In the Arab World, Geography Matters
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Published in: May-June 2023 issue.


An Anthology by LGBTQ+ Arab Writers
Edited by Elias Jahshan
Saqi Books. 288 pages, $19.95



Elias Jahshan’s mission in This Arab Is Queer is clear: he seeks to provide a platform for LGBT Arabs to speak for themselves. Asserting that Western coverage of queer Arab lives often focuses on sensationalist news stories that “rarely engage with Arab voices directly,” he has collected narratives from eighteen Arab writers from eleven countries and the diaspora to present a fuller, more accurate depiction of queer Arab life.

            Jahshan gave the contributors free rein, encouraging them to share any subject matter of their choosing. Many writers studiously avoided “the trauma narrative” that has marked much Western understanding of queer life in the Arab world, which is based on the assumption that LGBT Arabs’ lives are relentlessly oppressed and driven to secrecy. These ideas are confronted directly in several essays, including Lebanese-Australian writer Tania Safi’s “Dating White People,” in which, after describing several problematic relationships with white women, she explains: “I wasn’t aware of the concept of racialized fetishization, but I knew how it felt.” A similar theme is struck in Emirati writer Saeed Kayyani’s “Trophy Hunters, White Saviors and Grindr,” which recounts a number of disturbing incidents with Western men and women, including a male lover’s declaration that Kayyani should thank the lover for having sex with him: “You know for a fact that you’d get killed in your country for this shit. I’m doing you a favor, man.”

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Anne Charles cohosts the cable-access show All Things LGBTQ with her partner in Vermont.


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