LGBT Heroes – Day 23
The rights of LGBT citizens in Jordan circle an unresolved conflict. Article 2 of the Constitution states, “Islam is the Official State Religion”, whilst Article 7 states, “Personal freedom shall be guaranteed”. A revision of the national criminal code in 1951 legalised sodomy as long as it was private, adult, non-commercial and consensual, with the age of consent for this was set at 16. Yet it is practically impossible to be openly LGBT because Islamic conventions prevent it. There is no law to protect the LGBT people of Jordan specifically, and reports of vigilant “honour” killings abound. In 2008 the Governor of Amman, Saad Manasir, committed to a crackdown in order to “eradicate any trace of male homosexuals in the society”.
Until 2004, the “endorsement” of homosexuality was illegal in the press. The revised National Press Law replaced the ban on “sexual perversion” with the edict to “respect the values of the Arab and Islamic nation”. In February 2008, the online magazine My.Kali was launched by the Jordanian model Khalid with the aim of to bringing homosexuality out from behind locked doors and into the public sphere. “My.Kali.mag is an LGBT online magazine that speaks to the minds that live in the Middle East or the Arab world,” Khalid said. “Many LGBT people live in isolation, feeling they’re the only ones who are going through this. In one way or another, the media forces certain images on the public, especially Western images that couldn’t possibly be worn in our culture, which is often opposed to lifestyle differences.” The magazine is about promoting acceptance, and has featured such straight allies as actress Nadia Odeh, singer and TV presenter Rania Kurdi, sportsperson Farah Malhas and the singers Omar Afuni & Hanna Gargour.
In the July/August 2011 edition of My.Kali, Khalid pushed the concept further in the article ‘A very quirky summer’, which featured a fashion shoot in and around Amman. In one shot Khalid is wearing in speedos in public. He challenges what it means to be gay and Muslim in the Middle East with bravura. He even runs a university class on the state of LGBT rights in Amman. My.Kali is changing what it means to be LGBT in Jordan, both inside the country and outside. Khalid’s fearlessness and perseverance has made him one of the foremost role models in this rapidly changing world. “My.Kali doesn’t force a certain image for others to copy or embrace,” he told website The New Gay. “The idea of the magazine is to comfort our readers, to let them know what self-love and acceptance are and how to find them.”