How excited was I when our editor, Fatemeh, emailed out a link to a new online magazine called Bekhsoos!? Of course, I jumped at the chance to cover the first issue of the mag, which is called Bekhsoos il Homophobia (Concerning Homophobia) and is chock-full of editorials, personal stories, health articles, media analyses and more, all concerning homophobia. The best part? The magazine is based in Lebanon, where being gay is against the law, so it’s existence alone is ultra-radical. The magazine is also intended for (and created by) lesbian, bisexual, queer, and transgender women in the Arab world. Sweet!
I love that queer Arab women have a safe outlet for expressing their thoughts on issues that are affecting their lives. Having one welcoming space where they can talk about STDs in the queer women’s community, the portrayal of trans folks on Lebanese TV, what it is like to attend American University-Beirut as a queer woman, and share their poetry on homophobia – well, it’s a beautiful (and MUCH needed) thing.
While surfing the articles, I did come across one that didn’t quite sit well with me. Nadz’ article, titled “Transsexuals on TV: ‘We Want to Be Just Like You’”, is about transgender people on Lebanese TV shows. I felt like it was conflating the issue of gender and sexuality to me. While sexual identity concerns who you are attracted to, gender identity concerns what gender you personally identify with. So, someone could identify as transgender (born female, and choosing a masculine gender instead), be attracted to women, and identify as straight. Get it?
I was worried that the article didn’t quite make the distinction between gender and sexual identity. However, the magazine has such a welcoming atmosphere that I really feel like I can just email my concerns to the editor and have an open and safe discussion about it.
The magazine is clearly not staffed by journalists or professional writers – and that’s totally okay. The main point is that these women have a place to speak their minds, tell their stories, and be really gay.
Bekhsoos is really creating a buzz in the Arab world and a Lebanese-based news outlet, Menassat, has a story on the revolutionary new magazine. The article is great but one thing – the huge picture of two (white!) women going in for a sensual kiss? It’s a bit too much. Why? No, not because I think its pornographic or because it’s inherently inappropriate or distasteful or anything. It is because when people think lesbian, bisexual, or queer women, the last thing anyone needs is to feed the straight man’s fantasy about two hot lesbians getting it on. Queer women’s relationships with one another are already exploited enough, and are not taken seriously by the mainstream so I would have appreciated if they would have chosen another picture. And also, hello! It’s a magazine for Arab women…so why are the women pictured totally white? Maybe that’s the only one they could find in their Google image search?
Anyways, the article is still really great and doesn’t rip apart Bekhsoos or de-legitimize its mission. And Bekhsoos, as I stated before, is really worth taking a look at. Even those of you who are so adamantly against anything gay, you might learn something new about the lives of millions of your fellow Muslims and residents of this world if you read a couple of the articles.
And watch out for their next issue, slated to come out by October 31st, Bekhsoos il Pride (Concerning Pride).