‘A Boy To Be Sacrificed’

ABDELLAH-TAÏAIt's unusual and wonderful for the words of the writer Abdellah Taia to show up in an English-language publication, as they did in this morning's New York Times. It's also a little nervous-making. To read Taia is, very often, to be heartbroken.

That's the case today. In "A Boy To Be Sacrificed," Taia describes the experience of growing up in early-80s Morocco, captive to an unwitting effeminacy — "something in the way I moved my hands, my inflections. A way of walking, my carriage. An easy intimacy with women, my mother and my many sisters" – which set him apart from his community, and made him an outcast even as a child:

By the time I was 10, though no one spoke of it, I knew what happened to boys like me in our impoverished society; they were designated victims, to be used, with everyone’s blessing, as easy sexual objects by frustrated men. And I knew that no one would save me — not even my parents, who surely loved me. For them too, I was shame, filth.

Taia proceeds to describe the night the frightened child he was gave way to the rather Cynical (though seldom "cynical") man he became — a night when a group of drunk men gathered outside his home, rather like the Sodomites of Genesis, and demanded that Taia be released to them for their pleasure. He was 12 or 13 years old at the time:

I was far, then … from understanding that the problem wasn’t me. I was simply afraid. Very afraid. And I hoped my big brother, my hero, would rise and answer them. That he would protect me, at least with words. I didn’t want him to fight them — no. All I wanted him to say were these few little words: “Go away! Leave my little brother alone.”

But my brother, the absolute monarch of our family, did nothing.

Taia ultimately made it to Sweden, and then to France, where he studied at the Sorbonne. He lives in France still.


  1. says

    this piece hit home, big time.

    eloquent and honest.

    i read this this morning with tears in my eyes. he’s sharing a lot of people’s stories by sharing his own. this is a man i’m proud to call Brother.

  2. My2cents says

    This moving testimony would be almost unbelievable, if there were no corollaries in American life. One has only to look at the rise in gay suicides to see what happens to “throwaway” children.

    And for those who still cling to religions that have been supported by your family history and background, wake up! Bible-based, organized religion is intrinsically evil and anathema to human relationship. It divisively sets one group against another, in the name of “God”, “Jesus”, and ultimately seeks to replace the fear of death with superstitious nonsense as a palliative.

  3. MarkUs says

    It wasn’t too long ago I read about “bacha bazi” and spent an evening on YouTube. Just checked – they’re all still there. I couldn’t watch again. I think it was PBS who did the series. Bacha bazi party clips are actually uploaded to YouTube.

  4. St. Theresa of Avila says

    Interesting story, although I’m not sure if the historicity of the collection of stories told by sun-stroked, parasite-bedeviled, lead-poisoned desert crazies 2000 years ago is sufficient to warrant a reference.

  5. Raytom says

    “I cried because I had no shoes. Then I met a man who had no feet.” I was raised in abject poverty during the Great Depression, in a small New England town. In those days the element of puritanism, in a way, was equal to fundamentalism in the south today. The difference was there it was silence, in the south it is more vocal. I was on the outside looking in at a world where I did not belong. People, both in and out of the family spoke to me only when necessary for discipline. When I read a story like “A Boy To Be Sacrificed,” I can relate. I can also say, “It could have been worse.”

  6. haga says

    this is like my story. Had to kill the child that loved a family that couldn’t allow me to exist. Ugh. Eventually, I was able to reclaim that child that I hid away somewhere I forgot. Reintegration is possible. I hope he finds it again. <3

  7. uffda says

    This story, paid for at far too high a price, is yet another piece of the wall that is, that must be, falling all around the world. The “way is long and monstrous with martyrdoms” wrote Oscar Wilde more than a century ago. By God we’re going to cover the distance no matter how long it takes, we will never relent in this struggle for justice. If this young man has indeed been sacrificed he is one of our sacrificial angels.

  8. ratbastard says

    My God, you guys certainly have had a very rough life in America if you’re comparing yourself to what this Moroccan man went through. This society is certainly not perfect, but it’s obviously light years a head of Morocco, at least circa 1980s Morocco. I’m glad for him that he escaped to Europe.

  9. ratbastard says


    I was raised in a working class white ‘ethnic’ Catholic family. I’m Agnostic now, but my upbringing was NOTHING like this poor guys. My family, mom, dad, my jock ‘rough’ brothers had no problem accepting and loving me, and my big brothers would have kicked the a** of anyone who tried to hurt me. My dad would have done worse.

  10. Contrarian says

    @Ratbastard. Right,so very right! To compare, in the most intellectually sloppy way, the cultural and religious horrors of Morocco with western Christianity, is a travesty. For all the many murderous and oppressive acts done in the name of God by Christians, I also must remember Martin and those who marched for civil rights in my lifetime in Jim Crow America. People of faith.

    Most of you “kids” on here know nothing firsthand of this and please remember also the 19th century Quakers and the underground railroad. As the LGBT community fights for its own civil rights, remember too that mainline liberal Protestant churches have torn themselves apart over support for LBGT rights. I don’t expect the slightest “thanks” or even acknowledgement of that here in T-row land. To fail to distinguish one faith or practice from another is as closed minded as the most doctrinaire evangelical fundie homophobe.

