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Friday, December 27, 2013

Let Me Get this 'Straight'

After being one of the fortunate individuals that posses a smartphone (that inevitably makes you less of a smart being) - not by choice, but through the economy of the gift - there was a general expectation that my sex life will thrive like bacteria in a petri dish. I spared no time or energy to join every virtual social network available, all Android apps were downloaded, profiles created, photos taken and uploaded, the eccentric morbid queen was ready to take the app world by a storm.
It didn't happen.
Three months down the road, not a single interesting encounter, and only one sad story of a dodgy meet with a shady fellow who looked like a serial killer.
Aside from this sad attempt, all encounters remained trapped in a luminescent screen.
The eccentric morbid queen had nothing to offer but her dry wit and her killer cakes.
Not very enticing for testosterone queens who populate the virtual world and the real one too.
At peace with the disappointing result of the "app world", the eccentric morbid queen kept the apps for what they are, a perfectly convenient way to pass the time, when stuck in traffic or waiting for friends.
And that remained the way in which he dealt with the presence of more than four apps on his smartphone.
Till one day while out with the girls, suffering from a deep state of Verfremdungseffket (please refer to the Wikipedia entry on the term for further clarification) and not really paying attention to anything happening on the apps, a gentleman requested his number. While this happened frequently, what happened next was not very usual. The gentleman called right away and requested to meet the eccentric morbid queen. He was quite incessant and would not take no for answer. As the gentleman was good looking enough, the eccentric morbid queen relented and decided to go for it. Ten minutes later the mysterious gentleman was there. He wasn't an ogre or a serial killer and was actually as attractive as his photos were. This was the first time in a year, that the eccentric queen actually meets with an Egyptian who was not a psycho, or a serial killer or a complete idiot. It was actually, for a change, an exciting prospect. The gentleman seemed very keen. And insisted that their encounter would be strictly for exchanging pleasantries, but should that they should get to know each other, in the biblical sense. Although flattered, something seemed suspicious. The gentleman did not see any of the eccentric morbid queen's photos before, except one, and suggested sex after a two minutes conversation. Deciding it would be a shame to waste this rare chance of actually meeting someone off an app, he went along with the suggestion and acquiesced to the urgent and horny request of that odd but attractive stranger.
Engaging in small talk that ranged somewhere between what is "independent culture" and the destructive habits of capitalist consumption, the eccentric morbid queen was more than puzzled at this strange young man, who although looks like nothing more than a narcissistic horny bugger, decided to have small talk about commodity fetishization and the notion of labour.
Not that his understanding and ideas were in the least bit interesting, but the actual attempt to even consider all of this as a topic of discussion was definitely unusual.
Deciding to waste no more time, the eccentric morbid queen made up his mind, and resolved to go for it, the gentleman was coming home with him for closer inspection.
Leaving the girls for the night after receiving a lot of jeering, hateful looks, and catcalls, the eccentric morbid queen was on his way to carnal bliss. Or so she thought.
A short drive later, the two strange bedfellows (pun intended) sneaked into the eccentric morbid queen's home under the guise of darkness and dimmed light. As soon as they settled and the eccentric morbid queen took the first move, he was rejected. The handsome stranger did not kiss. *bwoom*
And it all went downhill from there.
The peculiar stranger, did not touch, or kiss, or embrace, did not do anything that does not involve inserting his penis into an orifice.
It finally hit her. The eccentric morbid queen was ambushed. He fell into a straight trap. The stranger was not odd, or peculiar or unusual. He was a straight man who used gay men to get his rocks off.
It was, however, unusual for the eccentric morbid queen who prided himself in never before falling for those types of men and being able to find them out miles away.
What happened? How could his judgement fail her so miserably? Where did he go wrong?
How could she not notice the ring on his finger and put two and two together and realize that this was indeed a horny straight man who would shag a sheep, if he could get away with it, to get his rocks off.
Not that the horny bugger was not attractive or pleasantly endowed, but the fact that the only time anyone was so keen to meet, turned out to be some randy straight man.
'Merry Christmas you retarded bitch', that was all what went through the mind of the eccentric morbid queen as he assessed the situation of the semi-naked heterosexual ensconced on his couch.
There was the matter that he is attractive, and that he did offer him a free ride home (the eccentric morbid queen would ride with the devil, if it would get her home from the other side of this abominable city) and despite realizing how dishonest and abusive this piece of shit is, an awkward and hurried fellatio was in order.
Making it very clear that this is all that is going to happen, the heterosexual asshole took whatever was offered and agreed. Ten uneventful minutes later, he was on his way out after giving the eccentric morbid queen a straight handshake (FOR REAL) and left.
Enraged at this unfortunate encounter with this selfish, dishonest pig, it was time for one of his famous angry texts. So at four in the morning, the unsuspecting swine, received a 15 line paragraph shredding him to pieces. 
The End.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Reductio ad absurdum

Literally to reduce to absurdity.
For starting the fourth decade of my mortal existence on this Earth, my family insisted that I should join civilisation and become a member of civilised society and own a 'smartphone'. Refusing for years to pay the exorbitant sums of money required to own one (did I also mention that I absolutely LOATHE touchscreens?), they decided for my thirtieth birthday they would buy one as a 'gift'. I took it in the original sense of the word 'gift', as in 'poison'.
There was little I could do to resist and they were quite adamant on getting me one and I thought it might be a good experiment in exploring all those forms of social networking that I was denied, due to the fact of me not owning a 'smartphone'.

