lulu bean's introduction   lulu bean

 

In Arabic
A woman believing she is a sexual being was okay in my family. But a woman believing she could pursue her sexual fantasies was the biggest taboo. Long live hypocrisy: look but don't touch.

Goddamn, how I wanted to touch.

Being raised in a very Arab-identified family has taught me two things: words verbalized are not necessarily advocated, and one should always read between the lines.

The lines continue to strain my eyes.

Honesty is not the best policy, says my mother, whoever told you that bullshit? Well, I'm in the eighth year of my "homosexual phase" and to be quite honest, a daily dose of my girlfriend is an essential part of my diet.

I asked my cousin what she thought of my girlfriend's photograph. "Your friend seems wonderful," she replies. I reiterate that she is my girlfriend, my lover, mí amour. I can hear her smile over the telephone, "Yes habibti [sweetheart], I know." Not only am I tired of reading between the lines, but I refuse to help create them.

I asked my mother what she thought of my girlfriend's photograph. She hoped we wouldn't have children. "God will punish you habibti." She was grateful to have me in her life now because, as she put it, I wouldn't "make it in" to heaven with her. I told her I am in heaven; I'm in love. She ignored that.

My sexuality. Why is it so hard to write about? But I do write about it, speak about it, create art about it, announce it to the world everyday. So what's the problem? Arab sexuality.

Arab sexuality. An oxymoron? A contradiction? Oil and water? The first year after my parents disowned me, I couldn't refer to both my ethnic/cultural background and my sexual identity in the same sentence. For me, it was either/or. Ironically, sex was an open issue with my parents...I learned the intimate "guide to heterosexual fucking" at age eleven from my mother. Several years later, I know that sexuality, not sex, is one of the hardest topics for me to discuss in terms of my Arab identity.

I was talking to a group of friends about being an individual in an Arab family. We discussed the challenges of stepping forward out of the enmeshed group and making a controversial proclamation. As many people can testify, Arab families can be very tight knit -- we "take care of our own," we encourage symbiotic relationships, we nurture each other, we stifle each other...but...if you dare to deviate, and are actually not ashamed of it, you are automatically shunned and classified as the black sheep. How many Arabs do you personally know that would not vocalize a thought for fear of being ex-communicated from their family?

I can name about fifteen.

Being queerly vocal has been easy. Being vocally queer as an Arab has been, and sometimes continues to be, a struggle. I wondered why there were not more contributions to this issue of bint el nas. Were people too shy to speak about such a personal subject? Or scared that it may ultimately out them? Or maybe it's a subject that for them, like for me, is just hard to discuss in the context of Arab identity. Nevertheless, thank you to all the contributors and all those who considered donating their works of art. Sexuality is a complex subject which has been used as a weapon to intimidate. For this reason, I have made a commitment to struggle down the path honestly and openly, and to fight to overcome the shame that has been forced upon me.

After exactly four years and two weeks of being isolated from my family, my mother and I are finally starting to patch up our relationship. This has proven to be one of the hardest things I've taken on and it does not come with little work. But it is work well worth the outcome and though she will never attend our wedding, I know that my mother wants me to be happy. A much different viewpoint from four years ago, and hopefully one that will improve in the next four years.

I offer a quote from writer Dorothy Allison: "Two or three things I know for sure, and one is that I would rather go naked than wear the coat the world has made for me." Here's to naked sexual beings and Arab culture.



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