Written by Amira.
I’ll never forget the energy shift when my young self confessed to my parents that I didn’t want to be an animal doctor anymore- I wanted to be a tattoo artist instead. I was 14, & that decision stemmed solely from a place of softness. It’s difficult to say what the aftermath looks like when you take someone who is so soft, & treat them like they’re hard for so long. Especially during such formative years.
I’m 28 now & still don’t know.
On top of that energy blueprint, I’ve lost count of the moments still seared in my mind. Moments where my mom has taken the side of my antagonists, for one. The moment my parents called my boss, begging him not to hire me at his tattoo shop, for another. The most painful part of the latter is I wish I never worked for that man. I still wonder what that conversation should have looked like, if my growing distrust for my parents weren’t overshadowing my rightful distrust of men.
It’s especially difficult to stomach, growing up with white friends. They were unconditionally supported, & celebrated by their parents through everything. It felt as I got older, I was celebrated less. We can credit that to the fact that with each passing year, I pushed back more against the cultural whiplash of repression being hammered down on my sister & I (never on the boys). By 15, I was dubbed the shameful black sheep, & the slut.
Stigma kills sluts everywhere, but the connotations of being a Lebanese slut are quite different, especially when you’re profiting off of it.
Stigma kills sluts everywhere, but the connotations of being a Lebanese slut are quite different, especially when you’re profiting off of it. It was easy to keep the judgemental eyes off of me 10 months out of each year, until everyone in the fam was on instagram. I know what my fellow Arab readers are thinking: “you seriously expected the outcome to be different, just because you’re living in America?”
No, I didn’t. By 19, my tattooing career had been derailed about half a dozen times, & my environment convinced me that I wouldn’t live long enough to see 20 (& I was right! I was almost killed by a family member 2 months before that birthday). I didn’t think I would be dealing with any of this because I didn’t think I would make it this far (I will be writing about the uprising of suicides in Arab youth, too).
But I did. So again- now what?
I had to humanize them, starting with my mother.
I’m already recognized in Lebanon. Not by name, but by body. They stop & gawk, sometimes asking for photos, sometimes to pray for me.
It took me years to stop trying to understand why she wouldn’t defend me against the gossiping village wives. It was simple: she was one of them. If she didn’t bear me herself, she would be praying for the woman who did; pleading for something to take away the shame. Coming to terms with that was also coming to terms that my potential was not only buried, but rejected before it could be seen. That is, until I humanized my parents, put in the work towards myself, & started showing the fuck up anyway- whether they wanted the offerings of a slut or not.
It wasn’t easy, but I was sick of turning green with envy at the sight of anyone having a nice day with their family. When it is COVID safe, I no longer go months at a time without speaking to/seeing them. I bring flowers for my mother & aunts every single visit. I don’t lie to them about anything, regardless of comfort. I even told my mother in 2019 that she could quit her stressful retail job, because as a stripper I can take care of her (RIP 2020 income), then I proceeded to pay my little brother’s tuition that semester for them. I never thought I would see this happen, but I’m their golden child. Their cut-up, plastic-filled, pansexual, polyamorous, anti-college, golden whore child.
It’s gotten better, but it isn’t by any means perfect. One day, I’m told she “gets it” now & wants me to do all the things she couldn’t do in her youth, the next day I’m blindsided by comments about how the way I present myself is disrespectful to her.
It took me years to stop trying to understand why she wouldn’t defend me against the gossiping village wives. It was simple: she was one of them.
Now we’re 6+ months into the pandemic. I’ve been out of work, & unaided this whole time. I don’t regret redistributing my funds, but I didn’t anticipate our country to blatantly fail us for this long. I’m out of money.
I had to stomach the decision to openly create porn so that I could 1) cover my overhead, & 2) send money back to my people in Lebanon; knowing this finalizes any chance of ever comfortably going back. Yes, it’s that serious.
I’m already recognized in Lebanon. Not by name, but by body. They stop & gawk, sometimes asking for photos, sometimes to pray for me. I can confidently say that I’m the most modified citizen of that country. Thankfully, a lot of these interactions became positive over the years. They love my style, they love my body work, etc. Again, it’s one thing to be famous for my modifications, & an entirely different thing to be famous for porn.
My question to myself was, “now what?”
I’ve already educated them, as much as they would comfortably sit through my lived experiences as a sex worker (online, stripping, sugaring, fetish/kink parties). All I can do now is keep showing up, showing my softness, & wait. Wait for them to find their peace, & for them to fully humanize me, too. I was never a “bad kid” by most people’s definitions. I was just a kid, growing up with my feet in two conflicting worlds. Over a decade later, I still cannot find words that don’t understate the turmoil my young self was writhing in. Everyone’s parents seemed to see the good in me, except my own.
So my question to any Arabs reading this: are you educating yourself on sex worker stigma & working towards protecting me & my rights, or are you actively contributing to why Mia Khalifa & I are afraid to go back to our homeland?
Either way, your husbands, brothers, & fathers are the fastest to click for our porn. Do you spread hate about them too?
About the Author
Amira (they/them, she/her while entertaining) is a multi-media artist, tattooer, writer,and sex worker. They are part of the first generation of Lebanese Druze born on American land. Before moving onto their next life, Amira has two plans for this one: break some generational trauma, & open up a tattoo studio in Lebanon that is safe for women and the queer community.
Follow on IG: @shawarmamba2.0 |