introduction |  nadyalec

In Arabic

This introduction has been hard to write. It is a difficult moment to write positively about being queer and Arab. As I write these words in Berkeley, California, my country the United States is occupying Iraq. Israel is continuing to take advantage of US hostility to Arabs to justify further murder. Meanwhile, there's a story I recently heard over email that I can't get out of my head; here in the US an Arab American immigrant recently fainted in a courtroom when the judge hearing her traffic violation asked if she is a terrorist. He has since said that he was joking.

Right now I am thinking about my father, with his brown skin and Arabic accent. About how he would have laughed off that judge, pretending that it was indeed a joke -- about how he laughed off the racism directed about him; and died at age 59. I wish that he was alive so that I could ask him to help me cope with all that's happening in the world. And I thank God that he is not alive to see his adopted country eat its own immigrant children.

It is a difficult time to be positive about being queer and Arab.

And yet -- and yet, I just reread all of the introductions to the issues of this magazine, and I am filled with a fierce pride in us. We are so fucking beautiful. There are so many forces working against us seeing our own beauty‹so many voices saying that we don't exist, that we're ugly, that we're perversions of nature. In the midst of all these hateful voices, Bint el Nas has offered an invitation and a challenge to say something different. And we have risen to that challenge, we have answered that invitation, we have responded to the founders' call for subversive optimism.

I want to talk for a moment about subversive optimism. It's another phrase that I can't get out of my head; it's the phrase that I have kept thinking about as I struggled with this introduction. I don't know exactly what the Bint el Nas founders had in mind when they coined that phrase, but I know what it has since come to mean to me. Subversive optimism is refusing to be ground down by the people who hate us and want us to hate ourselves. Subversive optimism is wry and snarky mockery towards those who claim their hositity to us is humor.

Subversive optimism is refusing to simply react to the violence and hostility thrown at us. In the midst of a rain of shit, subversive optimism is putting up a pink and purple polka dotted umbrella and saying, here. Right here, right now, I am going to build something beautiful.

Well, we have. We have talked about dreams, community, sex, God, fashion, change, home, and bridges. Now we are translating our words into Arabic, to reach those who haven't had access to our beauty in English. I am so glad to have had the opportunity to go back and reread the introductions to all the issues of this magazine, to revel once more in our utter gorgeousness.

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