I wasted no time and the moment I turned on my phone, all kinds of applications software known to be used by homos anywhere were downloaded. I was officially part of the global virtual community of people who experience their social interactions through the effulgent little screens. And I was not particularly impressed. There was nothing new about any of the people listed in those apps. Maybe younger, more gay - in the sense of confirming to this pristine image of hypertrophic bodies, with developed musculature and the despicable attitude that goes along with it.  This was definitely more gay and more disillusioned about the notion of a community. You can not form a community where the platform for socializing is as atomised as this. People were even more cynical about what constitutes a community, and if there is one, how they view it and perceive their own position towards it. It was a bit disheartening to come face-to-face with such negative and damaging perception despite the freedom that those new interfaces give.
What was also fascinating was the notion of time. Communication became so instant, almost instantaneous, and at the same time because of how unpredictable telecommunication is, it can also disintegrate and break down in any second (make that a nanosecond) thus creating those long intervals and frequent interruptions that gives space for one to disengage, in a way making this part of what this kind of communication is about: dis-attached, hyper-responsive exchange.
But it also reduces any chance of complexity or nuance. You can not really have a conversation over a smartphone app. With all the contractions and abbreviations, the imperative sense of economy for time and space, there is an obligation for brevity and reducing everything to its bare bones. No flesh, no accumulation, no density - its condensed, rather than dense, everything is stripped to a simplisitic and immiserated version of itself.
Ultimately making understanding itself, completely shallow and crude. Understanding becomes as superficial, erratic and flat as the actual exchange taking place. And just as time becomes unbelievably accelerated, so does understanding - a process that is unavoidably linked to time, and nothing good ever comes from a reduced, rushed understanding.
Only absurdity, hence the title of this post.
In one of those many apps, customised to suit men of all shapes and sizes, I conceded and allowed myself to include men my own age. So instead of filtering my audience to 'only above 40', I told myself might as well open new grounds to explore and put a filter 'not below 30'.
Big mistake. Men, in general, are ass holes, men in their 30s are prime ass holes of all time: inflated sense of importance, false sense of achievement, mistaken idea of "wisdom" or experience and the list goes on.
One gentleman whom I flirted with, in the most licentious of ways, found my wit interesting. And over the span of two days over one of the apps (ironically enough, it was called "hornet"), the equivalent of two months in normal human time, our exchange did not veer from the usual sex talk that everyone usually engages in, in such context. For the record, although this gentleman was seemingly 'attractive' in that typical sense, I never got to know his name, how does he actually look like (despite having a picture of his erect penis) or even where does he live (despite knowing how far, in terms of distance he is from where I live). I never took that exchange more than just idle talk. It was fun to be obscene with an anonmyous entity, and to imagine what he looks like and what kind of person he is, without actually needing to see this person or know that much about them. I found this experience, although horribly disembodied and almost transhuman, liberating. For once I didn't have to project or take this thing, for anything but just idle talk. Idle sex talk.
Lo and behold, with the third day, comes this disclaimer in the middle of another dialogue laced with sexual depravity: "You know you are not really my type.. And I don't like to feel that I am leading you on or taking advantage of your good heart"

I kid you not, this is exactly what he wrote. I quote ad verbatim.
Not your type? Why the fuck did you send me pictures of your penis and ask me to suck it repeatedly or is that the standard greeting on those apps?
Lead me on to where? I don't even fucking know you! I haven't even seen your face! What the fuck is this about?  Do you even know me? What do you know of my heart to qualify it as good or bad? I didn't exchange more than a 100 words with you and you think that I will decide the matters of my heart based on that? Really?
Sweet Mother of Mercy!
I wasn't even thinking of anything beyond nice, sometimes exciting flirt with an anonymous male. Really, nothing. I wasn't hoping to see him, I wasn't thinking about it, if the entire phone was destroyed I don't think I will even remeber this person a week after this conversation.
How did I end up in a position where a random stranger can pass such a judgement on my character, my sense of judgement (or in that case the lack thereof) and matters of my heart based on the 50 words he exchanged with me (half of which are not actually any meaningful information about who I am)?
I was just outraged not just because my ego was bruised (after the first day and the kinds of responses I got - this was kind by comparison. Some people "blocked" me right after they saw my face picture, so yeah that was pretty mild), I was genuinely surprised that someone might think that I will decide my future happiness based on anonymous, faceless, 50 word exchange!
What the hell!!
How the fuck did this happen? When did it become ok to make such decisions? Or to arrive at such conclusions? Or to presume that a chat over an app is actually an informed and informative way to get to know somebody and judge the content of their character?
Where was I in that meeting?
The anonymous douchebag proceeded to clarify that 'a sexual encounter is not fat fetched' (so I should not despair and lose all hope in my desperate attempts for sexual bliss) but he felt the need to "clarify" his position. As not to "lead me on". Fuck you you presumpetous son of a bitch.
How about that for an answer?

He then apologized for being "stern" but he could not "forgive" himself if he let me believe something that was not true. يا سوسو؟
You were not being stern, you were just being an asshole.
And I did not decide my future happiness based on the magnificent photo of your toroso.
And I did not decide my quest to sexual bliss based on the fascinating photo of your average penis.
And I did not decide the matters of my heart based on your random use of the endearing adjectives 'adorable' and 'sweet'.
I didn't.
But I did decide that what you wrote represents everything that is banal and absurd about this form of socialization.
My heart and mind, although subject to flights of fancy and delusion, are not so defective and incompetent as to single out a fictitious characters as my knight and charming armour. How about you first slay the dragon and then we will talk?

