A few days ago, the UN issued a global call to take into account the needs of the vulnerable LGBTI+group when tackling Covid-19. They did not even mention authoritarian leaders such as Viktor Orban using the pandemic to reduce LGBTI+rights. The UN notes that many LGBTI+people (more than other groups) live in poverty, are homeless, have been affected by AIDS, … and because of the stigma that still exists, they find it difficult to make their voice heard.

Dating apps

On top of that, the lockdown, which is in place in many countries, ensures that many LGBTI+people cannot visit their ‘chosen families’ but are stuck in (the closet in) their own family. And so it happened last week that Instagram Influencer Naoufal Moussa called on her followers to find out which of their brothers, fathers, uncles, friends or acquaintances is gay.

The Moroccan transwoman, who also vlogs under the name Sofia Taloni, instructed her almost 600,000 fans to make fake accounts on Grindr, Planet Romeo, Hornet or other gay dating apps so they could discover which gays were close to them. Since everyone sits at home,” she said according to the website PinkNews, “it’s easy to see if your husband or son is using the app. The result: several Moroccan homosexuals were outed.

Panic

In addition, we must not forget that in Morocco homosexuality is still punishable by law.  A lot of men got into serious problems. They were excluded by their family and friends, some were evicted in full lockdown and risked losing their jobs. Others live in great fear about a possible discovery. Moroccan writer and journalist Hicham Tahir mentions on his Twitter account stories of gays who are under pressure, depressed and even have to hide. He already links at least one suicide to Naoufal Moussa’s outing initiative. Also on the website insider.com are testimonies of gays who are panicking because they have been outed or think they will be outed.

Naoufal Moussa’s Instagram account has been massively reported by the LGBTI+community and has now been deleted, but that does not stop her from spreading her message. She has created several new accounts and continues to attack the Moroccan gay community. There are no regrets about the victims she has made. On the contrary, in one of her recent videos she makes herself happy ‘I took away their fucking apps’.

Confusing

What makes the issue so confusing is that Naoufal Moussa is a transperson and sometimes describes herself as ‘gay’. As a Moroccan, she lives in Turkey where homosexuality is legal, but she says in videos that she hopes that Morocco (where most of her followers live) will never legally recognise homosexuality. At the same time she puts the rainbow flag next to her name on several of her new Instagram accounts.

Being attacked is one thing. Being attacked by someone from your own community is much more painful. Do you have to look for the why? Did Naoufal Moussa feel abandoned and take revenge? Perhaps. It’s easy psychology and it doesn’t makes it easier for all those men who have now been outed against their will and at great risk.

It’s clear to me, you don’t out anybody. There’s only one reason I can think of to do that. If someone actively expresses anti-LGBTI views or would take initiatives to restrict the rights of LGBTI+people and you know that he or she is part of our community, then it seems justified to me that you denounce this hypocrisy.

Respect

But in all other cases, we have to respect each other’s private lives. Of course it is a pity that not everyone is an activist because there is still a lot of inequality. And the fact that some people prefer to keep their sexuality hidden makes it harder for everyone to be openly themselves. But that’s not of such a nature that we can decide for someone how he or she should live his or her life. Certainly as a LGBTI+group, we have to be sensitive to this: if we ourselves ask for respect, then we have no choice but to be very consistent in this ourselves.

Some people find those closet gays who do use dating apps like Grindr, Hornet and Planet Romeo hypocrites. “If you don’t want people to know you’re gay, why are you taking such a risk? Usually this is said by people who are lucky enough to be free and happy themselves. If you are open about your sexuality with your family and friends, if you shouldn’t be afraid to talk about your husband/wife at work and you are surrounded by LGBTI+friends and acquaintances who are allowed to share the same fine experiences, then it is indeed difficult to look beyond those pink glasses.

But not everyone lives like this. Even in Belgium there are still people who can lose a lot if they openly declare their sexuality. There are still LGBTI+people who are rejected by their families, who lose their social network and safety net on the day they come out of the closet. Le Refuge, the LGBT shelter in Brussels cannot even handle all the requests for help. And of course it doesn’t help anyone if those people stay in the closet. But if we want to give them a chance to get out, we have to do so by changing society. Outing them, forcing them to be open, doesn’t help. If they want to get some air now and then through an app date, nobody has the right to condemn or find it hypocritical.

20 years back in time

And what else should LGBTI’s do in a country like Morocco or Iran, where homosexuality is a legal crime? Live celibate all their lives? Never get a loving hug, give a passionate kiss or have sex? Do you really think you can push that longing for intimacy away your whole life? The dozens of dating apps were a welcome release for a lot of people. A way they could, relatively safely and more or less anonymously, look for like-minded people. Yes, it was a risk, but it was a smaller one than if you had to look for affection on the street, in a park or in a bar. Because of the witch-hunt and the paranoia this Instagram Influencer caused, she pushed an entire community 20 years back in time. The fear of discovery is so great that many people will not dare to use the apps in the next few months.

Support and decriminalize

The LGBTI+community in Morocco responded to the outing by calling for shelter for homeless LGBTI+people. They also launched the online campaign #Révolution_Queers_Maroc, showing that there are many LGBTI people in Morocco and that love should never be a crime. But unfortunately, the active community in Morocco is not large. Because of the homophobia in society and its legal criminalization, it is difficult to openly stand up for your rights.

And that is a task for Belgium and Europe. In Morocco, important progress can only be made if homosexuality is no longer punishable. As a country we have historical ties with Morocco. And there are also strong links between the EU and Morocco. Let the demand for the decriminalization of homosexuality constantly come back in the official contacts and make respect for people/LGBTI+rights a critical point. In the meantime, support the local LGBTI+movement so that it can take care of the worst victims in the short term.

This text is a translation of a text originally written in Dutch. As the translation is generated by machines, not all translations will be perfect. The original can be found here: http://brunodelille.eu/covid-19-treft-marokkaanse-homos-op-meer-dan-een-manier-knack-weekend/