Windy City Media Group Frontpage News


home search facebook twitter join
Windy City Times 2023-12-13



Taqaseem: Middle Eastern, North African LGBT group forms
by Wes Lawson

This article shared 5152 times since Wed Jul 1, 2009
facebook twitter google +1 reddit email

Dalila Fridi ( pictured as co-chair of Lesbian Community Care Project's recent Garden of Eve. Photo by Kat Fitzgerald, ) , a technical analyst at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, and Ahmad Refky, the Illinois director for the Center for Cultural Interchange, met at an Equality Illinois event, and an idea was born.

That idea has become a new LGBT group in Chicago called Taqaseem. Taqaseem—which recently had its first meeting at Touché, 6412 N. Clark—is a group dedicated to uniting the Middle Eastern and North African LGBT communities of the greater Chicagoland area. The name for the group comes from a form of Middle Eastern music that calls for improvisation within a set of rules—an apt metaphor for the group itself.

Fridi said that the group is a long time in the making. The initial idea came about after the Mr. Chicago Leather title was awarded to Ammar Houssamo in 2009, making him the first Syrian man to claim the title.

"That was the catalyst for getting the group under way. I met him and Ahmad at a First Friday event, and because he had won, we felt it was time to assemble a group like this," Fridi said.

Refky said that he was initially hesitant to start the group due to personal reasons, but Houssamo's win made him realize that it was time. His story is reflective of so many other Middle Eastern LGBT individuals who come to America due to persecution from their families and societies.

"I was born in Egypt and lived there until I was 21," Refky said. "I came to Chicago at 16 as an exchange student, and I came out in college to friends. I also came out in Egypt to my family, and it was not a pretty coming out. It was traumatic and it pretty much pushed me back into the closet. My father wanted me to go into therapy, which is fairly common. But when I came out to my host family, they were supportive, and after the Cairo 52 ( a group of 52 men who were arrested in May 2001 in Cairo for their homosexuality ) almost became the Cairo 53, my host family took me in. I applied for political asylum and got it. And now I want to use my personal experience to help others."

Fridi came to America from Algeria at age 19 and came out in the United States, but found that there were no groups that catered to Middle Eastern LGBT individuals specifically.

"I joined a group comprised of southeastern Asian lesbians, but I realized that we are a different culture with different struggles and ways of living," said Fridi.

Now that the group has formed, their first concerns are in raising funds for Middle Easterners in Chicagoland, and start providing educational programs on topics like HIV, safe sex and places of support, which they would like to begin doing at the Center on Halsted.

"Our driving message is that it's OK to be Middle Eastern and gay," said Refky. "It's not career suicide."

Refky added, "A lot of us are from that part of the world and we are gay and successful. This is not a religious or political group, because that's not the type of support we wish to offer."

Fridi echoed this statement: "We also can't offer too much in the way of immigration support, but we can give people a push in the right direction. We really want to work with the Center on Halsted because they have lawyers, psychologists, and other people that can help Middle Eastern LGBT people who have been ostracized from their families. The goal here is not to create something that already exists."

Ultimately, Refky wants the group to not only increase visibility, but to also let Middle Eastern LGBT people be proud of who they are.

"You can be proud of your Arab and Muslim heritage, and you can do something to help others and yourself, which is what we are here to help provide," Refky said.

"The last event we did ( at Touché ) gathered a lot of attention, support and curiosity," said Fridi. "A few Middle Eastern young adults came and we were surprised at what a serious group it was. The event at Sidetrack should provide more exposure, and it will take advantage of Pride Month. After that, we're hoping to start having events for people under 21, since they need just as much support as adults, and we can't have all of our events at bars."

The T-shirts will also be available on Taqaseem's Web site, , as will other upcoming events. Fridi and Refky encourage anyone interested in the group to visit the site, and to also join the Facebook group. Contact information for both Fridi and Refky will be available at these outlets. Also, a video clip from Taqaseem's first event is available to watch at .

This article shared 5152 times since Wed Jul 1, 2009
facebook twitter google +1 reddit email

Out and Aging
Presented By


Gay News

NATIONAL School items, HIV/AIDS activist dies, Nex Benedict, inclusive parade
In a new survey, the Pew Research Center asked public K-12 teachers, teens and the U.S. public about the ongoing scrutiny placed on classroom curricula, mainly regarding race and LGBTQ+ identities, ABC News noted. Among other ...

Gay News

Appeals court allows Ind. ban on gender-affirming care for minors
On Feb. 27, a federal appeals court in Chicago allowed Indiana's ban on gender-affirming care to go into effect, removing a temporary injunction that U.S. District Court Judge James Patrick Hanlon issued last year, ABC News ...

Gay News

Oklahoma non-binary student dies after being assaulted
Officials acknowledged there are unresolved questions about a 16-year-old non-binary Oklahoma student who died one day after a fight in a high school bathroom, NBC News noted. Chuck Hoskin Jr., principal chief of the Cherokee Nation, ...

Gay News

GLAAD releases report on LGBTQ+ inclusion in video games
LGBTQ+ media-advocacy organization GLAAD has released a report on queer inclusion in the world of video games. Among the key findings in "Gaming: The State of LGBTQ Inclusion in Video Games" is that 17%—nearly one in ...

