Nurture Nature

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It’s 1984. I’m four years old. My hair is boy-short. I’m standing confidently with my elbows bent and my hands at my waist, feet apart. It’s summer and I’m at the beach. I’m wearing a bikini bottom and no top. I look tough, like I’m too cool to be smiling.

Maybe that’s a projection.

I love this photo with its brownish tint because it doesn’t feel posed.

My parents were pretty cool to let me dress the way I wanted to as a child, though I’m not sure they had much of a choice. I threw a tantrum every time they tried to put up my hair in a ponytail or
put me in a dress. There’s evidence of this in other childhood photos, where my hair is up, but a mess, my eyes bloodshot and my face just recovering from a desperate cry.

Our compromise was a pink suit with a pink bow tie, pink shoes, and pink panther suspenders. Oh, how I loved that suit, but the haircut was my true pride.

When I was four, my sister took me to the hairdresser, where I cried until my hair was cut to look like my brother’s. I got my wish, and I was so proud. My sister cried the entire walk home.

Two years later, my family moved to the United States. Now it’s 26 years later, and I live in Brooklyn, New York.

I can’t say much has changed since that photo. I mean, a lot has happened, but not much has changed.

What’s happened? The war, emigration, assimilation, my first relationship, my first love. I grew up in America, but I was Lebanese, as evidenced by my family, my mannerisms, my sense of humor, the labneh and zaatar rolled up pita sandwiches I brought to school. And when I came out in my early twenties, I had difficulty reconciling my two worlds, until I found Meem.

That’s all short-hand to get you to today, because now I’d say I’m more comfortable with myself than ever before. Well, probably since that photo. And if you saw me today, you’d see the same haircut as I had on that beach.

Turning 30 has brought me a kind of peace with the person I am in a way that I didn’t expect. I no longer feel shame with my sexuality, and I even sense a future in a way I never did before. My love and I are moving in together in a few weeks, and I’ve never lived with a significant other before. My brother has come around to acceptance, the first person in my family.

But my parents are struggling. We have no equivalent of the pink suit today. Instead there is hurt, sadness and hundreds of miles of emotional and physical distance.

I am sad about my parents’ rejection but I try to live my own full life despite it. I wish for a partner and a family and all the things they can’t bear to imagine. I am not scared to out myself, but I am scared to out my parents, knowing the shame they feel about me.

For me, part of living life fully is allowing myself to be creative without limit and judgment. I work as a journalist. I love what I do, but my work rarely allows me to explore my complete creative self. Recently, that changed. I shot a music video of my friends’ band, OmegaJarden. My friends are a queer couple who live in the apartment next door. I know this seems like a jump in the story, but stick with me a little here. By directing, shooting, and editing a queer music video, I was able to throw myself into the queer world and the creative world and express myself in a way I’ve never done before.

You can see the video I directed here:

At the end you’ll see that I don’t give my real name in the credits, just as I don’t give my name here. Instead, I use my new artistic name, which gives me the privacy to explore my queer creativity without the concern of outing my parents.

Maybe you’ll think it’s a cop-out. For me, it’s freedom. But one day, I hope to feel as free using my real name as I feel as a Beirut Boy.

- contributed by Beirut Boy

Guest Contributor

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