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

خلينا بعيد أحسن

Here is what it is about being 30, I feel as if I am back to that condition of being on the cusp of something, yet another transformation, the same way I felt when I turned 16, but without the raging hormones. It is a point of transition, where again if you don't let go of the impetuousness of your twenties, which were charming, and embrace the more adult version of yourself, you are preceived as completely ridiculous. Not to mention completely immature or rather juvenile.
I was coming to the terms that I was slowly morphing into another category. One that I don't know and I don't like. One where there are no inspiring role models. One where people my age are already daddies.
The expectations, the criteria against which you are being measured as an "adult" are only heteronormative and capitalistic to the extreme, but also dangerous as they define our ideas of propriety and accomplishments.
I don't have a regular job, I don't own my own house, I don't drive and don't have a car, I am not a hippy or a hipster and I think the only thing the left are good at is securing more rights for the working class and producing interesting critiques of capitalism. But that does not make me a leftist or even remotely political.
I never was.
At such a point one is compelled by immense outside pressure to somehow pause and reconsider or "re-evaluate" what one has been doing and why.
I could offer a critique of my twenties but then that would be a boring post.
All I remember and know is that mine has been a constant attempt to resist the shackles of discipline and not in a hippy, flower-power fashion, as I am an introvert, but through actual investing in alternative family structures, in trying to create different experience of human relatedness, of being helplessly idealisitic and very lazy also about how the world actually run.
Those are all my accomplishments as a matter of fact. Those impossible human configurations that all somehow dissolved and could not stand the test of capitalist heteronormativity, or just plain human selfishness.
But then did I effectively contribute to the betterment of someone's life? Did I find a cure for cancer? No. And that for that kind of evaluation my "accomplishments" will falter miserably. If I can describe anything I did as an "accomplishment".


I was back in Brussels, where it all began, the first European city I ever visited. The first artistic context I ever participated in. An astonishingly prophetic experience on how the next six years of my life will be like: nomadic, disrupted, patterned with with impossible choices and chronic displacement. Not refugee like displacement (because that kind of displacement leave little room for reflection), but potent enough to engender a constant state of insecurity.

I was having dinner with an old Brussels friend, one of the first people I got to meet when I was in Brussels, a woman of extraordinary spirit and with an intellect to match. And she herself has been going through a lot of spiritual and emotional changes. And we sat and talked and were catching up, and afer a long series of discussions and tarot card readings, the conversatoin turned to love. And she asked me, "how do you perceive love?" and what is my relation to it?
And I couldn't answer her. I had nothing to say. I could not be more far than where love is. Last time I went on a date in Egypt, Mubarak was still president.
I told her about generosity and compassion and she irritatingly dismissed them as have nothing to do with love. And inwardly I knew she was right, but what can I tell her?
ماذا أقول له؟ على رأي نجاة
I am part of a subculture that is entirely populated with people under 30 who are still taking very primary steps towards asserting their rights and existence?
That the only time that I can go out on a date or have an interesting conversation with a man is usually in some European city or another? And even that is changing as my age group is changing.
That the gay community is so obsessed in challenging heteronormative parctices and habits that is questioning the wisdom or efficiacy of any kind of meaningful attachment to one person at a time?

I don't understand it, because it is inaccessible to me, it has eluded me for far too long and for some reason I stopped wondering about it.

I kept thinking of Um Kalthoum's playful jab at love, in Sallama (1944), and I even started singing the song in my head.

But while I was trying to be as playful as Um Kalthoum was, my friend was not being playful at all. She was quite serious.
And as we were joined by another very dear friend, I sounded and looked completely out of place. They both spoke of past relationships, former lovers, the meaning and place of love in their lives and I could not be more far from that. Just like Sallama, I didn't know. And I didn't know how to answer them or what to say.
I never lived with anyone, my longest relationship was with a fictitious character that only existed in my head. And I loved this character more than anything, that I refused to acknowledge that it only existed in my mind. So interesting was my creation that I could not escape its allure.
But that is a completely auto-erotic or solipsistic arrangement, that tells people very little about my own exposure or experience with love.
The idea of sharing and witnessing someone's life through an intimate arrangement, and a close proximity is something that I never witnessed myself (it has to be "durational", a week or ten days can not be described as a relationship) and I have seen it very little in people around me.
How can I then answer this question?
What do I know of love, to answer it?

