Some Things Never Change

"I have done it again.
One year in every ten
I manage it---"
Eleven years ago, in my sophomore year at AUB, I wrote an article for the Campus newspaper called "Confessions of a Gay Student". I wrote it anonymously, and it generated a lot of mail to the editor, some favorable, some not, most of which I kept news-clippings of that are now online at Helem's website. I was seventeen back then, and it was the time before the internet. I met many of my best friends through that article, as I was daring/foolish enough to provide the editors with my p.o.box number. It was a time where many people made friends through graffiti on bathroom stalls; sure most of that graffiti wasn't exactly for friendships, but there weren't that many options then...
"Peel off the napkin
O my enemy.
Do I terrify?---"
It was a while back, and lot has changed since (I will curb myself from adding the cynical "Or has it?"). Now we have the internet: first chat, and now blogs... Many of us still half-hide behind flowery user-names and handles, some as thin as our skins. But things have changed. I can tell by the overwhelming positive barrage of comments to Ahmad's homophobic post more than a week ago. And I smile. Yes, things are changing. The Syrians were still at every corner then, the Israelis were still in the South (and some would argue not much has changed in both regards, but I beg to differ). I wasn't out to anyone in my family back then; now my mother and brother and sister and two cousins and an uncle and two aunts know (aside from those who must have figured it out for themselves by now). And did I mention I was seventeen? Gosh, sometimes that seems to be most unbelievable of all! I used to wear pant size 32 still, and I used to think I was fat. Now what wouldn't I give to be able to fit in a size 34 again! (Though I still think I'm fat, but now I have a bit more to back my claim.)
"I do it so it feels like hell.
I do it so it feels real.
I guess you could say I've a call."
Back then Barra was still Out, and it was published in the UK still. Madonna was in her "Secret" phase, and I was falling in love for the first time. Yes, those were the days... The TV still had its "daring reportages" on the "taboos" that were, back then as now, as skewed as Ziad Njeim's lop-sided smile. And who could resist that smile? I still receive hate mail whenever I speak out, except now it's hate comments on my blog, like the person who left me the following comment anonymously on my latest poem: "That is the most disgusting piece of poetry. I don't know even how this qualifies to be presented!".* And like before, they write anonymously... That makes two of us hiding behind our fingers; did I mention I am not that thin?
"For the eyeing of my scars, there is a charge
For the hearing of my heart---
It really goes."
A lot has changed: Teta was still alive then; she died before I could tell her. She didn't get the chance to meet my partner of seven years; but I'm sure she can see him from where she is. (Did I mention he's not that thin either?) We're getting engaged soon, and he wants to adopt. Kids, that is, but for now I am fine with a dog. I'm sorry, but is this too private? I forget; sometimes I walk naked in my dreams.
"I am your opus,
I am your valuable,
The pure gold baby

That melts to a shriek.
I turn and burn.
Do not think I underestimate your great concern."

Sylvia Plath, excerpts from "Lady Lazarus"

*I deleted it since, and changed my settings to deny anonymity; now I have the power.


At Wednesday, May 10, 2006 8:40:00 AM, Blogger a h m a d said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At Wednesday, May 10, 2006 8:45:00 AM, Blogger a h m a d said...

I see what you decided to understand from my post! :)

Anyway, I think you did the right thing by disabling anonymous comments and prevent those "hate comments." After all, if someone is serious about poetry and commenting, why not get a blogger account?

At Wednesday, May 10, 2006 10:22:00 AM, Blogger Al-Fil said...

"That makes two of us hiding behind our fingers; did I mention I am not that thin?"

Such a beautiful way to put it.

I can't believe you wrote an article on being gay 11 years ago; that was amazingly gutsy.

At Wednesday, May 10, 2006 11:22:00 AM, Blogger Adam said...

It's my first comment on LBF but I think that the "clashes" that were happenning lately didn't leave any room for a moderate opinion to get in the middle.
Personally, i do not consider myself homophobic but I certainly dont want to see my brother or my kids dating anyone from the same sex. I do respect your sexual orientation but to be honest I think that our society is still far from accepting two gay guys holding hands or making out in public; "lesbians might be more accepted honestly!".
I'm not condemning your sexual drives and desires but we don't want to turn a new Spain or Scandinavia in the middle east.

