Fear filled me as I walked towards Saudi immigration. Was I Muslim enough to be allowed in?
I was a marked man—publicly labeled an infidel for my blasphemous argument that Islam and my homosexuality could co-exist. Following the release of my 2008 film, A Jihad for Love, a fatwa (religious opinion) condemned me. The fatwa provided extensive, supposedly Quranic evidence, quoting from the “Judgment on Apostates” section of the curriculum used in Saudi schools:
An apostate will be suppressed three days in prison in order that he may repent. Otherwise, he should be killed, because he has changed his true religion, therefore, there is no use from his living.
But there I was, at the border of the nation I most feared: Wahabi-land. Wahabism is the cruel and puritanical form of 18th century Islam the Saudi’s practice. They reserve the death penalty for people like me, with beheading often being the punishment of choice.
Immense faith had brought me here. I was obeying my highest calling as a Muslim to embark on the Hajj pilgrimage. This was my journey of the spirit. I prayed I would be allowed to finish it.
“Muslim?” said the balding border guard scrutinizing my Indian passport.
“Yes” I answered with a confidence I did not feel.
He typed into a tired looking PC. Had he googled me and already known who I was?
Stamping my passport with his grubby fingers he said, “Ahlan al Hag”, (Welcome Hajji). Premature, I thought. The greeting was reserved for those who had already fulfilled Islam’s highest calling. “Insha’Allah” (If God wills), I replied. He smiled. It was as if he had stamped the word “Muslim” on my forehead.
Our Shia-filled bus sped towards Mecca. Well-marked signs on the road to Mecca read “Muslims Only.” The Saudis provide timely highway exits marked “Non Muslims” for the disbelievers. As far as the Wahabis were concerned, both the Shia and I would usually fall into the disbeliever category. At the time I thought I was the only Sunni in my Hajj group. I shared this secret with our group leader, Shafiq. My bigger secret, I dared not share. That stayed in my Hajj closet.
“We Shia welcome you brother Parvez. But if it were the other way around, it would never happen. A Shia pilgrim in a Sunni group? Never!”
I felt a surprising affinity with them. Islam’s outliers shared a Hajj of defiance with me. For them this desert was a landscape of destruction. The Saudi’s had obliterated the graves of Islam’s ancestors - graves to which they prayed. Islam’s most bitter divide is about lineage. Who inherits the Prophet Muhammad’s wisdom?
At Jannatul Mu’alla, the historic cemetery in Mecca, disobeying Wahabi doctrine, we prayed as intransigents to graves that included the Prophet’s wife and grandfather. A white SUV pulled up and out stepped a Mutawwa, a foot soldier of the feared Saudi Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice. “Shirk,” (idol worship) he yelled through a bullhorn. He exhorted us to not turn our backs to the Kaaba, the black cube shaped structure that is the beating heart of Islam.
Hours later, I walked towards the Masjid al Haram (The Sacred Mosque) that houses the Kaaba. I was walking in an unnervingly capitalist landscape. Skyscrapers and cranes leapt into the heavens. I wondered if the crowds of pilgrims, transformed now into eager shoppers, recognized the destruction. The Saudi-funded obliteration of Islamic history was at peak success. They had even built a row of toilets over the home the Prophet shared with his first wife, Khadija. This was Mecca Vegas. The Prophet Muhammad would recognize nothing in this town but the ancient Kaaba, where I was headed.
The Hajj is a harsh pilgrimage that is fundamentally about faith and surrender. It was only moments spent praying to and contemplating the Kaaba that offered succor to the faithful. The hungry hands of sinners, over centuries, made its grainy, granite surface a vessel of forgiveness. It radiated a strength that filled me. Drawn to it like a magnet, I would return night, after sleepless night. If Islam offered redemption to its sinner-pilgrims, it was to be found right here, at the Kaaba.
It was Younes, the mild mannered doctor from Alabama. We had become Hajj friends and for a moment we marveled at the unlikelihood of finding each other in these immense crowds.
He was a thoughtful man. And I had instinctively liked him.
“I have something to tell you,” he said. I listened. He was coming out to me, as a Sunni man.
“But I thought your wife and mother-in-law were Shia, “I said.
“An unlikely marriage, but a very strong one,” he said.