Years ago, in my twenties, there came a dashingly handsome gentleman, all the way up from the north, to perform in our magical city. And in one of those nostalgic, and melancholy relics of Downtown Cairo, we sat after his show. Him gently forcing his legs next to mine and me blushing ....... He made his desires very well known to everyone on the table and I was in awe of such audacity and boldness.
I never managed to tell him that I share his desires and even some more.
Years go by, he becoming even more attractive and me hitting 30. And in Brussels, in that same city (I knew that he lives there) and right after that long night de questions d'amour, he invites me to come over to his place for a drink.
My mind was still muddled with all the conversations of the night before, and if ever there was a moment where I was concious of my mortality, it was this moment. And in attempt to brush aside my own sense of incompetence or inadequacy, I decided to go meet him.
I walked the narrow streets of Brussels with its confusing bilingual signs and even more confusing its Arab faces that passed me by. This was the first time I see him since a long time. I kept wondering if his desires and feelings are still the same or not. I know mine are.
His was an old house, that he beautifully renovated, with a enchanting little garden and a solid dinning room table, to die for. I am a furniture-whore, and anything made out of strong wood is actually incredibly sensual for me.
So as we sat to sip tea at his sexy dinning room table, it became very clear to me how much I was attracted to him. And it also became clear how self-absorbed he is in himself. In a charming and boyish kind of way. He was infinitely animated, as he kept gesturing and jumping and walking back and forth talking about everything and nothing.
We talked for almost six hours non-stop. This gave me hope that maybe he found in me an interesting or exciting interlocutor. But then maybe also he is such a fascinating subject that he wouldn't tire of talking about it, regardless of whom he's conversing with.
And I realized that when he unabashedly declared his desires in Cairo, I was still a 'young boy' as my friend tells me (I almost bitch-slapped her right there).
As I sat there with hope and trepidation, there it seemed that those desires have migrated elsewhere, and prolonging my anxiety would only increase the weight of truth that was beginning to dawn on me, that I felt it might hit me like anvil all at once.
I decided that it was time for me to leave. I was not only far from love, but at it seems that at my age, even desire became complicated.
He insisted on walking me to my friend's place, where I was staying. He said it was time to walk the dog. And we event talked some more along the way, and I found him 'madly attractive' (as von Livenbaum would say in the 1956 make of Anastasia) and I couldn't help myself but think maybe I should French kiss him goodbye. And as I tried, he turned his head to call his dog. It ended up being a chaste kiss on the cheek.
He then said, call me sometime while you are still here, so we can meet. But then we never did.

....but then again, it might have been imaginations' plan..

Friday, May 24, 2013

The Second Encounter - اللقاء الثاني

He walked past me, and I immediately sensed the very air around me transform. It was not visible. Nothing physically moved. There was no sudden gust of wind, no autumns leaves drifting by the window, no violins lamenting suddenly. Yet the very 'reality' around me seem to disintegrate and unravel.
It broke open and let him out from the very recesses of my memory.

I looked at him, to the face that was forever engraved in my mind, created and recreated endlessly, the face that I idolized, searchingly, for that fleeting moment of recognition. But it never came.

I was 16. He had the softest brown eyes I have ever seen. An angelic face that the horrors of reality only left with a look of certain melancholy and visible gravity. His skin glowed with this iridescent light, that shook hearts to their very sinews. He spoke little, sometimes smiled and and I worshipped the quicksand he walked on.
I never allowed myself to think of how much he moves me. My very viscera hummed with torturous tunes and ecstatic song, every time he stood next to me.
If he wished to cut my chest open and wrench my heart out, I would have let him, even if to just throw it at his feet.
But my self-preservation instinct would not allow my mind to be fully cognizant of what my heart and viscera were singing for. I would always slip into this metaphysical state every time we talked. The few moments where I was in his presence were atemporal experiences that can not be explained by any connection or bearing on reality. Out of Nowhere they come and into the great Unknown they go.

The fortune of having him never lasted more than a few months. After which he transferred to another university and we never stayed in touch. He, out of being a heterosexual man, and me out of self-preservation.

Until that moment of the 'second-encounter'. There he was, in all his heterosexual glory. His father, his mother, his brother, and a child, clutching his shoulders and a plain-looking, not-so-very-intelligent wife. Patriarchy was alive and well, and his father passed down his legacy and he is creating his own.
But gone is the iridescent light, the pleading brown eyes, the angelic face, all gone. There was only a harassed look, and an overwhelming feeling of disappointment that left no space for anything else.
Was having a child not an extraordinary blessing? Was having a wife not the ultimate reassurance of this virile masculinity? Was heading a family not the true exulted position for a man like him?
Did he not find joy in fulfilling his destiny as a man?
Was being ensnared by patriarchy the final death of his innocence? Was it not a source of endless pride that he was a living-giving, perfectly "functioning" man? Were not the values of bourgeois respectability what they promised to be?

I was always consoled by the idea, that somewhere in the world, there is someone like him. He would not cross my mind very often and I never tried to conjure his memory on purpose. In certain moments, when 'heart', 'love' or 'destiny' were mentioned the image of him found its way to my consciousness. And my body remembered what it was like to experience his presence and to have occupied the same physical space as he did.
He was an ideal, and shall remain as such.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Whats Your Profile?

