Now Reading
Why I admit my Speedo shoot was wrong

Why I admit my Speedo shoot was wrong

More than a year ago I had my photo taken wearing just a jacket and a Speedo on Rainbow Street in Amman, Jordan.

The photo was for MyKali, the digital magazine I front for LGBT people in Jordan. The theme of that edition was ‘summer stories’ and the shoot was titled ‘A very quirky summer’.

As planned, the shoot reflected a return to rebellious lifestyles, dressing inappropriately for the occasion, and shaking up the stiff fashion of Jordan. It combined informal grace and signature looks. It was deliberately exaggerated – designed to be unrealistic.

So far so innocent. A simple but cheeky photograph; letting off some summer steam, wearing your Speedo, while grabbing your morning coffee down a chilled Rainbow Street. The whole purpose of the image was supposed to be ironic.

But, hidden in the background of the picture, almost unnoticeable if you don’t know Amman well, is a mosque.

Was that innocent too? I have to say that over the last few years, many have cast me, as disrespectful, a non-believer – just because I am an openly gay Jordanian. They have decided, as if acting on God’s behalf, that they can judge me and point the finger.

That has bothered me for a long time, personally and emotionally, and I admit that photo was some sort of a reply! Satire is part of what we do, and it is meant to bring things out into the open, to hold up a mirror to prejudice, the hateful, and the absurd.

However, since the image was released, many people have criticized me. They have called my bluff, saying that my audaciousness in that picture only feeds the stereotype of gay people that many Jordanians hold, and offends religion. And I can’t blame them for that.

In order to avoid repeating the offense, I haven’t illustrated this story with that original picture, I’ve used other images from the same shoot and the cover of the issue so you can feel the spirit of what we were doing.

I know to people in the west it seems like a non-issue. There such topics are discussed through bold statements and even bolder art. And although that may not be any more acceptable to some in the west either, it is normal.

But I don’t live in the west. And considering the culture I live in, and the sensitivity of the situation, I’m now not sure I made a sensible choice of how to deal with the issue.

When you get things wrong, you stand up, admit it and say sorry. So in that spirit I would like to take this opportunity to express my sincere apologies for my insensitivity in that shoot, and my regret at having done it.

It does not represent me or the message I carry. Whether people love me or hate me, I don’t want them to think of me in that way.

In deciding to do the shoot, I made assumptions and failed to check them or consider them. And by doing it I fed a stereotype. As such, I realize my oversight was totally inappropriate and disrespectful. I can only imagine the hurt and distress I have caused to so many people and the damage that has done to their trust in me. But I must also assure everyone that was never my intention.

I didn’t want to admit to myself that I had made a mistake. But my purpose was never disrespect and it certainly isn’t now.

There is still so much to do in Jordan for LGBT people. And, while I have made a mistake, I’m determined not to back away from that. As a Muslim, I will continue to fight against repression and stereotypes and call for freedom of speech and LGBT rights.

That’s a hard task. But I hope – in a better way in future – I can repair the damage by working to show everyone it is possible to be Muslim, Jordanian and LGBT.