My name is Damien Bouhours. I am French and was born in 1985. The first day I admitted I was gay, a decade ago, I felt as if everyone around me, strangers as well as relatives, discovered it at the exact same time. Every single person was staring at me, each one judging me for it. Of course it was just a quick episode of paranoia on my behalf, but it was reflecting my state of mind. Being gay, I thought, made me abnormal, sinful and ultimately a criminal. But I was born in the right home, in the right country, at the right time. Once I had been able to accept that loving men was part of who I was and stopped hating myself for it, I have been able to live my sexuality freely and mostly openly. And while I am at the age when I want to settle down and consider my future more carefully, I am lucky enough that France is also evolving and has just recently legalized gay marriage. Not just a civil union. A marriage. A striking symbol that the LGBT people shouldn’t be treated any differently from other citizens.
Being recognized by the law is a big step but it still doesn’t prevent from homophobia and social stigmata. Being you, even if it means being fabulous, is a constant struggle. You can get bullied at school simply because you don’t fit in. You can still get fired from your job for being gay, whether it’s legal or not. More and more hate crimes are committed based on sexual orientation bias. As France was moving towards the purity of its motto: “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity”, angry mobs marched in protest, pointing fingers at gay people who were, according to their religious predicaments, on a mission to degenerate the sacred and holy oath of marriage. The social dispute was so heated that it was as if the whole concept of “family” was about to collapse from such heresy.
Even in Europe, social equality hasn’t been a hop, skip, and a jump. It has required centuries of suffering, sacrifices and activism from our elders.
If I am able to love and even marry whomever I want, I often wonder what my life would have been if I was born in another decade or century. In the dark times of Medieval Europe, I, the sodomite, would have been sentenced to death. During the tragedies of Second World War, I might have been forced to wear an inverted pink triangle on my clothes, then deported to camps by the Nazis. Just thirty years ago, I might have ended up in a psychiatric ward unable to cure my “pathology”, because, until 1992, homosexuality was classified by the World Health Organization as a “mental illness”. But even without going into the impossible time machine theoretical scheme, what if I was just born in another country?
What if my name was Eric? I would be born in Buffalo, United States. Being a teenager is already difficult, but now all my classmates mock me because I dress differently and look “gay”. At 14, I’ve never experienced love but everyone defines me with my sexual orientation. They call me “fag”, “homo”, “queer”. They hate my guts and harass me everywhere. Even in my own home, they taunt me on my Facebook wall, on my Tumblr, with mean tweets. I’m so tired. I want it to end. Even if it means ending my own life. My idols say that it gets better. Should I trust them?
What if my name was Ivan? I would be born in Volgograd, Russia. I would be scared to open up about my sexuality, now that everything I say can be conceived as propaganda and punishable by law, with fines and even jail time. Since my government has decided to ban any kind of “promotion” of the LGBT community lifestyle, I’ve noticed that even the most flamboyant of my friends have decided to tone it down. A young man around my age has been murdered in my town last June because he was gay. Homophobic violence has reached a peak since the Kremlin took actions against us. I’ve heard on TV that the next Winter Olympic Games, which will be held in Sochi, promise to be a great show, the pride of the Motherland Russia. The government swore that all those international visitors and athletes won’t even be affected by our anti-gay laws. Aren’t they lucky?
What if my name was David? I would be born in Kampala, Uganda. And every day, I would fear for my life. The local newspaper, the Rolling Stone, is publishing pictures of my friends, outing them to the whole nation. They call that “investigative journalism”. My lesbian sisters are raped by men who think that will show them the right way, the one Nature and God intended for them. What if it was me, tomorrow, on the front page? I would be beaten by the police and everyone I know would probably turn on me. They would then forget my name, I would just be one of them Kuchus (“queers”) who threaten the African family values by recruiting youth into homosexuality. Would I be able to survive through the shame? It seems they all want us to be stoned to death, especially the preachers and the government. Their anti-gay bill, which requested life sentence, even death for gay people, has been pushed thanks to our foreign policy interests. But it was applauded by the Ugandan population and the message of our president was clear: the bill will pass, slowly, but it will. What is the future for me? Exile?
What if my name was Muhammad? I would be born in Taybad, Iran. Capital punishment is common in my country and sodomy is considered one of the most sinful acts. I’m paralyzed with fear to be detected as a homosexual and to be lashed or even end up my life hanging in a middle of a stadium among all the people I used to know and who would now cheer for my death. Strangely enough, if we, gay men, are hated and persecuted, transsexuals are recognized by the government which allows them to undergo sex reassignment surgery and even covers for half the cost. I’d never thought it would actually be easier to be born in the wrong body. As most Muslim countries, Iran follows the sharia, the Islamic law, which harshly condemns homosexuality. Yet I still believe in Allah, praise His name, and go to the Mosque to recite the Qur’an. But if He is my creator, why did He put me in this world to be a martyr?
Read the rest of the article in Element Magazine http://www.elementmag.asia/i-am-a-criminal/