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Yours truly has grown up in Aleppo, a Syrian city historically known for its women engaging in sexual acts with one another while their husbands, who were mostly merchants, are away on business. The men were actually OK with it; they even brought back gifts for both their wife/wives and their lovers. Dorkville has a tiny neighbor; it’s known for its gay men and pedophiles. ‘Idlebi’ is code for gay, and I’m not sure if ‘7alabyye’ applies as code for lesbian or if it’s ‘bent 3shre’? Or maybe it’s all just a myth?

It’s odd how I grew up and had never heard of this until I turned 23! But, I guess everything around here is kept a secret from kids, especially girls. Boys should be “educated” and have to grow into “men”. Girls on the other hand, don’t need to know that stuff at all; they should be kept at home close to their mothers and away from the dangers of the world. God forbid should something happen to the precious family jewel: her hymen!!!

You might agree or disagree but we Arabs (to varying degrees) hold the world record on hiding crucial information from our kids and it doesn’t end when they become adults. We just keep avoiding the questions that make us uncomfortable and go to great lengths to cover up simple truths that would otherwise be dull facts.

You might be wondering: how do we manage to do that? Well that’s an easy one: whenever a kid asks you something you don’t feel comfortable answering, just use the magic word “3ayb”. It works like a charm and comes with a guarantee of the question never being posed again. A headache is avoided.

Here’s how it goes:
NB: please go back to the age of 3 or 4 and grow up as you read along.

Q: Where do babies come from?
A: A tree!! The Baby tree!
Kid logic: But why only married women get pregnant and not anyone else?
This one didn’t fool me, I knew it and didn’t have to pose the question but every time I asked why grownups lie to kids who ask about this, the grownup on the other end would somehow manage not to answer me and make me feel ashamed for even asking… “3ayb”!

Q: What’s the difference between a boy and a girl? What makes a boy a boy and a girl a girl??
A1: Boys have short hair.
A2: You are told that they are boys when you pick them from the tree.
A3: Parents decide.
Kid Logic: then why do they keep having kids till they have a boy? Why not pick a boy first?
I got A3 and being the little lesbian that I am, and since the concept of lesbianism hadn’t made its way into my tiny book of words,

I had to ask: Why didn’t you make me a boy? I mean you are dying to have a son so why not make me a boy who will grow up to be the husband of a girl?

Yet again, the grown up on the other end of the question managed to escape it and left me feeling like a bad kid… “3ayb”. It lead me to the conclusion that everything I ask is going to be answered by a huge frown and another “3ayb”, so I just kept my tiny little mouth shut.

Q: Why do you change the channel every time there is a guy and a girl getting closer to each other and a different music plays in the middle of a movie?
A: 3AYB!!
Kid logic: hmmm… something is very wrong with two people being in love. I should keep away.
OK, this one I didn’t have the guts to ask but I managed to get my own answer: kissing on the mouth is how babies are made!

Q: What does ‘kis’ mean? And why is ‘kis ekhtak/emmak’ such a bad word?
A: 3ayb! Good girls don’t say those words! “3ayb”!!!
Kid logic: Hmmm ‘kis’ has to be something bad and ugly and a sure way to get someone really angry.

Q: What the hell is this ‘Always’ stuff they keep advertising on TV???
A: None of your business, ‘shaghle lal nswen’! (something for women)
Oufff, Is everything none of my business and why do you have to yell at me? HUH??  I get it; you’d rather pee in your pants than go to the bathroom when out on a visit! Where’s the ‘3ayb’ in this one?

At 13, I got my first period and came home sick with fear because I had thought that all the masturbating I had done the day before caused my genitals to bleed. I called mom into the bathroom and told her scared shitless. Then all of a sudden, she hugged and kissed me and introduced me to the true function of the grownup diaper!

Q: Why does it feel this good when I touch my genitals?
ARE YOU KIDDING??? WHO DARES TO ASK THAT!? Sure not me, and I have yet to meet that hero who managed to ask that kind of question.

And still I don’t have answers to any of my questions: Why don’t I want to marry a boy and have his babies when I grow up? Why do I always imagine a woman when replaying a love scene in my head? And why isn’t a ‘sex change’ allowed even though it gets me the right to be with a girl and makes it less “3ayb”?

(Nobody ever told me that homosexuality is “3ayb” but come on, it’s not the way everything happens so it has to be “3ayb).

Hard to believe as it is; I have never managed to get my hands on any piece of information regarding my sexuality till I was 16. The big revelation was through TATU, the Russian duo. I felt a huge connection with them. I thought it was just Julia’s haircut and then I saw them kissing! WOW! I’m not the only one!

Boy, have I been kept in the dark! And all those stupid books I read never even mentioned this! I felt betrayed by my dear old books, but was too excited about this to hold a grudge.
Now, the kid has grown up and somehow managed to be a full-grown lesbian with somewhat of an awareness and wants answers to major questions:

Q: How are those kids going to raise their kids?
A: God only knows… But I think the good old way will persist: spare yourself a headache and just avoid all the questions that are out of your comfort zone, use the old weapon; “3ayb” – and we’ll have more and more psychologically scarred generations as time goes by.

Q: How do we help the other poor little kids with a non-conforming sexuality beating themselves up because of one single word… “3ayb”!

“3ayb” for having all the legitimate questions that pop into most kids’ heads and having all those questions and feelings that the ‘other’ kids don’t have. Questions and feelings that don’t find their explanations and answers in the playground or the secret talks we have around school in those ‘talk about sex’ rituals. How dare they even remotely get some of their inner thoughts out there?

How do we fight this “3ayb” that spreads like cancer all over every kid’s consciousness?

My logic: Revolution! A revolution that makes the world a “3ayb” free place and erases the concept of “3ayb” off the face of mother earth, and gives courage to everyone to step out of their comfort zone and give their child an honest answer.

– Contributed by Dylan

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