Being 30, gaining weight by the minute, alarmed by the sense of anxiety that seems to come out of nowhere, I found no harm to go with the girls and sit in a cafe; smoke Shisha, and blend in the grand tapestry that is Cairo, like all Egyptian mortals. Each one of them took her iPhone out and started checking the endless iPhone applications for social networking websites. There was an application for men who like hairy men, there is an application for men who like young men, there is an application for sexually-ambiguous men, there is an application for anything and everything.
Our conversation was punctuated with those interludes of fingers gracefully gliding over luminescent screens for about 20 seconds at 15 minutes intervals. The more restless they became, the more the screens flickered, and fingers glided.
My stillness and pensive pose prompted one of them to ask me: 'Whats your profile?'
And I innocently answered him by listing my profile on the two social networking that we have been using for almost a decade. He shook his head dismissively and clarified his question by asking what is my profile on the 'iPhone apps'.
Well, there is none.
As I don't have an iPhone.
And instantly an outpouring of sympathy and compassion was directed at me. For I will never become part of this self-elected community of iPhone users who have distinguished themselves many times over, by their access not just to technology but the way in which we would use such technology. If the term social engineering ever sounded sinister to you, then this is one maleficent manifestation of it.
Not just social engineering. It is a reinvention of the notion of 'class' through 'technological innovation'. At the heart of it, is the 'filtering' of society by purchasing power - those who can actually afford to buy an iPhone, and it progresses to exclude those not completely attuned to the "social" application of such ingenious gadget.
I personally find the idea of poking a screen with your finger distasteful. Not to mention not completely hygenic.
But taste aside, my lack of accessibility to this technological device meant my own personal exclusion from this remarkable world that held them captive to it, unable to resist summoning their 'profiles' every 15 minutes for the fear of missing a potential mate.
One of them even had two phones, not just one.
And in this case of perpetual anticipation I found myself forced to witness it, as they checked one application after the other, exchanged tips on which application is better suited to the taste of the other, which application works best in Cairo and so on and so on.
While I sat there next to my less 'smart' phone, silent and alienated.

Scenes from the film Gattaca 1997, kept coming to my mind, in the (not-so-distant) future people will be able to selectively take out parts of their DNA or even introduce new traits. Only those who can afford to will be able to control the future of their offspring. It felt that only those who have access to this technology can take control of their 'social profile' and how they 'connect' to others and what kind of relationships they are able to have.
In a hyper-connected world, with complex gadgets and an irrational state of consumerism the notions of 'socialization' and 'relationships' become painfully problematic.
'The world at your finger tips' is one thing, but the world and its 'inhabitants' as well, is one form of illusion I don't think I can deal with very well.
But what is at the heart of this emancipated sense of control and connectivity? And what does it mean for an oppressed community like ours in Cairo?
It reinforces the notion of 'social distinction' through crude consumerism and access to technology. And this is not the rant of a broke queen whining about not being able to buy an iPhone. It terms of poverty and financial means they are many who live in the slums and walk around with iPhones. This is not where the problem lies.
The problem is this certain aptness and 'skill' in knowing how to "creatively" expand one's social capital via these technologies and their use. And not only expand but advance as well.
For the flimsy gay community in Cairo, the impact of such 'innovations' is perhaps to isolate further any chance of inter-connectivity. Or worse reinforce any existent biases and social restrictions.
One can argue that Facebook has been doing a wonderful job in democratizing these social processes and that is true to a great extent. But there is one thing that Facebook can not democratize, and that is Grindr. Or Growlr. Or Scruff.
It can not democratize any of those.
The anxiety it created in me, is not the anxiety of financial means, but the anxiety of a specific use of a certain technological device that has become a social gateway for an immediate way of getting to know people or 'hooking up'. Not that there are many users on Grindr anyway. But to add one more item to the list of things one must do to be able to find interesting potential dates or friends, makes one a little bit more than paranoid or obsessed.
But this is the future. The hyper-connected, super-transient and ephemeral social reality that we are part of. Where everything feels like one big commercial, and everyone is posing like they are trying to sell you something.
Madonna had it right all along.

'There's no love like the future love

Come with me'
Future Lovers by Madonna and Mirwais Ahmadzaï, Confessions on a Dance Floor, 2005

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Between an Underwear and a Hard Place

I like to believe that I am at peace with the process of ageing. The dwindling enthusiasm, the disappearing of irrational optimism, the faltering metabolism and so on and so on. But it does not just stop at sagging breasts and lacklustre complexion, it also has to do with that which gives one pleasure. That which excites one, makes one excitable and hence exciting.
I realized I had to make peace with that too.
Parties being one element of this socialization process, not that I was ever an exceptionally extroverted person, who enjoyed partying. Not at all. I am quite introverted and social interactions in general give me anxiety and wear me down. But even I, at the height of my agoraphobia, enjoyed a party every now and then. I stored up enough curiosity and managed to fake a certain sense of style and highly stylized persona to get by every once in a while.
Till now.
Or rather till that party. It does sound like it has been millennia since I last wrote of a party, and in gay years, it is. But then when the chance came to actually go to a party, I came to the realization, that I might be among the oldest people in the party. The average age gap between me and the nearest bitch, is not less than 5 years. Which you might think is not too much in human years, but for the notorious homosexuals that is more like 5 decades or more.
And it does not disturb me a great deal to be in a situation where I have to deal with someone 'significantly' younger, but I realized that does not bring any particular joy and does not really rouse much curiosity in me. Especially in the context of a party where the dresscode is a little bit "informal", and by "informal", I mean underwear party.
Yup, underwear party.
The last time a group of more than three people saw me in my underwear was for my physical exam when I was being drafted for army (thankfully I was spared, because my birth-date was not selected in the annual draw for that year). We were placed in a hall almost as big as a stadium, and forced to undress, and stand in our underwear, while a "physician", walked around and examined our skin, hands, arms, legs and feet in passing. To see if there is any visible deformity, injury or disease.
I would have been painfully self-conscious standing in a space where there were at least 1500 young men in their underwear, but the context saved us all any sense of awkwardness or embarrassment. We were just a statistic, rather than a host of naked bodies. The physical discipline imposed on us, and the objectifying treatment liberated us from any sense of fear or inadequacy. I was just one body among thousands, and my presence was blurred by the endless row of semi-dressed men.
But this was different, this was a party, a party of twenty year olds. Most of them relishing the freedom to undress in a social occasion without the need to stick to certain social codes of behaviour or propriety. Not  that any of them usually followed these codes, but it was about time that someone introduced a context where we skip this hassle and go for the next step, the 'fun'.
And by fun I mean random, awkward, meaningless sex.
Typically adolescent.

