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This gay Egyptian woman had a homophobic dad. But he went through a 'miraculous' change.

"It's hard when you are young. And it stays hard, but it gets easier."

For many living in the Middle East and North Africa, being openly LGBTQ is one of the bravest things one can do.

And some incredible queer people in the region are doing just that.    

Dozens of LGBTQ activists joined forces with Human Rights Watch to create a powerful video and share empowering stories about acceptance, faith, and fighting for what's right.


Dalia, a gay Egyptian woman, was one of the activists who shared her remarkable journey of acceptance, growth, and, ultimately, understanding. Recognizing her attraction to women early on, Dalia's family wasn't very supportive. But as Dalia accepted herself and began living her truth, she saw a miraculous ideological shift in her own father.    

[rebelmouse-image 19533454 dam="1" original_size="735x411" caption="Dalia. All images via "No Longer Alone: LGBT Voices from the Middle East and North Africa"/Human Rights Watch." expand=1]Dalia. All images via "No Longer Alone: LGBT Voices from the Middle East and North Africa"/Human Rights Watch.

"My father was against me in every way," said Dalia. "But he transformed from hateful to accepting and tolerant. He accepted me as his daughter and loved me unconditionally. This was in itself a miracle."    

Dalia's experience isn't unique. In a new report, HRW explores LGBTQ activism and identity, debunks myths, and raises important questions about LGBTQ people in the region. By sharing stories of challenging journeys to personal acceptance and helping to change societal views, the video uplifts and empowers queer identities.  

Omar Sharif, Jr., gay Egyptian.

These intrepid humans — many of whom are Muslim — discussed the challenges of reconciling their queer identity with their faith and regional understanding of queerness.  

Hamed Sinno, a queer man from Lebanon who sings in a band, faced these challenges. It took him some time to come to terms with his sexuality in a society that constantly made him feel less-than.

Hamed Sinno.

But Sinno pushed against the ridicule and got to a place where he accepted himself. "What I didn't understand is that there was nothing wrong with me," said Sinno. "It's the people around me who were wrong."  

Norma, a queer Lebanese citizen who decided to not show their face, also went through a long journey to acceptance that began in childhood. Norma talked about one of the earliest moments they felt happy and comfortable.

"I remember the moment perfectly," said Norma. "It was Halloween. It was the first time I wore my sister's skirt and my mom put makeup on me. I still remember that day. How happy I was and how comfortable I felt."

Norma.

These beautiful queer humans prove that persecution isn't going to silence their powerful voices.

As the report notes, many LGBTQ people in the region deal with hostility, criminalization, and governments that refuse to acknowledge and protect their identities. Because of these pervasive societal norms, queer people in the region can face persecution, estrangement, and even death. But, as Abedellah Taïa of Morocco noted in "No Longer Alone," being queer never has and never will hurt anyone.    

"You're gay. It's not a disease," said Taïa. "You're not against religion or Islam. You're not against culture or the state or your family."      

Regional activists also show that there's never a single story, and with time and understanding, things do indeed get better.  

As Algerian activist Zoheir Djazeri told HRW, it's important to not paint the entire region with one brush stroke. "We don't want the image anymore of just being victims," Djazeiri said. "We want to speak about reality, speak about violence, but also to [show what is] positive."

Omar, queer Iraqi.

Living your truth, regardless of what society deems is worthy or acceptable, is the most powerful thing you can do in life.

In the video, and in conversations around the world, accepting one's identity is one of the most important steps in moving toward progress. And, as we've seen over the last decade, societal norms can shift with time. Instead of fighting against the truth, we should empower queer people to create their own spaces and tell their stories.

"At the beginning, I was at war with myself, trying to change myself," said Hajar from Morocco. "In reality, it's not a choice. I cannot change."        

The cause for LGBTQ rights to be seen as human rights is a long, ongoing push for justice. While progress has been made, there are still policies both in the United States and around the world that make queer people vulnerable to continued oppression.

By supporting queer rights, fighting to ensure that all people have access to safe and affordable health care, and holding governments accountable for protecting queer constituents, we can create a world where LGBTQ people — no matter their nation of birth  — no longer feel alone. "It's hard when you are young," said Sinno. "And it stays hard, but it gets easier."    

Watch "No Longer Alone: LGBT Voices from the Middle East and North Africa" below.

Nature

Pennsylvania home is the entrance to a cave that’s been closed for 70 years

You can only access the cave from the basement of the home and it’s open for business.

This Pennsylvania home is the entrance to a cave.

Have you ever seen something in a movie or online and thought, "That's totally fake," only to find out it's absolutely a real thing? That's sort of how this house in Pennsylvania comes across. It just seems too fantastical to be real, and yet somehow it actually exists.

