Homosexuality in the Arab world has put many LGBTQ Muslims in the dark, unable to publicly talk about their queerness. Many countries in the region, including Gulf countries, impose strict rules when it comes to gays, including fines and deportation.
In 2017, Kuwait deported 76 homosexuals and shut down 22 massage parlors, Gulf News reported, citing the head of a morals committee.
"We have a zero-tolerance policy towards any morally objectionable activities and we will not be lenient with anyone who breaks the rules or puts the health of Kuwaiti citizens and residents at risk," Mohammad Al Dhufairi said.
The men were arrested during a nationwide crackdown by the committee - which is made up of representatives from the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor, the Ministry of Commerce, the Ministry of Interior, and Kuwait Municipality - who wanted to enforce laws regulating massage parlors.
During the raids, the committee members found and seized sex toys, women's underwear, and makeup used by the men.
"Homosexuality and cross-dressing are against the law in Kuwait"
A staff at Kuwait University, Rashed Al-Azmi, expressed full support for the committee's decision and called for the full-closure of massage parlors that have been breaking the moral code.
"We live in a conservative country and, therefore, we should uphold specific morals," Al Azmi said.
Al-Azmi added that some massage parlors receive not only women but men who dress like women. He went on to explain that massage is only permitted "as a form of therapy but it's prohibited to take off clothing and to touch the bare skin," according to Arab Times Online.
Ibrahim Banseer, a cleric at the Ministry of Awqaf and Islamic Affairs, also voiced his opinion on the matter, saying that massage parlors "may draw customers to the vice of homosexuality, which is strongly condemned and forbidden."
Homosexuality and cross-dressing are against the law in Kuwait and other GCC countries including Bahrain, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE.
According to Gulf News, convicted homosexuals in Kuwait could face up to 10 years in prison, if the individuals are under the age of 21.
The fight for LGBTQ rights in the region has been growing
Lebanese indie band Mashrou' Leila has made headlines around the world for its pro-LGBT stance and its openly gay lead singer, Hamed Sinno.
In 2010, Sinno raised the LGBT flag during the band's Byblos concert, publicly taking a stand with respect to homosexuality in the Arab world. Sinno fearlessly made his own sexuality crystal clear, making the band one of the biggest LGBT allies for Arabs struggling with their own sexuality.
Similarly, LGBT Muslim actors like Egyptian-American Amin El Gamal (Prison Break,) and Iraqi-British Amrou Al-Kadhi, have been vocal in raising awareness about their intersectional community.
Change is not just happening with people, it's happening within countries too.
In 2016, the UAE passed a federal decree introducing substantial changes to healthcare in the Gulf state, challenging prevailing cultural norms, one of which was permitting doctors to conduct sexual reassignment surgery.
The UAE became the second country in the Arabian Gulf to legalize sex reassignment surgery, after Iran. Certain schools of Islamic jurisprudence recognize transgenderism, and the laws do not necessarily fly in the face of religious teachings.
Islam has a long and nuanced history with the subject, which, many argue, is not as straightforward as it might appear on the outset.