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LGBT Life in Saudi Arabia

This post was written by a gay man from Saudi Arabia. Their text has only been amended for grammatical correction.

"Luckily, men holding hands in Bedouin culture is not unusual in Gulf Cooperation Council Countries. And According to Russell Peters, men in India even hold pinky fingers.

Until recently, Saudi Arabia had moral police until 2016, similar to what England had during the Victorian Era, and also had segregated sections in restaurants and cafes; family section and single men’s section until 2019. So dating was much easier for LGBT lovebirds than it was for straight people.

Growing up as ‘skittles’ (rainbow generation) is very much different for teenagers now, than it was for my millennial generation. However, we were very much aware of it through Western pop-culture. Especially, when the ‘L Word’ boomed in college, lesbians rejoiced!

Most of us millennial's did not enter the scene until college in the late 2000s. We started meeting through dating sites prior to apps. However, some were obvious and went about casually. Luckily, tolerance at work and in public has been the norm since the 1990s. So, LGBT people don’t face discrimination unless they do something too controversial or offensive. My mom had lesbians with her group of friends and my aunt had gay pals.

“Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy is highly practised here. Cross-dressing lesbians in college got away with it as “tomboys” but we all saw the elephants in the room. Guys who slightly cross-dressed were judged and passively alienated. They eventually moved abroad for college. Hence, the King Abdullah Scholarship was and still is an opportunity for LGBT youth to study abroad and be themselves. Under the same policy, unmarried men and women around the age of 40+ are automatically classified as LGBT without giving them the benefit of the doubt. Luckily this ‘Sheng nu’ state of mind is subsiding.

As we millennial's got older and more mature, LGBT moved from tolerance to acceptance within trusted circles of straight friends and family.

The national and religious stance is the same as Russia in terms of legalities and social norms. So public displays of acts such as celebration, marriage, gender change and affection… are considered crimes and would result in jail."

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