Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell -The LGBTQ Community in JORDAN

Contrary to many initial thoughts about the existence of an LGBTQ community in
a Middle Eastern country, the LGBTQ community in Jordan, and particularly in
Amman, is well and alive. Although it is somewhat underground, the community
members are familiar with one another, and many are open about their sexuality.

Needless to say, homophobia in is just as well and alive too – thus, even
those who are open about their sexuality are careful about who they talk to,
especially because of the social structure and the speed at which word spreads.
Needless to say, Amman is now host to a younger generation of open youth who
have had much experience abroad, whether for work or education, and this new
chic generation is much more accepting of the gay scene in general, making it
easier for gay and straight individuals to party in the same clubs and
socialize together in cafes and bars.

Legally, there are no laws prohibiting or supporting gay rights in Jordan, yet
many of the existing social laws, based on an Islamic tradition and code of
conduct, still perceive homosexuality to be a sin. Thus, being openly gay is
again, dependent on the social life around you, the friends you hang out with
and the lifestyle you associate yourself with. At the end of the day, if you
look for that scene, you will find it.

Indeed, Books@ Cafe, located on Rainbow Street in Jabal Amman, is an LGBT
friendly bar, bookstore and restaurant. In its own words, Bookst@ "started off
with a bold dream: a hangout for people of all ages, interests, and
backgrounds; a cosy atmosphere with no restrictions – a home away from home."

This dream came to true in 1997, when Books@ Café opened in a renovated villa
in downtown Amman, offering not only drinks and free coffee refills, but art
exhibitions, bookclubs, discussion groups and much more.

One of the most influential individuals in Amman's gay scene is model and
writer Khalid.

Khalid is a design student, model and writer, who started My.Kali (http:
// the first magazine catering to Jordan's LGBT community.
For now, My.Kali is only an online monthly publication covering homosexuality
in the Middle East and touching upon many considerably taboo topics. In the
July/August 2011 edition, Khalid was on the feature cover titled "A Very Quirky
Summer." His photo shoot included wearing a speedo and posing in front of a
mosque, fearlessly strutting down the streets of Amman. His audacity exposed
the clash between religion and sexuality in this part of the world, bringing
much needed awareness and discussion about homosexuality in the Middle East. My.
Kaliis a magazine on the rise, featuring not only writers who identify as LGBTQ
but also those who identify as straight, promoting the acceptance of the LGBTQ
community in straight circles. Khalid describes mykali as: "being a good role
model for gay people, raising awareness on many issues we stand up for,
discussing regional, national and international issues that concern us the
most. We speak up for all those who're quiet; we give you the voice of your
silence. We're the magazine your mom can't find under your bed, we're the
magazine to keep and we're the magazine that you can reach anywhere you are. We
like to be your pillow of comfort, your best friend and your new wing-

MyKali is even gaining support from local celebrities, such as athlete Farah
Malhas, who herself has been a target of harsh criticism by society for
choosing to become a professional bodybuilder. In that sense, MyKali isn't just
a magazine dedicated to the plight of the queer community in Jordan. Rather, it
is also a magazine that undertakes the challenge of bringing out Jordan's
constant contradictions and controversial topics. MyKali serves as a hub for
expressing thoughts that would potentially be looked down upon elsewhere and
provides a space for free thinking.

To sum up, although it might initially be difficult for a foreigner to break
into the community, once in, you will definitely be exposed to a deep and
closely knit community of locals, expats and foreign students.


Pubblicato da Lorenzo Bernini