Dallas Voice (Dallas, Tex.), Vol. 18, No. 26, Ed. 1 Friday, October 19, 2001 Page: 4 of 76
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3000 (orlisle Si., Suite 200, Dallas Texas 75204
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NEWS & EDITORIAL
Asst. News Editor 128
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lifestyles lifer 118
Julion P Hobson
Staff Reporter 124
Staff Reporter 117
Pop Music Critic
Contributing Film (rite
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Gay Arabs not at home in community
GENERAL, AN ASSOCIATED PRESS PHOTOGRAPH
SHOWS A SAILOR ABOARD THE USS ENTERPRISE
SIGNING A BOMB WITH THE WORDS "HIGHJACK
THIS, FAGS” PAINTED ON IT.
DOES THE U.S. MILITARY CONDONE
THIS SORT OF BEHAVIOR?
By Mubarak Dahir
I am sitting in a cavernous room on the sec-
ond floor of the Gay and Lesbian Community
Center in New York City. It is the room
assigned to the evening's meeting of the Gay
and Lesbian Arab Society (GLAS).
The room is way too big for the unusually
small number of members assembled here
tonight. Our words bounce ominously off the
ceiling and exposed brick walls like thunder,
ricocheting back over us, almost swallowing
We are only six tonight. Up two from the
last meeting, when we were merely four.
The group is surprisingly small during this
difficult time, 1 think to myself. Our numbers
should swell from the standard core of atten-
dees, not dwindle like this to near nothing.
And then someone in the group utters the
obvious explanation, the one none of us really
wants to admit or say out loud: Some people
are too afraid to come to a meeting right now.
Too nervous to come even here, to a gay com-
munity center, symbolic as it is of the safe har-
bor represented by the gay community to us as
But in these times, even our fellow gay and
lesbian citizens see in us the Arab label first.
Sometimes, that is all they see.
The gay bond that I used to think was so
strong — the one that can at times give me a
sense of connection to a total stranger in a for-
eign city simply by making eye contact —
feels broken in a way I never guessed imagin-
I used to think of the gay community as a
refuge, a place I could go and be at ease no
matter what. In college, long before 1 was out,
I used to slink away to a local gay bar as the
only place where I could let down my guard,
the only place I could take off that mask I wore
in classes and in front of roommates and
showed even to my best friends. Later, the gay
community was where I turned, too, when my
father rejected me as his gay son. When my
mother, who cherished her gay son and the
community he lived in, died, it was all the gay
men she had known and loved who came
together and held me in their collective arms.
As a nation united we have condemned the
actions and attack by Osama Bin Laden
against the soul of our nation. The individual
souls we lost in the World Trade Center towers
collectively represent everything the United
States stands for. They represented every eco-
nomic class, race, religion, gender, sexual ori-
entation, they were young, old, fat and thin —
a true representation of the "melting pot" that
has created this nation, and will continue to
develop our nation for generations to follow.
Collectively we have condemned this
attack by Bin Laden upon our nation, which is
clear to me stems from the roots of hatred. Yet
our society has failed to look within ourselves
individually, within our own borders, and has
There were other times, too, of hardship at
work or break-ups with lovers, and it was
always the gay community that 1 turned to as
But today, as an Arab, even as a gay one,
there seems nowhere to turn, no shelter in
It is from gay men in my regular local bar
that I overhear the most chilling conversation
about rounding up Arabs in Brooklyn. It is in
some of the gay and lesbian newspapers that I
read the most ill-informed pieces on Islam.
And it is some of our most prominent gay and
lesbian leaders and thinkers who now tell us
we should go along with the administration's
measures to curb public information and tram-
ple civil liberties.
In our oversized room at the community
center, GLAS members huddle our folding
chairs into a circle and share our personal sto-
ries. At one meeting, a member who dresses in
Muslim garb tells how he has been the target
of constant harassment in his neighborhood,
even a physical attack. He's called the police,
but the last time an officer showed up, he pol-
ished the American flag lapel on his uniform
instead of taking notes. Before he left, the
failed to condemn our own prejudices, hatred,
and disrespect toward one another. We have
failed to honor the diversity which is the fabric
of our nation. The gay community is not
immune to the same prejudices we impose
upon one another. Examples: he's fat, she's
old, he's poor, she's an athiest, he's HIV posi-
tive, he's HIV negative.
It is my hope that like a phoenix rising from
the ashes of New York City, that a positive new
era will develop among all of us, one in which
we each individually realize that every
American deserves respect, feel protected, safe
against hatred, and are treated accordingly.
policeman said, "You should expect this after
what your people did to us."
Another GLAS member describes getting
so many suspicious looks, he's almost wary of
walking on the street. A third, who works in
HIV prevention among Arabs, talks about hid-
ing files and deleting contact names on his
computer to protect the confidentiality of his
clients, lest the FBI visit him as they have plen-
ty of friends and acquaintances. Finally, a new-
comer to the group talks about narrowly
escaping with his own life from the offices
where he used to work on the 103rd floor of
the south tower of the World Trade Center. For
the first weeks following the attacks, he dealt
mostly with death and grief. Now, he says
sadly, he, too, is facing what it means to be
Arab and Muslim in America — regardless of
the fact he was a direct victim of the attack
Because of my American mother, you might
not look at me and instantly know I am Arab.
This ability to "pass" often gives me a different
experience as an Arab in America, as I am
about to be reminded.
I take a break from the GLAS discussion to
head to the men's room. On the stairs, I run
into a lesbian with a cane, her legs bandaged. I
open the door for her and ask about her appar-
"Oh it was no accident," she retorts bitterly,
unaware of the Arab blood coursing through
my veins. "A fucking Arab cab driver ran into
me. It was an act of terrorism!"
Dumbfounded, I say nothing as she blath-
ers on about the cops promising her that the
man who did this would get a particularly
harsh sentence because he is Arab, how none
of them can be trusted, how they are all out to
"get us." She passes from the stairwell into the
hall and disappears around the comer.
For a moment I stand there, frozen. Still
standing on the landing, I let go of tire door,
and it swings closed in front of me. ▼
Mubarak Dahir receives e-mail at
OCTOBER 19, 2001
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Vercher, Dennis. Dallas Voice (Dallas, Tex.), Vol. 18, No. 26, Ed. 1 Friday, October 19, 2001, newspaper, October 19, 2001; Dallas, Texas. (https://digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth615542/m1/4/: accessed April 23, 2019), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, https://digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Special Collections.