“People Fear What They Don’t Understand”... The Systematic Repression of Queer People in Lebanon

Sunday 20 June 202111:44 am
إقرأ باللغة العربية:

"البشر يخافون دائماً مما لا يفهمونه"... قمع ممنهج للكويريين في لبنان

What does it mean to exist in public and private space with our own free thoughts, inclinations, and expressions, without society and its laws forcing us to follow normative patterns in gender existence? Zahraa, my friend, wondered out loud during a private conversation between the two of us, adding: If society had not forced us to all this, would we have perhaps really known the true meaning of love — and what it means to love freely? Would we have been able to exist within our own complete selves? Ever since, her question has haunted me and occupied a large portion of my mind.

Many people find themselves on the margins of society, because their gender performance (gender performativity) and sexual orientation are not the standard — or are non-normative. Their stories drive us to reflect on the aspects of oppression that they are subjected to, and how they relate to many levels of existence within various institutions, such as the institution of marriage, the institution of family, and the medical institution.

The effects of this repression are not just limited to individual lives only, but also go past it, extending to the formation of the national identity of a particular region. In this report, we will review the systematic oppression that individuals with non-normative sexual orientation and gender are subjected to in Lebanon.

Lebanon has always appeared progressive. The scene showing LGBTQ+ people organizing public and festive events in the capital Beirut at a high pace, can easily deceive and produce the illusion that a non-normative person can live a carefree life. But in reality, this country is just like any other, and despite the appearance of queer individuals in the media, Lebanon is not a safe haven for them as long as gendered discipline[1] and the inevitability of heterosexuality are what rules the game, with full support from the law.

Lebanon inherited its legal system from the French Mandate, and to this day, many of the ‘inherited’ legal articles are used to punish and legally prosecute members of the LGBTQ+ community in Lebanon. The most famous of these articles is Article 534 of the Penal Code, which provides for imprisonment of up to one year for a person who engages in sexual relations that are “contradicting of the laws of nature”, meaning that it supports the idea of ​​the existence of homosexual and heterosexual sex.

Several sections added to Article 534 talk about the “violation of morals and public decency,” in addition to sections related to the “incitement to debauchery and violation of public morals”. The common thing between all these articles is that they are elastic, and use a criterion that’s relative by nature — “ethics”. And if we take a good look at the way criminalization serves the interests of the authority, only then may the ambiguity clear up a little about the standards that criminalization and regulation are based on.

The systematic marginalization of queer individuals in Lebanon is not only practiced through the criminalization of homosexuality and gendered indiscipline alone. It is also done through shaming, discrediting, criminalizing, and punishing the ways of existence and the life of individuals that are outside the boundaries drawn by society and the state — that is, outside the image and stereotype expected of them. Moreover, they constantly experience difficulties accessing ordinary services, which are supposed to be available to all.

Complex Identities and Varying Battles

It is not easy to summarize the abuses and violations that queer individuals are subjected to. It’s not fair to only link them to their sexual practices or their non-stereotypical forms of expression, because the forms of oppression are complex: they may occur at the hand of laws and institutions, in society and relationships, and in various spaces. In the absence of an incubating and nurturing environment, it becomes an essential task for queer individuals to embrace themselves. Their experiences differ in relation to gender performance, sexual orientation, or lack thereof.

There is a myth that says that man is a sexual being by nature. However, this statement does not reflect everyone’s experience.

Anna* is in her early thirties and lives in the Matn district, northeast of the Lebanese capital Beirut. Despite having studied theater, she answers the question of whether she seeks to find a job in the field of acting by saying that she does not dream of jobs and employment in a capitalist world, but rather in a world of community care and welfare.

Anna explains that the amount of sex in her life is tiny or even non-existent, due to having a ‘gray’ sexual orientation. Following a long search, Anna discovered the appropriate word to describe her sexuality. Society has saturated her with expectations, not only of the inevitability of desire, but of the inevitability of heterosexuality. Her experience did not meet these expectations: she is not heterosexual, and her orientation is asexual.

