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Queer Culture in the Arabic World

Written by Edward Siddons


Khalid Abdel-Hadi [pictured above], founder of the Middle East's leading LGBT magazine My.Kali, has carved a new space for queer culture in the Arabic world. Founded in 2008, the magazine was published exclusively in English. "We didn't want to speak the language of the public," he explains, in part for fear of reprisal, the likes of which recently saw Xulhaz Mannan, a prominent Bangladeshi LGBT blogger, beheaded by radical Islamist militants. Last year heralded a brave new move in My.Kali'sud history with the publication of its first edition in Arabic. "We thought it was time. Regardless of whether it's smart or completely safe, it is needed."

Forging an identity free of Western dominance that avoids casting queer Arabs as a monolithic bloc poses a struggle. Khalid expresses particular frustration at the Western media's obsession with casting Arab queers as victims. For all the stories of rejection, alienation and oppression are others of acceptance and triumph, but the complexity of queer Arab life is lost in Western representation. As but one example, while nearby Iran imposes the death penalty for sodomy, it is home to the second highest number of gender reassignent surgeries in the world. The unevenness of LGBT rights throughout the region gains minimal attention. READ MORE

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