“I’m Gay. We Exist” - Inspire! With Logal Bet Kako
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Super heroes aren’t only characters in comic books. Instead, they
are selfless volunteers aiding those in need, artists defying the
ugliness of war to create beauty with their art, or, in this
case, a homosexual who is fighting for his existence and the
existence of the Assyrian and Syrian LGBT+ community. This Inspire!
post is about Logal Bet Kako, a gay Assyrian-Syrian
Shlama Logal! (Hello or peace in Assyrian). Tell us a little about yourself. How was life for you in Syria and how did you end up in Sweden?
Shlama Enana! I’m Logal Bet Kako. I was born on July 15th, 1994 in Tartous, Syria. Life is difficult when you’re living in a society like ours. There’s no awareness about homosexuality and this rendered our society an ignorant one. A society that would believe things like “homosexuality is a Western conspiracy to ruin the values of society”, which is something I hear quite often.
When the unrest started in Syria I was in Damascus, where I was studying at University. I went back to Tartous. In April 2014, I went to Lebanon. I moved to Turkey in August 2014 where I met my first “adult” love and began learning about LGBT+ politics. In December 2014, I made a deal with a human smuggler and I came here to Sweden.
So through your journey to Sweden, you met your first love in Turkey! How was your first romantic experience and your time in Turkey?
I was staying in Tarlabaşı in İstanbul. It’s a neighborhood where you can find the most marginalized communities. Prostitutes, transsexuals, LGBT asylum seekers, etc.
I got to know these people and their situation. Ever since I was 14, I wanted to work for the LGBT community. But it was only in Turkey that I started learning about LGBT politics. I don’t know what to say. It was like seeing my own family in pain and that made me realize that I must do something.
I had read in poetry how life would seem all black and white to people until they fell in love. Everything would be colorful then. Well, that’s exactly what happened to me when I met my first love in Turkey. I met him in one of the darkest times of my life. I had literally nothing. But he loved me regardless of everything.
In an interview, you talked about coming out to your Mom. How did that go and how is your relationship with her now?
I couldn’t tell her directly. I wrote everything on a paper and sat across from her as she read it. She kept reading and then she started crying. That was so hard for me. She said: “Get out. I don’t want to see you right now.” So I went out. I sat with friends and told them about it. At the end of the day I went back home. After that, Mom and I would talk, but not about me being gay. I never had the chance to explain myself. Not until I got to Sweden.
After I got to Sweden, we were talking on the phone once. I started crying. I told her that she was everything to me. But I asked her: “Do you want me to be happy or to fool myself?” I explained everything to her. After that conversation she kind of accepted it. She said: “I’ll still pray for you, but I love you even if you’re that way.”
Last year she also wished me a happy pride. However, this year was different. Since I participated in the pride parade along with other Assyrians from Sweden, my picture basically went through the entire Assyrian community worldwide. So now, I’m disowned by my family. Mom is really mad at me. She hasn’t talked to me in four weeks.
And how's your relationship with the rest of your family?
My dad is the total opposite of me. He’s masculine, homophobic and anti-semitic. I don’t think I’ve ever known him. He always travelled. He was never there. It feels like he’s a neighbor who gets to interfere in my life. In short, we don’t have a good relationship.
I have a 29-year-old brother. I love him to death, but we never had that “brother-brother” relationship. He was busy working and travelling while I was having a barbie's beauty pageant in my neighborhood. After this year’s pride, he’s mad at me too.
I only have my 17-year-old sister from my family now. She’s my little angel. She’s beautiful, she’s a feminist and she’s gay-friendly.
You have big dreams. In several Facebook posts, you mentioned that you aspire to become the first Syrian to participate in the Eurovision Song Contest. Why Eurovision and how can people support you to turn this dream into a reality?
My big dream is to be a singer. My dream of singing is a big tree that has many branches. Eurovision is one of them. I started watching it in 2008. It was interesting to see so much diversity, so many songs and different languages.
There was this website eurovisionfamily.tv. Each year, fans of Eurovision would get to connect and share their opinions about each song. I talked to youth from Kosovo and I got to know about the conflict there. I talked to youth from Germany, Sweden, Finland and Russia. So basically, I got my first international social network because of Eurovision.
I want to be in the Eurovision record book as “the first Syrian to sing [in Eurovision]”. I think it could send a big message of peace and hope.
People might be able to help through voting for me when I’m in the Swedish election show, if - and only if - my song is worth it.
Violence against the LGBT+ community in the Middle East has been growing. In addition to the savagery of the Islamic State, which punishes gays by throwing them off rooftops, we’ve heard of stories like Wasim’s, Eylül’s and most recently, Hande’s story. How does that make you feel and what would you like to say to other members of the LGBT+ community whose lives are threatened?
I knew Hande. I had met her in İstanbul. I remember very well how she told me about her life. She wasn’t allowed to work anywhere, so she turned to prostitution. She told me that they had beaten her several times and it would be no surprise if she got killed. When I heard the news my heart just broke. It’s really hard to know how much these people suffer. They are being killed for being themselves. That’s absurd. And the world still doesn’t take our pain seriously.
I would like to say to other persecuted members of the LGBT+ community: You’re not alone. It may sound cheesy, but truly, we’re spending everyday to make things better for you as much as we can. Eventually, you are our brothers and sisters. Maybe not by blood, but at least by struggle. Hopefully, this nightmare will end soon.
Anything you’d like to add?
Freedom. Love. Music.
Thank you so much, Logal. It was an honour and a pleasure to conduct this interview with you!