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 voices heard.
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 closets) in their own families. 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 are 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 find out 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.
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 continue to 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 forced to stay hidden. He already links at least one suicide to Naoufal Moussa’s outing initiative. Not just that, the website insider.com features 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 this hasn’t stopped her from spreading her message. She has created several new accounts and continues to attack the Moroccan gay community. She has no regrets about the victims she has made. In fact, in one of her recent videos she makes herself happy saying “I took away their fucking apps.”
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; however, in her videos she expresses the hope 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, but 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 make it easier for all those men who have now been outed against their will and are at great risk.
To me, it’s clear: you don’t out anybody. I can think of only one reason why you may need 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 denouncing this hypocrisy seems justified.
But in all other cases, we have to respect each other’s private lives. Of course it’s a pity that not everyone is an activist, because there’s 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 this doesn’t mean that we can decide for someone how he or she should live his or her life. As an LGBTI+ group, we certainly need to be sensitive to this – if we ourselves ask for respect, then we have no choice but to be very consistent in being respectful of other people’s choices.
Some people consider those closet gays who use dating apps like Grindr, Hornet and Planet Romeo to be hypocrites. “If you don’t want people to know you’re gay, why are you taking such a risk?” Usually such statements are made by people who themselves are lucky enough to be free and happy. If you are open about your sexuality with your family and friends, if you don’t need to 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 people who can still lose a lot if they openly declare their sexuality. There are LGBTI+ people who are still rejected by their families, who lose their social network and safety net the day they come out of the closet. Le Refuge, the LGBTI+ shelter in Brussels, can’t even handle all the requests for help. Of course, it doesn’t help anyone if these people stay in the closet. But if we want to give them a chance to get out, we have to do so by changing the 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 it or find it hypocritical.
20 years back in time
And what else should LGBTIs do in a country like Morocco or Iran, where homosexuality is a legal offence? Live celibate all their lives? Never get a loving hug, give a passionate kiss, or have sex? Do you really think you can push away that longing for intimacy 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 safer than having 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 over the next few months.
Support and decriminalise
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 the legal criminalisation of homosexuality, it is difficult to openly stand up for your rights.
And that is a task for Belgium and Europe. In Morocco, significant progress can only be made when 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 decriminalisation of homosexuality keep appearing in the official contacts and make respect for LGBTI+ people and rights a critical point. In the meantime, support the local LGBTI+ movement so that it can take care of the worst-affected victims in the short term.
This text is a translation of a text originally written in Dutch. The original can be found here: http://brunodelille.eu/covid-19-treft-marokkaanse-homos-op-meer-dan-een-manier-knack-weekend/