"أبنك حساسة ما بين الكساسة"
"Your son squeezes himself among pussies."
When I was approximately seven years old, my uneducated grandmother uttered the phrase above to my father in Arabic. It took me years to comprehend the meaning of that phrase and the impact it had on me. Even though I never found a definitive answer, I felt like an outsider because I enjoyed spending time with my female relatives, especially my aunt and sister, who inspired me with their artistic talents. The sensation of being constrained by my body language has always lingered in my thoughts.
My grandmother's sarcastic and rude tone still echoes in my mind, and her narrow-minded understanding of gender roles reveals much about her upbringing and the cultural values of her generation.
As a child, I couldn't understand why my parents would get angry with me and sometimes physically punish me for playing with a made-in-Iran Barbie doll. Moreover, I struggled to grasp why my father could fall in love before marriage, while my sister, his own daughter, was forbidden from such existential experiences.
This paradox of morals still eludes me, and I continue to seek answers to comprehend what defines gender roles and why society has assigned them based on genitals.
I also still question whether my grandmother's comments and the physical punishments I received for sitting with crossed legs or using hand gestures thought of as being "feminine" still constrain me from moving or sitting freely without thinking.
Now, as an adult with a thick beard and a bald head, having lived in various countries, having learned new languages, and having had physical experiences far from my grandmother's judgement, I still find narrow-minded aspects in our queer community. Being a cis-presenting gay male provides numerous opportunities for sexual encounters and the chance to select from a pool of "men".
However, not fitting into that category poses different and more complex challenges. I still wonder if there will ever be a time when humans will acknowledge and appreciate that being oneself is enough. If there isn't, I will continue to hope for it, even if I die without experiencing it.