Was Tahrir Ever Utopia?

The sit-in in Tahrir the first time around was nothing short of Utopia. Or so it seemed to many of us.

People from all classes and backgrounds of a segregated, elitist, and classist society stood side by side, shared food, discussions, and jokes, and took bullets for one another.  Everyone looked after everyone else (though it got a bit chaotic during the larger protests on Fridays and Tuesdays). Women were not harassed. People were cleaning up after themselves. Medics volunteered their time and risked their lives to save lives and help those who have been injured.

I had hoped that we would be able to take this unspoken code of ethics we developed in Tahrir out into our everyday lives. Making our everyday lives utopia was not what I was expecting or hoping for, but I was hoping for a drastic improvement, a few steps towards a more permanent utopia.

Soon after, I realised that I was looking at the world through rose tinted glasses. We need another revolution specifically to clean the garbage and stop littering, and another revolution just for sexual harassment.

We took to Tahrir again, and I was looking forward to reliving this utopia. But I have not been able to find it. I am disappointed now that we are back to the square, we are unable to achieve the utopia we once had there.

I was harassed several times in Tahrir the last days. Even carrying supplies to the field hospitals, I was harassed. Now,  are these thugs or police in civilian clothes, or normal agenda-free Egyptians (those who only have the “harass-women-agenda”)? I could not tell.

I wonder today, was Tahrir ever utopia? Or did we just want to see and experience utopia, and we thus imagined it? I feel that perhaps it was not as perfect as I remember it being. I just remember the perfection because of the circumstances then. Was I blinded by hope and optimism?

A National Day of Egyptian Gays

(This post was initially published on my first blog, on 15 November, 2011).

My attention was recently drawn to a Facebook page calling for “A National Day of Egyptian Gays”. The page is a brave attempt to rally Egyptian gays to stand proud, and “not bury one’s head in the sand for longer”. What (to me) seems like hundreds of Egyptians commented on this page and mentioned it on twitter. Although there were a few positive comments, the rest were hateful, ranging from use of offensive language, all the way to calls for our execution.

I see the future of LGBTs in Egypt as grimm. I do not want to be naive, thinking that we will be recognised as equals, accepted and given rights without a fight. There will be a fight, and this will start by us coming out, demanding our recognition as humans. The fight for our rights will be bloody, and lives will be lost. It does not require any extrasensory perception to arrive at this conclusion. I hope that as we enter this battle, we are prepared.

And I voice my concern, is this national day of gays in Egypt a good idea? Is shocking people this way going to support our cause, or harm it? Is the time ever “right”? I think that there is never a good time for anything, so do not respond to me saying it is not the time for it. But I do think there are times that are more appropriate than others. There are also ways more appropriate than others. How to measure this “appropriateness”? I have no idea.

One of my dearest tweeps drew a very suitable comparison. Remember the march in Tahrir square for International Women’s Day last March? Women, who are mothers, sisters, daughters, breadwinners and much much more, were harassed mercilessly during this march. If women received that kind of harassment, I do not want to imagine what a National Day for Homosexuals will be like. But I do know that, just because the women and women rights supporters were harassed, does not mean one should stop protesting or fighting for their rights.

It is also imperative that we not only rally gays to stand up, but also our straight friends, family, and allies. It will be easier if we have support of as many people as possible.

I hope this day is not orchestrated, or twisted to become, another opportunity for our beloved government and security apparatuses to crack down on a minority, and to present itself as the upholder of Egyptian morality, in an attempt to garner back the public’s appreciation.

I am proud of being gay, just as I am proud of everything that I am. I do want to stand and fight for my rights, but I refuse to put myself in a vulnerable position, and present myself and my friends on a golden platter for the government to attack. Not in this way.

When do I think is a good time for us to come out? Now is as good a time as any. How should we come out? I think coming out to those who are around us, those to already know us and know that we are not “freaks”, might be a less threatening and more successful endeavor. But this topic is a whole other post.

Merciful Death

(This post was originally published on my first blog on 2 November, 2011).
It is easy to support a cause like euthanasia  from a distance, but once you are faced with an ill loved one, you see things differently.
Euthanasia, or merciful killing to those who are terminally ill, was a big topic when I was in university, and we were required to write many essays about it, and discuss whether we support it or not. My stance was always the same, my arguments flawless. I supported merciful killing. If someone had specifically requested to be killed when they become terminally ill, their wish must be respected. As for those who did not state their wish, their next of kin must put the comfort of their loved ones first. Killing them while they are in terminally hurting, or unconscious is the most humane and merciful thing to do. No-one deserves to lie in a hospital bed, with tubes in every orifice, plugged into machines. This is not living. This is not what it means to be alive. Even if they are not in a hospital, and they are not hooked up to machines. Their existence is a battle, a burden, and a pain to them and to everyone around them.
I fully supported pulling the plug.
Until I stared at a loved one who is dying slowly every day. Too slowly. They die a little by little, but are never dead.
How can I make such a decision? Such an irreversible decision! I have hope they will improve. Is this the end? Am I strong enough to decide that this is the end?
I cannot take this responsibility, of killing someone. Death seems to us like a much better place to be than their existence floating between life and death, but I cannot pronounce the end.
It is different to discuss euthanasia as you stare into the eyes that you once knew and loved.
Does killing them mean that you have failed them?

