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From Homophobia to High Tolerance

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I grew up in the Gulf region of the Middle East. I have a very open minded family who always embrace differences and they try their best not to judge homosexuals. Nevertheless, I always saw them whisper to each other after a homosexual would pass a table. For example when they explained how they met their first homosexual couple, they expressed how wonderful they were but laughed uncontrollably at the simple fact that they (lowered voice) "were gay"... shhh.....

Compared to other Arab families, I liked that my parents were open minded. I never thought that homosexuality was a big deal either, but when one of my friends would talk to me about a homosexual person, I would automatically say: "ewww", or, "she's just doing it to show off to the guys", or, "he's not a man at all!"- the last comment is a classic Arab insult towards a guy. I never thought to myself how it would feel if someone ever said that behind my back if I were gay.

When I met a homosexual person, I would always feel deep inside that they were "different". I avoided saying anything to them because I had no idea what to discuss. Until I left the Middle East for college, and that was when I started befriending homosexuals, and that weird "inner" feeling of them being different was completely gone. It was gone because as a dark Middle Easterner dating a Blonde guy, I felt how it was to be different and I don't mean to sound conceited, but I felt bad for the people who were missing out on me. I wondered- how many people am I missing out on?

A few years later, I started watching my sister, wondering how a smart beautiful girl like her could still be single? I noticed how the shy girl she was would be over confident around men almost proving to the whole family: see? I am attracted to men. I knew deep inside that was not natural, that, for example, if she was actually attracted to a certain guy she would feel very shy. I knew right away she was homosexual, but never told her anything from fear that she might still not know it or that she was not ready to confront.

When she did tell me, I was VERY relieved. Very much so. She felt so much better, and was generally a happier person I could tell. She sent it to me in an SMS: "I have to tell you something". Then she did not respond for an hour or so..... during which I was trembling from fear and yelling at my boyfriend to stop talking to me because my mind was so scared that she would tell me something terrible. She finally SMSed me back after a million messages of me threatening to sue her if she keeps scaring me with those messages and then not responding. She wrote: "I am gaye and I have been in a relationship for 6 months". I was very relieved.

So to all you out there- this is one of the good ways to break the news to your homophobic family. Let them say terrible things about homosexuals and AGREE with everything they say. Then one day when they are in the best mood, expressing their love for you and how much they love you, tell them you have to tell them something in a way that makes it seem it's life or death. I know it's mean, but it helps with the relief when they know it's not a matter of life or death....

Knowing my sister, I know for a fact that it was a matter of life or death for her. I helped save her life simply because I loved her. I ignored any other feelings that rose up as a result of my past prejudices- and as a person, I love myself so much more for being more tolerant to this world's differences. We have no right to shape each other, so what makes it okay to selfishly shape our thoughts towards each other?

I have known now for several years. She has been heartbroken two times before and now she is in a wonderful relationship. I have supported her then and support her now and I say this: love is love, in all its purity- and nothing like identity can shit on that.

Love .

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  • 25-34_m_w_h4_f4
    Comment

    A very nice story indeed and clearly your personal experiences help shape who you are as a person and as such made your sister's life much easier. My life changed when a few siblings accepted my identity too. It really helps.

    • 25-34_f_b_h2_f3
      Comment

      You are lucky and so was my sister.. I know that not all family members are like that and are unfortunately judgmental. I hope we can help those because it is a matter of life or death.

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  • 25-34_f_w_h3_f2
    Experience

    Thank you for sharing this story Naima. This level of acceptance, from family members in particular, changes a lot about a gay person growing up in harsh environments like ours. My best friend, who is also a lesbian, was in very bad shape until she came out to her cousins who fully accepted her. It was a pleasant surprise and she has been a completely different person ever since. Accepting a person for who they really are, and loving them regardless of that, changes that person's life. As a gay community, we are not asking for more than tolerance here.

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    Anonymous
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    There isn't enough advocacy targeted towards families. If we want to win this struggle for our rights we have to do much more than attempting to influence policy makers.