He asked me if I knew how to pray like the Shia. I told him, I had spent months learning their customs before I came. When with the Shia group I prayed like they did. When alone I prayed the slightly different Sunni way.
“A good compromise,” he said, “it wouldn’t be good to be found out as an outsider here.”
I already knew that Younes chose his words carefully. I wondered if he knew. We sat in contemplative silence for a while. I had always been taught that where we sat was God’s abode. And God didn’t like liars, my mother used to say. My burden of deceit suddenly felt very heavy.
“I have something to tell you too, “I whispered.
“I am gay.” The three words I have never even dared say to my father.
“I knew,” he said. And then there was silence. Eternities passed. Younes gently put his arm around my shoulder.
“Why would you want to be a part of something that wants no part of you?” he asked.
The Kaaba gave me the strength to come out, I wanted to tell him. His kind gesture validated my very being. The sleepless nights spent here had changed me. Here at Islam’s ground zero, I believed that I had received acceptance from a higher power than those who patrolled these walls with rifles and batons. Now, my Islam would forever be different. It would no longer be a faith of fear. It was no longer a question of whether Islam would accept me. It was a question of whether I would accept Islam.
And sitting there silent, with the nice Sunni Doctor from Alabama, steps away from Islam’s beating heart, I did.
Parvez Sharma is a documentary filmmaker and his second feature film, A Sinner in Mecca, opens Sept. 4 at Cinema Village in New York City.
The 23 songs on the sprawling album include plenty of cursing and graphic language about sex and more. In particular, she revealed that her track “Bang Me Box” is about sex with a woman and was "pretty self-explanatory." She went on to say:
“I feel very gender-fluid. For a long time I didn’t understand my own sexuality. I would get really frustrated and think I’d never understand what I am, because I can’t even figure out if I’m feeling more like a girl or boy. It took me talking to enough trans people to realize that I didn’t ever have to decide on one.”
Here's the audio below:
Until quite recently, this statement was regarded as common sense. More than this, it was a kind of widely-shared article of quasi religious faith, as prescriptive as it was descriptive. An 11th Commandment.
Heterosexuality was the default, normal, right, setting and anything that strayed from that was homosexuality. That is to say: sinful, wrong, ill, odd, hilarious, niche.
This heterocentric, essentially monosexual world-view was not just conventional wisdom for many straight people. It was also shared by surprisingly large number of (usually older) gay people, who sometimes regard bisexuality as a kind of heresy, or at least a cop out. What’s not straight must be gay, otherwise you’re just kidding yourself and letting the side down.
But common sense can change. And articles of religious faith can fall. There has been a revolution in attitudes in recent years that has shaken sexual certainties to the core. Compulsory heterosexuality, and the idea that any ‘deviation’ from it is homosexual, is no longer so compulsory. People have lost their faith in monosexuality.
According to a recent, widely-publicised YouGov survey less than a third of UK residents now agree that when it comes to sexuality "There is no middle ground — you are either heterosexual or homosexual." While nearly two thirds (60%) agree with the once heretical statement "sexuality is a scale — it is possible to be somewhere near the middle."
Most strikingly of all, this figure rose to three quarters of 18–24-year-olds. Half of whom placed themselves somewhere on that scale as something other than 100% heterosexual. While a remarkable 43% of them describe themselves as being, to some degree, bi-responsive.
It was the pioneering American sex researcher Alfred Kinsey, who invented the 0–6 scale used in the YouGov poll (0 = totally heterosexual; 6 = totally homosexual) back in the 1940s. Like Sigmund Freud, Kinsey believed that humans were basically bi-responsive, that human sexuality was a spectrum and that humanity could not be divided up into gay goats and straight sheep. Kinsey argued that although most of the pressure was to be heterosexual, society’s ostracism of homosexuals also forced them into exclusive relations with the same sex. In a society with less restrictive mores, in which homosexuality was tolerated and integrated, Kinsey, who was himself bisexual, believed sexual interaction with both sexes would become the norm.
Seventy years on, mores have become less restrictive, the stigmatisation of homosexuality has greatly diminished – and the availability and insatiability of online porn has opened the eyes of many to practises once deemed so immoral and unnatural they were unmentionable. And on paper, it would appear that Kinsey has been largely vindicated – at least as far as young UK heterosexuals are concerned.
