Why Queer is not good enough to define Arab homosexuals?

The Arabic culture is still at a stage of evolution where it has little to no tolerance to human differences. Whatever is different, and whatever defies the norms is rejected and looked down upon. That explains the bad connotations associated to the word “shaz” which is a direct translation of the word queer.

“Shozooz” in the Arabic language is a term that is used to label anything that is different than normal; it is also used to mean that something is odd or weird which also holds bad connotations in the Arabic perception.

While the homosexual community in the west has been able to reclaim the word ‘queer’ – which is now being used with pride by some of the community’s younger members to describe themselves – it only happened because their culture was mature enough to embrace and celebrate people’s differences. Unfortunately, that is not the case for the Arabic culture, and thus, Arab homosexuals face a dilemma of terms and labels in their battle towards gaining acceptance from their local societies. “What applies to the west doesn’t necessary applies to us” a sentence that many Arab gay activists believe in.

That is true in a way especially now that homosexuality itself is widely perceived in the Arab world as an imported construct that is against the general consensus of moral conduct. The issue here in the Arabic area is that people still insist on defining homosexuality by sexual behavior instead of sexual orientation. Sexual orientation is a recent scientific discovery due to scientific advancements in psychology, human brain and behavior. It hasn’t picked up in the Arabic area due to different reasons; first because it is a new concept, second because it is a western invention that strongly challenges Arabic sexual moral values, third because only few Arabs actually read books and forth because it contradicts with what most people believe in of Islamic teachings.

In reality, same sex attraction and not behavior is what connect this wide pool of people. They self-identify as homosexuals rather than queer and thus are demanding to be called “Methlyeen” rather than “Shazeen”. While being queer – odd or weird – doesn’t necessary mean a bad thing, it is actually bad in the current perception of the Arabic mind, and thus it is kind of a word that offends most Arab homosexuals.

3 weeks ago, I was watching an episode of Desperate Housewives – season 4 -; they had this brilliant conclusion at the end of the episode related to labels and the way we – human beings – judge each other. They had a priest who used his power to tarnish the reputation of a woman and call her prostitute because she rejected his sexual advancements, they had a creepy child who was bitter and angry and caused many troubles to her family, they had a female drug dealer who rejected strongly marital disloyalty, and they had a man who was perceived as a villain for a horrible past mistake and who showed a heroic act of standing up for his wife.

They ended the show with a line where they asked: Can a priest be evil? Are children always innocent? Can a drug dealer be a good person? And can a villain be a hero? In the same line, queers can be good people, but until our societies become mature enough to see behind labels, homosexuals will keep on demanding to be called “Methleyeen”. Unfortunately we still literally apply the Arabic proverb “an envelope is known through its title” and judge people based on the label they carry.


There is no red line in our society that matches the one drawn to highlight the seperation of gender roles. Men and women, simple binary entities that simplifies all the diversity of humans nature into two templates. Only two that are hard to fit by many. It is even worse when it comes to the classification of these simple two templates; one is superior than the other. Men enjoy the upper hand. They ought to emphasize on different superior attributes (strength, intelligence, education, …etc) in order to fill their gender role.

So what happens when someone’s nature fail to fit with those guidlines? What happens when someone blurs the lines between between gender roles and mess up with one of the major parts of which we define our gender identities – our clothes?

Hell break loose! no?

What really happens is that most people fail to realize the natural diverse aspect of human beings and lump it under mental disorder category.

It is worth noting that I am not talking here about homosexuals who blur gender roles in a different way. I am emphasizing on another group of people who blur the line of gender roles based on their choice of clothes rather than their sexual orientation.

I know that we tend to lump everything that we are unfamiliar with under the same category – queerness -. Many people – falsely – percieve homosexuals as cross-dressers and cross dressers as homosexuals. In reality: The great majority of cross-dressers are biological males, most of whom are sexually attracted to women. (this is taken from the american psychological association website – read further here)

Now that we no that most cross-dressers are straight men, does that help in making them fit our unique men template?

Ofcourse not, they fail in one of the prerequisites.

