A gay man living in Qatar offers a shocking portrait of gay life in the violently homophobic country in an essay for Doha News.
Writing under the moniker Majid, the man says he was inspired to speak out and share his story (albeit "fearfully") after watching his community's reaction to the June 12 shooting at Pulse nightclub in Orlando.
"People were saying they all deserved to die – they should have died and done humanity a favor," Majid writes. "They called them “God’s cursed people."
The violently homophobic comments, which are shockingly common in the "patriarchal, male, testosterone-driven society" that punishes homosexuality with death, have contributed to an overwhelming and "extreme sense of hopelessness" for gay people who live in constant fear:
"There were comments saying we should all have been shot, or put on an island and set on fire.
I always knew that people felt this way, but it was only after this that I felt strongly that people really wanted to kill people like me, and that this is an accepted attitude.
After these comments, I have become even more fearful of people knowing about me. We are seen as fair game."
"It is very jarring living here, it is traumatizing to see that you are the cause of your parents’ anguish, that you are shaming your family. It is a constant onslaught, and it is killing me," Majid writes.
Throughout the essay, he explains that homosexuality is viewed in Qatar as a "Western invention," and that many gay people "hide behind a veneer of extreme homophobic culture because it makes them safe from public scrutiny," participating in extreme homophobia and even rallying against LGBT people if necessary.
Many gay men, according to Majid, travel in order to "live out [their] reality" as gay men in other countries.
"It has caused irreparable damage to my mental health," Majid writes. "I wouldn’t have chosen to have been born in a place where my life is tantamount to my death. There is no prospect or future for me here – no normalcy."
Contributing to the anxiety of being gay in a place that doesn't tolerate it, Majid, like many others, don't even consider leaving the country as an option.
"We don’t want to cause public dissent, we don’t want to cause more damage, hurt or pain, but I feel like my country hates me," he writes:
"I love my country and I am proud of it, and I don’t have anywhere else to go. If I left, it would feel like being cast away.
We are not a birth defect, which is what has been said to me so many times. Nothing happened to me to make me gay and I didn’t choose this.
If I had a choice, if there was a magic pill I could take to make me straight, then I would take it. I don’t want the misery of this life.
I am in constant turmoil and anguish – how do I reconcile who I am with my faith that says I shouldn’t exist? I am the worst of the worst, I am vermin.
The only option, Majid believes, is to bring a new sense of acceptance and understanding to Qatar. But how?
"I want people to accept us. Live and let live – you don’t have to like me but you don’t have to persecute me," he concludes, with a plea: "Thoughts?"