The home sits between Greencastle and Mercersburg, Pennsylvania, and houses a pretty unique public secret. There's a cave in the basement. Not a man cave or a basement that makes you feel like you're in a cave, but an actual cave that you can't get to unless you go through the house.

Turns out the cave was discovered in the 1830s on the land of John Coffey, according to Uncovering PA, but the story of how it was found is unclear. People would climb down into the cave to explore occasionally until the land was leased about 100 years later and a small structure was built over the cave opening.

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via Pexels

A couple celebrates while packing their home.

One of the topics that we like to highlight on Upworthy is people who are redefining what it means to be in a relationship. Recently, we’ve shared the stories of platonic life partners, moms who work together as part of a “mommune” and a polyamorous family with four equally-committed parents.

A growing number of people are reevaluating traditional relationships and entering lifestyles that work for them instead of trying to fit into preexisting roles. It makes sense because the more lifestyle options that are available, the greater chance we have to be happy.

A recent trend in unconventional relationships is married couples "living apart together," or LATs as they are known among mental health professionals.

Actress Helena Bonham Carter and director Tim Burton, actress Gwyneth Paltrow and producer Brad Falchuk, and photographer Annie Leibovitz and activist Susan Sontag are all high-profile couples who’ve embraced the LAT lifestyle.

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Family

Professional tidier Marie Kondo says she's 'kind of given up' after having three kids

Hearing Kondo say, 'My home is messy,' is sparking joy for moms everywhere.

Marie Kondo playing with her daughters.

Marie Kondo's book, "The Life-Changing Art of Tidying Up," has repeatedly made huge waves around the world since it came out in 2010. From eliminating anything that didn't "spark joy" from your house to folding clothes into tiny rectangles and storing them vertically, the KonMari method of maintaining an organized home hit the mark for millions of people. The success of her book even led to two Netflix series.

It also sparked backlash from parents who insisted that keeping a tidy home with children was not so simple. It's one thing to get rid of an old sweater that no longer brings you joy. It's entirely another to toss an old, empty cereal box that sparks zero joy for you, but that your 2-year-old is inexplicably attached to.

To be fair, Kondo never forced her way into anyone's home and made them organize it her way. But also to be fair, she didn't have kids when she wrote her best-selling book on keeping a tidy home. The reality is that keeping a home organized and tidy with children living in it is a whole other ballgame, as Kondo has discovered now that she has three kids of her own.

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Pop Culture

YouTube star MrBeast sponsors 1,000 people's cataract surgery to help them see again

"I had never heard of MrBeast so I almost hung up. But gratefully did not hang up."

YouTube star sponsors 1,000 people's cataract surgery

Blindness touches people's lives around the world and YouTube star Jimmy Donaldson, more popularly known as MrBeast, is trying to do something about it. Donaldson made it his mission to help 1,000 people regain their eyesight with the help of Dr. Jeff Levenson, an ophthalmologist and surgeon in Jacksonville, Florida.

Levenson has been operating a program called "Gift of Sight" for over 20 years. The program provides free cataract surgery to uninsured people who are legally blind for free, so long as they meet certain criteria. Levenson had never heard of Donaldson, and he almost hung up on him when the YouTube star called to ask about a partnership.

"I had never heard of MrBeast so I almost hung up. But gratefully did not hang up," Levenson told CNN.

After figuring out that Donaldson was indeed a real person who wanted to help others, the duo called around the Jacksonville area to determine the people who needed help the most. They got their list of clients from free clinics and homeless shelters, which covered the United States portion of the surgeries.

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A mom makes sensory sand by putting Cheerios in a blender.

A parenting influencer who goes by the name @ellethevirgo on TikTok has shared a brilliant hack that can turn a simple box of Cheerios into a fun sensory sand experience. The great part is that the sand is edible, so you don’t have to worry if your child puts some in their mouth, which they will inevitably do.

The recipe for Cheerios sensory sand is pretty simple:

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Gaël Monfils makes tennis a must-see.

Tennis isn't always the most entertaining sport to watch, especially if you're not particularly interested in seeing a ball get slapped across a net at 1,000,000 mph approximately 17,000 times. You could probably get whiplash or eye strain if you focused too hard on it. While some people love the sport, others need a little more than grunts and sneaker sounds to capture their attention.

If you're in the group of people who need to be entertained, look no further than Gaël Monfils, a professional French tennis player that has earned the nickname, "The Entertainer." Monfils turned pro in 2004 and has multiple championship matches under his belt, and yet he still takes the time to be...extra while playing.

In a compilation video uploaded to TikTok, we see the 36-year-old tennis player dancing after hitting the ball across the net just out of his opponent's reach. But of course, he also doesn't hit the ball like your average player, either. In one part of the video, Monfils jumps up extremely high and bicycle kicks as he hits the ball with his tongue hanging out of his mouth.

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