Book Translation: "Gay" Equals "Pervert"

By Julie Bolcer from the
Gay travel journalist Michael Luongo (pictured) received a mixed surprise last week when he learned that the Arabic translation of his 2007 book Gay Travels in the Muslim World was completed ahead of schedule -- with the word “gay” translated as “pervert.”

“It literally means 'different,'” Luongo told about the word that Beirut-based publisher Arab Diffusion chose to use. “But it can also mean 'pervert.' It depends on whom you talk to.”

Luongo said the translation, which was reported in the New York Post’s Page Six on Sunday, could interfere with his plans to promote the book in the Middle East in October.

“All of the gay rights organizations in the Middle East that I was planning to do events with, once they saw the word, were horrified,” said Luongo. A more modern Arabic word for gay meaning “homosexual” or “same-sex” exists, but publisher Arab Diffusion deferred to their usual practice.

“The publisher said this is the word they’ve traditionally used,” said Luongo.

Luongo added that he did not vet the translation before its publication, largely because the project was finished earlier than he expected. In addition, the representative from his English-language publisher Routledge, who negotiated the translation, left her job in the meantime, and Luongo was living overseas in Argentina.

He said that he asked Arab Diffusion to fix the problem, but the fate of so-called Pervert Travels in the Middle East remains unclear.

”It’s already in print and they’re starting to distribute it, but I don’t know what’s going to happen,” said Luongo.
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