Gay News

Democrat flips seat once held by George Santos
On Feb. 13 in New York, Democrat Tom Suozzi won a special election to succeed the U.S. congressional seat formerly held by openly gay Republican George Santos, who was recently ousted. According to NBC News, Suozzi's ...

Gay News

$200,000+ raised at AIDS Foundation Chicago's World of Chocolate Fundraiser to fight HIV/AIDS
--From a press release - (Chicago, IL) More than 950 guests gathered at Chicago's famed Union Station (500 W. Jackson) for Chicago's Sweetest Fundraiser, AIDS Foundation Chicago's (AFC), World of Chocolate on Friday, February 9. ...

Gay News

Carisa Hendrix mesmerizes as Lucy Darling in Teatro ZinZanni
Since 2019, Teatro ZinZanni has gathered together amazing performers from all over the world to create an experience in Chicago under the Spiegeltent in the Cambria Hotel building, 32 W. Randolph St. Over the years, ticket ...

Gay News

Chicagoans indulge in a World of Chocolate
AIDS Foundation of Chicago hosted its 2024 World of Chocolate celebration the evening of Feb. 9 at Union Station. Top chocolatiers from across the city allowed guests to sample numerous confections, hors d'oevres and libations for ...

Gay News

GLAAD remembers Cecilia Gentili, transgender Latina, actress, activist, health care activist, journalist
--From a press release - (New York, NY - February 6, 2024) GLAAD, the world's largest LGBTQ media advocacy organization, is responding to the death of transgender actress and advocate Cecilia Gentili and elevating voices of transgender and political leaders honoring ...

Gay News

Comcast NBCUniversal partners with News is Out, Word In Black on fellowship program highlighting Black, LGBTQ+ issues
--From a press release - Digital Equity Local Voices Lab Fellows to be placed at 16 local publications to receive training and create content Philadelphia (Feb. 6, 2024) — News is Out [ ] , a queer media collaborative of ...

Gay News

SAVOR Chocolatier Uzma Sharif on being part of World of Chocolate
AIDS Foundation Chicago will hold its annual World of Chocolate event on Friday, Feb. 9, at 6 p.m. at Union Station, 500 W. Jackson Blvd. Attendees will embark on a global tour of chocolate—but there will ...

Gay News

NATIONAL Marriage news, fighting fentanyl, anti-LGBTQ+ crimes, Grindr
The Virginia House of Delegates passed a bill that would affirm marriage equality in the state, The Washington Blade noted. House Bill 174, introduced by state Del. Rozia Henson (D-Prince William County), passed in the Democratic-controlled ...

Gay News

Mr. Chicago Leather 2024 at Touche, Vince Jay takes title
A diverse group of people from around the world gathered at Touché Chicago for the Mr. Chicago Leather 2024 Contest the evening of Jan. 27. Ammar Houssamo hosted the event, at which Mr. Chicago Leather 2022-23 ...

Gay News

SAVOR Going 'Underground,' change at Skylark and Mango Pickle closing
Pop(-up) life: Chef Mariya Moore-Russell—who guided the local spot Kikko to a Michelin star, becoming the first Black woman to helm a kitchen with one of the food world's highest honors—is returning to Chicago to lead ...

Gay News

WORLD Arrest in Brazil, athlete dies, Ghana attack, World Economic Forum
A 30-year-old man was arrested in Brazil on Jan. 18 for his alleged role in the stabbing murder of prominent NYC art dealer Brent Sikkema, Gay City News reported. Authorities took Cuban resident Alejandro Triana Trevez ...


Copyright © 2024 Windy City Media Group. All rights reserved.
Reprint by permission only. PDFs for back issues are downloadable from
our online archives.

Return postage must accompany all manuscripts, drawings, and
photographs submitted if they are to be returned, and no
responsibility may be assumed for unsolicited materials.

All rights to letters, art and photos sent to Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago
Gay and Lesbian News and Feature Publication) will be treated
as unconditionally assigned for publication purposes and as such,
subject to editing and comment. The opinions expressed by the
columnists, cartoonists, letter writers, and commentators are
their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay,
Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature Publication).

The appearance of a name, image or photo of a person or group in
Nightspots (Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times
(a Chicago Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature
Publication) does not indicate the sexual orientation of such
individuals or groups. While we encourage readers to support the
advertisers who make this newspaper possible, Nightspots (Chicago
GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay, Lesbian
News and Feature Publication) cannot accept responsibility for
any advertising claims or promotions.






About WCMG      Contact Us      Online Front  Page      Windy City  Times      Nightspots
Identity      BLACKlines      En La Vida      Archives      Advanced Search     
Windy City Queercast      Queercast Archives     
Press  Releases      Join WCMG  Email List      Email Blast      Blogs     
Upcoming Events      Todays Events      Ongoing Events      Bar Guide      Community Groups      In Memoriam     
Privacy Policy     

Windy City Media Group publishes Windy City Times,
The Bi-Weekly Voice of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Community.
5315 N. Clark St. #192, Chicago, IL 60640-2113 • PH (773) 871-7610 • FAX (773) 871-7609.