But we have over words for love, and we have gender neutral terms too. I prefer not to call myself 'gay' in Western terms because I want to decolonise my body. Recently, I was asked to defend my support of the UAE and explain why I am so enthusiastic about a nation that is perceived to enforce torture, lengthy prison terms and even the death penalty against gay people. I explained my own experiences and that the reality is more nuanced than people might believe. And despite what some might think, the death penalty has never been invoked or carried out as a punishment for homosexuality or sodomy in the whole history of the country. Then there are things that are not nuanced at all. Sexual reassignment surgery is not illegal in the UAE.
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As always, the Quran must be the highest source material. After all, while the Old Testament and the Gospel after the version of King James both provide explicit punishments for same-sex acts, the Quran does not.
Historically, too, there is much to point to inclusion taking priority over exclusion in Islamic society. Here, the Prophet is an example.
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He led a movement of social justice in which outcasts were welcomed and protected. Mohammed was born into a society in which not belonging to a tribe or being an orphan was considered to be repulsive. He put an end to the pre-Islamic social practice of burying new-born girls. He freed slaves. Ultimately, Islam is a religion of inclusion and it welcomes all human beings, of all sexualities.
The truth is that there is no such thing as a mainstream when it comes to sexuality. An alternative vision can be found in studying the tribal cultures of the Arabian Peninsula.
In Arabic we have no words for "gay" or "straight. It's a narrative that I never signed on to or chose. The Europeans were never content to just let a butterfly be and enjoy the miracle of its beauty. They felt compelled to put a pin in every one they collected, giving them a Latin name and creating categorisations that they could display.
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I don't buy into these definitions. My sexuality is unique. I see a fluidity in my generation that is informed by creativity and the ability to widen fields of vision.
I am not gay. I am not homosexual.
By rejecting these labels, I feel liberated. I am decolonising my body. You can find our Community Guidelines in full here.
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Royal Family. Tech news. I arrived in the city during the height of summer to take a section editor job at a large glossy magazine. On the surface conditions for gay Dubaiians might seem bleak, but thanks to some quickly acquired gay friends I learn quickly that, despite the legalities, a vibrant gay scene flourishes.
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In fact, thanks to a huge population of young professional expats, the scene is one of the most multicultural and diverse around. I break my Dubai gay club virginity at one of the most popular hangouts.
Gay Dating in the Middle East
Entering via an underground car park on a Saturday evening, my male friend and I encounter the uneven door policies that are rife throughout gay venues a vague attempt to curb gay activity. Men arriving solo or in all-male groups pay more, queue separately and are often denied entry altogether.
Inside, the place is packed to the rafters with a United Nations of men: butch Lebanese and their Asian playthings mingle with trendily dressed Europeans and a smatterings of Australians, Americans, Canadians, alongside Indians and Pakistanis.
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A Syrian man moves close to me on the dance floor, touching my waist and pushing against me in a way that made his intentions very clear. I also quickly learn that, if you know the right people, there are a raft of unofficial parties going on in plush villas across the emirate. And while the UAE employs strict censors to prevent access to pornography or dating websites, an easily downloadable program bypasses censors to allow access to dating and hook-up sites, such as Grindr and Tinder.
Though I had a boyfriend an English expat for the bulk of my time in the city, my gay friends played the field extensively and I know from their respective tales that there was no shortage of action.
Despite the fact that both myself and my friends felt safely cocooned in our expat bubble of all-day, alcohol-fuelled brunches and glamorous event after event; for those unlucky enough to fall foul of the law, the consequences are severe. According to the International Lesbian and Gay Association, consensual gay sex in Dubai is punishable by up to 10 years in prison.