The list of prohibitions is long: It’s haram—forbidden—to smoke, drink, go to discos, or mix with an unrelated person of the opposite gender.The rules are enforced by the mutawwa'in, religious authorities employed by the government’s Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice.
Like many gay and lesbian teenagers everywhere, he felt isolated.
“I used to have the feeling that I was the queerest in the country,” he recalled.
Officially, men in Saudi Arabia aren’t allowed to wear their hair long or to display jewelry—such vanities are usually deemed to violate an Islamic instruction that the sexes must not be too similar in appearance.
But Yasser wears a silver necklace, a silver bracelet, and a sparkly red stud in his left ear, and his hair is shaggy.
Yasser is homosexual, or so we would describe him in the West, and the barbershop we visited caters to gay men. Leaving the barbershop, we drove onto Tahlia Street, a broad avenue framed by palm trees, then went past a succession of sleek malls and slowed in front of a glass-and-steel shopping center. Whereas most such establishments have a family section, two of this area’s cafés allow only men; not surprisingly, they are popular among men who prefer one another’s company.