Unspeakable Love

Unspeakable Love

Gay and Lesbian Life in the Middle East

Paperback - 2006
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Homosexuality is a taboo subject in Arab countries. Clerics denounce it as a heinous sin, while newspapers write cryptically of "shameful acts." Although many parts of the world now accept sexual diversity, the Middle East is moving in the opposite direction. In this absorbing account, journalist Brian Whitaker calls attention to the voices of men and women who are struggling with gay identities in societies where they are marginalized and persecuted by the authorities. He paints a disturbing picture of people who live secretive, fearful lives and who are often jailed, beaten, and ostracized by their families, or sent to be "cured" by psychiatrists.

Whitaker's exploration of changing sexual behavior in the Arab world reveals that--while deeply repressive prejudices and stereotypes still govern much thinking about homosexuality--there are pockets of change and tolerance. The author combines personal accounts from individuals in the region with a look at recent Arab films and novels featuring gay characters and conducts a sensitive comparative reading of Christian, Jewish, and Islamic strictures around sexuality. Deeply informed and engagingly written, Unspeakable Love draws long overdue attention to a crucial subject.

Copub: Saqi Books
Publisher: Berkeley, CA : University of California Press, c2006.
ISBN: 9780520250178
Branch Call Number: 306.7660956
HQ76.3.M628 W45 2006
Characteristics: 264 p. ; 21 cm.


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Jan 05, 2016

A very satisfying overview of the gay & lesbian experience on the ground, in cultures where those storylines are often hidden or denied in the extreme. The author does a graceful job of avoiding oversimplification, though, & moralizing throughout, & quite to my surprise there were gay men interviewed in Saudi Arabia who scoffed at all our silly worrying that they live in danger of getting their heads cut off. One of the greatest strengths of the book is that it raises & elaborates this critical question: how do we engage the concept of sexual liberty & tolerance in cultures where the matrix of individual vs. community values, & identities, & behavioral guidelines, is so fiercely & self-consciously different from ours? Further, is acceptance of the relatively recently-evolved 'gay identity' a universal mile marker of social progress?, or is this specifically & exclusively a Western construct lacking application outside the Western world? I would add, is it or is it not fair play to judge a society by how constructively it encounters & integrates The Other? Who you are will obviously determine how you answer, & there's no ignoring the unfortunate echo of 1940s & -50s psycho Bible belt rhetoric in some of the clerical pronouncements used in example (people going to hell for masturbating, etc., etc.). As one who somehow survived all the poison of that kind of upbringing in this country, I'll be curious how the same conversation sounds in the Middle East after another generation or two. CR


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