Metro Weekly

Gay men in Morocco fear backlash after trans influencer told followers to download Grindr and find gay neighbors and relatives

Gay Moroccans say Naoufal Moussa's Instagram video has led to people being assaulted or kicked out of their homes

Naoufal Moussa, trans, gay, grindr, morocco
Naoufal Moussa – Photo: Instagram.

A transgender woman and social media influencer told her followers to download gay dating apps to see which men in their communities are gay.

Naoufal Moussa, also known as Sofia Talouni, is a Turkey-based beauty influencer whose nightly Instagram Live series was watched by more than 100,000 people.

Moussa made the suggestion during a broadcast last week. Speaking in Moroccan Arabic in the video, she suggested that her followers download gay dating apps like Grindr, PlanetRomeo, and Hornet and create fake profiles pretending to be bottoms so they could see which people near them identify as gay.

“These apps will show you the ‘gay’ people who are near you,” Moussa said. “100 meters, 200 meters, or even one meter, just next to you in the living room. Since everyone is together at home, it could show you your husband in your bedroom, it could show you your son who might be in the bathroom. It could show you your neighbor from next door. It could show you your cousin, your uncle. Everyone.”

She also said she “felt bad for those faggots,” but didn’t care.

While Moussa did not explicitly tell her followers to use the information to “out” gay men, pictures of men with profiles on the apps began circulating in closed Facebook groups, with homophobic captions and threats of violence against the individuals whose pictures they found on the apps. Moussa showed screenshots that her followers had taken and sent to her in a subsequent Instagram Live broadcast.

See also: Trump administration planning global campaign to decriminalize homosexuality

Jens Schmidt, the founder and CEO of PlanetRomeo, said in a statement to Business Insider that the company sent a security message to its Morocco-based users, blocking all profiles created since April 13, when Moussa’s anti-LGBTQ broadcast occurred, and contacted Facebook to have its administrators remove the groups being used to out gay people.

LGBTQ activists were outraged by Moussa’s actions, and called for her account to be removed from Instagram, which it was on Friday. The LGBTQ and feminist organization Nassawiyat called for Moussa’s account to be removed due to the harm that her suggestion can cause LGBTQ people, who are at risk of being prosecuted in a country where homosexuality is criminalized.

New York-based LGBTQ activist Adam Eli also called for Moussa’s account to be removed.

“Young people are being outed and kicked out of their homes DURING the #Covid19 lockdown with nowhere to go,” Eli wrote last week. “PLEASE NOTE that she is trans which is why there is a rainbow flag in her profile. As we know VERY well all types of hate and prejudice exist within our community.”

In another Instagram post on Sunday, Eli said that Moussa had created a backup account after her first was removed, accusing her of “hate speech” and noting that her backup account had gained 75,000 followers in 14 hours, saying “there’s always an audience for hate.” 

“I’m posting this to show what happens what happens when you openly and loudly attack the queer community,” Eli wrote. “1. We get you shut down, AGAIN. And again and again and again.
2. You embolden people to act on whatever prejudice they already posses. Because of these tirades there are people that are being kicked out of their homes amidst the covid lock down. People being ATTACKED online and in person.”

Related: Arab nations more accepting of honor killings than homosexuality, study says

Then, including a screenshot of a veiled threat that one of his friends had received, Eli wrote: “Words have consequences. If you want Morocco to stay an Islamic country that doesn’t recognize homosexuality ok fine this is not a conversation about that — But when a public queer person calls gay people dirty disgusting faggots you put the life of queer young people in danger. And the global queer community won’t stand for that.”

For the men who were outed due to Moussa’s stunt, however, the removal of her account is trivial compared to the fear they now live with. Gay Moroccans have told various media outlets that they have heard stories of people being physically attacked, threatened, blackmailed, or even tortured by their own families after being outed.

One 19-year-old Moroccan man told Insider that his photos are circulating online, and he fears what will happen when his family discovers them. 

“I’m certain that I will be kicked out immediately,” he said. “Or worse, beaten up.” 

Another gay Moroccan, 20, says his pictures are also circulating around social media and the fear and anxiety of being outed has him living “in constant fright.”

A gay man from Casablanca, known as “Nassim,” told the British LGBTQ website PinkNews that he knows of at least 40 gay men who have been outed and kicked out of their homes in Casablanca alone. 

“If our parents know that we’re gay they will immediately kick us out, abuse us, or, if you’re very lucky and your parents have a little bit of humanity in them, they will keep you but your life will never be the same,” he said. “They will always see you as sick, and they’ll keep constantly trying to talk you into changing and maybe go to a therapist.”

He noted that the LGBTQ community had been “living in peace for a while” under a sort of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell-style arrangement where homosexuality was simply not mentioned, but that peace has been broken due to Moussa’s broadcast.

“She was ruined the lives of so many people just in the past four days,” Nassim said. “[B]ecause of Sofia now, there’s hundreds of Facebook groups run by Moroccans just to find gay people and expose them… Moroccans hate gays with all their hearts.”

Read more:

Gilead Sciences will give up to $20 million to LGBTQ nonprofit grantees affected by COVID-19

“Big Three” automakers back campaign to add LGBTQ protections to Michigan’s civil rights law

Lesbian judge sanctioned for rainbow flag in courtroom after lawyer compares it to swastika

Support Metro Weekly’s Journalism

These are challenging times for news organizations. And yet it’s crucial we stay active and provide vital resources and information to both our local readers and the world. So won’t you please take a moment and consider supporting Metro Weekly with a membership? For as little as $5 a month, you can help ensure Metro Weekly magazine and remain free, viable resources as we provide the best, most diverse, culturally-resonant LGBTQ coverage in both the D.C. region and around the world. Memberships come with exclusive perks and discounts, your own personal digital delivery of each week’s magazine (and an archive), access to our Member's Lounge when it launches this fall, and exclusive members-only items like Metro Weekly Membership Mugs and Tote Bags! Check out all our membership levels here and please join us today!