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Morocco's First Out Gay Writer Abdellah Taïa Speaks Out

Taia

In 2009, Abdellah Taïa wrote to his family two years after he became the first Moroccan writer to come out as gay in an interview with the Moroccan magazine Telquel. As the journal Asymptote notes, "Morocco's biggest-selling newspaper denounced him, and many of the country's bloggers decried him, saying he should be stoned."

Wrote Taïa in 'Homosexuality Explained to My Mother':

I know I am scandalous. To you. And to those around you: neighbors, colleagues, friends, mothers-in-law... I know to what degree I'm involuntarily causing you harm, giving you worry. I expose myself by signing my real first name and my real last name. And I expose you along with me. I drag you along on this adventure, which is just the beginning for me and for people like me: To exist, finally! To come out of the shadows, head held high! To tell the truth, my truth! To be: Abdellah. To be: Taïa. To be both. Alone. Yet not alone at the same time.

Beyond my homosexuality, which I proudly claim, I know that what surprises and scares you is that I elude you: I am the same, thin as I've always been, with the same eternal baby face; yet I am no longer the same. You no longer recognize me, and you tell yourselves: "Where does he get those bizarre ideas? Where does he get the nerve? We didn't raise him like that... And not only does he talk about sexuality publicly—no, no, that's not enough for him—he also talks of homosexuality, politics, freedom... Who does he take himself for?"

Taïa's 2009 essay excerpted above has been published in English translation for the first time HERE by Asymptote, which also has an interview with him HERE.

(photo jeremy stigter / asymptote)

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Comments

  1. When we think we have it tough here, we have only to look at what happens THERE. This is a very brave young man and we should all be proud of him. He and young people like him will shape the future of the world.

    Posted by: Robert | Jul 16, 2012 2:09:09 PM


  2. Very interesting article and very interesting man. To be a proud openly Gay Arab man. To come from a people who do not accept the idea of being openly Gay, but still love the people you come from. It's a feeling that many Western Gays seem to have trouble understanding: that one can come from a very homophobic society but yet you do not want to be separated totally from that society, and to have no desire to be something else.

    Mr Taia is Gay, but he is also Moroccan and Muslim. You cannot insult the Moroccan and Muslim part of him without insulting all of him.

    Posted by: Derrick from Philly | Jul 16, 2012 2:10:55 PM


  3. Man, sex with guys in Morocco is SO easy to come by (I know this from direct experience.....and other Westerners have known it for a long time, too, from Malcolm Forbes to Paul Bowles to Tennessee Williams) that I really don't understand why there is a need to be "out" there or even why there is a need for the concept of "gay".

    In fact, trying to impose the Western cultural notion of "gay" on such a culture could in a very real sense prove to be counter-productive--it would threaten the relative freedom men have with each other sexually and emotionally and place men in boxes, instead, the "gay" one including all the distasteful effeminacy that infects and soils male-male relationships in Western culture and "de-legitimizes them.

    I have always found Islamic countries to be a refreshing change from "gay" in all kinds of ways, particularly the openness of most young males to sex with other males, as long as discretion is observed, which is not the case in the West.....and part of the reason for that openness is that women are off limits outside of marriage.

    So, in a way, I would hate to see that culture change.

    Oh, and Derrick, are you honestly such a damn racist, yourself, that you cannot see that white Mormons or white Southern Baptists or white Catholics feel the same kind of conflicted feelings that you do or this young man does? "Western gays" don't have any more trouble understanding that than anyone else; you are just such a racist, yourself, that you don't allow yourself to see it......

    Posted by: Rick | Jul 16, 2012 2:50:22 PM


  4. What a brave and eloquent man.

    Posted by: DavidGroff | Jul 16, 2012 2:55:56 PM


  5. Check out more of his writings. I have a couple of his books. Excellent writer.

    Posted by: jamal49 | Jul 16, 2012 2:56:09 PM


  6. A brave man.
    @Rick, you're an expert in this? It is different to be there as a tourist from living there.

    Posted by: Matt26 | Jul 16, 2012 3:10:02 PM


  7. @MATT26 That may be so, Matt, but some of those I mentioned lived in Morocco and did so for a reason.

    I just think the whole idea of "gay" is limiting, because it forces men to make a choice of identity, rather than just being who they are in all its complexity, sexual and otherwise.

    I am not holding Islamic culture up as an ideal--I think there is a happy medium between that culture and the Western idea of "gay".......just saying that there are lessons to be learned.

    I think that what is critical to the emotional and social (and sexual) freedom that men have with each other there, though, is that the genders are segregated and the idea of romantic love for women is more or less non-existent. Whenever women are integrated into a society, they get in the way of men bonding with each other in a meaningful way....

    And the direction I would like to take our own male culture in, accordingly, is away from any sort of dependence by men on women--emotionally, sexually, socially, or otherwise......

    Posted by: Rick | Jul 16, 2012 3:17:36 PM


  8. "Whenever women are integrated into a society, they get in the way of men bonding with each other in a meaningful way...."

    OK, Rick, I'm a racist and you're a misogynist and racist. You got one up on me.

    Vagina Envy must be painful.

    Posted by: Derrick from Philly | Jul 16, 2012 3:23:42 PM


  9. "Vagina Envy must be painful"

    That is your issue, not mine.

