Egypt’s gays gradually coming out of the closet

Egypt’s gays gradually coming out of the closet

Ernesto Londono
August 22, 2011 – 12:04AM
CAIRO: Pop star Katy Perry’s I Kissed a Girl was playing on speakers set around the dimly lit dance floor. Kholoud Bidak, a 33-year-old lesbian, leant against an old piano, scanning the entrance warily as guests paid $5.70 to get into one of Cairo’s increasingly common underground gay parties.
Just months ago, a raid by Egypt’s vice police would have been a concern at gatherings such as this.
But on the recent sweltering Thursday night, as men in pastel-coloured, V-neck T-shirts streamed in, a crackdown was the last thing on Ms Bidak’s mind. She worried whether a certain woman might walk through the door.
Egypt’s gays emerged buoyed from the uprising that toppled President Hosni Mubarak in February and have turned a handful of public venues into spaces where it’s safe for men to dance with men and where women sit on each other’s laps.
Activists are also getting together and quietly planning campaigns they hope will enable gays and lesbians to live openly in a country where sexual minorities have long been ostracised.
Websites used to meet gay men are once again popular because police appear to have ceased using them to conduct sting operations.
Some people even have created an anonymous Facebook page with a provocative goal: ”A Gay Pride March for Egypt in 2020.” Most of the revellers at this second-storey venue, tucked behind the courtyard of a decaying downtown building, were in their 20s and 30s.
Scott Long, an American human rights researcher who has studied Egypt’s gay community for years, watched in amazement as hips swung on the wooden dance floor.
”For me, it’s an astonishing thing to come here and find that there is a community,” he said.
A similar community had begun to take root in the late 1990s in Cairo at a handful of bars, but in 2001, vice officers started a crackdown spurred, Dr Long said, by a war of words between the Mubaraks and a rival political family, the Sadats, who offended the president by suggesting a prominent relative of his was gay.
Vice officers created fake profiles on gay websites and set up meetings with men looking for dates.
”People would just disappear,” Dr Long said.
The Washington Post

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