ARAB SPRING

Palestinian Queers Find The Party—And A Little Freedom—In Israel

In south Tel Aviv, hundreds of gays and lesbians gather to party, gossip and dance. But they’re not Israelis—they’re Palestinians, enjoying a temporary ceasefire at the monthly Palestinian Queer Party. First organized by the group alQaws nearly 20 years ago, the gatherings allow LGBT Palestinians to escape judgment from both Israelis and their own countrymen.

In some ways the nights aren’t all that different from gay clubs around the world—people flirting, drag queens reading, pop music blaring. It’s a safe space where the attendees can briefly forget their worries. But as the Times of Israel‘s Michal Shmulovich reports, safe space is a relative term:

One of the drag queens yelled at me to stop photographing — it could be dangerous for them if someone sees the pictures, I was told, because many of those at the party are still in the closet.In fact, a few people I met did not want to tell me their names or where they were from, or any detail that could link them to the fact that they were at the party. Hence, the names of people interviewed for this article have been changed to protect their identities, and the photos carefully selected.

The party is an anonymous safe haven. And that’s why it’s such a hit.

Despite the need for secrecy, a number of partygoers opened up to Shmulovich, speaking about their double identities, sneaking across the border and their plans for the future. Many expect they’ll marry women and just “step out” on the side.

Karim, the fourth roommate, an outgoing nursing student from Akko with excellent English, chimed in, saying that he intends to marry a woman as well.

He said he used to have girlfriends, and that maybe he’ll marry a girl who is also a lesbian so they can help each other. “I’m gay, but I don’t want a serious relationship with a man anyway!” he joked, making light of his single status.

“Plus, I like women,” added Karim. He’ll marry, he said, so long as he can have fun. Fun, in this case, being homosexual encounters. I asked him if he would sleep with a woman, and he said that he hadn’t yet, but that he would.

Photo: Habibi