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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."

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

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.

via USO

Army Capt. Justin Meredith used the Bob Hope Legacy Reading Program to read to his son and family while deployed in the Middle East.

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One of the biggest challenges deployed service members face is the feeling of being separated from their families, especially when they have children. It's also very stressful for children to be away from parents who are deployed for long periods of time.

For the past four years, the USO has brought deployed service members and their families closer through a wonderful program that allows them to read together. The Bob Hope Legacy Reading Program gives deployed service members the ability to choose a book, read it on camera, then send both the recording and book to their child.

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Jimmy Fallon #MyFamilyIsWeird.

It’s that time of year again, the holiday season is when we get the pleasure of spending way more time than we’re used to with our families. For those of us who’ve moved away from our immediate families, the holidays are a great time to reacquaint ourselves with old traditions and to realize that some of them may be a little strange.

Every family seems to have its own brand of weirdness. In fact, I wouldn’t trust anyone who says that their family is completely normal.

On November 18, “The Tonight Show” host Jimmy Fallon gave everyone a reason to celebrate their unique families by asking them to share their favorite stories under #MyFamilyIsWeird. The responses were everything from odd holiday traditions to family members that may have a screw (or two!) loose.

Here are 17 of the funniest responses.

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Representative Nancy Mace on Fox News and CNN

Rep. Nancy Mace (R-SC) is the subject of an embarrassing viral video where she downplays the importance of the COVID-19 vaccine on Fox News and then, an hour later, touts their importance on CNN.

On Fox’s “Sunday Morning Futures,” Mace made some misleading and dangerous statements about why “natural immunity” is better than immunity provided by vaccines.

“One thing the CDC and no policy maker at the federal level has done so far is take into account what natural immunity has done,” Mace said. “That may be what we’re seeing in Florida today. In some studies that I have read, natural immunity gives you 27 times more protection against future COVID infection than vaccination. We need to take all of the science into account and not selectively choosing what science to follow when we are making policy decisions.”

This may sound scientific, but Mace leaves out the part where to get “natural immunity,” you have to survive the virus first. The goal, for most people during a pandemic, is not to get sick in the first place.

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Cayce LaCorte explains why virginity doesn't exist.

The concept of virginity is a very loaded issue in American culture. If a woman loses hers when she's too young she can be slut-shamed. If a man remains a virgin for too long, he can be bullied for not being manly enough.

There is also a whole slew of religious mind games associated with virginity that can give people some serious psychological problems associated with sex.

Losing one's virginity has also been blown up way beyond proportion. It's often believed that it's a magical experience—it's usually not. Or that after having sex for the first time people can really start to enjoy living life—not the case.

What if we just dropped all of the stigmas surrounding virginity and instead, replaced them with healthy attitudes toward sex and relationships?

Writer Cayce LaCorte is going viral on TikTok for the simple way she's taught her five daughters to think about virginity. They don't have to. LaCorte shared her parenting ideas on TikTok in response to mom-influencer Nevada Shareef's question: "Name something about the way you raised your kids that people think is weird but you think is healthy."

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