Am­rou Al-Kadhi

Too gay for Iraq and too Iraq for gay – why I’ve been sin­gle my whole life.

Gay Times Magazine - - Contents - @glam­rou

My name is Am­rou Al-Kadhi. I’m 27 years old. I’m gay, a drag queen, Mus­lim by her­itage – and I’ve been sin­gle my en­tire life.

In my early 20s, I avoided po­ten­tial in­ti­ma­cies like a sol­dier duck­ing from shrap­nel. Now that I’m edg­ing to­wards 30 – F-U-C-K – I’m yearn­ing for a mean­ing­ful re­la­tion­ship, a hope that hov­ers in front of me like a cock-teas­ing mi­rage.

At times, in­ti­macy has seemed as im­prob­a­ble to me as in­ter­stel­lar travel; at points, it’s as en­tic­ing a prospect as cul­tural au­then­tic­ity must feel for Katy Perry. But why have I al­ways been sin­gle? I think it’s be­cause I’ve faced chal­lenges that are par­tic­u­larly symp­to­matic among queer peo­ple – the big­gest be­ing shame.

As a child raised Mus­lim, I was taught that ev­ery time you sinned, the devil placed bad points on your left shoul­der. Ev­ery time you did some­thing good, an an­gel put pos­i­tive points on your right shoul­der. Each sin was worth 10 points, whereas good deeds – well, they amounted to a grand to­tal of ONE MEASLY FUCK­ING POINT. While sins could hap­pen from the most nat­u­ral of thoughts – like ‘I’m jeal­ous of that girl’s fuch­sia pen­cil case’ – good deeds were bizarrely hard to ac­com­plish, like help­ing save a home­less man’s life, aged five.

The points in­evitably stacked against me be­cause I spent most of my early child­hood furtively plot­ting to be­come a sodomite. Now, it was in­stilled in us that if we had more sin points on our left shoul­der than good ones on our right by the time that we died, we were doomed to an eter­nity in hell. Hur­rah!

So from an early age, it was hard­wired into me that sex with a man would re­sult in my be­ing tor­tured in flames. While this sounds like a once un­re­mark­able night at The Hoist (RIP),

I’ve ended up re­li­giously con­di­tioned to re­ject in­ti­macy. Resid­ual vi­sions of fiery pun­ish­ment caused me to sab­o­tage po­ten­tial re­la­tion­ships. And long with the re­jec­tion of Al­lah, I’ve also en­dured the re­jec­tion of my par­ents, who still refuse to ac­cept my ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity – let alone my be­ing a drag queen. Be­cause my for­ma­tive re­la­tion­ships went so com­pletely tits up – those with my mother, my fa­ther, my fa­ther in heaven – in­ti­macy has been a Pan­dora’s box of fear for

Per­haps I should get the fol­low­ing

state­ment tat­tooed on my head: peo­ple

of colour and gen­der non­con­formists are not a threat to the gay fight for


me. The prospect of en­dur­ing an­other re­jec­tion was once so anx­i­ety in­duc­ing, that my emo­tional love-life was con­fined to chem­sex par­ties and wan­der­ing alone in saunas. And whether or not you’ve suf­fered a fall out like mine with my up­bring­ing, so­ci­ety’s sys­temic re­jec­tion of queer peo­ple makes trust in in­ti­macy that much trick­ier for some of us.

I’ve now reached a place where I’m much read­ier for it – thank you ther­apy, thank you anti-de­pres­sants, and thank you drag, the most repar­a­tive of joys. The bat­tle now lies with gay men. De­pend­ing on the ex­trem­ity of re­jec­tion you’ve en­dured, each of us brings a wealth of queer anx­i­eties into gay spa­ces – sur­viv­ing your own as well as that of a prospec­tive part­ner’s can be quite the feat.

For me, the gay com­mu­nity has been a fo­rum of count­less re­jec­tions. Even if the chem­istry has been elec­tric, men I date of­ten are turned off when they dis­cover I’m a drag queen. These men tend to be white, mid­dle-class and cis­gen­dered, and have said things to me like, ‘I try and date men who are… you know… men’, and, ‘I don’t re­ally know what I’d tell my friends and fam­ily.’ When my em­pa­thy glass is more half-full, I recog­nise that the so­cial sham­ing of LGBT+ iden­ti­ties leads some gay men to dis­so­ci­ate with queer pre­sent­ing peo­ple. When I’m feel­ing pissed off, I scream an Alyssa Ed­wards sta­ple – ‘get a grip, get a life, and get over it.’

But what I ab­so­lutely don’t have the emo­tional en­ergy for is the grow­ing tide of racism in the gay com­mu­nity. For while be­ing gay in Arab con­texts has been trau­matic for me, be­ing

Arab in gay spa­ces is just as bad – if I have to hear ‘I don’t date Asians’ one more time I will spon­ta­neously com­bust into a uni­corn fart. Per­haps I should get the fol­low­ing state­ment tat­tooed on my head: peo­ple of colour and gen­der non­con­formists are not a threat to the gay fight for ‘equal­ity’ – DON’T LEAVE US BE­HIND!

In­ti­macy is some­thing queer peo­ple de­serve, if it’s some­thing we de­cide we want.

I’m not say­ing that a re­la­tion­ship should be a queer end goal in and of it­self; but if we can all learn to love our­selves a lit­tle more, lov­ing each other might not be so hard.

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