  11. Isaac says

    I think that most of us can find parallels between Taia’s story and our own, which makes it powerful, but to minimize his story with a “mine was worse” attitude is to do a disservice to his life path. We may have been rejected, or even thrown out of our homes, but he has had to leave his family, his country, and in many respects, his culture. He’s publicly called out his culture and revealed a certain cowardice of his family, which could possibly place his own life, and even perhaps that of his family’s, in danger.

    In the US, we might have to move to a bigger city to lead our lives as we want, generally. Yes, there are some gay people in the west who are homeless and disenfranchised, but to equate this man’s story to the average western gay man is to COMPLETELY have lost any sense of how life is lived for many non-western GLBT people in this world! This man is not only telling the story of himself, but of the multitudes who were unable to escape oppressive cultures like his.

  12. says

    the best thing we can all do is share our stories to give a face and name to not just Who We Are but to show what we’ve been through.

    I encourage everyone to share their stories. Make videos. Lend your voice, your face, your name. Bring the people who’ve supported you in life in to it. Have them share their stories about, and loving and supporting you.

    If you’ve lived a life free from any form of anti-gay prejudice, it would be remarkably beneficial to all the LGBT communities across America and the world to hear, and see, the messages from these upstanding progressive people who’ve been such a positive impact in your lives. Through them sharing their messages and their support of you, it will inspire other families to do the same.

    The best way to make a point about who’s been a support for you, and for all of us, is to prove it – show it – share it.

    It inspires others to do the same. So, to those of you who’ve been fortunate enough to have been born into families and communities that have always been accepting you for being gay, it’s time to stand up, as a whole family, and share that example of love and understanding with others.

    because that’s how we turn the tide.

  13. uffda says

    I have to say and ought to I think, that as a gay boy and then man I have never experienced anything even remotely similar to what this young man has been through. Part of it is having been raised in the Northwest I think where the Scandinavian influence creates a sang froid, certainly about sex. So I feel the pain in this story by extreme contrast. Noting many of the stories on this blog awakens me to how much more so many others have suffered, all of it beginning to effect a growing sense of outrage on behalf of the injured.

  14. FFS says

    Where’s Denison? Now’s your chance to make Morocco happen, homeboy!

    As for RB and Conty, there are no winners in the I’ve-Suffered-More-Than-You Olympics.

  15. SayTheTruth says

    I’m sad for him –and many like Muslims like him- that think the Arab Spring offers any hope of freedom or at least the right to exist. Sooner than later they will realize that Muslims can topple down tyrants, but will never topple down the disease their religion is, the one that finds homosexuality a crime to be punished.

  16. Jerry6 says

    @ SAYTHETRUTH Unfortionetly, all religions are based upon the fundamental concept of thought control of the masses by a select group of men that, in past times, literally had armies that made adherence to beliefs in “GODS”, and made financial support of the Church Leaders manditory. “Fear of the unknown” was the order of the day for these Religious leaders. And it was this instilled Fear that gave these leaders their power.

  17. MoussaA says

    Comparing Christianity to Islam, REALLY???
    YOU better READ the KORAN.
    Islam means “Surrender” in arabic.
    The ARAB people invented
    the Harem=Human Slavery. The Koran Declares Muslims are ALWAYS to WAR (JIHAD) Violently Against ALL Non-Muslims unendingly, until YOU Convert and become SUBMISSIVE(dhimmi) to THEIR SUPERIOR RULE over YOU. Islam, like Nazism, is totally Incompatible with Democracy,Freedom,Individualism,Choice,Womens and Gay Rights. YOU are NOT going to EVER change Them ! Islam states it is NEVER acceptable to change or re-interpret the Koran or it’s Sharia Laws, so forget about Muslims becoming Modern and adopting to YOUR world view. Muslims are told they are superior,YOU are Filth,vile,inferior like any pig,goat or monkey, You are to be enslaved,raped and murdered. Good Luck with THAT! Islam is Supremacist,Expansionist,Militia-Terrorists,attacking Female and Gay Rights not with “rhetoric”, but extreme VIOLENCE,depravity, rape, torture and murder.Muslims are instructed by the Koran to TAKE OVER THE ENTIRE EARTH. YOU are just the dumb animals they will ignore while they work to do so.
    Gays in Gaza are literrally BURIED ALIVE in 20’Pits Filled with EXCREMENT !!! Gays in Saudi Arabia, Iraq,Iran,and Pakistan are beaten, stoned and Hung From Trees and Tractors !!!
    You Western Gays have NO idea the HATRED and PLANS Islamo-Terrorists have in store for YOU should they successfully infiltrate YOUR societies as THEY are NOW trying to do and gain the Upper Hand over YOU. Only then will YOU “see” how fast Really BAD things can get for Pampered Western Queers having a momentary “poor me, woe is me moment”.

    Read more: http://www.towleroad.com/2012/03/a-boy-to-be-sacrificed.html#ixzz2NxUrWIcq

  18. MoussaA says

    When the # of Muslims in a country is low, Muslims will appear as peace loving. # is 10% — When the population reaches 10 % lawlessness will increase as Muslims complain. Any action that offends will result in uprisings threats. Politicians will try to appease the rioters but this will fail. 20 % = jihad militia formation, random killing, church and synagogue burning. way of life threatened. 40% = the country’s way of life is no more, gone & Muslim hatred rules.

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