Coming out: Safety in visibility

Noura Kalo
Senior Staff Writer

On October 11 of every year, the United States celebrates “National Coming Out Day”, a day marked in its history to acknowledge all the existing parts of their society and the fact that all these parts are allowed to freely exist in the first place.

It is there to celebrate the act of “coming out”, and promotes an accepting environment where many gender identities and sexual orientations attempt to coexist.

And every year, when this day rolls around, what comes to mind are the privileges that go with it, mainly the privilege of being able to “come out” to parents, friends, or extended society; and even to oneself.

The Arab world prohibits such thoughts on a very large scale both on the individual and governmental level, something any member or supporter of the “LGBTQ+” community will continue to be well aware of.

A couple of weeks before this past October 11, on September 26, seven people were arrested in Egypt, due to the mere raising of the pride flag at a Mashrou’ Leila concert, a band that has been banned from Jordan for similar reasons.

The Lebanese penal code very vaguely states the following, under Article 534: “Any act of sexual intercourse that goes against nature can be punished with up to a year in prison,” a much debated article that has, many a time, been used in court against the “LGBTQ+” community.

And even though – especially regarding the last point – there has been some progress regarding this issue, it remains a luxury and a privilege to be able to “come out” in any of these countries, in any of the ways mentioned. This concept of “coming out” remains a purely Western ideal that very few can afford.

There are a multiplicity of dangerous, and yet, inevitable consequences that anyone living in this region has to take into consideration when thinking about “coming out”. These consequences can range from physical and emotional abuse, to complete financial and familial disownment, as well as  forced marriages, relationships, and the works. The more moderate consequences exist as much as multiples of zero do.

Although this does lead to a sense of unity among the community itself – a need to help and protect those who require it – it takes away any agency from these people regarding the ways in which they are allowed to express themselves, and the places in which they can choose to do so. It leaves the members of this community either unable to have an identity, or just unable to express it.

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