Growing up in Kuwait where sex is considered a taboo topic, the presence of a ‘feminine’ boy spread quickly in my neighbourhood
I must have been around six when the man renting a room in our house made me sit on his lap while my parents were away and felt all over my body. I remember that it was repeated multiple times over the next year. Touching, pressing, kissing, etc., the forms of “love” became more and more aggressive. There came a point when I started locking myself in my parents’ room if they were sleeping or away to avoid this man.
When I was in fourth grade, most of my classmates would talk about girls and bring pictures of female celebrities. I was clearly not interested. As time passed, people in my school started calling me “girl” as they claimed that I was feminine and hung out more with females than males. By the time I was in seventh grade, I had already been taken to multiple empty classrooms, made to show my genitals to prove that I was a “boy,” to touch other people’s genitals as a show of “male bonding” and on an occasion was almost forced to perform anal sex. I had to beg him to stop and force myself away.
Growing up in Kuwait where sex is considered a taboo topic, the presence of a ‘feminine’ boy spread quickly in my neighbourhood. Soon, I had multiple men of various ages making sexual proposals to me. After years of being bullied for being feminine and in many ways internalizing the shame of being attracted to men, I felt that I was finally being “chased” by men.
It started with the rubbing of body parts
This was followed by my first unprotected sexual encounter. As far as I remember, it was with a young man from my building in a secluded part of the staircase near the rooftop. After that incident, I started getting calls on our landline by random people who would mention this incident and that they would like to meet me. The first one or two calls were fine but then the fear of being discovered by my parents seeped in. I would secretly remove the phone cord so that no call could come. That was just a Band-Aid and within a short period of time, I would have men pick me up in their cars to perform oral or anal sex with them. At times, I was excited but mostly I was scared and whenever I said no, they would physically force me or threaten to tell my parents what I have done. These encounters continued for many years until I went to university and could protect myself better.
I grew up at a time when I had limited access to the Internet and people weren’t talking about LGBTQ issues. I was a young boy who couldn’t make sense of his sexual orientation. I couldn’t share my feelings with anyone, not even my parents. As time passed, my body and mind compartmentalized these memories and buried them somewhere to cope with the pain and the societal shame attached to it.
Only in the last one or two years, after reading the heartfelt narratives of thousands of sexual assault survivors around the world, was I able to go back to these memories and take therapy to heal them. It is important for queer people such as myself — particularly those who come from countries where these issues are still not spoken about — to share their stories. The power of these narratives can help young queer people who are still struggling to come to terms with their identities to realize that they are not alone and they are wanted and heard.
Stuck in a cycle of repeated abuse and guilt
In our overtly moralist and patriarchal society, it is difficult for anyone to talk about sexual abuse, but it is especially hard for young boys to come forward. From a very young age, there are certain standards of masculinity that our society chalks out for boys. If a young boy shares his story of being abused, it goes against that standard of toxic masculinity and he is made to feel effeminate and weak for not being able to protect himself or is made fun of, the ‘shame’ is always given more precedence than the trauma. If you’re gay, the fear is heightened further as there is double marginalization based on your gender and sexual orientation. From my personal experience, I can tell you that a lot of people assumed that it was okay to force themselves on me due to my sexual orientation. We live in a society where victims are further victimized and there is no safe space where we can ask for help and heal the pain of sexual abuse.
If I had someone to guide me as a young person or a confidante, I might have been able to escape being abused or taken action against the abusers. It has been a long path for me to heal but at least now I know that it wasn’t my fault and there is no shame in acknowledging that I was abused growing up. As adults, I feel it is on us to see signs of sexual assault in young people and create a space where they will not be afraid or feel ashamed to report any such incidents. While only a handful of us might have the privilege to come forward and share our stories, there are so many untold and unheard stories out there. It is important that we work towards a society where every child, whether they live in a megacity or a tiny village, feels safe and does not fall victim to abuse in any form.
The author is a queer Bangladeshi freelance writer based in the US