Between Helem and Meem: A Personal Experience1,651 views
NB: This article tells a personal experience, not referring to the two mentioned organizations politics only. It tells the experience of sexual identity, not the activism involvement which is, according to me, a totally different experience.
I grew up being “straight” as I used to call it back then. Not because this was the “normal” thing to do, nor was it because I was not allowed to be something else. I was straight because of the heartbeat a man’s hug could cause me, and because of the friendly, and only friendly warmth a woman’s hug could make me feel.
I first went to Helem (the only organization working on LGBT cause I knew back then) as a “straight” person, a human rights activist, willing to work on the LGBT cause, part of the human rights I believe in. The first sarcastic joke I heard there (which made me actually laugh and never offended me) was: “Oh, you’re one of them?”. I was always working with gay people for their own cause and not mine, fighting with them to make them win their own battles. I always felt I was this stranger who knows a lot, helps a lot but never getting past the doorstep. My identity didn’t fit in their room.
A couple of months later at Helem’s center, I decided to date this girl I used to like. For a long time, I was afraid that I might be considering the relationship as a passport that could let me in to this room that I was always watching from outside, never knowing what was really going on in there. I doubted my own feelings and kept saying to myself “why now?” Women never attracted me and this was not out of denial. I was sure of it. When our relationship became public things didn’t turn well for me. I thought people would accept it. I am part of them now!! They had to welcome me to the community, I thought. No sooner had I finally stepped into this mysterious room than I started to hear all these voices asking me: “so are you lesbian now?”, “do you think you are bisexual?”, “how do you identify yourself?” Some of them took the initiative to decide for me and say: “we think you are just a straight person having fun!” In one single second, I saw the door slamming shut in my face.
For once in my life, I decided to go on with the “go with the flow” political theory, though it was never one of my principles. They wanted me to have a title so they can refer to me with it. So many boxes in front of me, I had to choose one. I chose the box that seemed to me as a “half pink / half blue” box. I never liked sharp divisions. I chose to be referred to as “bisexual” in front of people who would never understand me if I said “I don’t know”.
Though, in theory, I agree with Helem politics most of the time, the activist in me wasn’t fulfilled. I don’t believe it was intentional on their part, but it was clear to me that they had dismantled one stereotype called by heteronormativity, and moved on to adopt a million other stereotypes. Every day, I wished I could be “the straight” again–it was simple as this.
I was also member at Meem, but was never a real activist there. The community struggle seemed to me to be a Helem v.s Meem struggle. I sometimes avoided Meem so I could avoid those familiar stares, telling me, once again: “Oh, you’re one of them?”. I felt the boxes and gender division were all over the place. As far as I can remember, Helem for me was the “boys” place and Meem was the “girls” place.
Later, a serious misunderstanding pushed me away from Helem’s center. The full time activist in me was jobless all of a sudden, at least within the “gay” community. I was not a part of Helem’s “people” anymore, but I didn’t want to disrespect my history as a Helem member. I didn’t want to trade ethics for a new beginning and go to Meem, the competitor entity, and flush all my work down the toilet because of a moment of anger. Besides, I always felt that Meem people looked at me as a Helem activist, who would never understand how Meem works, how they think, how they get things done. I avoided Meem so I could avoid those stares telling me all over again: “Oh, you’re one of them!” I took my distance for a while, and became a silent activist — I lived the activism of trying to make a difference in everyday life, without screaming about it publicaly.
Driving my car, on the way there, I was trying to come up with answers to their expected question: “What are you?”
I felt the road was a hundred miles length, but finally I got there. As I stepped into the door, everybody said “Hi.” Nobody noticed a stranger was among them. Nobody asked a single question, even those who didn’t know my name. They didn’t bother to ask. I was invited to make my coffee, as if it was a daily gesture I do. Nobody noticed I came from a different planet, nobody saw I was the only one in high heels and wearing make up. Hello! I wasn’t here yesterday, I hadn’t been here for the last year, in fact. Nobody looked familiar to me. All these images I had in mind flew away in a second.
As far as I know, Q was a taboo, or, in the best case scenario, a phase in discovering the sexual orientation. You are Queer when you don’t know who you are, who to like, when you want to fight for everything just for the sake of fighting, when you don’t have a certain goal and have ideas mixed up in your head. I didn’t want to be queer, even more, I didn’t want to stay among queers.
I held on to this feeling till I found out about the real lifestyle of the Q people, when I stayed around for a while. They don’t ask whom you like because they believe in the breadth of gender identity. They don’t have ideas mixed up in their head. It was a shocking phase of my life. Where did all the “L”, “B”, “G” fly away to? It took me too long to understand them and fit into one of them, and now I can’t hear about them anymore. Queer people are messing with the cycle of nature, the identity of things!! They are getting rid of everything I worked for. I was working “for them, fighting their battles”, and suddenly they decided to change their cause and fight someone else’s battle?