The fact that only half of 18-24s say they are completely heterosexual is a sign that the younger generation is abandoning monosexuality as a belief system — which has to appear to be a universal truth, not a minority or ‘niche’ cult. It’s also an indication that a theoretical level of bi-responsiveness has become or is becoming the norm. Most may not be actively exploring it (20% of 18-24s and 27% of 25-39s say they have had sex with someone of the same sex), and most of the less than 100% heteros huddle at the heterosexual end of the spectrum, but they are touchingly keen to be – or at least appear to be – open-minded. Half of heterosexual 18-24s say that if the right person of the same sex came along at the right time they could be attracted to them.
Perhaps the collapse of compulsory heterosexuality and the crisis of monosexuality shouldn’t be so surprising. A couple of years ago a survey into male grooming found that half of UK men now describe themselves as metrosexual, and want to be beautiful. Men, especially young men, have in the last decade or so, been given permission to enjoy products, pleasures, practises, prettiness and potentials that were previously strictly for ‘girls and gays’.
Little wonder that as gender norms have relaxed they have become more open-minded about sexuality itself. As I’ve argued before, men in general are less hard on the gays nowadays because they’re less hard on themselves – no longer needing so much to project their "weaknesses" into the despised, or just patronized, "other."
Instead, they now want to show how accepting they are of the "other" — but most particularly they want those kinda fun, kinda kinky ‘weaknesses’ back now, thanks very much, now that they are much more into themselves than they used to be.
In Kinsey’s own country the US, where monosexuality was even more entrenched than in the UK, a sea-change is afoot too, but one that seems by some measures to lag behind the UK, and lead it by others. A YouGov survey there published shortly after the UK one found that 31% of under-30s plot themselves as something other than completely heterosexual on the Kinsey scale — compared to 78% of the general population who say they are completely heterosexual, and 4% who say that they are completely homosexual.
Unfortunately, there is no 18–24 category in the U.S. data, so that 31% figure for under 30 non-heterosexuality is difficult to compare properly with the UK figure of 49% (though the UK figure for the next age category 25–39 is 42%). However, as in the UK there is clearly a major generational shift at work, with young people being much more open-minded. ‘No homo’ isn’t quite so ‘no homo’ as it used to be.
Some of the other data available does suggest that the US is still more monosexualist than the UK. Nearly half (48%) of Americans believe "there is no middle ground – you are either heterosexual or you are not" compared to only 27% of Brits. (However, the UK question/statement reads: ‘there is no middle ground — you are either heterosexual or homosexual’; the US question/statement replaces ‘homosexual’ with ‘not’, which is perhaps itself symbolic).
Which is to say, half of America does not believe there is such a thing as bisexuality, and thus any deviation from heterosexuality is just homosexuality. Among Republicans that increases to 63% — and stands at 58% in the South, suggesting a monotheistic basis to monosexuality.
Only 39% of Americans agree with the statement that sexuality is a scale – compared to 61% of Brits. And only 27% of US heterosexuals say that if the right person came along they could possibly be attracted to a person of the same sex, compared to 38% of Brits. (Though this may be a function of British politeness.)
All that said, five times as many young Americans identify as bisexual as young Brits. 10% of American 18-29s, compared to just 2% of UK 18-24s, and 2% of Americans of all ages. And five times fewer young Americans identify as gay or lesbian than UK young people do: 10% of UK18-24s (compared to 6% for all ages) and 2% of US 18-29s (compared to 4% for all ages).
It’s difficult to know for sure, especially from this side of the pond, whether this is a measure of greater enlightenment and inclusivity about sexuality amongst young people in the U.S. and a related diminished need for distinct gay and lesbian identities — proving Kinsey right about gay people becoming less sexually exclusive as they became more integrated. Or whether something else is going on, especially given the lower levels of tolerance and acceptance for homosexuality in the U.S. compared to the UK. Perhaps as some older gay people like to complain, young gay and lesbian Americans are "hiding" their "true" sexuality in "fashionable" bisexuality.
Or maybe the reason so many young Americans choose to identify as bisexual is precisely because the belief in monosexuality has been so devout and oppressive there for so long — on both sides of the gay/straight divide.
What better way to flip the older generation the bird than to declare an identity which by definition rejects their cherished sexual religion?