She tells Raseef22, “I used to think I was asexual, but I am in a fluid place by feeling sexual attraction at times and at other times completely staying away from sex. The same goes for the gender of the people I am attracted to. At first, I thought I was heterosexual, then bisexual, then I thought I was homosexual. But then I thought I was bisexual again. There are times when I feel attracted to one gender only, and times when I don’t even know what the meaning of attraction itself is.”

Anna was initially terrified of what this might mean for her future. “I’ve always considered myself a supporter and ally of the LGBTQ+ community. Then I discovered that I was part of that community, and not just an ally.”

Thus, Anna periodically changed the vocabulary she used in relation to her sexual orientation, not because she was still “in the closet” as a queer person, but because the search for words that represent her has taken a lot of time.

Lebanon has always appeared progressive. The scene showing LGBTQ+ people organizing public events in Beirut easily deceives and produces the illusion that non-normative people can live a carefree life. But in reality, this country is just like any other...

Ram also did not intend to hide her sexual orientation, but she considered herself to be a heterosexual woman because the environment she belonged in did not embrace queer women, even though her own identity wasn’t yet clear to her. “I don't mean that I wasn’t aware of the presence of homosexuals. I had male gay friends along with queer friends who later turned out to be trans women. But the homosexual and queer presence of women wasn't that clear,” she tells Raseef22.

Ram is 26 years old. She looks like a Hollywood actress. She moved from her city to Beirut and volunteered with the Helem Association, an organization that works to achieve justice and equality for people of non-normative sexual orientations (“LGBTQ+ and queer individuals”). Thus, she was able to become more familiar with issues of sexuality and felt more freedom in the midst of similar societies. Today, she works in the field of mental health and supports many individuals during their darkest days.

As for Nagham, 37, the limitation on her freedom is linked to many things: she is busy all the time. She works full time, teaches full time, and takes care of her family full time as well. She is highly educated, but her unending curiosity has led her on an unending journey of search and discovery. Despite working in her own scientific field of specialty, she is still studying so that her world can grow even more.

Nagham has always known that she is queer. She tells Raseef22, “Sexuality was not a part of my life as a teenager and I had no experiences until I became a young woman. When sexuality became a part of my life, I knew it was non-normative. I made no secret of my attraction to women and men even when I was with the first guy that I loved and dated during my days in university. This matter was not of great importance.”

In contrast, queerness played a large role in Zuzu’s life. Zuzu is 23, non-conforming to the gender assigned to him at birth, and prefers the masculine pronoun over the feminine despite his use of both. Zuzu is still a student and hates it, not to mention hating working full time as well. He jokes to Raseef22, “I might end up opening a wood shop where I will create some really ugly things, but my friends will support me and buy some of them.”

Although he is someone who’s loved by his friends today, finding these friends was a difficult task. Up until the age of 13, Zuzu studied at a Lebanese nuns’ school, where the general atmosphere was conservative and the nuns did not like the touching of hands and hugs that may take place between students, seeing it as an act of indulgence. He then moved to a secular school where the students interacted with each other in a much more relaxed manner. He hadn’t known what he had lost during his first learning experience, but a new feeling would overwhelm him when hugging a fellow schoolmate.

“It stirred such a new feeling in me that I even mentioned it to two friends. I asked them if they would get a strange sensation in their stomachs when they hugged a girl. I think that was the first time I ever felt shame, when one of them answered me saying, ‘That’s weird, do not mention it again.’ I felt sadness and fear. From that moment on, I adopted an anti-homosexual attitude, considering that homosexuals are disgusting. Even when I would watch pornography, I would turn off the computer whenever a video showing two women would suddenly appear before me,” he recounts.