إنت بتكتب عربي عربي، ولا عربي مصري؟؟

“دا يا عم راجل ميا ميا, و ابن حلال , بس العربي بتاعة مكسر شويه , و بيؤلك انو خريج مدرسه كبيره , و الله البه ابيض”

هل فهمت الجملة السابقة؟ هل قرأتها بصعوبة أم بسلاسة؟ هل لاحظ وجود بعض الأخطاء؟
»ده يا عم راجل/رجل مية مية، وابن حلال، بس العربي بتاعه مكسر شوية، وبيقولك انه خريج مدرسة كبيرة، والله قلبه أبيض«
 (نشرت هذه النشرة أولاً يوم 22 أغسطس 2011 على مدونتي الأولي).
اللغة العربية المستخدمة بمصر ليس لغة مكتوبة، ولكن بعد ازدياد مستخدمي شبكات التواصل الاجتماعي، أصبح المصرييون يستخدمون المصرية للكتابة.
ولكن للأسف بما أننا »جيل ضايع مش بيعرف عربي كويس«، فتكثر الأخطاء الإملائية، والنحوية، بالإضافة إلى علامات الترقيم التي لا ندري عنها شيئاً، ومما يؤدي إلى عدم وضوح المعنى وتغيير طريقة النطق.
هل يرجع ذلك إلى النظام التعليمي الضعيف؟ أم لأننا لا نجد ما يربط ما بين الفصحى التي نتعلمها في المدرسة وبين اللغة التي نتحدثها في حياتنا اليومية؟
لا أنكر إني كتابتي بالعربية مليئة بالأخطاء، خاصةً النحوية، وكثيراً ما لا أستخدم علامات الترقيم بطريقة صحيحة، ولكني على الأقل أحاول، وبالفعلى لغتي العربية المكتوبة أفضل بكثير من صاحب الجملة المذكورة أعلاه.
هل ذلك يرجع إلى كوني من الطبقة المرهفة التي لها وقت ورغبة في القراءة، وتستطيع شراء كتب؟ لا أعتقد، فلا أقرأ الكثير بالعربية، أو على الأقل لا أقرأ الكم الضخم الذي قد يثري لغتي.
أعتقد أن تمكني – حتى إذا كان ضعيف – من اللغة هو ثمرة إصراري على تحسين لغتي، وإطلاعي على قواعد اللغة (والموجودة على الشبكة العنكبوتية بوفرة ولا تتطلب مبالغ لشراء كتب أو حضور دروس)، أصبحت على دراية بالقواعد البسيطة التي تحول كتابتي من كارثة ثقافية إلى منظر مقبول، وأسلوب كتابتي  دائماً قيد التحسين.
وهنا أسأل: إلى أين نذهب بهذه الكتابة »المكسرة«؟ هل يجب علينا أن نقوي لغتنا العربية المكتوبة؟ أم يجب علينا الإعتراف باللغة المصرية كلغة مكتوبة، مثلما قام موقع ويكيبيديا؟ هل علينا العمل على تكوين قاموس للغة العامية المصرية، التي أصبحت الآن لغة مكتوبة، وتدرس قواعد هذه اللغة العامية في المدارس إلى جانب اللغة العربية الفصحى؟

Constructing Ancient Sexuality

(This post was originally published on my first blog on 23 August, 2011)
Any “thing” we interpret is a direct application of who we are, how we experience the world around us, how we contextualize this “thing” within our limited understanding, where we come and where we are going, and of course what we want to be true.

The Blog Formerly Known as A Gay Girl on the Nile on the Blog Formerly Known as A Gay Girl in Damascus*

(This post was originally published on my first blog, on 15 June, 2011).

I am gay and I exist. I am hidden from almost my entire world. Tweeting, and occasionally blogging, provides me with a looking glass to not only look out into the world, but to also tell my world – or whomever is paying attention – that I am here, I live, I feel, I am alive, and I am hidden right under your nose. (more…)

