Dispatch

He’s Gay. He’s Moroccan. And He Fell In Love With His Brother. Then He Wrote It All Down

abdellah-taia

If an American were to publish five autobiographies, we’d consider him pompous. Even Larry King’s latest (error-prone) tome seems a bit self-indulgent. But Morocco’s Abdellah Taia, 35, who the Associated Press describes as the “first high-profile, openly gay man,” doesn’t seem to be in it for himself. Rather, he’s on a one-man crusade to expose homophobia in North Africa, including in his own family, where his parents and eight siblings have abandoned him in shame. (It doesn’t help that he writes about them regularly in his books, along with graphic sexual prose.)

In the book [L’armee du Salut, or Salvation Army], he also talks about his blooming sexuality, describing teenage trysts in the back of dark movie theaters and flings with European tourists looking for more than sun on their Moroccan holidays.

Like nearly all Arab countries, Morocco considers homosexual relations a crime, punishable by fines and prison sentences of six months to three years. Such penalties are rarely applied, though, and in practice, Morocco has a long history of leniency toward homosexuality and other practices forbidden by Islam.

Asked whether he sees himself as courageous, Taia said, “The most difficult thing was to work up the courage to pick up the pen and write for the first time.”

An English translation arrived in the U.S. last month, notes Al-Bab in an interview with the author, where he talks about sexual feelings toward his own brother.

Your feelings towards your brother started with admiration but became over time more sexual, I think …

I don’t know. This started so early on that it’s confused in my mind. The admiration came with the movies because he was the one who took me to see films and he was the one who had movie magazines. This element is very important. He showed me the direction to follow: cinema.

But at some point a sexual element came into the attraction as well?

Yes. For instance, I wrote in the book that twice a week I used to help him to wash his hair. Just a little boy putting water on his big brother’s head and forgetting that that man is his brother. I wanted to do so many things with him, to touch his neck, to play with his hair, to dry him, to kiss the clean skin of his hands . . .