By Lizabeth Paulat
The Jordanian online LGBT magazine, My Kali, made history this month, publishing their first ever edition in Arabic. Although the online magazine has been around for some time, previous editions had all been in English. The magazine is hoping that by publishing content for LGBT communities in Arabic they will be able to reach a much larger audience across the Middle East and North Africa.
In a statement put out by My Kali they stress that the zero-budget e-zine, which relies solely on voluntary contributions from writers, bloggers and artists. They also contend they are not challenging Jordanian culture, saying that, “The Jordanian LGBTQ community has always been an inherent part of the country’s social fabric. It is not a foreign import or construct, nor does it have an agenda to debase Jordanian traditions.”
Their latest cover, featuring Jordanian martial arts star Yara Kakish covers a variety of topics including how femininity is presented and the persecution faced by a gay imam.
And while they have received criticism, they haven’t received any death threats. “There were some negative comments made on local media Facebook pages, and they were sensationalized into extreme headings,” My Kali said in a recent statement. “We believe in Jordan’s respect for individuals’ freedom of speech.” Homosexuality has been legal in Jordan since the 1950s.
My Kali is one of a handful of LGBT magazine from regions where homosexuals are routinely discriminated against. In Uganda, Kuchu Times, has helped bring attention to LGBT issues both in the country and throughout the continent. Their magazine, Bombastic, which even made it to hard copy, helped give a voice to the experiences of Uganda’s LGBT communities. And when copies of the glossy magazine were released last year, they were snatched up from newsstands all over the country.
Bombastic created a unique space within the country, and surprisingly attracted a largely straight crowd. That’s because despite most Ugandans seeing homosexuality as a sin, most had never actually ever heard from someone in the gay community before. Rather the narrative had been dominated by virulent pastors and pundits. With stories about women who were forced into unwanted marriages and how the Christian gay community functioned within the country – it served to humanize the LGBT community.
Meanwhile in Kenya, where the gay community also faces the threat of jail time, Identity Magazine helped bring together a number of marginalized communities including sex workers and those “on the rocks” as they put it.
In this way, online magazines cannot only help give LGBT communities a feeling of solidarity, but reach a far wider audience who might be genuinely curious about these communities. Along the way, it can be a tremendously eye-opening experience.
However, publishing and contributing to these magazines does not come without risk. Last April, Xulhaz Mannan, the founder of Bangladesh’s only LGBT magazine Roopbaan, was brutally murdered in the capital city of Dhaka. His murder added to a number of killings aimed at academics, atheists and those calling for a secular state.
However, despite the threats many marginalized LGBT communities face, writers, photographers and artists are coming together through these online magazines.
Back in Jordan, IraQueer – a queer movement based out of Iraq – has come out in support of My Kali’s first Arabic issue and condemned any online attacks. And although many around the world must still be incredibly discreet in public and face the threat of jail and even death if their identity is discovered, these platforms have become an incredible way to give a voice to the traditionally voiceless and connect communities around the globe.
This article was originally published on Care2.