Zuzu also asked other questions, not about his sexuality, but about his gender performance, as he is more comfortable in the area of masculine performativity. Anna also raised questions about how ‘disciplined’ her gender was. She finally concluded that her gender, just like her sexuality, is fluid, “Sometimes I feel non-binary, and sometimes I feel not tied to any particular gender, feeling uncomfortable in my own body if someone addresses me as a woman or girl.”

In Anna and Zuzu’s experience, gender expression and performance were fluid and flexible, and the feminine and masculine pronouns used may change with it. However, gender identity may be deeply rooted for many trans individuals, which makes addressing them or talking about them using the wrong pronoun a violent act, because recognizing the gender identity different from the one assigned to them at birth is an essential matter of existence.

Nai, 31, for instance, is a trans woman. She says that throughout her childhood, she hated eggplant and all its by-products. As she grew up, her tastes changed and Maqlooba (an eggplant-based dish) became her favorite food. This is how Nai and her personality change with time, but one thing about her remains fixed and unchanging: her gender. Nai has always known that she was a girl from as long as she could remember.

She tells Raseef22, “I've always known that I differ from the stereotyped gender expected of me. I used to feel lonely, until I read in a magazine about the different definitions of gender identity, beyond those that were only gender binary (of the male and female genders). I found varying definitions such as homosexuality, pansexuality, and transsexuality in addition to trans women. I read the last one and thought that that one is me.”

Nye was 18 when she finally had a word she could own and define herself with — a “trans woman”. She completed her search on the Internet in order to find a place that she could be fully present in with herself. She found a queer space for women in Beirut, outside the NGOs that were dominated by gay men at the time. This group became a safe space for her and a small community that distanced her from the isolation that’s been imposed on her from society.

But Society Doesn’t Accept Any Deviatons from the Pattern

The historical accumulations that pushed many people to the margins of society defined a single form that societies considered to be authentic for sexual orientation and gender performance. Societies put all their weight in reproducing this pattern: the inevitability of heterosexuality and gendered discipline.

From birth, and even before we are born, we practice being heterosexual men and women. Every little boy has a ball, every little girl has a doll, and every groom has a bride. If you do not get married, you are a spinster, and there aren’t many other possibilities, except those that make life that is already difficult, even more difficult.

“I didn't understand why everyone was talking about their crush. Everyone seemed to have a crush but me, and called me a liar. Here I tried to convince myself that there is someone I liked, just to make myself feel that I was like everyone else”

Nagham realized that, over the years, the space that her sexuality occupies had become much larger than what she could realize and much more difficult for her as a queer woman, as she began to notice the things that society had forced upon her, including who she should be attracted to, how she should be, and what her lifestyle should be.

“The space that sexuality occupies in my life has grown, but this did not make me feel anxious or afraid, not because this is easy or is devoid of fear and anxiety. On the contrary, this society does not consider my entire existence legitimate, whether I was single or in a heterosexual or a non-normative relationship.”

Although Nagham married out of love, her marriage was also a way out of the difficulties imposed on her by her parents. “There weren’t many solutions: Either I was going to kill them, or I kill myself, or I get married. So I got married,” she says.

The option of entering the institution of marriage is controversial for many, regardless of their gender, but the state and family often make it a necessity — an obligation. Nagham answered this call of duty and married her boyfriend, who is Lebanese like her and is heterosexual. However, she still experiences oppression on plenty of levels as a woman in Lebanon. Her compliance with the requirements of society did not save her. “Therefore, I have no desire to announce my queerness in the public domain or become a spectacle in people’s eyes,” she says.

Like her, Anna doesn’t want to come out. One time, she was kissing a girl somewhere that wasn’t visible in the street, and she was afraid — not only of physical violence, in case anyone noticed them, but also of the curiosity of strangers, “Many people feel that homosexuality between women is either something that is sexually arousing or is not real, thus I do not feel safe in public spaces.”