And I was reminded by Magda's 1960 blockbuster, 'The Adolescents', where a bunch of horny teenage girls, are trying their best to "discover" their sexuality, in a less than liberal society.
Magada as usual, gave a classic performance, of the oppressed, coquettish girl who is suffering in a constant pre-orgasmic state.
The difference is those "teenage girls" all around me, were suffering from a constant state of pre-orgasmic awkwardness.
There was no emancipation, there was no seduction, there was no mystery, there was no performance. It was an exercise in clumsiness and sexual ineptitude.
The adolescents had nothing to offer but a very erratic music playlist -that kept repeating songs or skipping them mid-sentence or suddenly introducing unwelcome silence, distracted conversation -borderline gibberish- and hysterical or worse, lumbering dance moves.
There was not even the benefit of a spectacle. I was bored beyond my comprehension.
 The party host kept insisting that I should take my clothes off and try to have fun. But the party was not queer enough for me. In the true sense of queer, not this, not that, but that which disturbs both.
I was not afraid to get judged, I knew I will and I was getting judged by everyone. Sometimes even to my face and so loudly that random strangers shouted insults.
But that was not what put me off. I didn't want this judgement. I am aware of the kind of relationship I have to my body. And it is a troubled relationship, and it is something I constantly try to understand and deal with.
And I wasn't afraid that someone might destroy my fragile ego or damage my self-worth. As much as I felt distant and disconnected from those young boys in their underwear.
I couldn't relate to them. My body and how I relate to it, is such a personal, internal dimension of my psyche, and I was not sure I wanted to reveal that to a bunch of strangers in their twenties, who are almost undressed.
So as I stood watching the beautiful view of the Nile's murky surface, glinting every now and then with street lights (yes the Nile is always part of the landscape. You can't escape the pyramids or the Nile), one young gentleman came and stood next to me and pretended to have an interesting conversation.
And I indulged him and myself in this moment of artifice.
I was bored and he was too, and it was not the first time I talk to him. In another party we stood and also tried to perform the scene of an interesting conversation. I remembered the artifice, he forgot my name and in the darkness his face looked handsome to me. Handsome enough for me to want to kiss him.
And I reminded him of a former encounter, and he tried to be clever, I smiled a bit more, he almost flirted

Yes, flirted. And I suddenly realized that I forgot what it is to flirt with an Egyptian. I was just like the protagonist of Ihsan Abdel Qoudoos's maudlin stories, where the heroine amidst her drive to be a serious career woman, forgot what it is to be a true woman: namely a submissive, sexually receptive and good-looking female.
The difference is, I was not a career-driven woman, but rather Westernised misfit with a peculiar taste in men who had a long and troubled history dealing with Egyptian men. Yet the mawkishness of the moment, was unusually similar to Ihsan's ridiculous and superficial psychological revelations.
And in that moment of false "theophany", I pretended to feel sexy, I pretended that this was play of seduction. I allowed myself to entertain the possibility of maybe wanting to kiss him. Or to that the way my hand brushed against his side was by design not accident.
I pretended we are indulging in an intelligent repartee, that was bittersweet as it was completely fallacious.
I ignored the disclaimer, of 'I am too drunk' and went ahead and pretended this was somewhere between a serendipitous encounter and child play in a school-yard.
Until he left to the bathroom and never came back.
As I looked for him, my pretences were falling one after the other.  Till I did find him, and a less sentimental realization hit me, as I followed his gaze towards a more muscled physique of a 'happier boy', as he described them.
At this point, all I could hear was Nina singing Irving Berlin. My moment of imaginative displacement has ended, and I was somewhere between an underwear and bluesy place.

'I don't want him, you can have him
You can have him, I don't want him
You can have him, I don't want him
For he's not the man for me'
You Can Have Him, Irving Berlin, 1949

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Another Invitation to the Blues

Well, he's up against the banister,
with cigaretts and booze,
Today's glances, bait for the unsuspecting hos,
He's a cruel revelation,
From his skinhead down to his pubes,
Well, he's just an invitation to the blues.

And you feel like Nadia Lotfi,
He looks like Ahmed Ramzi
At the corner of Groppi's garden,
You wonder if he's flirting,
He's a player and he likes it
Have to be careful, even if he rubs against you
He said: 'You look like a pervert,
Behind that innocence
You say, 'You never know', don't drown him in your benevolence,
Of a queen with a handbag
Stuck in the past,
In former bourgeois existence and a tired pair of shoes
He aint nothing but an invitation to the blues

And you feel the desire to touch him,
With Vodka in your hand,
The look that he gives you, flirting with all the girls,
Easy you fucking bastard,
Playing is an art I never mastered,
Only a trail of that broken heart I drag around
The joy I keep faking,
that I am generous enough to lose,
For I always get that invitation to the blues,