    • 17-24_f_b_h1_f2
      Experience

      there are a lot of factors that make certain families more accepting than others. sadly, i was born into the wrong kind. the kind that would never react positively or with any understanding to a gay rights campaign or even educational information and reports about gender and sexuality. we won't win with these people and as such it is better to focus the efforts on obtaining legal rights.

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    You, lady, are an awesome human being. Full stop. I wish that more families (whether on the Middle East or outside it) were more accepting of their kids/siblings homosexuality or bisexuality. Congratulations for all of you, for being a wonderful example of tolerance to everybody out there :) I really mean it.

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  • 25-34_f_b_h2_f3
    Comment

    Nadir616- You are a wonderful human being to want more love than we have in this world today. To anyone who feels anxiety and nausea when remembering a part of them that will never ever be recognized- please replace that feeling with a ticklish warm feeling of hope that one day you will realize you don't need any higher presence to guide you besides Allah, God, Buddha, Yehia, Jesus, A crystal, Your dog's awesome intuition, your parent's trusted love, etc. Doesn't that sound so cheesy? We are so bored of hearing it everyday but hey man, we don't have that much love out there. All of us are drowning in judgments and injustice in this world, we cannot be who we are or practice what we want- let alone being an Arab- part of a loving family with many common intolerances that never changed who we are as kids until we grew to find we don't belong in that frame our parents put us in: homosexuality, religion, interracial marriages, sex change etc etc etc there are way too many labels I hate them and don't even want to use them.

    WHY? why is this all happening.. when you look around you everything is just MATTER and SPACE. It will go to nothing one day- as opposed to that being depressing, let it be promising that in the meantime, right now, you need only to stop rebellion and understand there is no "struggle" in being you unless you allow it to be so. Unless someone ELSE tells you. Unless someone else convinces you that beyond loving your family, that you are a sheep to a society and you owe it to both your family and society to fit "the frame"...

    Dude i'll be your family :) and no, I am not a tolerant person. And I am STILL learning. But I have had anxiety for too many years trying to please others while giving myself what I need and want. It's a harsh challenge.. hard to balance! It's the SAME with my sister. We are no different. Except it's 100 times more hard for her to balance since the weight on one part is way too heavier than the other.

    Honey be happy.. at least for today.. say it each day.

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  • 25-34_f_b_h2_f3
    Advice

    Oh and anyone who doesn't want to love you. Fuck them right ? :)

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  • 51-65_f_f_h1_f3
    Comment

    I dream that my mother will have this reaction to me when or IF (!!!) I come out to her.

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  • 17-24_f_w_h3_f4
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    Touching story. Does the rest of your family know?

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    Anonymous
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    I thank you humbly for sharing your wiodsm JJWY

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  • 25-34_f_b_h2_f3
    Comment

    My rest of my family does not know, no. And my heart beats so fast when one of them suspects, or throws a comment, because I don't know how I will explain that it doesn't bother me. I would need a strategy because whatever will pour out straight from my heart will be angry words, breathless... But I know I will definitely stand up.

    Listen, if my sister was not so unhappy as I spent years telling her my love stories as she quietly listened and pretended it's not her type to have some stories of her own, I would have always been homophobic! Anyone who likes to listen to stories, who acknowledges their judgments and terrible remarks, are tolerant. They just need time to listen to the words circulating in their head. They just need to love you enough. A lot of homophobia is related to sexual images which are taboo. That is why families retaliate with disgust and disbelief as if you are having sex right there in front of them! Try to tackle that point.

    The day my sister tells my family. I want to be there! To stop anyone who ever contradicted a lesson they taught me. But I am sure if she didn't have me, she can do it all alone, 100%! Not because she's strong, but because any willing person can.

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  • Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that frightens us most. We ask ourselves, 'Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and famous?' Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that people won't feel insecure around you. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in all of us. And when we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

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  • 35-50_f_w_h3_f4
    Experience

    This makes me want gay or gay friendly siblings =( I feel lonely not having someone in my life who feels this way about me or who supports me this strongly.

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