The reality is that queer women are treated as tools of arousal for the male gaze. It is even more complicated for Anna, not only when it comes to people’s reactions to her relationships with women, but also regarding her appearance, which is non-normative of the gender assigned to her at birth, “The shorter my hair, the worse it gets, especially outside Beirut. Sometimes, people look at me with a terrible amount of hate, as if I had killed their beloved grandmother, and it all confused me. They stare at me openly and rudely without looking away, and some come up to me and ask what is my problem and why I had chosen this haircut? Do I have cancer, or am I just desperately trying to attract attention in some strange way? That is when I do not feel safe.”

From birth, and even before that, we practice being heterosexual men and women. Every boy has a ball, every girl has a doll, and every groom has a bride. If you don’t get married, you’re a spinster. There are no other possibilities, except those that make life even more difficult

Some queer individuals suffer from societal harassment and bullying. Zuzu recalls a day when he was waiting for his turn at the General Security Center and a woman kept staring at the tattoo on his leg. After he gave her a surprised look, she expressed her admiration for the art. Zuzu felt relieved and shared with her that he had a second rose tattoo. From behind the face mask, his voice sounded even deeper. The stranger told him that the rose was beautiful, but that he should remove his earring so that people would not think that he was a girl.

“I thought maybe she felt that I wanted my gender to be read as masculine, so she gave advice. But she probably thought I was a young man that dresses like women. I think part of feeling safe depends on how society reads me: Do they see me as a gay man? Or a female tomboy? For this woman specifically, it was not dangerous, but if the police, for example, gendered me as a young man, and then it turns out that my identification papers are for a female, it will turn into violence, because they may feel deceived,” says Zuzu.

Between being a pariah and fetishism, and between the systematic erasure of queer presence in public spaces, many revolutionary possibilities are lost. These possibilities are related to who we will be and what our societies will be, if we do not punish non-normative existence.

Unconditional Family Love, is Conditional?

Worry and anxiety over the reactions of parents and family take up a major part in the fears of those with non-normative sexual orientations and gender performances: whether in terms of losing the parents and the emotional bond with them, or material losses such as the person being denied or deprived of their inheritance or being disowned from the family.

Sometimes, individuals face the threat of physical harm, not to mention psychological harm such as shame, humiliation, feeling responsible for having failed their parents, or bringing new burdens upon them by merely existing. Zuzu’s mother is a woman in her fifties from one of the predominantly Christian towns in southern Lebanon. She possesses an impressive educational background, a revolutionary past, and plenty of artistic talent. She used to perform in a dance troupe in her youth. She was a role model for Zuzu in all of this, being a woman who is well-acquainted with everything from education, to art and activism.

Zuzu’s mother also has fears for her son and his fate, and although they don’t talk about his orientation and gender directly, Zuzu knows that she sees his identity as a magnet for trouble. The few times she mentioned her fears to him, she would tell him the story of a gay European man who was her neighbor in the building. He had many partners, and one day, he was stabbed by one of them. Apparently, the mother saw the killer coming out of the building. Zuzu thinks part of this story is fictional, “but the lesson here is that she’s trying to tell me that she’s afraid someone will do me harm.”

Anna also tried to tell her parents about her sexuality. She assessed the situation first by asking her father theoretical questions such as, “If I told you that I was not heterosexual, how would you react?” Her father replied, “Of course I will always love you, but you’re not a lesbian, are you?” Anna would feel guilty from the fear that her father displays, and replies, “Of course not, of course not.”

Anna’s father passed away, and she entered a period of deep depression. She was twice heartbroken, once on the parting of her father and once on the parting of someone that she loved. She felt that spaces became narrower for her and that she would never be able to find people who love her as she is. Finally, she revealed her sexual orientation to her mother, but that was due to the depression and suicidal thoughts that she struggled with. She thought that it didn’t matter in the end if she was going to commit suicide. Fortunately, and to Anna’s surprise, her mother’s response was a simple one, “It doesn't matter. Your personal matters are personal.” She did not go back to reopen the discussion and just ignored it.