He loves the ones who put a show,
And brag to let you know,
A career, an apartment, and what not, all the things you know you ain't got
That other man, whose European,
Who met him at the Colosseum,
And ended up together, without ever knowing the truth
They moved together in this apartment,
And danced all night around his pubes,
And left the other girls, with an invitation to the blues

Zamalek is at social crossways
Always a soiree there, Amusez-vous bien,
I can't stay long, I'm only here for the night
I will stand by the balcony,
They're offering me drinks,
Its only a party, even I get a little bruise

Its a ridiculous temptation
Half mockery, one tenth true,
But I will take your invitation to the blues

Monday, January 7, 2013

Abdel Baset Blues

If you are wondering who is that dashing man in the photo, its Abdel Baset Hamouda (1960 - ), King of Shaabi music during the late 70s and 80s. His most famous record is called, 'I don't know me', and nearly everyone knows parts of the lyrics by heart, 'tell me my mirror, what is my story, I don't know me, I am not me' and the legendary line, 'I was tired of of the surprise, and my tears fell'.
Mr. Hamouda's existentialist gems resonated with almost everyone. Never mind the clichéd metaphors or the hideous album cover, Abdel Baset did not shy away from tackling deeply troubling issues such as identity and post-modern anguish over the break of traditional community ties and collective consciousness of what constitutes family, society,....etc.
This sense of alienation, so masterfully expressed by Abdel Baset, was something I never really thought about. I always presisted in my belief that although I do not belong to society at large, I was part of a certain community, and that the ties and the bonds that connect me to them are just as strong as I imagine them to be.
I remember long ago, I came across a smart and witty queen, who was famous for her double-entendres and biting sense of humour. She was also one mean and bitter queen. She completely shunned the gay scene and absolutely refused to hang out with the queens or to have gay friends, or to go to gatherings or parties or any shit like that. She was sick and tired from all the gossip, the bitching, the judging, the back-stabbing, the flaky friends, the insincere friends, the bitches that leave....etc. She had had it, she was done with the gay scene.
And it always struck me how she somehow replaced that sense of community, by allying herself with her "straight friends". She became the 'gay token guy' in the straight group. And of course she was brutally judged for it.
I always felt for her -  I liked her actually. I thought she was cute, smart, funny and very career driven. She'd make any man very happy. But I couldn't help but feel sorry for her, and tell myself, I might be a bitter queen but I will never shun the gay scene (it even rhymes).
Till I woke up one day, and I looked in the mirror and said, 'mirror mirror on the wall, whose the bitterest of them all?', and it was me.
The inevitable happened, and I caught the 'I-hate-the-gay-scene' disease. A pernicious disease, that can be deadly. Its a result of the 'chronic bitterness' syndrome, coupled with environmental factors such as constant exposure to 'vicious cunts' and 'bitchy queens'. An estimated 30% of the homosexuals you know are at the risk of catching the disease, and although not completely confirmed, the disease is to some degree contagious.
The disease is not completely understood, but the biggest number of affected patients are usually queens and bitchy tops.
But medical jargon aside, I became that queen. That queen I felt sorry for. That queen I thought was just being bitter and lonely. I became the queen I hate to be.
What surprised me, was not that I have changed. What surprised me was the result of that change.
I have been changing gradually over time, little by little, and thats the problem with gradual change, you don't feel it happening. Its so subtle, its almost imperceptible. And then one day, you look in the mirror like Abdel Baset, and you don't know who you are any more.
Its not that the gay scene will not drive any sane queen completely crazy. It will. With all the horrible classist shit going on, how young the scene is, and the attack of the early-twenties bitches, the complete lack of any sense of community or true solidarity, and so on and so on.
There is a lot that can and will alienate a lot of people in the gay scene.
But aside from sociological explanations or cultural analysis of the gay scene, the personal experiences we have as part of it, all the bitchiness, the back-stabbing, the gossip, the bourgeois self-victimization (one guy I knew would only date bitches who went to La Bodega or hung  out in Zamalek, really?), the complete lack of empathy or respect to your fellow queens,....etc etc
You are bound to hit a wall. Bitch can only take so much shit from other bitches.
And like the immortal Abdel Baset said, 'I was tired from the surprise, my tears fell'.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

The Fourth Night - الليلة الرابعة

و لما كانت الليلة الرابعة، اجتمعت الكوانين مرة أخرى و جلسوا في وسط الغرفة و أتت البنات من مدن بعيدة، لتحدث بأحاديث عجيبة و بدأت البنات في سرد الحكايات و استكمالا لما مضى و استشفافا لما هو آت، تحدثت البنات فقلن:
It was the Fourth Night after a long hiatus. And as one friend used to tell me, we are busy with what is public, which has been our lot for the past two years. When the public becomes the private and vice versa. And it goes without saying that the girls are part and parcel of all the events taking place, and they too were busy with the public and its ramifications on the personal and the private.

