described by its opponents as ‘pinkwashing’. In 2009, Stand With Us, an ‘Israel advocacy’ group, organised an event called iPride which sought to connect gay pride with

the bawwab, the doorman who watches all comings and goings in Egyptian blocks of flats. If satisfied on that count, they might then imagine other explanations for the girls’ presence – quarrels with parents, etc. ‘They would think of anything else but lesbianism,’ Laila said. She recalled how much one lesbian couple had been adored by their landlady. ‘I wish all my tenants were like you,’ the landlady told them, suspecting nothing. Employment is a much bigger problem for Egyptian lesbians, Laila

violated, but also from a concept of the household as an autonomous, self-governing unit in which the state does not interfere.36 In Saudi Arabia this principle also includes, to a great extent, the territory enclosed by housing compounds – privately-guarded walled villages with roads, shops and recreational facilities that are inhabited by the better-off foreign workers and, increasingly, by young Saudis who value their personal freedom. In some ways, clear separation of the public and private

In Morocco, men in drag can be found working at funfairs.34 Alongside these limited nod-and-a-wink areas of acceptance is the idea that homosexuality does not mix with more serious types of work – hence the remark by the disaffected reporter in Aswani’s novel that ‘the homosexual is psychologically unfit to lead the work of any institution.’ This is very similar to the objections put forward by conservatives in Kuwait to prevent women from being allowed to vote or stand for parliament: women are

‘Islamic Fundamentalism in Britain.’ http://www.petertatchell.net/religion/islamic.htm. 28. Sofer, Jehoeda: ‘Sodomy in the Law of Muslim States’ in Schmitt, A and Sofer, J: Sexuality and Eroticism Among Males in Moslem Societies. Binghamton, NY 1992. 29. This ambiguity is discussed by Sofer, op. cit., p. 144. 30. http://www.sodomylaws.org. Slightly different information, under the heading ‘Homosexual Rights Around the World’ can be found at http://www.actwin.com/eatonohio/gay/world.htm. 31.

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