We recently reported on how gays joined the Celebrate Israel parade for the first time last weekend, but there’s more news from the Middle East, a region usually silent when it comes to the LGBT community.
At a press conference in Geneva, Tunisian government minister Samir Dilou rejected the United Nations Human Rights Council’s request to decriminalize same-sex acts in the North African country, stating that “sexual orientation is specific to the West. Tunisia has its own identity as an Arab Muslim state,” according to Tunisia Live magazine.
Though Article 230 of the Tunisian penal code—which criminalizes homosexuality—dates back to when the country was a French colony, Dilou upheld it as an example of Tunisian tradition: “We have an identity that has to be respected. Such a recommendation does not align with the values of Tunisian society.”
The government in Tunis approved most of the Council’s other 100-plus recommendations, including ones on equality for women, disabled rights and judicial reform. Looking for a silver lining, activist AmenAllah Grich was pleased to see Dilou admitted all Tunisians, including LGBTs, deserved basic legal protections.
Well that’s something.
Though she’s known for sexually-charged imagery and lyrics, and a strong allegiance to her gay fans, Madonna wowed the crowds at her first Middle East concert, in Abu Dhabi.
Pink News reports more than 25,000 attend the Material Girl’s shows on June 3 and 4 in Yas Island Stadium, where her performance included “strong and clear messages about LGBT rights.”
Homosexuality is punishable by up to 14 years jail in Abu-Dhabi, and the UAE penal code has a provision for the death sentence for sodomy.
“One of the [concert’s] strongest visuals for LGBT rights and against homophobic bullying was during ‘Nobody Knows Me,'” reports GayMiddleEast.com editor Shamil, “The interlude video highlighted the plight of young people who are driven to commit suicide because they are victims of homophobic bullying.”
During “Express Yourself,” (which included, as anticipated, a sly reference to Gaga’s “Born this Way”), images of gay and lesbian kisses were projected onto screens. Gender norms were flouted during “Erotica,” “Vogue” and “Girl Gone Wild,” when the male dance troupe Kazaki danced shirtless and in high heels.
“While the concert was predominantly about music and advertising for her new album, I left the show with the sense and overwhelming feeling that I had just witnessed something more extraordinary,” said one lesbian attendee. “Whatever else is said about that night there is simply no way to negate the simple fact that as a human being, rather than a musical legend, Madonna should be revered. To be so confident and unwavering in ones support for the rights of all people should be something to which we all aspire.”
You might be “over” Madge, but you gotta admit the girl’s still giving it to her gays.
Even as gay print media suffers in the U.S., the Middle East has seen the birth of the region’s first LGBT magazine. Our friends at Queer Women of Color turned us onto My.Kali, a four-year-old publication published monthly in Jordan and written in English.
From the magazine’s “About” section:
“My.Kali.mag is an LGBTQ (Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals and transgender, Q; questioning or queer) concerned monthly magazine. It concerns gay (and whose just interested) people from all around the world and it’s dedicated for people who live in the: Middle East, for foreigners who live in the Arab world, for those who live in closed-minded/open-minded environments, for those new-gay-to-be, for those who’re away from home and for those who’re interested in entering the world of My.Kali.
Judging from the cover, it looks like the mag covers similar beats as glossies in the West: fashion, celebrities, lifestyle. But there’s a definite goal of raising awareness about regional and international LGBT issues:
“We speak up for all those who’re quiet; we give you the voice of your silence. We’re the magazine your mom can’t find under your bed, we’re the magazine to keep and we’re the magazine that you can reach anywhere you are. We like to be your pillow of comfort, your best friend and your new wing-man/woman.”
We could use more of that here at home!