Masculinity and a Personal Note

By Alaa Jahshan

I remember talking to some friends and the words, “I hate heterosexuals!” came spewing out of my mouth as I realized I was surrounded by several of them. So what, I thought, I’ve heard people around me my whole life say they hate homosexuality, disgusted by it, wouldn’t even consider discussing it, sin itself. I wanted to say fuck you, and I still do. It makes me feel better, but it doesn’t accomplish anything.
First, I thought, I need to deal with my own problems. I feel hate towards traditional heterosexuals and hetero-normative culture. I am many times resentful of the male culture I grew up in, consequently leaving me with an insecure image of manhood and sexuality. Stereotypical men were obscure to me; they interested me because of how oddly charged they were. For lack of a better description, these were the dude bros, man. It was an identity that I felt I had to habituate because my other options did not make much sense. Hell, I had the privilege of physically being one of them, but still I became resentful because I didn’t thrive in that kind of population.
The next step, I thought, was to step out of my privileged male self, when I could do this safely, and try to do it every day. I didn’t do this at all until I came to the US and was surrounded by friends whom I trust. Even writing this I am stepping out of my male privilege, possibly threatening a certain masculine identity. Since I became so comfortable with my adjusted identity, I had trouble switching back at times and any time I did, I became more frustrated. After being more comfortable with myself as a person, I gained some insight into what is going on around me.
During the Spring Dance Concert, a group of Salsa dancers stopped during a performance to ask the audience for some ‘conflict’ in their story line, ‘tension’ was another word they used. After several suggestions, one audience member said that the male dancer should be gay, and one of the female dancers should be a lesbian. Wow, I sarcastically thought, this is so very entertaining that he is gay and she is a lesbian. I sat through the performance and listened to the audience laugh behind me at our male dancers’ gay imitations and the female dancer’s attempt to be with another female. It’s really not that big of a deal, I thought trying to calm myself, but homosexuality as an item is being laughed at, regardless of its logic, it made me uncomfortable.
About a year ago I heard about a big budget film being released in Egypt. There were articles and press releases about it discussing how interesting it was that this film wasn’t censored. The film dealt with ‘controversial’ (suppressed) issues such as the working class, Islamic movements, and homosexuality. The articles said nothing else, and I was surprised, filled with hope. This film, also including some top Egyptian movie stars, was distributed all over the Middle East, even reaching Europe and the US. I had to watch this film. As I was watching it, I was ecstatic. Part of the subplot included a homosexual journalist. As the plot evolves, we understand that this journalist solicits sex from men. Later we find out that he had a debilitating childhood, which led to his ‘misfortunate’ gay urges, and later he gets murdered. I didn’t even watch the rest of the damn movie; I couldn’t care about the heterosexual protagonists.
These two small glimpses into my life keep reminding me that I don’t want things to keep bogging me down because I want to move forward, I want to keep learning, and I want to keep producing, but I will not be told I am an aberration any longer. I am done taking bullshit from people, I’ve let the grownups teach me what they wanted to teach me, and now I am going to do things from my perspective.