Jordan: a gay magazine gives an hope to Middle East

il modello e attivista gay Kali di MyKalimag
Kali, modello e attivista gay giordano di My.Kali.mag

In the heart of Middle East, bordering Palestine, Israel, Syria, Iraq and Saudi Arabia, there is a country which is world famous for… civil war, terrorism, white phosphorus bombs, religious fundamentalism? No, this country is world famous for the beauty of his queen Rania al Yassin and her charities. Rania, who was elected as third most fascinating woman in the world, is a devout Muslim with an occidental lifestyle, a princess of gossip as much as of a thousand humanitarian causes (from children’s rights to intercultural dialogue, from the fight against Islamophobia to the spread of the  micro-credit). She has Palestinians origins but she embodies perfectly Jordan, her reign.

With serious human rights violations, but surely comparable to the ones of the major democracies of the world, in Jordan homosexuality is perfectly legal and gay life is quite pulsing. And the leading LGBT magazine of the country, My.Kali.mag, is published online without any problem for several years and it has become a point of reference for all the homosexuals in the Arab world. Today we introduce Kali (see picture), the founder, spokesman and creative & photo director of the magazine, as well as a magazine model, columnist and promoter.

Which are your main goals? 

Our magazine was founded to offer a platform for many LGBTQ* and non LGBTQ* people to express themselves, from writers and bloggers to photographers and designers. My.Kali.mag is set to give a new, non-stereotypical image of the LGBTQ* scene and lifestyle in Jordan and the Middle East, along with promoting acceptance. Most of the LGBTQ* people in Jordan and the Middle East don’t have an acknowledgement or an identity; through our pages we try to illuminate such non-fulfillment, along with other movements in the region.

When did you founded it? 

My.Kali was established in early 2008. The whole LGBTQ* scene was going under a change, and we were part of something big, something revolutionary!

Who is the “typical reader” of My.Kali.mag? 

There’s no typical reader. My.Kali.mag started as an LGBTQ* Jordanian magazine and it was labeled as it in the beginnings, but, growing more and more, it started to become naturally more diverse. My.Kali.mag stopped featuring just LGBTQ* people as cover stories and started to feature Middle Eastern celebrities of pop culture to promote acceptance within the non-LGBTQ* people in the Middle East, as part of our campaign toward promoting acceptance. This increased our viewers and readers, we aren’t read only by LGBTQ* people.

Do you have readers from a lot of countries? 

Yes, of course, they are from around the Arab world and the Middle east to around the globe, from the US and the UK to France, Italy, Brazil and Africa… Learning about other cultures and communities have never stopped many people, gay and straight, to send us supporting emails, comments, requests, questions and to even be part of the magazine.

Has My.Kali.mag ever received attacks or blackmails? 

Rarely. On the contrary, we receive a lot of supporting emails from the local scene and from all around the world, for the simple fact that we shy away from stereotype and we tend not to promote our magazine in straight allies, and if so, it’d be with open minded readers.

Jordanian laws, in contrast with other Arab countries in the Middle East, don’t condemn homosexuality: is also Jordanian society more open and tolerant? 

Well, after Jordan claimed its declaration, the laws changed. Jordan is considered an open minded country, and when coming to cities, the tolerance is even higher. And considering the fact that it’s an Islamic country, the morality of the culture could be a huge pressure to many people to remain discreet, but it never stopped many of my friends and other LGBTQ* people to come out and show who they are, and if Jordan wasn’t that kind of a country, that wouldn’t happen, or we wouldn’t be featuring gay and non-gay people on My.Kali’s covers to promote acceptance and talk about their experiences. However, discrimination exists everywhere; in Jordan it could be less, although Jordan, as a country, is very peaceful.

How is LGBTQ* life in Jordan? Is there any kind of organizations, meeting places, bars or is there no chance for the LGBTQ* community to be visible?

The LGBTQ* life in Jordan could be a bit challenging, due to our culture’s standards, to many easier, to others harder, depending on many things: how out you are, your surrounding’s education, your social status, your act… It gets more challenging if you travel further from the cities. But the LGBTQ* scene is pretty visible in Amman. Many places in Amman are gay friendly, some more than others, but they are not labeled! Which I think is for the best, it lessens division. People mingle; many straight people socialize with LGBTQ* people, it could be the 1970’s in a different perspective! Jabal Amman is the most friendly area, where the LGBTQ* scene is most prominent.

What do you expect by the future of Jordanian society: is it possible a change to a better situation?

Definitely, nothing ever remains the same. Jordan is growing to a better state, socially and in everyday life. But we can never compare it to other societies or cultures: things which apply elsewhere might not be suitable to Jordan or to the region and vice versa. Freedom of choice, in every field, is much respected here than it used to be, and that should be a step forward to accept other individuals, hence LGBTQ* people, and to become a not judgmental society.


Pier and Michele
©2012 Il Grande Colibrì
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