LGBT Voices from the Middle East & North Africa

(Beirut, June 24, 2019) - Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people living in the Middle East and North Africa share their responses to myths and stereotypes about LGBT people in the region on a new video and special feature released today by the Arab Foundation for Freedoms and Equality (AFE) and Human Rights Watch.

When Human Rights Watch and the Arab Foundation for Freedoms and Equality (AFE) released No Longer Alone: LGBT Voices from the Middle East and North Africa in April 2018, the videos helped to convey to isolated LGBT people in the Middle East and North Africa that it’s possible to come to terms with one’s identity, find support, and be part of a resilient community. Now, a new Human Rights Watch and AFE video looks at the myths surrounding being LGBT in the Arab world. LGBT activists spoke to Human Rights Watch to address those myths and talk about how the myths, and stereotypes, have affected their lives.

You are not a product of trauma. It’s inside you and it’s normal.
— Farouk Ashour, Libya

Mhamad Hjeij is an openly gay Lebanese man but, like Rima, when he first started accepting his sexuality, other gay men told him that he didn’t “look gay.” In addition to all the other myths, he had to deal with those being perpetuated by LGBT people themselves – such as gay men and lesbians have to look a certain way and fit a certain stereotype.

He felt isolated from both straight society and the LGBT community, and didn’t feel fully accepted by any group while struggling to come to terms with his identity.

“I went through years of bullying in school and university for being gay, and when I finally was ready to be part of the LGBT community, people told me I don’t fit into a gay category,” he said.

Mhamad also knew people who thought LGBT people had been cursed by God and needed to be cured, or that they were “abnormal” and should be pitied.

LGBT people worldwide have been subjected to so-called “conversion therapy” at the hands of psychiatrists, counselors, or religious figures to attempt to change their sexual orientation or gender identity.

“For me, hearing these things growing up was very confusing, and it took me a long time to unlearn them.” Read more via HRW