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Celebrate Pride With This Tunisian Comic about LGBTQ Life in Lockdown

This article is part of a series featuring inspiring stories of local action #fromthefrontlines of COVID-19 in the Global South. For more, visit our COVID-19 page and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Across the globe, LGBTQ activists in lockdown have been forced to embrace new ways of celebrating Pride this year. In Tunisia, Fund-backed advocates Mawjoudin (“We Exist”) turned to the age-old art of graphic storytelling, publishing a new comic book that celebrates life in quarantine for LGBTQ people.

Queer Squad episode 1, “Bored in the House,” explores the lives of six characters—Rym, Nawress, Zach, Rafa, Balsem, and Nour, who identify respectively as pan graysexual, lesbian, bisexual, queer, gay, and heterosexual—in the context of COVID-19.

Homosexuality is illegal in Tunisia and marriage is defined as being between a man and a woman. There is also no legal recognition of transgender people. In 2012, the minister for human rights and transitional justice claimed that homosexuality was a “perversion,” not a human rights issue.

The front cover of Queer Squad, a comic strip created by Mawjoudin.

In 2018, Mawjoudin launched the first annual LGBTQ film festival in North Africa. Forced to cancel it this year because of the pandemic, the activists looked elsewhere for a medium to express their identity.

Launching the new series, Mawjoudin put out a statement in defiance of the queerphobia that dominates Tunisian politics: “Today we break the silence. Today we create our stories. Today is our today, and the future is ours.”

According to the group, the comic is “not only about our struggles, but also about our love for life.” The story of the Queer Squad explores the range of sexual orientations and gender identities, as the illustrations and dialogue reveal the complexities of queer life in Tunisia.

In their statement, Mawjoudin tied the comic’s release to the spirit of May 17, the international day against homophobia, transphobia, and biphobia.
“The 17th of May is back and we are still here, we exist and we resist, silently sometimes” the group wrote. “Today we are here to break the silence, to raise our voices, and to speak up.”

Queer Squad episode 1 is available online, in both English and Arabic.

The Fund is proud to celebrate Pride by supporting innovative activists like Mawjoudin, with the flexible funding and strategic support they need to continue standing up for the rights of LGBTQ people to live and love freely.