    I don't envy women or the hole between their legs. I just want them out of the way, so that men can enjoy each other fully.

    I get that you cannot possibly understand that, since you have no true male identity, dislike men, and idolize women in preference to men.

    Trust me, though, when I tell you that you would feel horribly out of place with that mindset in the Islamic world, the culture of which you seem to be lionizing (obviously without knowing much about it). There is no place whatsoever in the Islamic world for woman-idolizing men, so you would not last ten seconds there (even apart from the fact that most Arabs are far more anti-black than those of European descent are or ever have been--in fact, some of them still hold blacks as slaves in parts of Mauritania).

    Posted by: Rick | Jul 16, 2012 3:33:09 PM


  10. Ignore @Rick. This young man is brave.

    Posted by: reality | Jul 16, 2012 3:43:45 PM


  11. Ignore @Rick. This young man is brave.

    Posted by: reality | Jul 16, 2012 3:43:53 PM


  12. "I don't envy women or the hole between their legs. I just want them out of the way, so that men can enjoy each other fully"

    People, I ask you, does the above sentence read like it comes a sane human being?

    Posted by: Derrick from Philly | Jul 16, 2012 3:45:54 PM


  13. "People, I ask you, does the above sentence read like it comes a sane human being?"

    It is exactly what exists in the Islamic world you are admiring, Derrick. Women are out of sight and out of mind, for the most part. Men worship only with other men. They socialize only with other men.

    Go into any mosque in the Middle East or any cafe and you will see what I am talking about.

    And it is precisely because women are out of sight and out of mind that they men have greater emotional freedom with each other (which you will see them express physically, with great regularity, often holding hands together in public).

    I have seen it over and over again with my own eyes--not just in Morocco, but in Egypt (where Miss Feminist Hillary was pelted with tomatoes over the weekend), in Syria.....everywhere.

    If you had ever been outside of North Philly, you might be aware of this......

    Posted by: Rick | Jul 16, 2012 3:59:58 PM


  14. @Derekfromphilly

    "People, I ask you, does the above sentence read like it comes a sane human being?"

    No. Dear god no. Rick is talking crazier than usual today...

    Posted by: Ryan | Jul 16, 2012 5:47:24 PM


  15. He is a brave and beautiful. If only we had more brave people like him in the world today stanidng up for the Civil Rights and freedoms for all LGBT people. God Bless him.

    Posted by: Mike | Jul 16, 2012 6:09:25 PM


  16. @RICK go Rick, google "Bacha bazi" and you would understand what you are talking about. I also find this guy interesting, but sometimes he also seems to talk about incest. Which just gross me but may be because it's me who is interpreting it that way when the reality is far from it. Anyway his bravery is really commendable

    Posted by: David | Jul 16, 2012 7:14:50 PM


  17. Mr. Taïa is an extremely brave and intelligent individual indeed. Seeing someone like Rick write the things he does gets put into perspective in these occurrences. There are people who are outspoken, strong and completely in-tune and wise of the world around them. Delusional people like Rick simply are not worthy of any response.

    Posted by: Francis | Jul 16, 2012 7:38:25 PM


  18. @David No, that is not what I am talking about. I am talking about men having sex with each other, not pedophilia. None of the Moroccan guys I fooled around with was underage and I certainly was not when I fooled around with them. Ditto for my experience in other Islamic countries.

    Posted by: Rick | Jul 16, 2012 8:27:05 PM


  19. @Rick probably then you were underage lol JK you didn't get what I wanted to convey. It's not about pedophilia but the notion that these countries suffer from though it might not be good to be a homosexual and the punishments is as severe as death but they would still permit it if you're the dominant and utilizing the other men for your own sexual pleasure by calming superiority over him by penetrating him instead of being the one who gets penetrated. It's as simple as that. Yes, of course, one of the reason is the lack of female members and the same was raised even in that 'Baccha Bazi' article that I wanted you to read. So, no matter what if you think that having this notion of using and degrading is a good thing for you and that's what you are looking for then please go ahead but I really regret to say that that's not only far from love which is something that people are in general looking for but also completely abhorrent, and disrespectful to your body, soul and individuality in a whole.

    Posted by: David | Jul 16, 2012 11:39:45 PM


  20. Nice to know that privileged white American RICK knows better than Abdellah Taïa. Some Americans are just ugly.

    Posted by: David R. | Jul 16, 2012 11:50:29 PM


  21. Nice to know that privileged white American RICK knows better than Abdellah Taïa. Some Americans are just ugly.

    Posted by: David R. | Jul 16, 2012 11:50:35 PM


  22. Nice to know that privileged white American RICK knows better than Abdellah Taïa. Some Americans are just ugly.

    Posted by: David R. | Jul 16, 2012 11:50:38 PM


  23. And..sorry for the triple.

    Posted by: David R. | Jul 16, 2012 11:51:26 PM


  24. Abdellah Taïa is brave and adorable, but he is a terrible writer. Has anyone tried to get through An Arab Melancholia? It's one of the most poorly written non-internet things I've seen in ages.

    Posted by: Johnnie | Jul 17, 2012 1:30:40 AM


  25. Abdellah Taïa is brave and adorable, but he is a terrible writer. Has anyone tried to get through An Arab Melancholia? It's one of the most poorly written non-internet things I've seen in ages.

    Posted by: Johnnie | Jul 17, 2012 1:30:45 AM


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