Of Minds, Fluidity, and Defeating Big Brother

The world we live in is intoxicated with tyranny. I was born in Lebanon to a Syrian father and a Lebanese mother. From that moment, strategies of oppression were applied to me. I was assigned a gender, a family, and a religion, and I was registered into a system. Like most families in my community, I had a mother, trained to be a woman, broken, submissive, and forgiving of any abuse made against her. She nurtured me, gave me affection, and attended

to all my needs. My father, Him, loyal to his nature, imposed his authority, exercising his entitled absolute power over the family, an irrevocable right given to him at birth.

Then comes the education system. At a very early age, I was introduced to a hierarchical system at school: the teacher, the principal, and the director, all of them authority figures here to install discipline and order, not to forget an essential member: the school warden, the Big Brother figure, whose severeness, strictness and bitterness are undoubtedly included in their job description, there to remind us that we are constantly watched and will be punished should we dare to protest or break any of the established rules. Pure terrorism, if you ask me! Instead of freedom and self-accomplishment, we are formed for servitude. Nevertheless, if we keep in touch with our inner essence, what’s inside of us will inevitably emerge if we nurture it.

One day, as I was heteronormatively exercising my male childhood, someone dressed me in a gown for fun. The details surrounding that event move fluidly through my memory. But what I clearly, unquestionably remember to this day is the glorious feeling I felt being in that dress. How I moved! How I swirled! How I laughed, overtaken by the most exalted euphoria, my heart racing like a jungle drum. Then life went on, but that magical moment stayed with me. Of course, at that time, living in the moment was enough for me, and I didn’t think it through. My mind was still new, free of politics. I didn’t understand why I was happy and laughing, just as that same year, I hadn’t understood the real reason why I cried my heart out all the way to my grandmother’s house as we escaped hostile attacks on our city. I just wanted to go back home. I didn’t understand what war meant, what it meant to have to leave because our lives were in danger, and what it meant to have an enemy. I just wanted to restore what was, in my memory, familiar to me.

Becoming a queer adult in this part of the world is a struggle where you have to face unjust laws, social stigma, and violence. I grew up in the North of Lebanon, a small town near Tripoli. I was part of a working-class family, very traditional and very conservative. Like all the boys in my community, I went to a religious school, where I learned what’s good and what’s wrong, what’s allowed and what’s forbidden. It’s only recently that I stopped drinking beer because it hurts my stomach, not out of fear of burning in hell for all eternity. And it was not long ago that I recall having a fun, pleasant event with my mother where we cooked together, shared a meal, and talked about things. There was no closeness in my family growing up. My father was almost always away, and when he was present, he spread a general sense of hostility. Do they know I’m queer? Probably. My mother is undeniably in denial about it, and my father has found a way to tell me not to even think about it. “If someone ever told me my son is a homosexual…” I cannot even remember the end of this sentence. “If someone told me.” He was more afraid of what society would think of him than what it would mean for me, for my life, to be queer within this society.

Our minds are impregnated with the norms we have been taught throughout our lives. Who doesn’t have traces of patriarchy within them? We try to deconstruct and unlearn what was forced on our minds. I do it every day. But the journey is rough and painful. We must redefine everything and rethink every taboo, notably in our region. It is crucial to re-establish the conversation on sexuality and gender issues far from what society imposes on us. Who is to define the deep being that animates us beyond biology?

Just the other day, I found myself alone at night in a city square known for its “conservative” society and where gangs are known to hang out. I approached one of the men to ask for directions, and he addressed me as a woman. To him, I was a young woman; thus, I was. But all of a sudden, I felt self-conscious and was taken by fear. Instantly, I became a woman alone in the dark, surrounded by men, and I was frightened, as my mind ordered me to be. It was then that I experienced what it meant to be a woman, and I understood the terrorism inflicted on women by the thought of being in danger walking on the streets, in the dark, alone. I hadn’t changed. I was still the same person. But suddenly, I was in danger just because of how one person perceived me.

Is that how we want to live our lives? Is that how narrow we want our society to be? Is that how we want to relate to one another as human beings?

The brutality of the current global system is destroying our societies, heritage, and culture, neutralizing our cities, segregating people, and sorting them into labeled boxes. The system has changed the lands, the roads, and the landscapes, replacing old houses, souks, and plazas with skyscrapers and resorts. It has changed the identity and erased history in order to divide the people, conquer their minds and souls and get them to submit and keep quiet.

How can any of us build any feeling of belonging when all that surrounds us is tyranny?

Homeland is where justice is. There will be no homeland until justice is established.

So, if you will, spare me your labels and deceitful headlines. Spare me that nationality. Spare me that gender role. I will not cave to your brainwashing. I will not live in fear. I will not live a lie.

I am a citizen of this world. I am a human being, hereby claiming my fluid essence, my right to be whoever I am and anyone I want to be whenever I wish it. And that’s all there is to it.

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