Refugees Don’t Drink Wine, But Gay Men Should: Exploring the Intersections of Refugeehood, Sexuality and Nationality among Gay Syrian Refugees in Lebanon

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This article is relevant for humanitarian and development practitioners, especially those involved in academia, around intersectional identities and constructs.

This master’s thesis explores the intersections between nationhood, sexual orientation, gender, refugee status and location through the case study of five self-identified gay Syrian men living as refugees or otherwise displaced persons in Beirut, Lebanon. The author seeks to answer how gay Syrian refugees in Lebanon interact with various forms and regimes of power; the intersections of refugeehood, sexuality and nationality at determinants of positionality; and the ways in which these intersections play into regimes of oppression and resistance.

The author outlines his research purpose (to shed light into what it means to be gay, Syrian and a refugee in Lebanon), provides an overview of the socio-historical context of the perceptions and receptions of Syrians and refugees in Lebanon, paying specific attention to the knowledge (or lack there of) of experiences and circumstances of diverse SOGI refugees, an explanation of his methodology, and, finally, presentation of findings.

Profiles of each of the five participants are presented along with brief lifestories as well as the details of their refugee status: some participants are not registered as refugees but living as temporarily displaced persons. Their motivations are explored (seeking employment, the impacts of the war, avoiding military service and moving away from a homophobic and dangerous environment to a more permissive one) and their hopes and perceptions of the future are detailed.

The difficulty of being non-heterosexual and Syrian in Lebanon–including the challenges in UN labels–is the central focus of this paper. The thesis concludes with statements on the ‘advancement of generalised homonationalist projects,; the need for wider discussion on the ways in which global understandings of sexuality affect Middle Eastern mobilities, and how the UNHCR acts as a global mediator to strengthen sovereign borders.

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"To speak of gay Syrian refugees requires us to question categorical conceptualisations of sexuality, nationality, and refugeehood as social constructs."

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This master’s thesis explores the intersections between nationhood, sexual orientation, gender, refugee status and location through the case study of five self-identified gay Syrian men living as refugees or otherwise displaced persons in Beirut, Lebanon. The author seeks to answer how gay Syrian refugees in Lebanon interact with various forms and regimes of power; the intersections of refugeehood, sexuality and nationality at determinants of positionality; and the ways in which these intersections play into regimes of oppression and resistance.

The author outlines his research purpose (to shed light into what it means to be gay, Syrian and a refugee in Lebanon), provides an overview of the socio-historical context of the perceptions and receptions of Syrians and refugees in Lebanon, paying specific attention to the knowledge (or lack there of) of experiences and circumstances of diverse SOGI refugees, an explanation of his methodology, and, finally, presentation of findings.

Profiles of each of the five participants are presented along with brief lifestories as well as the details of their refugee status: some participants are not registered as refugees but living as temporarily displaced persons. Their motivations are explored (seeking employment, the impacts of the war, avoiding military service and moving away from a homophobic and dangerous environment to a more permissive one) and their hopes and perceptions of the future are detailed.

The difficulty of being non-heterosexual and Syrian in Lebanon–including the challenges in UN labels–is the central focus of this paper. The thesis concludes with statements on the ‘advancement of generalised homonationalist projects,; the need for wider discussion on the ways in which global understandings of sexuality affect Middle Eastern mobilities, and how the UNHCR acts as a global mediator to strengthen sovereign borders.