Amman: Jordan’s first gay-themed magazine which this year published its 50th issue has been the social chronicler and harbinger of growth and hope for the LGBT movement in the conservative desert country and the region.
The first copy of MyKali magazine made its appearance at an underground party in Amman in 2007. The magazine’s founder, an 18-year-old model known by his nickname Kali, was on the cover.
That photo raised a storm when a conservative Jordanian newspaper al-Haqiqa al-Dawliya published a critical article in English and in Arabic titled “The revolution of the homosexuals in Jordan” and led to Kali being the centre of a smear campaign in the Jordanian media.
“It felt awful at the time (and) knowing about what was happening in the region to other LGBTQ people didn’t help,” Kali told aljazeera.com.
Nonetheless, he and some friends continued with MyKali magazine, making it the first online queer lifestyle magazine in West Asia.
MyKali chose matters of interest to the LGBT community, discussing personal politics, sexuality and human rights, as well as fashion, art and design.
This year they published the magazine’s 50th issue and MyKali’s now 25-year-old editor-in-chief, Kali, has built a non-profit media company with 30 volunteer staff members.
The magazine gives voices and platforms for those who can’t but want to express themselves, along with promoting acceptance, breaking stereotypes and challenging societies’ so-called norms, Kali said.
At the start of the magazine, the gay scene in Amman was underground. “We were part of a movement. A lot of people were coming out, and a lot of people in the art scene were supporting one another,” Kali said, pointing to Books@Cafe, a cafe in Amman that since 1997 has served as a hub for straight and gay people interested in human rights.
“In 1992 I was afraid of the police; now I’m not,” Madian al-Jazeera, the 48-year-old openly-gay owner of Books@Cafe who has been involved in LGBT activism told aljazeera.com.
Other LGBT magazines in the region have followed MyKali, including Mawaleh in Syria, Ehna in Egypt, Gayday in Tunisia, Aswat in Morocco and Barra in Lebanon.
Organizations such as Helem in Lebanon and Al Qaws in Palestine also work on LGBT issues, and Arabs 4 Tolerance serves as an online resource for LGBT people in West Asia, reports aljazeera.com.
These outlets and groups have helped bring LGBT issues out of the shadows. But for many, the challenges involved with being part of the LGBT community abound, it said.
Maha Rabbatha, a clinical psychologist at a sexual health centre in neighboring Lebanon told aljazeera.com that a number of gay people repress their urges to assimilate into a homophobic environment and that this is extremely harmful to one’s mental health.
“The consequences can be devastating: self-destructive attitudes, compulsive sexual behavior, drug abuse,” she added.
Contrary to many Arab countries, same-sex relations is not illegal in the conservative desert kingdom, although it is widely seen to be unacceptable. No law exists to address sexual identity-based discrimination or bias motivated crimes.
There are still no registered LGBT organizations in Jordan, nor is MyKali a registered media. The government has no official policy on LGBT issues, says aljazeera.com.