While the american psychological association tells us as well that cross-dressing is not a mental disorder, a lot of people tend to maintain their constructed inherited structure of false rigidity of gender roles and judge cross dressers as mentally ill people.

We tend to play experts. It is no uncommon for us to judge any unfamiliar behaviour to be a mental illness. “He is sick, or she is sick” may be one of the most used Jordanian terms. People are sick – this is also common – in our own definition of equating sickness to weirdness.

Would we ever realize the diverse nature of human beings? and would we ever learn that being weird doesn’t necessary being bad? I know that the internet opened the door for us, we may find a hard time at the beginning to capture unfamiliar things, but we all know that with time weird things become normal.

Red in a broad line on LBC: Arab homosexuals and their surroundings

It seems that the most successful business strategies for modern Arab media is to give their audience what they want to hear regardless of how much truth is there in their statements. LBC, the Lebanese broadcasting channel, has been trying to penetrate the gulf area and gain more user base for sometime now. Homosexuality is becoming more and more of an interest topic for people in the Arab world in general and in the gulf area in particular.
Because of the controversial nature of the issue and the religious dimension of it, people usually have strong feelings towards it. With the lack of real knowledge of what homosexuality really is, misconceptions strive around it. For LBC and other unprofessional Arab media channels, what would be better? Build upon these misconceptions and gain popularity? Or do some small scientific research, give the audience an objective scientific opinion and risk gaining anger and losing market ground? The former is a wiser choice, no? That is at least how people behind ‘a7mar bel khat el 3areed’ (Red in a broad line) seem to think.

The episode aired last Wednesday meant to concentrate on Arab homosexuals and their surroundings, as what one would understand from the title of the episode. Unfortunately, what seemed to be the focus of the editorial team, the host, and the lousy counselor, is highlighting the misconceptions about homosexuality and give an affirmative tone for every wrong popular theory about the cause of homosexuality in the Arab world.

The four people they hosted, two men, and two women (from different Arab countries), barely admitted being homosexuals! All what they confirmed is having same sex relationships at some point of their life and then stating confidently that they are attracted to the opposite sex! So what the heck! They bring straight people to testify in an episode meant to highlight homosexuals and their surroundings?!!
Following are the misconceptions of the causes of homosexuality that the show host tried to focus on:

1.Children sexual abuse: Like in the case of the Lebanese guy who claimed that he has a same sex relationship because he was sexually abused in his childhood, oddly enough, he stated that he is attracted to women and that he even wears jewelry to attract women towards him!

The truth: There is no scientific proof that sexual abuse causes an alteration of sexual orientation. Statistics shows that 1 out of 4 children is subjected to some form of sexual molestation/abuse one way or another. If sexual abuse causes homosexuality, then we would end up with 25% of the population to be gay, which is not the case.

2.Lack of an opposite sex partner: The Saudi woman claimed that she had a same sex relationship with another woman because she didn’t have a male partner to have sex with. She said that she isn’t attracted to women and love men – regardless of their betrayal nature!

The truth: Sexual attraction is what triggers sexual relationships. Having sex with someone you have no sexual attraction toward is more like a punishment rather than a pleasure fulfillment. What really happens in strongly segregated societies is that people with slight same sex attraction tendencies find it easier to act on their feelings where they wouldn’t do that in normal circumstances. There many bi-sexual people with different degrees of attraction to either sex.

3. Lack of a father model: The claim of the Egyptian young boy. He said that his father works as a pilot and that his relationship with his father is bad. The counselor – mistakenly – tried to analyze how a young boy needs to man role model in his life and that with the lack of one he tries to attract other men to fill that role!

The truth: A lot of people are raised without a father (Either because of divorce or death). While not having a father might cause different emotional troubles, it doesn’t affect one sexual orientation. It is wrong to assume that every divorced family’s children would turn up to be homosexuals.

While a lot of people in the Arab world may lack the knowledge of a certain issue or another at this point of time, and while we are yet to catch on the culture of the importance of knowledge, it is upon our media duty to research and study and to raise the awareness of people. We are at the age of information, with small internet research; the credibility of a respectful channel would just disappear!