I was surprised when I received a text from my friend on Friday evening,
“Have you seen the Evening Standard yet?”
She sends a picture.
There I am— waving the rainbow flag proudly while a friend embraces me on the front page of the paper. We’re smiling wide. We’re out and happy, it isn’t hard to see.
What is hard to see behind the sheer pride in my eyes is the journey I embarked on at a very young age as a gay Lebanese woman, and the destination I eventually reached which not many others in my shoes, particularly Middle Eastern women, are lucky enough to attain.
We are raised on cultural boundaries with the purest of intentions and women tend to be at the forefront. We are a family’s pride; a reflection on a mother or father’s parenting of the deen; we carry the weight of our culture on our shoulders, and at the expense of our sexuality and freedom. Freedom and fate are synonymous with the men that we marry, so our lives can actually “begin”—can you imagine the catastrophe caused by a lesbian who not only defies the cultural boundary of what women can do on their own, but also who they can love?
I march a little prouder because of this, and take every chance I get to ensure my voice—no matter how small—is heard, as I think about my sisters across the world cheering me on, whether gay or straight, as they too fight the battle for freedom in different ways.
To be different is more than defiance. To be different is to become an orphan, as the family who raised you can’t bear to look into your eyes or say your name. To be different is to bring shame unto your family for generations to come. To be different is to compromise your sister’s chances of finding a good man, because no man wants a woman with a lesbian sister.
These scenarios are real and we allow them to hide by not speaking about them.
No, my mother won’t call to ask how pride was nor does she wave the rainbow flag by my side, however she does take part in cheeky gossip from time to time about the latest cute girl I’ve met, and will happily have a girlfriend of mine over for dinner. It’s a blessing I indulge in daily, so much that I forget where I’ve come from and how others may never get to the privileged place I now stand.
I don’t often use the word luck, but there’s no other word fit to describe why I can march at the pride parade with a sea of lesbians waving a rainbow flag, while the girl I grew up with, who went to the exact same school as I, can barely stay out past sundown without compromising her family’s so-called pride.
Maybe we need to pause and see what isn’t right before our eyes and find what hides behind the shadows we ignore. Maybe we need more resources or more hands, at the very least, to catch those who fall when they take the first step towards an image of themselves that they want to be. We need to discuss the taboo.
The world is celebrating pride this summer, while some can only watch a rainbow flag fly with their eyes; awaiting their own boundaries to be broken-down, too.