 But then we felt that the moment has come for the girls to gather around once more and share with us their stories. And as we sat around my dining room table, over cake and what not, we picked up from where we left last: Religion.
In this round we were joined by two girls who belong to the oppressed Coptic minority. And I don't use the term 'oppressed' as a way to pay lip service to Human Rights discourse or to undermine their agency or to exaggerate a particular political reality. I use the term 'oppressed', not just to indicate their position as a minority constantly under threat of arbitrary and random violence -whether by the state or their fellow Muslim citizens- but I mean oppressed by their own institutions, namely the Church.
And in a moment where I myself was incredibly curious about the relationship between faith and sexuality for a Coptic person, I could not have been more grateful for their presence, as I were at this moment.
We were also joined by one of the true idealist of this community. A girl who just does not give up on hope. She is too nice to a boot, she never disses here fellow sisters and truly believes that bitches should give back and unite. She is a dear friend and an inspiration to us all.
And with her I start the story of Religion.
She was born and raised in one of the countries bordering the Persian Gulf. She came from a family that was not particularly religious or conservative in that sense. And what was fascinating about her upbringing in that country, is the fact that the racial and ethnic diversity allowed for a diverse and open versions of religion to coexist. My dear friend pointed out to a reality that trumps an entrenched impression that all the Gulf Countries only have one model of Islam, namely Wahabism. But apparently that is not true. She is a living proof, that some of the Egyptians who grew up in one of those countries, actually had a positive experience growing up in a diverse community with diverse opinions.
Her true calamity begins when she came back to Cairo. And she describes her long journey to reconciliation that took a parallel path between religion and psychiatry.
Of course we all know that many psychiatrists in Egypt still 'claim' that homosexuality is a disease. Going against the universal consensus all over the world (West or not) that homosexuality is not a mental or psychiatric disease that can be 'cured'. Imagine the ethical and professional compromise these psychiatrists put themselves through by promising parents and families of LGBT people that they can 'cure' their children. That it is a matter of 'behaviour' or 'cognitive' issue. I can't think of anything more outrageous than controlling someone's capacity to form decisions based on pseudo-science or pscyobable.
She went to explain the various different positions that different men of religion took towards homosexuality. Some advised her to fast and pray, I prefer the Christian term self-mortification, and through her diligence and perseverance, she will 'pray the gay away'. Well, guess what, you can't pray that one away.
Others told her, literally, that maybe she should try sleeping with women. Yup. A man of God actually said that committing adultery in the hope of 'curing' homosexuality' is lesser of two evils.
It is truly extraordinary how far is the religious discourse from basic pyschological discoveries. The religious discourse is light years behind.
My dear friend constantly lived in the state of guilt and fall from grace. She constantly felt guilty for things she did not do, for things she only 'thought' about.
Its only much later on, when she discovered that there is something called 'progressive Muslims', those who sincerely try to work on opening spaces, mentally and physically, for a more diverse and accepting value system that does not necessarily thrive on exclusion or denial.

My second story comes from a fierce bitch who can hold her own. She is a multi-talented girl (and by girl I mean boy), whose wit and humour knows no boundaries. She was raised Christian and hails all the way from the heart of the south. She grew up in one of the southern provinces of Egypt and she gave remarkable insight into the relation between the Church and the people in those nether areas. She explained that because they were a small community, with only two churches in the entire town, people were not strictly affiliated with their district church like they are in Cairo, for example. She did not necessarily identify herself as a Christian who goes to this or that church, no - she attended church but that was not an institutional affiliation. And I believe it was this relationship with the church that influenced her later development into a non-believing Copt. But I digress.
Of course it goes without saying that the south is much more conservative than most of Egypt. And my friend points out that until the inauguration of the nearest university, conversing with girls on the street was considered as close as committing adultery.
Growing up denying her own sexuality, she moved to a coastal city up north and it was there that she came to terms with how polarized her own position is as a practising Copt. Coming from a place where church affiliation is not a big deal she was struck by how everyone identified themselves by the church they go to. She was astonished to realize that there is a deep, felt sense of 'oppressed minority'. There was suddenly the awareness of being a 'Copt' that follows the teachings of the church, in a very specific way. Something that she was not at all used to.
Thus began her journey between choosing the path of secular Christians (and eventually non-believing Christians) and those who try to reconcile themselves with their faith.
She too suffered the guilt and the trauma of coming to terms with her  sexuality and trying to come out and to take part of our 'community'. She pointed out that there are reformist tendencies within the Copts themselves (we have seen that in politics, in groups such Maspero Copts) that are trying to move outside the burden of a long tradition  of being seen primarily as a religious and ethnic minority. It is a path she is still discovering, but awareness and critique are true steps towards a more open and progressive understanding of one's own subjectivity.

The third story is one of an 'unorthodox' Copt, if such a term can exist. She is a girl, who is typically Cairian, but that is the only thing typical about her. Despite growing up Christian, her affiliation with the church was almost non-existent. She came from a family that did not believe in denominational divides and she worshipped wherver she wanted. She represents a more personal stream of religiosity, where Jesus was not mediated through the Church but experienced first hand.
She is a young bitch (and being young is enough reason to call her a bitch) who is precocious for her age, she started being aware of her sexuality much earlier on  then most, and even fell in love at such a young age.
But despite the open and free upbringing and being free from the strict and conservative strictures of the church, she still had problems with her sexuality. She still believed that Jesus does not love fags.
She, however, refused to give up on her faith, or to give up her Jesus to anything, even if it was her sexuality.
 So when her life came to a standstill, she realized she has to confront the fact that she might love other men, but still love the man up there. Despite having boyfriends and being part of the gay community, she still loves Jesus and believes that he knows the truth of her heart.

I would have loved if more Coptic bitches showed up and talked about their own experience but for now, I am grateful to my Scheherazades, who by telling us their stories and their relationship to their faith, they revealed a lot about a poorly understood minority, that is as diverse as this society can ever be and that holds as much as hope as this society can.