Pakistani-Australian lawyer Alyena Mohummadally, who penned one of the most moving chapters in SPEAK NOW with her partner Catherine Roberts, is featured in the cover story of this week's Good Weekend magazine 'Dangerous Liaisons: The Secret Lives of Gay Arabs in Australia' (Fairfax/Sydney Morning Herald/The Age April 6-8, 2012).
Prominent journalist David Marr profiles gay Australians of middle eastern background whose families reject their sexuality. Marr depicts the difficulties produced by non-conformist children bringing shame on their families and communities.
For those who fondly believe the days of the closet are well and truly gone, this feature article is a reminder of the real suffering many young people undergo among various communities within Australia.
Marr also interviews courageous people within those communities who are working to change attitudes. In 2004 Alyena Mohummadally set up a pioneering online forum, 'Queer Muslims in Australia':
At first, she was terrified of repercussions but the online forum has assisted many in coming to terms with their sexuality, their religion, and the atttiudes of family and the wider communities and in Marr's article Alyena testifies how she has gradually gathered courage.
Her moving piece for SPEAK NOW is encouraging, too. Her Pakistani-born father did not respond as you might expect when Alyena and Catherine affirmed their commitment to each other.
Yet under Australian law, they are not permitted to marry. Neither the ruling Australian Labor Party, which holds a tenuous grip on power at the Federal level, while gradually losing it in the majority of state parliaments, has failed to do the right thing and truly lead the country on this civil rights issue. Meanwhile, the opposition coalition parties, led by Tony Abbott (sometimes called 'Captain Catholic') does not feel the need to alienate their conservative base. Their continuing success at state level (witness the landslide at the recent Queensland elections) provide ominous signs of a distinct lurch to the right.