Anna thinks that her mother did not want to add to her suffering, so she didn’t reopen the conversation. At that time, Anna was not able to obtain adequate mental health care: she is always afraid of how much the therapist would accept her queerness, as it is a part of her and therefore a part of the difficulties she is going through and that affect her mental health, without being the cause of the problems themselves.

Given the expensive cost of therapists, limited resources, and the horrific stories that circulate among queer individuals of terrible experiences riddled with shaming and arrogant psychoanalysis of their personal experiences, Anna doesn’t have the luxury of the lengthy and grueling process of searching, not to mention that psychological issues are urgent matters that require a trusted professional. There is no way to find something like this without a referral system to ensure that the therapist wouldn’t try to treat or ‘heal’ her identity and tendencies. This is an additional concern that she faces when looking for outlets of freedom and comfort.

Many others, especially those with non-normative sexual orientations, report negative experiences with therapists, from belittling concerns that seem superficial to them about outward appearances to assuming that their identity is a response to strict parents or a violent experience or harassment.

The problem is not the impossibility that our sexualities are a decision resulting from our experiences. Rather, the problem is the tendency to ‘treat’ them against the will of those who requested the counselling in the first place. This experience may be somewhat similar to women’s experiences with excess weight: if they go to the eye doctor, or the throat doctor, or any physician, he will not hesitate to tell them that they should lose weight. The same is true if queer people went to a therapist because of some shock, explosion, depression, or panic attacks, it is impossible for him to set the queerness aside without trying to ‘treat’ it.

The World is not Tailored to the Size of Romantic Relationships

Not many people have found acceptance even in small LGBT communities. There are as many different difficulties as there are different identities and inclinations that complicate emotional experiences. Zuzu, for instance, feared whether identifying himself through a different gender would be an obstacle in his romantic relationships. “Will I lose the ones I love or like because they won’t be attracted to me?” he wonders. This is in addition to the fear of losing his place in the society that he considered himself a part of: he has been socially introduced as a woman, and he experiences the oppression of women in Lebanon through the legal system. Accordingly, Zuzu’s fears are not limited to the loss of individuals and his partners, but to the loss of an entire community that shares some forms of oppression.

As for Anna, she has been accused of lying throughout her childhood and adolescence when she said she did not feel any attractions, “I didn’t understand why everyone was talking about their ‘crush’. Everyone seemed to have a ‘crush’ but me, and they didn’t believe me and called me a liar to the point where I tried to convince myself that there is someone I liked just to make myself feel that I was like everybody else.”

Although she is an adult today, and peers are no longer able to cancel her identity, revealing her sexuality to those she dates is not easy. How can she go on a romantic date with someone and tell them that she might never be attracted to them?"

Pinpointing the source of the systematic oppression against LGBTQ+ people reveals the production of “the state” and “the people” is a major cause of the systematic suppression of the practices outside what the government wants to portray as its identity

Anna might go on a date because she is curious, or because she wants to get to know someone more and enjoy talking and being with them. She wants a “partner” in the battlefield of life before she wants a “lover”. For her, a friendship precedes any sort of attraction, whether it be emotional or sexual, and this complicates her friendships.

The cliché of love at first sight is a myth to her, since she needs to get to know a person, get attached to him, like him, and then fall in love. This long journey is a dilemma: if she falls in love with her friends, she may lose the friendship, and if she meets someone new with the aim of becoming a future love interest, it may never happen.

“Today, we don’t find people interested in investing all that time in building relationships that they do not know the future of, and it is hard to accept the idea that their partners aren’t attracted to them yet,” she says. Anna finds that the processes that are related to dating do not include her, even if it is within queer communities. We may see her talking and laughing with her buddies, but she doesn’t share her emotional, sexual, and queer experiences with them.

