Interview: On the roof with Khalid, LGBT Hero, Model & Writer… Come and have a drink with us!
Most of us are spread around numerous countries living in isolation just because who we are is illegal. Most of us probably went through times feeling like being all alone, going through an identity crisis, a family crisis and a society crisis.
In one way or another, the media plays a role into forcing certain images on the public and that is where My.Kali Magazine comes in, promoting acceptance. It has featured already straight allies as actress Nadia Odeh, singer and TV presenter Rania Kurdi, sportsperson Farah Malhas and the singers Omar Afuni & Hanna Gargour.
Today, we’re on the roof with Kali, the ‘face of my.Kali’, a brave, rebel, Jordanian Model and Writer. Keep reading our chat.
Gayday: Would you tell us how did My.Kali start?
Kali: It started early in 2008 after a huge backlash in late 2007 by the papers and tabloids, highlighting “The Revolution of The Homosexuals”. It was a small magazine I’ve done with a couple of friends and it received a huge attention, as it was the very first time for the Jordanian media to ever discuss the topic of “homosexuality” when coming to “Jordan”, but after it was folded, the press have already paved the way for me and “another” group of friends to start fresh with My.Kali.
Gayday: What does the name My.Kali stand for?
Kali: I’d really hate to answer this question, because I know how it’ll appeal to whoever read this! It stands for my name. However, the title doesn’t represent a narcissistic call! It envisions a lost privacy, highlights the feeling of dis-ownership, the fact that you can’t own, and that’s how I feel about My.Kali, that I can’t own it, just like many other things in my life, including privacy. It’s that nagging voice of “be mine!” The name by itself was decided on as a tribute to that feeling.
Gayday: What reactions did My.Kali receive after launching? How is it like now?
Kali: I think the first thing I started to hear was “Jordan launches a gay magazine” or “Jordanian gay magazine My.Kali takes off”, it was net-shocking, and it kept on around that sense for a while, maybe 2 years, then it claimed stability. At that time we only received gay press, which was positive; we avoided mass media or media that appealed to the heterosexual mass to avoid negativity that easily could’ve brought the magazine down, and we didn’t want such unnecessary energy. We wanted My.Kali to be exclusive and appeal to only LGBT people and open minded individuals, so no need for us to provoke a mass that isn’t aimed for. Now we receive tons of positive press and feedback along with negative, especially in the last 2 years for featuring local and regional celebrities. Now, the magazine stands on its own, it’s bigger than me.
Kali: Keeping up with the public and keep the magazine together and flowing, along with brain storming on issues we haven’t written about yet. But the biggest that stands tall is the magazine’s genre in a Muslim, Arab region that do not tolerate such issue.
Gayday: Khalid, you’re a Model, Writer and a very prominent Activist in favor of the LGBT rights in Amman? Could you please tell us how like it is to be a gay person in Jordan?
Kali: Jordan is pretty much after piece, it naturally applies toward most things, as it’s peaceful as a country. Although, people tend to repress anger, toward many things – socially and sexually –, and what’s worse, expressing it. There could be such anger toward such minorities that the society at large might not understand it’s’ conditions, that is also provoked by the media, which could rub off in the wrong way, that by itself could be alarming. Many chose to live privately, discretely, and unnoticed, which is smart in our situation, but a lot of those who face and own up to such issues are considered role models to me – personally – and change many of the society’s under-minded perceptions.
Gayday: I imagine you’d be subject to numerous homophobic reactions for being out and publically advocating for LGBT rights; do you mind telling us how do you manage that?
Kali: Yes, at times… it’s an emotional-draining process! Every time the media wants to feature something negative or run a provocative piece about homosexuality they’d dig up provocative pictures of me like shirtless ones or ones with symbols – like the one with the Jordanian hatta – and run it along the piece, so it’d maximize the effect. Or attacked by activists that accuse me of popularizing stereotypes. So I get blamed for many things and I have to roll with the punches, and in a lot of times, its heavy on my heart.
Gayday: The My.Kali May/June issue, featuring singer Aziz Maraka on the cover, seemed to reflect sadness. I’m curious to know if that feeling does inspire some ideas.
Kali: To me, it is. It takes a lot of energy, time and a lot of thinking when you’re deplorable. It could be very inspiring and imaginative when it comes to self expression through sadness, because people have many ways they express themselves through when they become sad or depressed, and the outcome might not occur when you’re in a different mood! The aim of our issue/cover was to condole our readers who are in that state, and to let them know that we acknowledge what they are going through and there is no need for them to go through it alone, and here’s what you need to know about sadness… The issue received great applause especially that Aziz is an amazing person, regionally famous and a popular singer, who has a very well known song called “Ibky” – means cry – which ups him to be the perfect choice to portray the image of being fashionably sad. We’re planning to make it a regular issue at it’s date.
Kali: Vogue magazine (all editions), religion, Kermit (the frog), my daily planner and Casper & Gambini’s tomato basil soup, isn’t soup the best thing ever?!
If I was to turn on your iPod right now, what five artists/songs would I see on your recently played list?
Kali: Well, I tend to listen to a lot of jazz, soul, indie rock, and oldies that tend to have a cinematic sense to it and has references to various aspects of pop culture, particularly those of 1950s, ’60s, and ’80s, so some Sade and some Adele, but recently? Mmm, Lana Del Ray, Florence and The Machine, Stevie nicks, Elissa, Duffy, Amy Whinehouse… that’s more than 5, and not really gay music, is it? Although I like 80s Madonna and Kylie is an all time favorite, and don’t get me started on Majida El-Roumi!
Gayday: If you hadn’t been born in this century, when and where would you like to have lived?
Kali: It would be really interesting to have lived during an innocent age like the 15th century, working in a farm, lost in love, and saved by Robin Hood. But I’d mostly wish to have lived during the 1980s! People always tell me what a horrible decade that was, but many disagree! The wild faces, the original Vogues that were one of the first to ever express sexuality through fashion and photography, the clothing styles of baggy and tight! And the gypsy rock music mud fueled festivals! Nothing makes you shake your booty like 80s music!
Gayday: Ten years from now you will be….
Kali: Kermit’s spouse!
Gayday: Any future projects does My.Kali have? What your energies are focused on now?
Kali: All our focus is growing a bigger platform for more LGBT people to express themselves. Bettering the magazine’s condition as a whole, outlook and input and be more established, more than we already are.
Gayday: Tell us how does My.Kali push for tolerance and acceptance in our region?
Kali: The magazine as a whole pushes for self-acceptance and self-expression, as that is the magazine’s natural and first aim. But since early last year, the magazine started to feature regional straight celebrities to discuss their – different – aspects of liberation, accepting society’s other individuals, and tolerate new movements and minorities, which opened a whole new door for us toward approaching the “homosexuality” topic and to a new audience that will occur to the magazine to read about their favorite stars. That is part of the magazine’s campaign toward promoting acceptance and a none violent society.
Gayday: Would you like to say something for our Tunisian readers?
Kali: Tunisians are known to be well educated, opinionated and aren’t closed minded toward such social topics and issues. This magazine is a huge step toward establishing a voice for the LGBT people in Tunisia; you have no idea what it means to a discrete guy/girl who live through your articles and have no choice but to remain silent. Tunisia isn’t like many closed minded neighboring countries, it’s multi cultures. I would like to hear some of these Tunisian voices in our magazine, as it’ll open a great insight into the LGBT community of different countries and cultures, and create a bigger support.
Photography Credit: Ala’a A.
Makeup Credit: Nada Al-Agha