Shame, Blame & The Family Name: Growing Up Gay in an Arab Household

“The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain” Kahlil Gibran

Are you a Middle-Eastern man who is attracted to other men? Do you feel the need to hide, for fear of being judged or marginalised? Over the years I’ve worked with men who have struggled to bridge the gap between their culture and sexual orientation. These men were raised in environments that told them, both directly and indirectly, that it wasn’t safe to be same-sex attracted. This lack of safety forced them to deny, repress and hide their thoughts and feelings. In the short-term, these coping strategies may have helped them from being “outed”. In the long-term however, they take a serious toll on emotional and psychological wellbeing. The road to recovery may involve working with the shame that is often rooted in our developmental history.

Shame is a debilitating and pervasive emotion that is familiar to gay men of all backgrounds. The core of shame says “I’m not enough.. I mustn’t be seen”. Through a Middle-Eastern lens, this may sound something like “what will my family think?” “I can’t embarrass my parents”; or perhaps there is the fear of swarms of cousins whispering (or wailing) “ya 3ayb el shoum”. Years of conditioning may lead us to believe we are inherently flawed and undeserving of love. If these beliefs persist in adulthood, they can stop us from fostering healthy relationships, living authentically and experiencing joy.

‘Coming out’ or simply coming to terms with your sexuality is a deeply personal endeavour; there isn’t one ‘right way’ to go about it. Years of being shamed and the fear of judgment can restrict you from exploring what works best for you. Talking to a mental health professional can be a safe and confidential way to help you navigate. You don’t have to suffer in silence and you don’t need to battle alone. As the above Gibran quote implies, our deepest struggles prime us for a profound sense of joy. No matter where you are on your journey – there is always help, and there is always hope.

Harry Bechara


Category : 'Coming Out' & Blog & Gay Arab Men & Gay Men & Gay/Bi Menstuff & Shame

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