UK Data Odds & Sods
Men are five times more likely to describe themselves as "gay or lesbian" than women: 10% of men compared to 2% of women. (In the U.S., the figure is 5% for men and 4% for women.) When it came to "bisexual" the numbers were evenly split at 2% for men and women alike.
Only 7% of conservative voters described themselves as "gay or lesbian" compared to 4% of Labour voters — despite the fact that male homosexuality was decriminalised under a Labour government in the 1960s, and it was another Labour administration in the '90s & Noughties which did away with the remaining discriminatory laws — in the teeth of conservative opposition. Rather than attribute this all to Cameron’s recent successful co-option of gay marriage, perhaps a better explanation for the fact there were nearly twice as many conservative gays and lesbians as Labour is to be found in the data showing social class ABC1 were four times more likely to describe themselves as gay or lesbian (8%) than those in C2DE (2%). Class and income doesn’t just influence your voting, but also your declared sexuality. Interestingly, the numbers for "bisexual" were the same for Labour and Tory voters and both social classes: 2%.
Perhaps not entirely surprisingly, supporters of the centrist (and largely middle-class) Lib Dems were most likely to agree with the statement ‘sexuality is a scale – it is possible to be somewhere near the middle’, at 71%, compared to 47% of UKIP voters, who are much more likely to beC2DE (39% of UKIP voters believed there was no middle ground — you are either heterosexual or homosexual).
The great, throbbing Metropolis of London, as you might expect, had the highest number of self-described gays and lesbians: 8% compared to Scotland’s 3%. But wrong-footing stereotypes, ‘Midlands/Wales’ was only one point behind what is now surely the gay capital of the entire world, at 7%.
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Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis will have to choose whether to issue marriage licenses, defying her Christian conviction, or continue to refuse them, defying a federal judge who could pummel her with fines or order that she be hauled off to jail.
“She’s going to have to think and pray about her decision overnight. She certainly understands the consequences either way,” Mat Staver, founder of the right-wing law firm representing Davis, said on Monday, hours before a court-ordered delay in the case expired. “She’ll report to work tomorrow, and face whatever she has to face.”
A line of couples, turned away by her office again and again in the two months since the U.S. Supreme Court legalized gay marriage across the nation, plan to meet her at the courthouse door.
Davis stopped issuing all marriage licenses in the days after the landmark decision. Two same couples and two opposite sex couples sued her, arguing that she must fulfill her duties as an elected official despite her personal religious faith. A federal judge ordered her to issue the licenses, and an appeals court upheld that decision. Her lawyers with the Liberty Counsel filed a last-ditch appeal to the Supreme Court on Friday, asking that they grant her “asylum for her conscience.”
Justice Elena Kagan, who oversees the 6th district, referred Davis’ request to the full court, which denied the stay without comment. Kagan joined the majority in June when the court legalized gay marriage across the nation.
Meanwhile, a couple that had been turned away went to Rowan County Attorney Cecil Watkins to ask that she be charged with official misconduct, a misdemeanor defined by state law as a public official who “refrains from performing a duty imposed upon him by law or clearly inherent in the nature of his office.” The crime is punishable by up to a year in jail.
Watkins cited a conflict of interest and forwarded the complaint to Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway, whose office will decide whether to appoint a special prosecutor, generally a county attorney from a surrounding jurisdiction, who would decide whether to file charges.
As the clock wound down for Davis on Monday, the tension intensified between dueling groups of protesters outside her office window on the courthouse lawn.
Hexie Mefford has stood on the lawn waving a flag nearly every day for more than two months. The flag is fashioned after Old Glory, but with a rainbow instead of the red and white bars.
Mike Reynolds, a Christian protesting in Davis’ defense, shouted at her that he found the flag offensive: He is an Army veteran, he complained, and they had desecrated the American flag. The two groups roared at each other. The Christians called on the activists to repent; the activists countered that their God loves all.
It was a marked difference from the cordial protests that unfolded there every day since Davis declared she would issue no licenses.
Rachelle Bombe has sat there every day, wearing rainbow colors and carrying signs that demand marriage equality. One particularly hot day, Davis, the woman she was there to protest against, worried Bombe would get overheated and offered her a cold drink. In turn, Bombe said she’s checked in on Davis, whose lawyer says she’s received death threats and hate mail, to make sure she’s holding up despite the difficult circumstances.