Gender Bending Part 1: Stop. Think. Accept

(This post was originally published on 8 April, 2011 on my first blog).
It was a nice summer afternoon. My girlfriend and I were invited to a gay friend’s party, a different crowd than we normally hangout with. As we walked into the door all guests– who were all gay men –  stared at my girlfriend, their eyes full of interest, curiosity, and lust. They were pretty much undressing her with their eyes.
Something wrong with this picture? They’re gay, why are they lusting after my woman?
Because they think she is a young sexy man, just their cup of tea.
My girlfriend can be classified as butch, although she is such a girl beneath the tomboy exterior. People on the street call her “Mr”. Wherever we are, I hear people asking each other “is this a man or a woman?”
It does not bother my girlfriend, but it drives me mad sometimes. I get upset that people regard her as a freak show. They give themselves the right to point and snigger amongst themselves. They give themselves the liberty to laugh at what is different, and at what they do not fathom.
Their responses baffle me when they find out she is a woman. For example when women try to kick her out of the women’s carriage on the metro, they always give two reasons for their confusion about her gender: She has short hair and no earrings. Is that all it is to differentiate between a man and a woman? Hair and earrings?!
It intrigues me that, in Egypt at least, people are not able to explain why they really think she is a man and not a woman. Earrings and hair is just an excuse to vocalize what they are unable to comprehend and digest. Their gender perception is very narrow.
My girlfriend friend really pushes the gender boundaries. Does this affect how LGBTs are accepted? Perhaps a blurry line between genders can indeed make our acceptance more difficult. All over the world, transgenders often fall of the LGB”T” wagon as they are thought to give “LGB”s a bad image. Tolerance amongst members of the LGBT “community” is worth a post of its own!
I know we are not about to be accepted today or tomorrow, but on the long run, people fear and dislike what they do not understand, and would probably have a harder time accepting our gender-bending brothers and sisters, and by default the rest of us.
Regardless of annoyances, my girlfriend has no problem being accepted by whom she works with and the straight community she lives in. She is successfully shattering images of what women should look and dress like. She makes people think about how they perceive genders, and although the average citizen might not have the mental mechanism to really think it through analytically, they still give it a thought.
She makes people stop, think, and eventually accept. This is what we really need.

To Cut or Not To Cut: That is a Free-Willed Woman’s Decision

(This post was originally posted  on 1 April, 2011 on my first blog).
I had heard and read about labiaplasty before, but I recently watched a documentary (Perfect Vagina, 2008) that resonated with me. I had been discussing and reading about Female Genital Mutilation, and it seemed to me that FGM and labiaplasty were not very different.
I hate to compare a crime that is forced upon unconsenting young girls, one that is dangerous to their health; with a practice carried out by consenting women who are making their own decision regarding their own bodies in order to feel better about themselves and to improve their sex lives, thereby empowering themselves.
But I am going to anyway.
Labiaplasty is the surgical reduction of the labia major and/or labia minora .While some women may have their labia “trimmed” due to medical reasons, such as damage during childbirth, most women who opt to have labiaplasty do so for aesthetic reasons.
According to the World Health Organisation; “Female genital mutilation (FGM) comprises all procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.”
Which sounds to me as though labiaplasty fits under FGM. But is labiaplasty a form of FGM and should therefore be banned?
Supporters of labiaplasty – as well as supporters of aesthetic plastic surgery in general – say that women undergo labiaplasty to feel better about themselves, sexually and physically.  It is not FGM, which is forced upon women and effectively deletes their hope for pleasurable sexual relations.
I say to that, young women in communities that practice FGM are often too young to understand the implications of FGM, and many of them see it as a rite of passage that makes them “big girls”, aims to and control their sexual desires, in their mind a good thing. If given the choice, they might choose FGM, something they see as empowering. It protects them from lascivious acts and ensures that they find a husband.
Their societies force them conform to what other women do, so they can fit in better.
Many women who undergo Labiaplasty suffer from pressure as well, from peers and sexual partners. Through various media, such as scantly clad models which we all know are not representative of what a woman looks like, women form ideas of what a perfect vagina looks like: shaved, in proportion, disturbingly looking like a little girl’s. They go under the knife to reach this aesthetic ideal they see.
Their societies force them conform to what other women do, so they can fit in better.
This brings us to the question of free will – what is it? It requires education and independent decision making. Young women who undergo FGM are not educated about it, and about sexuality. Their decision making ability in this matter is therefore nonexistent. This is the difference. Women undergoing labiaplasty should be educated, and fully understand what they are doing. With the knowledge they need in their hands, they should be able to make a pragmatic decision, and the right decision as to whether or not they need labiaplasty, and whether or not to under go it.
“Women come in all shapes and sizes” it is often said. Genitalia do as well. It is very easy for me to say that women with non-porno-star-looking-labia should love their bodies, and accept them without mutilating them, but I am not in their shoes. I can only hope that before they go under the knife, they are sure it is their own decision , and that it is an educated decision.

"The Great Wall of Vagina: Changing Female Body Perception Through Art" is an art exhibition where four-hundred women from 20 countries, aged 18 to 76 had heir vaginas cast for this project. The casts are displayed in large panels, showing the varying shapes and sizes of labia. According to the artist, Jamie McCartney, the project is all about saying to women “Look! This is what normal women look like!” For more info. http://www.greatwallofvagina.co.uk. Check it out, it is really cool and has a short video on the project. The exhibition will premiere at the Brighton Festival in May 2011.