Friday, September 30, 2011

Gay in the Middle East?

The other day, my mother posed this question to me:  "If you were a corporate psychiatrist and you just got a job at [major corporation] which required you to work in Qatar, would you be openly gay while there?  Would it be safe?"

I thought about it for a few seconds and this was my response:  "In an ideal world, yes; you can be openly gay in Qatar and not have to fear persecution or worse.  However, we're not living in an ideal world, so there are a few things that need to be considered before answering that question.  First, and most importantly, in this equation: DoesQKatar adhere to Sharia Law?  If they do (which is pretty much a certainty), how rigidly do they follow the Laws?  The next thing to consider is whether or not American owned companies (or companies/corporations that aren't based in the Middle East) and their employees working in Qatar are subject to Sharia Law."

For those who are unaware of Sharia Law and it's importance to those of the Islamic faith, it is the code of conduct and or religious law of Islam.  The punishment for acts of sodomy and homosexual activities in Sharia Law varies in different Muslim-majority countries: in some, it's punishable by death; in others, it's illegal and will result in varying sentences; in others still, it's not illegal at all.

My mother and I continued discussing this back and forth, as both of us are staunch supporters of LGBT equality.  She expressed concerns that if being open threatens your very life, then maybe it's best to stay closeted until you're back in a land that won't actively persecute based solely on your orientation.  Sadly, there are few countries (if any at all) where you can live openly without someone taking issue with your orientation and making it your problem.  I'd like to believe that it's easier here in Canada; after all, here you can get married!  Dan Savage himself got hitched here.  Not being a member of the LGTB community, however, I can't say with absolute certainty that living openly in Canada is all that much easier than living openly in England, USA or Germany.  I do believe it's better and easier than in most Muslim-majority countries, however I digress. 

My counterpoint to my mother's (legitimate) personal safety concern was this: People who lived openly in the 1950's, 1960's and 1970's in Canada and the US (just as a couple of examples. I'm sure this holds true to many other progressive countries) did so under great risk to their personal safety.  Them doing so however, made it possible for people to live openly for the last 20 or so years and it keeps getting better.  They were the Rosa Parks', the Jackie Robinson's, the Elizabeth Stanton's of the LGBT communities - and many of them remain nameless today (to those not within the LGTB community at any rate) with the exception, perhaps, of Harvey Milk and Freddie Mercury.

This psychiatrist is certainly not the only gay person living in Qatar.  If this man, coming from another country is able to live openly gay, and not have to face any recriminations then it may just provide strength for Qatari men and women to continue or start to live openly.  It may provide them with the strength and encouragement for people, gay or straight, to fight for rights (not more rights, because there aren't any right now), acceptance and equality.  Someone has to make the first (second, third, four hundredth) move.  It certainly won't be an easy fight.  The sad reality of it is, fighting for LGBT rights in the Middle East may cost some people their very lives. 

I dream of a world for my child where anyone, from any country, of any religion, creed, colour or orientation is treated with the same amount of respect.
("I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.")

I dream of a world for my child where people who have battled through homophobic based persecution can now live in harmony with those who once hated them.
("I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at a table of brotherhood.")

I dream of a world for my child where he knows only of war and the fight for equal rights for all is something he reads about in history books.
("I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a desert state, sweltering with the heat of injustice and oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.") 

I dream of a world for my child where he can go to school without fear of bullying.  Where LGTBQ kids, as well as straight kids, can walk through the halls with their heads held high.
("I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.") 

I dream of a world where we don't have to wait for this.
("I have a dream today.")

I dream of a world for my child where politicians don't spout words of hate and fight to demoralize, deminish and dehumanize LGTB people.  Where they can work side by side with one another and promote peace.
("I have a dream that one day the state of Alabama, whose governor's lips are presently dripping with the words of interposition and nullification, will be transformed into a situation where little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls and walk together as sisters and brothers.")

I dream of a world where we don't have to wait for this.

People living in fear because of who they are, and who they love really bothers me.  When will it stop?  

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