Ok, forget for a minute the unintentional Danny Gokey reference with the heart hands.
This is the front page of a tabloid-y newspaper that appears on our doorstep every weekend.
It bummed me out. With all due respect.
Here are a few excerpts from the accompanying article:
"A shocking trend is sweeping across educational institutions in the UAE. It's called same-sex relationships and it's worrying officials and parents to no end."
"[An] Emirati woman . . . had to deal with the demon on a personal level . . . when her 16-year-old daughter fell for an Indian girl . . . . 'I feared that my kids would become homosexual so I gave them in the custody of their father,' she recalls."
"[A young woman] shocked television audiences across the nation when she openly spoke of her relationship with another girl . . . and expressed the desire to marry her and have children with her through artificial insemination. 'I love my girlfriend and I want to have children with her.'"
"Homosexuality is prohibited in the UAE and violators face stiff punishment. Authorities are trying to curb deviant behavior, to better reflect traditional conservative laws of the UAE. Last year the Ministry of Social Affairs launched an awareness campaign called Excuse Me, I Am A Girl . . . . Meant to tackle lesbian-related issues, the campaign included a series of workshops, TV programs and lectures at universities and schools . . . . "
"Dr. X said there were several factors responsible for the upswing in same-sex relationships. 'Some theories suggest that gender identity disorder, often overlooked by parents and sometimes promoted by discriminating between genders within the family, is a key factor.' Other possible contributing factors, she said, could include being the only girl among male siblings, absence of a father figure and sexual assault."
The article went on to blurb some "case studies," all of which concluded with something like, "X is receiving treatment" or "X refused treatment":
"X, 23, . . . married after having several relationships with girls at the university. X could not prevent her marriage from collapsing as she continued lusting after women. She still visits her girlfriends at the university and is not seeking treatment."
"X, 16, started lesbian relations at age 14, lost her virginity with her girlfriend at age 16. She wants to receive treatment, but is afraid her family and other people will find out about her. She described how they used instruments and watched pornographic films bought from Chinese vendors."
"X [male, no age given] sexually harassed by his housemaid turns to other boys to satisfy his desire that was turned on at a very young age."
"X suffers hormone disorder due to neglect by family, which leads her towards same-sex activities."
There was virtually no mention of sexual orientation as being something that a person is perhaps born with, apart from this one sideways reference:
"[A psychiatrist] contended that some girls need a specialist therapist and that the issue falls under the purview of medical science and therefore does not need interference from religious scholars."
And I'd be remiss if I didn't detail the main graphic of the article, which depicts the 3 supposed "types" of lesbians (brace yourself, it's a little SNL-skit-y):
(1) "The Boya": the "sexual delinquent" who takes on "the boy's role";
(2) "The Tomboy": the boyish female who does not act on her impulses; and
(3) "The Weaker Girl": "the weaker, beautiful girl who gets lured by the first type."
(It really says that. She may be weak and susceptible to deviant sexual advances, but at least she's pretty. In every instance. Otherwise, why would a sexual deviant bother making a move on her?)
The article then ends with the editor's note: "Tell us what you think. How can parents protect their daughters from falling prey to this trend?"
So. Hmmm. Where do I go with this.
Well let me say at the outset that I respect the UAE, I am immensely grateful to be allowed to reside here for however long we do, and I am absolutely not suggesting that the Western outlook is universally the superior way of viewing the world. I do not believe in a normative morality and I am not trying to condemn a group of people who are just trying, in earnest, to honor their religious beliefs.
But. I also happen to believe that being gay is not a choice.
Therefore, to see homosexuality described in the year 2010 as "a demon," or as "deviant behavior" that requires "treatment," makes me cringe. And the amount of sheer misinformation makes me sad. Because an article like this only gives new life to the ancient notion that gays should be burned at the stake, lest their malignant condition spread to other, healthy people. NOT that these attitudes are without a voice in my own country; I would never be so ignorant as to suggest that the USA is all that more evolved in its acceptance of gay relationships (see, i.e., Prop 8). Having spent most of my life in the neighborhoods of New York, Los Angeles, and Miami, however, it still surprises me to see gay people being publicly disparaged in such express and unapologetic terms.
One silver lining is that, while technically homosexuality is illegal, I have heard from numerous sources that there is a lively underground gay scene in Dubai. Which encourages me, because it means that the government has not completely silenced the community here. I am further comforted whenever I am out and about and have observed a male (non-Arab) couple who are obviously in a romantic relationship with each other: it suggests that perhaps the UAE's bark is worse than its bite... ?
You gotta hand it to those guys, and the lesbians in the article above who "refuse treatment," and any gay people who voluntarily spend time in the UAE. I mean, I may be a Jew in a Muslim country (yes, I think I'm using the word now, throwing caution to the wind!, thank you for your concern), but at least I can and do keep my religious identity a secret from people on the street.
To the effeminate tourist who is boldly sashaying through the Mall of the Emirates, however: I tip my hat to you, sir. May you go in peace. And impeccable style.
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Post Script. PopPop got hit on at the mall today by a guy in full Muslim dress. So there you are. :)