At Wednesday, May 10, 2006 12:12:00 PM, Blogger Delirious said...

Kudos to your guts, arch.memory...
I had no idea about what being a homosexual in Lebanon really meant until one of my close friends came out of the closet to only a handful of people, including me and his siblings. His parents still have no idea about it, nor do some of his oldest friends. He lives a lie every day, he is miserable and unhappy. Homophobia is prevalent around him, and please do not be fooled by 'the overwhelming positive barrage of comments to Ahmad's homophobic post' because these people are advocating freedom of expression, but not necessarily homosexuality.
I had the opportunity to meet GA from Helem in the context of the project they submitted for the amendment of the law pertaining to homosexuality in Lebanon. I was present in the selection committee that discussed the evaluation of the project. I saw the horrified expressions, heard the disgusted remarks and the rejection.
Believe me, my friend, there is still a long way to go...

At Wednesday, May 10, 2006 12:19:00 PM, Blogger Rampurple said...

This is an amazing post!
I have a few homosexual friends and one bisexual friend. I always accepted them as is. I know they had problems with family, friends, and later finding jobs. I never understood it.
Would you rather losing your brother to having a gay brother? I would rather keep my brother next to me no matter what his sexual orientation is. It is easier for us to accept straight siblings but life isnt always as you want it to be.
IF a homosexual does a better job than a sraight guy at work then why not hire him?
I think it's time we get over this and let the people live their lives.

At Wednesday, May 10, 2006 2:38:00 PM, Blogger Ramz said...

I don't think it's about accepting or being ok with someone being homosexual. It just is.

Anyway, that's not what I wanted to comment on.

A.M. you've been with someone for 7 years, you're getting engaged... you've found love. Hell, that puts you on a step above everyone who is still lost in this world, trying to make sense of things,people and places.


At Wednesday, May 10, 2006 3:10:00 PM, Blogger arch.memory said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At Wednesday, May 10, 2006 3:58:00 PM, Blogger arch.memory said...

Ahmad, you're right this time. ;)
Al-fil, thanks, dear.
Adam, I wouldn't want my brother or kids dating anyone bigoted in any way. I respect your sexual orientation, too, no matter what that may be. And I'm not condemning your sexual drives and desires, but if only we'd turn to a new Spain or Scandinavia in the middle east!
Delirious, thank you. I believe you, that's why I chose to live away from my family, so I can live life with all my dignity.
Rampurple, thanks. It's always good to know that you're preferable to a dead person. Or a less competent one. Or pehaps both. No wonder our government is so efficient; it is rampant with dead incompetent employees!
Ramz, thank you!

At Wednesday, May 10, 2006 4:00:00 PM, Blogger Charles Malik said...

What a powerful post! I had no idea that this is what I would read today.

Thank you for your terse and humble statement.

I'm routinely surprised at the visceral attacks frequently heard about homosexuality. Commonly, the word heard is "disgusting." I don't understand it. What's there to be disgusted about? I'm disgusted by body odor, not washing one's hands after using the restroom, cockroaches and hair in food, and speeches that urge violence for racist and religious causes.

I agree with you and disagree but understand Delirious. I think Lebanon has come a long way. There are still major problems, but attitudes are maturing in fascinating ways.

At Thursday, May 11, 2006 3:07:00 PM, Blogger arch.memory said...

Thanks for your comment. I am quite surprised by that "disgusting" sentiment as well; my belief is (and it's not really limited to me) that if you have such an inexplicable negative reaction, you've got something to hide. People secure in their skin and their sexuality, I've found out, are very supportive. But I believe you, that we still have ways to come...

At Thursday, May 11, 2006 3:34:00 PM, Blogger Lira = 1500 said...

Could you guys please POST any of those web banners on your blogs?


The walk will be on 21 May

Thank you!

At Thursday, May 11, 2006 3:41:00 PM, Blogger pot.of.tea said...

Hey Dear,

Firstly, I felt that after all was said and done, it is strange of you to condemn it his post "Ahmad's homophobic post." I am incredibly sleepy and currently can think of no real reason whatsoever to condemn this condemnation, but I think that it is just strange, unnoble maybe.

