Monday, August 31, 2009

NYT and "gay culture" in Beirut

"The article also denies other Arab countries their own gay cultures. Many western journalists sum up Arab gay realities with sentences like: "Saudi Arabia: homosexuality punishable by death", "Iraq: gay men killed." Full stop. But gay men are also killed in "civilised" western countries. While homophobia is certainly a problem in Arab countries, like anywhere else, it never overshadows the thriving and lively local gay cultures. Yet no one talks about these cultures. "Cairo: bad", "Damascus: bad", we're told by Ricardo, the Spaniard in the article. Even Dubya and his "Axis of Evil" would envy such eloquence...How ironic that many Lebanese gay men, including myself, actually feel more comfortable in places like Damascus or Amman and go there often in order to escape the Beiruti agitation. There might be no Kylie Minogue nights there, but on the other hand there is a lot less snobbery and less fuss about homosexuality. My friend Ali recently went to Jordan to be wedded to his boyfriend by a Muslim cleric and then spent his honeymoon in Damascus. The advantage of such trips also comes in finding an anonymity one is denied at home...The NYT article falls into the category of the infomercial, tailor-made for a certain clientele, and it has every right to. However, it is typical of much reporting about the Arab world, perpetuating tired stereotypes: Arabs are homophobes, except for the "westernised" ones, Arabs are "sexy savages". In doing so, not only is it extending the cultural gap further, but it is also exposing a much wider divide: the one between the haves and the have-nots." (thanks Matthew)