Nagham, who married her partner in compliance with the rules of society, was able to defy these rules a bit through her relationship with her husband. Their relationship was open before marriage within the rules they had agreed upon, and it remained open after tying the knot. This atypical marriage is meant to give Nagham dating opportunities, especially since her experiences were limited, given that she did not care much for dating until a relatively advanced age.

But this did not enrich her with experiences, “I tried dating a little, including women. It was not a successful endeavor, perhaps because I am jinxed or a bad deal, being a married woman, a mother, and a veiled woman. Or maybe that wasn’t what was running through the minds of the women I dated, but only what was running through my own.”

What goes on in Nagham’s mind is not uncommon or strange, and it’s likely that it is running through the minds of the people she's been trying to date. Nagham is not only a mother, but she is the mother of two children, and the world is quick to judge mothers. It is assumed that they should not have any tasks or concerns other than motherhood, and that they should not have sex lives. If their sex lives did exist, they must be limited only to their so-called “marital duties”; that is, they must stay within the institution of marriage and be exercised in reluctance — out of duty and not of desire.

Her veil may also be an element of surprise given the quick judgment on it as well. Nagham does not need all these judgments and the weight they carry. In addition, she is busy expanding her world, and refuses to let this be disturbed by the narrow-minded thinking of others.

The Institution of Marriage... and Childbearing

It may be strange to find a section on marriage and childbearing within a queer framework, given that customary laws and legislations almost exclude such possibilities for people with non-normative genders and sexualities. The state decides who has the right to love, get married, and have children. For this purpose, the state does not only enact laws criminalizing homosexuality, but also all other laws that serve to reproduce a composition of the same national-sectarian demographic for the country, by prohibiting civil marriage, preventing women from granting citizenship to their children, criminalizing abortion, and through other types of oppression.

Joy, 30, is a very likable girl. Her family is harmonious and agreeable, even happy. And if it wasn’t for Joy’s queerness, the whole world would be available to her to do as she pleases with all this familial love and support. About three years ago, the young woman with a fluid sexual orientation was in a relationship with a woman. After facing some problems, they took a break from their relationship. In the meantime, Joy met a guy and they spent a night together, only to find out she was pregnant.

If she had been in another country, Joy would have either considered motherhood or aborting the pregnancy. But she is in Lebanon and does not intend to leave her country, because she loves it too much. However, the laws of Lebanon do not reciprocate this love, because pregnancy and childbearing out of wedlock will lead to great difficulties when it comes to legally registering the child, especially in the absence of a father figure. As for abortion, it is outlawed as well.

The Lebanese Penal Code established in 1943 completely criminalizes abortion. Instead of completely modifying it, a presidential decree was issued in 1969 allowing what was called “therapeutic abortion” only if it was the only way to save the life of a pregnant woman, or in the event of abnormalities that the fetus cannot live with. Otherwise, the law stipulates that a person getting an abortion shall be punished with a period of six months up to three years in prison, in addition to the imprisonment of the person providing this health service.

This is how the state doesn’t allow Joy to have children as a single woman or as a woman in a relationship with another woman, placing barriers when it comes to accessing abortion services. Joy was finally able to obtain the service, which gave her a happy-sad feeling. She made it out of these trying times and unexpected pregnancy, but they were a reminder to her that the state does not allow her to exist and reproduce except within a single format that does not resemble her.

Joy condemns how society and its laws force her to let go of her family if she wants to start a family. She wonders, “Do we have to lose our family, to build our own?”

Thoughts of having a baby are usually mixed with guilt for Anna, especially after losing her father. She doesn’t want kids the way society dictates. She imagines her ideal life in a different way that doesn’t involve her legal existence as a person within marriage. An ideal relationship for her might include multiple partners or raising a child with a close friend. But these would all be illegal, and she cannot envision being able to act them out in Lebanon, simply because it would not be safe. But the thought that she would never have children deeply saddens her, as she is her family’s only child, and even the sole granddaughter of her grandfather on her paternal side, a matter that her father had already discussed with her. “Our bloodline ends with me,” she says.

