Homosexuality in Egypt might not exactly be the most openly discussed topic. Religiously, Culturally and ‘logically’, it’s just unacceptable.
In many incidents, the word Gay, or in arabic “Shaz” or more colloquially “khawal”, is used to describe feminine males or qualities that do not coincide with male qualities, like cowardice, soft-voice, girly-walk, etc. You all know what I’m talking about.
Egyptians do not really accept transexuality as a concept either, though it could be handled jokingly especially when referring to a woman with manly features (voice, hight, physical features),it is very rarely considered in a case of a man with womanly features…Because in that case, he’s just GAY!
Homophobia is VERY common amongst Egyptian men, who I personally think don’t know anything about Homosexuality or Homophobia in the first place. However, the majority of guys here would express extreme discomfort at the mention of the subject, and would also never fail to express extreme defensiveness and disrespect to another man who might give off the impression that he’s gay. (Lesbians are usually more welcome among the Egyptian male society, but no surprise there!)
In recent years, more men have become more open about their sexual orientation, some of which openly admit that they swing both ways, some come right out and say “I’m Gay”, and some are assumed to be gay due to reasons mentioned above: He’s just not very ‘manly'(whatever that means anyway)so he must be gay!
The one’s who’re straight, don’t fail to mention that as loudly and aggressively as possible, because God forbid there would be any doubt to that, if the topic does come up.
Personally speaking, I do know several homosexuals, some of which are men and some are women. They have friends, they circulate heterosexual groups and lead very normal lives. Technically, come to think of it, in Egypt, homosexuality is easier to live. If you’re not related, not married, and Egyptian, as a hetersexual couple, you really have no where to go. Simple things like getting a day use by a pool at some hotel requires a marriage certificate or the same family name! You can not get an appartment together and you can not move in together. However, two people of the same sex can co-rent appartments, can move in together, can get hotel rooms together, and can park their car somewhere dark without being suspected of fornication!! Thus, same-sex couples and foreign passports are the way to go!
So Imagine my surprise to come across the first Egyptian Independently produced movie that discusses Homosexuality, includes sexual scenes between Egyptian Male actors (although they speak funny) and openly handles concepts such as AIDS & Homosexuality, Homosexual-Intercourse, and the most striking of all, the Egyptian Government & Homosexuality, because, Oh, I forgot to mention, it is against the law to be Gay in Egypt. (Again I’m not sure about Lesbians though!)
[In 2001, on a night that is known as Cairo 52, aboard a floating club called “Queen Boat”, fifty-two men were arrested and charged with “habitual debauchery” and “obscene behaviour”, code names for “being GAY!”. Contempt of Religion was among the charges]
This movie, entitled “Toul Omry” Egyptian for “All My Life”, seems to be a (though in my opinion an extremely poor) break through. If nothing else, the movie tackles a societal taboo and struggles to bring this topic into the light.
You can check out the trailer below:
For Rami, all is for the best in this best of all possible worlds, as long as he keeps to himself. But when his longtime lover leaves him to marry a woman and his best friends drift away, he comes face to face with the harsh realities of life as a gay man in Egypt. Against the backdrop of the choreographed crackdown on gay men and the notorious Queen Boat arrests of 2001, he plunges into a world of loveless friendships and spirals downwards to his ultimate downfall.
Watch the other trailer here.
[Image: The earliest homosexual couple in recorded history: Khnumhotep and Niankhkhnum, manicurists in the Palace of King Niuserre during the Fifth Dynasty of Egyptian pharaohs, circa 2400 B.C, courtesy of http://www.egyptology.com ]