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May 30, 2018

The Gays of Arabia Illustrated in 'artqueerhabibi'

This Instagram account illustrates queer love and diverse gender expression in the Arab world.

by Ayunda Nurvitasari

When we think about the Arab world, “queer” is not likely the first word that comes to mind. That’s because there’s hardly any fair representation of the LGBT people of the Middle Eastern origin in the mainstream media.
Enter artqueerhabibi, an Instagram account that showcases diverse gender expressions and representations of queer love in the Arab world. The solemn yet vibrant illustrations, many of them animated, mostly depict romantic couples in various relaxing setting in a Middle Eastern city — from Damascus, Amman, Dubai, Riyadh, to Beirut.
In an interview with Pink News, the queer illustrator, who requested to remain anonymous for safety reasons, said he wanted to prove that queer people do exist in Arabic countries.
“I want to show the world that you can live in Arabian countries and be queer at the same time and there is nothing wrong with it [...] because at the end, love is a feeling which stands above every other in the world and experiencing it is just a miracle,” he said.
The illustrator said through his arts he aimed to “inform and educate people” about the genuine lives of LGBTIQ+ community in Arabia.

One of the animated illustrations, for instance, shows an animation of a man putting on red lipstick, a woman who draws a mustache on her face, and a caption that reads: NO GENDER, NO PROBLEM.
Another one shows two women in black veil, driving a car with “love wins” sticker. The caption says, “This art is dedicated to the ones who are already on the way to their love❣.️”
The couples in various romantic poses in the drawing mostly take place in private spaces, such as a car or a bedroom, but there are also drawings that captured diverse gender expressions with the setting of the nightlife in Beirut.
In another interview with StepFeed, the illustrator talked about how Beirut is “one of the most ‘open’ and welcoming cities in terms of LGBTIQ+ lifestyle”, although Lebanon has a regulation that criminalizes sexual relations they deem “contradicting the law of nature.”
Check out artqueerhabibi’s Instagram channel, here!
*Illustration by artqueerhabibi
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Ayunda is interested in the intersection of pop culture, media, and gender issues. She earned her master's degree at Cultural Studies department, University of Indonesia. She is into Lana Del Rey, speculative fiction, and BoJack Horseman. Her own social media sites, however, are quite uneventful, but feel free to say hi: facebooktwitter.