Stay in the closet to stay safe

Chidi Emmanuel
Chidi Emmanuel

Recently there was a hot debate in a neighboring Arab country about the issue of homosexuality. A local website had published an essay from a closeted gay man living there expressing his point of view on the issue – the dangers homosexual people face and the fear under which he lived.

The next day, the same publication published on its website a counter argument, attacked the previous editorial and instead offered both religious and cultural justifications for why homosexuality is illegal in the Gulf. The debate triggered discourse across the region.

Debate, however, doesn’t equal a change in the law. The reality is that, in all the Gulf Cooperation Council states, homosexuality is still illegal. LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) people in the region – both locals and expatriates – who are even somewhat open may be subject to harassment, blackmail, physical and sexual abuse, mistreatment by their families and even sometimes police harassment and abuse.

In Kuwait only recently, three men were shaved bald for showing up at a shopping mall dressed in women’s clothing. Several alleged homosexual gatherings have been raided, men and women arrested in recent months.

Given the realities on the ground and the unlikelihood that the situation will change any time soon, it’s worthwhile to ask why LGBT people would chose to draw attention to themselves? Kuwait Times has published previous articles by this writer exploring the issue.

What I’ve found is that oftentimes, expat gay men who are unfamiliar with Kuwait laws are more likely to be open – at least until their first arrest or someone warns them of the danger.

Coming out of the closet is a figure of speech for the LGBT people’s self-disclosure of their sexual orientation and gender identity. What people do in the closet should remain there – in countries that forbid homosexuality.

Staying in the closet would seem to be the best, safest choice for all LGBT people in Kuwait.

By Chidi Emmanuel
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