Pride Month happens in June of every year and is considered a great opportunity for queers all around the world to organize different events to spread awareness about the discrimination the LGBT+ community faces and to remember how much impact the community has on the world. During the month, many NGOs that fight for human rights, allies, and queers themselves share an enormous amount of information about what it’s like to be queer plus stories from the community on different social media platforms and websites that could be accessed by everyone.
Kareem, Marselen, and Sara are three Iraqi queers who share their stories with us and talk about what Pride Month means to them:
“Learning how to accept myself as a queer has allowed me to accept other people’s differences”
-Kareem, 23 year old queer man, Najaf city.
Kareem says, “Understanding my sexuality and learning about the LGBT+ community has helped me surround myself with more people from the community and allies who have been giving me enough confidence to be myself.
I can say that my circle of friends has changed a lot since the time I came out and since I started showing my support to the community. Being myself meant losing some friends who were not supportive while gaining better friends from the community who let me express my sexuality comfortably.
And when it comes to Pride Month, the thing I love the most about it is how much attention the community gets! The whole world talks about us and we get the chance to educate others and spread love and awareness. And as part of the community, I say that with or without the support of the society, we will continue existing and fighting and we will not stop until we put an end to all this injustice and suppression.”
“Everyone deserves to be loved! And whether that love comes from someone from the same sex or the opposite sex, this shouldn’t be a problem or a threat to anybody.”
-Marselen, 20 year old lesbian.
“Since the day I figured out my sexuality, I’ve been careful when choosing the ones I tell about it because I understand that some people could show a lot of hatred once they know you’re different than them.
I try to keep the list of people I tell too short and I always choose the ones who are open-minded and supportive! But still, with all that, I’ve lost some friends when they knew I support the LGBT+ community.
But regardless of whether people describe same-sex love as a dirty thing or a mental illness and regardless of all the hatred, I believe that everyone deserves to be valued and loved for who they are.
And to me, every month of the year feels like Pride Month because I’m always proud to be part of the LGBT+ community. Still, I know how many changes could happen by celebrating it every year. Pride Month is important because it’s a memorial month of all the queers who got killed or tortured or took their own lives because of the hatred they had to deal with.
But let us not forgot that when it comes to being an Iraqi queer, Iraq is not a safe place for us so my advice to all of you as members of the community is to be careful who to tell about your sexuality. You as queers don’t need to be out to be considered valid so don’t push yourselves to tell people who might end up causing you pain. And remember that you are not hiding your identity because you are doing something wrong but because you are living in a place whose people lack the proper knowledge to accept you. Love yourselves as you are, always support each other, and be safe.”
“Realizing I’m pansexual has not changed me as a person but it definitely has made me more conscious after realizing that not everybody around me is supportive or understanding”
-Sara, 20 year old pansexual, Erbil
“Since the time I became honest about my sexuality with others, I lost a bunch of friends at once and I suffered from both mental and physical abuse. I’ve indeed lost them, but I got the chance to meet new people from the community and allies who love me and accept me for who I’m. And all I can say is that being queer, especially in a country like Iraq, has its ups and downs.
Unfortunately, Pride Month is something I have not personally witnessed or experienced but I know how important celebrating it is to remember the people who fought and suffered to get even a little bit of recognition from the world and others who died protesting for our rights and I have nothing but utter respect for all of them and I hope that we get more recognition in the years to come.
Until I get the chance to celebrate Pride Month, I’ll try my best to enjoy it online. I’m connected with queer people from many countries around the world who share stories and pictures with me of the events they attend during this month and I hope that one day I’ll get the chance to be with them.
Meanwhile and until all Iraqis get the opportunity to celebrate it the way they love, I tell everyone from the community not to give up on who they are and to try their best to ignore hatred. One day we’ll find support and love within this society or outside.”