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Arab or Jewish, None of Us Want LGBTQ Youth to Suffer

Odeh Bisharat
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Hundreds of LGBTQ members and supporters attending a Pride rally in Tel Aviv, June 28, 2020.
Hundreds of LGBTQ members and supporters attending a Pride rally in Tel Aviv, June 28, 2020. Credit: Meged Gozani
Odeh Bisharat

I would like to declare that I have acquaintances from the LBGTQ community, Jews, Arabs, and others from abroad. I have never asked anyone what they do in the bedroom. Nor do they, to my great disappointment, take any interest in what goes on in my bedroom. (Well, okay, it’s not as though there’s anything to be interested in, especially at my age.)

Sometimes I ask myself, and not only on this personal matter, but on other personal matters as well, why do I need the headache? After all, I barely manage to run my own private life, so why get involved in the sexual proclivities of others? The Arabs say, “Let everyone lie on the side that suits them.” Whether on the left side, or the right side, or one’s back. And they also wondered: “If someone has a beard, why does the other person complain that he suffers from it?!”

I would like to testify that none of those friends and acquaintances have ever tried, even by implication, to attract me to his or her private lifestyle. Nor have I ever tried to convince anyone to choose a certain side in their private lives. Moreover, in the case of most of those whom I’ve had the privilege of meeting and befriending, I didn’t know beforehand that they were from the LBGTQ community. Only after the fact, due to a word here or a sentence there, was I exposed to the terrible “secret.” Strange, but that sensational news didn’t cause me to bat an eyelash.

Almost all those I know and those with whom I’m friendly are on the left side of the political map. In general, I tend to meet with people with progressive opinions, centering on the attempt to achieve peace, equality, social justice and, equally important, human dignity and freedom. And precisely on the issue of “human dignity and freedom,” I don’t allow myself to see another person with a specific sexual tendency as someone who is defective and must be repaired – nor am I capable by nature of doing so. I also won’t let anyone attempt to fix me, either physically or psychologically.

I believe in a wide world that can include the other. I believe in a beautiful world in which individual freedom is sacred, as long as it doesn’t invade the freedom of others. I believe that success and prosperity are possible only in a world in which people are free to express themselves, without being scared of dirty looks. I will add here, that this is true as long as they exercise their freedom in a socially acceptable manner.

Why am I saying that? Because someone showed me pictures of almost-nude men and women at the gay pride parade in Tel Aviv, and asked whether I want such sights to be seen in Arab villages too. No, I don’t, I said, nor do I want such sights to be seen in Tel Aviv itself.

In general, I’m opposed to striptease, even in closed nightclubs, so how much more so when it comes to popular rallies in front of large crowds who come from varied backgrounds? The LGBTQ community’s struggle not to be ostracized, is the lot of all societies, both conservative and less conservative, and therefore it is important that it doesn’t turn into a sensational display that will chase away many communities in Israeli society, both Arab and Jewish.

The Arabs say, “Houses are secrets, and people are closed boxes." Who knows how many people, even within their families, suffer when, because of shame, they are forced to conceal their sexual identity? How much do they suffer? How much does their home suffer? Who knows how many young people put an end to their lives due to this inner conflict? Who knows how many young people are living in total alienation underneath bustling and glittering lives?

I’m sure none of us wants young people to get lost due to their sexual orientation. It’s the responsibility of every one of us to ensure that life will smile on everyone.

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