Although Nagham got married and had two children, she was not spared from hardships and did not meet all the expectations placed upon her, “We have decided to separate, my husband and I.”

Like many couples, Nagham and her husband came to a crossroads, and it was better for them and their family to split up. Like everything in their lives, their separation was an amicable one. “Fortunately, the father of my child is a good person,” says Nagham. “I cannot imagine the difficulties that other women go through, with every means utilized to prevent them from obtaining the custody of their children. There is nothing easier than being told in court that a woman is a lesbian or bisexual, for her to never see her children again.”

A country where custody is forcefully taken away from women, is hard on mothers, heterosexuals and homosexuals alike. It is hard on women, on mothers, on queer women, and on transgenders in particular. It is a country where having children is a duty and an obligation for some, forbidden for others, and a luxury distributed according to what fits the mold that’s been set by authority. As for transgenders, the state does not recognize their gender or the identity non-normative to their gender assigned to them at birth, if they have children, and if they do not go through gender-affirming surgeries that prevent them from the possibilities of having children in the future.

This means, for example, that if one of them has children and then decides to affirm her/his gender and cross over, the state will not allow and will not recognize this, because then the children will have two mothers or two fathers. The political and sectarian administrative system will also fall into a dilemma: who will give the children their nationality, what restrictions they will follow, where they will vote, etc.

This also means that if a transgender man who has no children wants to obtain identification papers recognizing his gender, the state will force him to carry out operations that would prevent him from having a biological child, such as hysterectomy.

With all this violence imposed on the body, being, and future of trans people, childbearing may be the last of their worries in such an extremely difficult life. “It is a vortex with every exit closed off,” as Nye describes it.

Although all the stories about people’s fears revolve around coming out to their parents, it is not easier to do so to children. Speaking on the possibility of telling her two children about her sexuality, Nagham says, “Currently, I play the role of the guardian, the nanny, and the protector for them, meaning that our relationship is a compulsory one because they depend on me for the necessities of life. When they grow up, it will depend on the relationship that we will build between us. I think our relationship will be so close that I could say it, given that they know me well and I know them well and that we spend most of our time together. But I also wonder a lot about whether coming out in public as a queer woman would force them to have to explain things to society. I may not care about these things and I don’t care about what people think, but it may be different for them, and I do not want them to carry this burden.” The mother fears that the burden will be passed down from one generation to another, because society is not supportive of those that are different.

The Interconnection of the Facets of Oppression

It is important to reflect on the value that authority places on sexuality — what it considers normal and tolerates, and what it considers non-normative and criminalizes — and through this, produces citizenship and the people. It is essential that we also analyze this in its relation to nationalities, drawing borders, as well as controlling the bodies of women, individuals from the LGBTQ community, trans people, migrants, refugees, sex workers, Bedouins, and stateless people.

The many different facets of oppression are interconnected in the way states try to control who has the right to love, get married, have children, provide support, and appear as normal. If we were to put a finger on the source of the systematic oppression of LGBTQ people, we would see that the production of “the state” and the production of “the people” are a major cause of the systematic suppression of practices that challenge the system — the practices that go outside what the government wants in order to control its national identity.

Accordingly, the framework based solely on sexual orientation or gender identity as a tool for liberation overlooks the fact that our liberation is inevitably linked to the liberation of everyone from the shackles of systematic oppression, which molds people into a form that serves regimes, such as the Taif Agreement, the Kafala System, and systematic racism.

*All names in this report are aliases meant to protect the privacy of the speakers.


[1] Gendered discipline is when a person’s gender identity conforms to the standards and expectations of society and of the gender assigned to them at birth. For example, to designate someone as “male” and be comfortable in that identity, feeling and acting. Those that are not gender disciplined fall under the trans umbrella term that includes gender fluidity or flexibility as well as non-binary gender, among others.

Show the comments
Website by WhiteBeard