Secondly, I might as well tell you that what you wrote is amazing. It made me dizzy(er).

Thirdly, I am ashamed that he carries my name.

Ton frère Ahmad

At Thursday, May 11, 2006 3:46:00 PM, Blogger arch.memory said...

Hi habibi,

I'll tell you why I condemned Ahmad's post as homophobic, even though it may strike many as reasonable. This use of the notion of the private or the personal to quiet down a certain segment of the populace is not new nor limited to our culture, though it certainly is more effective in it. It is usually the last vestige of intolerance, when saying outright "those people are less than us" is no longer acceptable, and therefore ineffective. It happened in one form or another in the feminist movement and the civil rights movement, which is why the feminist movement gave rise to one of the best slogans ever: "The personal is political, the political is personal". And that can't be truer! Personal rights, such as women's right and gay rights, translate directly to political demands (as is perhaps more obvious in the West). And the reverse is just as true: when we abandon politics because it is no longer relevant to us, that is when it is hijacked. Moreover, as was said in the comments to the post, one, the same attitude is not expected from heterosexuals, which defines, two, the idea of the "closet" that gay people have been relegated to. I hope that makes it clear why a call for "privacy" is really a call for less than human rights and censorship.

But aside from that, homophobia was apparent in Ahmad's post from, one, his use of "promoting homosexuality" instead of "promoting homosexual rights", as if sexuality, of any kind, is anything to be promoted (goes back to the paranoid homophobic notion of the "gay agenda"). And second, his insistence that homosexuality "violates the most basic laws of nature", which is naively simplistic at best, and outright malicious at worst. Again, as has been said in the comment, the idea is discredited, one, by the proven existence of homosexuality in nature--in other animals; and two, by its survival throughout human history. Also, the argument that the sole purpose of sex is procreation leads down a rabbit hole that I don't think even Ahmad can get himself out of, banning any form of sex that doesn't lead to procreation: sex between couples that can't have children, such as Khalto, is unnatural, contraception, oral sex, etc. Each of which leads down another deeper moral hole, etc. etc.

So, yes, it was homophobic, and should be called out as such.

And thanks for your comment, habibi; it means a lot to me (although I have a feeling the dizziness has more to do with your congestion than my writing, LOL!)

At Thursday, May 11, 2006 7:00:00 PM, Blogger Eve said...

guys, this isn't about Ahmad's post anymore. It's not a personal battle between al fil & ahmad, or ashraf & ahmad for that matter. the truth is Ahmad's view is widely represented in our society (this whole issue of keeping your sexual orientation to yourself), which apparently is not the case in the Lebanese blogosphere (in this context, I think our blogosphere is still missing some elements before we can say it genuinly represents the whole Lebanese society). that being said, you've come a long way yourself Arch, and those articles you did at 17 were really something! the sad thing is you had to leave your country to be happy.
btw, did i mention how much I loved this verse:
"Peel off the napkin
O my enemy.
Do I terrify?---"

At Friday, May 12, 2006 12:05:00 AM, Blogger arch.memory said...

Yes, Eve, I think you're right.
And isn't Sylvia the best? I love that whole poem!

At Wednesday, May 17, 2006 7:05:00 PM, Blogger voytec said...

My oh my how different our worlds are!

From a western perspective the Lebanese society prescribes entirely too much to secrecy and segregating the public form the private. I'd urge you to air your dirty laundry in public for it is out of a fear and weakness that we hide and preserve our privacy. That fear limits our ability to achieve our goals and live up to our potential. I for one refuse to be guided by fear and modify my objectives and expectations just so they do not conflict with the worldview of others who have sacrificed whatever their longings were in order to conform. Conformity leads to mediocrity my friends and that in turn procures lives half-lived and unrealized.

The question I'd ask you to ask yourself, is not whether you'd want to "lose" your brother or sister just because they are gay. But rather would you want them to spend their life deprived of the ability to pursue happiness? And more over, why don't you yourself pursue whatever your happiness may be.

On a different note, I for one am glad that Arch left Lebanon because otherwise we wouldn't have met.

The father of your children (that's right, although I'll cook, I've reconsidered and would like to be the dad :-)

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