Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Gay Male/Transgender Bellydancers.....

I am on a roll of sorts:). Every now and then I read something, or have a conversation regarding a particular topic, then feel the need to express my mostly confused thoughts in a post.

I went to see a hafla by another school on Sunday night, and they featured two male dancers, one an dancer who is openly gay, and claims to be a "feminine gay male", and another was clearly a keen bellydance enthusiast who is well on his way towards becoming a skilled bellydancer.

Now, I've been to bellydance performances where I've seen Arabic people openly laugh and ridicule male bellydancers up on stage. But just because they do, does it mean that other bellydancers should say that feminine style bellydance/cabaret bellydance is only for women, and men shouldn't perform in public unless they perform a masculine style of bellydance?

Of course not. I love Egyptian-style bellydance, I love Egyptian music, Egyptian food and I love aspects of their culture. But just because I love Egyptian stylings, does that mean I have to accept everything about their social values/culture as gospel? Again, of course not.
Nor do I support people who have this opinion. I had a discussion with someone about this after the hafla I attended. I think gender is complicated, and we can't judge how others self-identify. Me personally, my physical gender is female, and I identify as a woman, so I feel like my outside matches my inside, to put it simply. But I have many male friends who are gay, express feminine qualities, yet have no interest in a sex change. The point is-people have the fundamental RIGHT to be themselves and express themselves without fear and with pride. I am not an expert on gender by any means, but I do support the right for others to express themselves as they see fit, and have the right to determine their gender, or basically their right to self-identify. My conversation partner felt that since in Egypt, it isn't socially acceptable for a man to dance like a woman in public, this social/cultural value should be adhered to in Indonesia. I've also heard various statements to that effect by others. Hmmm. I imagine this would be akin to someone telling me that since being fat isn't socially acceptable, I shouldn't think about performing in public, since this goes against a social value that seems to be rampant at the moment. I know I can't really compare being fat to gender identity, but to me, that was the way of looking at it in a way I could relate to. Basically being told that you aren't allowed to express who you are based on an inherent characteristic you have. Discriminated against, in other words.

My personal opinion on the matter is that, people are entitled to be who they are. Just because there's discrimination out there, doesn't mean I have to add to it. If you want to dance as a woman, and this makes you happy, and this is your bliss-then go for it. If others find it aesthetically displeasing, that's their problem, not yours. They can simply not watch. But I will not contribute to this kind of discrimination. I think it takes guts to get up and perform, and to perform in a way that goes against so-called societal "norms".

I know that talented teachers/performers such as Khaled Mahmoud moved to England where he could be more accepted socially, and when he performs I forget that his physical gender is male, and he dances with more femininity and elegance than many female dancers. I guess this means that in Egypt, he can't perform at public venues where other dancers such as Randa etc perform, and when he is in Egypt, he only performs at the festivals such as Nile Group, where this is a closed event in a ballroom, and only select people can attend.

Anyway, my point is, you can't simplify the issue- we can't just say, "oh, you're a man-don't dance like a woman, or if you want to, just get a sex change so it will make it easier for audiences to identify with you". That feels a tad ludicrous and it upsets me. Discrimination is hateful in itself, and obviously I don't know what the above reality is like for gay/transgender bellydancers, but I for one, don't want to contribute to the negativity. For me, it's the fat hate equivalent saying, "hey fat girl, don't bellydance in public unless you lose some weight, it will make you more palatable to the average person watching".

You get my point right? Because there were some in there. It might have gotten lost in the jumble of words that rolled off my keyboard though. It might also mean that it's time for sleep. Night Night.


famousfeline said...

Thanks for this one.

Have you seen the movie Whatever Lola Wants? The belly dance themed flick directed by Nabil Ayouch? There's one gay character there, an Egyptian guy, and he moved to the USA because, well, he said in Egypt, people treated gays even worse than turd.

I had a male Oriental teacher told me once to move more like a guy. Of course I stopped taking lessons from him.

I blogged about this once. I wrote that belly dance is an honest art, in that no matter how skilled you are, it shows your true nature (unlike acting, with which you can pretend to be a totally different person). When I'm bellydancing, I'm dancing my heart out, and my heart is that of a feminine gay male.

It's just like what Connie said in Connie and Carla about being a drag queen, "It's like dressing up what you feel inside."

And no, you and I shan't be stopped dancing, especially not by some jerkface, no matter where he/she comes from.

mia_badib said...

It's really a tragedy that these talented dancers aren't appreciated enough in their homelands.

I also wouldn't part with my money for a teacher that wants me to be less than what I am, or that blatantly discriminates against me.

To quote the late Patrick Swayze from one of my favorite all-time movies,"no-one puts Baby in the corner!".

And thus, you and I will NEVER let anyone stop us from living our passion!