“She’s a very nice lady, I like her a lot,” Bombe said of Davis. “We’re on the opposite sides of this, but it’s not personal.”
On Monday, the Christians stood on the grass and sang “I am a Child of God.”
The marriage equality activists chimed in after each refrain: “So are we.”
By CLARE GALOFARO /Associated Press
© 2015, Associated Press, All Rights Reserved.
This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
Rowan County clerk Kim Davis has failed in her efforts to get the highest court in the land to intervene in her anti-gay crusade.
The Supreme Court today turned down Davis’s emergency request for a stay on a federal order calling on her to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. BuzzFeed’s Chris Geidner reports Justice Elena Kagan, who handles such claims from the Sixth Circuit, referred the request to the full court.
— Equality Case Files (@EQCF) August 31, 2015
The stay on the federal order expired today. Davis has a big decision to make tomorrow, as Kentucky station WKYT notes:
Davis will have to choose whether to issue marriage licenses Tuesday, defying her Christian conviction, or continue defying a federal judge who could fine her or send her to jail.
A gay couple who was denied a marriage license three times have filed a federal lawsuit against Davis, saying they were deprived of their “fundamental, Constitutional right to marry.”
The lawsuit was filed Aug. 25 in U.S. District Court by William Smith Jr. and James Yates, but a summons was delivered Monday to Rowan County Judge Executive Walter Blevins, who is named as a defendant with Davis and the county. Other defendants, including Davis, were expected to be served this week, attorneys have told WKYT.
The AP adds:
“She’s going to have to think and pray about her decision overnight. She certainly understands the consequences either way,” Mat Staver, founder of the law firm representing Davis, said on Monday, hours before a court-ordered delay in the case expired. “She’ll report to work tomorrow, and face whatever she has to face.”
The Rowan County Attorney’s Office has already filed a charge of official misconduct against Davis.
Related, Anti-LGBT Kentucky Clerk Kim Davis Unknowingly Issued a Marriage License to a Trans Man in February
The post Anti-gay Kentucky Clerk Kim Davis’s SCOTUS Emergency Stay Request Denied appeared first on Towleroad.
Check out our weekly guide to make sure you’re catching the big premieres, crucial episodes and the stuff you won’t admit you watch when no one’s looking.
— Rejoice, awful persons! Hulu’s original series Difficult People has been renewed for a second season. Check out the latest installment of the series, starring comedian Julie Klausner and out performer Billy Eichner. This week’s episode also features appearances from gay icons Amy Sedaris and Debbie Harry. It drops Wednesday on Hulu.
— YouTube’s popular purveyor of parody Todrick Hall is bringing his schtick to cable. His show, Todrick, debuts tonight at 10 p.m. on MTV. Find out how his signature songs get the visual treatment as the series follows the creation of a new video each week.
— Do you love learning? Do you love drinking? Celebrate them both with the return of Drunk History, Tuesday at 10:30 p.m. Eastern on Comedy Central. Each episode has a comedian or storyteller get tipsy and then recount important moments from history. Check out a sample of a previous episode above.
— Thank goodness we have Project Runway to get us through the TV wasteland that we’re usually facing in August. It’s a tense team challenge this week, and, this time, they’re armed! See what happens when Project Runway and paintball combine Thursday at 9 p.m. Eastern on Lifetime. Catch up with anything you missed last week with a recap above.
— If you’ve been missing your antiheroes since Breaking Bad and Mad Men ended, tune in to Hand of God on Amazon, debuting Friday. The drama follows a judge (Ron Perlman) as he goes on a rampage of vigilante justice after suffering a mental breakdown.
What are you watching on TV this week?
The post What To Watch On TV This Week: Debbie Harry and Amy Sedaris Are ‘Difficult People’ appeared first on Towleroad.
Not that removing his clothes in front of a camera is really new territory per se, but current “Celebrity” Big Brother UK contestant and former A-List: New York plastic / boyfriend of Marc Jacobs Austin Armacost recently stripped down for housemate James.
Though James is straight, the two have been embarking down a beautiful bromance, bathing together and sharing a bed.
Claiming sore hamsrings, Austin tried tirelessly to get James to massage his aching muscles. In the process, he showed off his ass for all to see.