Haaz Sleiman stars in “The Son” as Rafiq, who is forced to flee his home in Syrian village of Qardha after his father catches him kissing another man. Initially, Rafiq goes to Damascus, where he meets another gay man, who encourages him to seek asylum in the West.
Sleiman, an openly gay Arab who moved to America from Lebanon as a young person, tells Salon:
“My father never knew how to express his emotions because of his upbringing — because men never show their emotional/feminine side. I believe we all have masculine/feminine sides, and the proportions differ for all of us. But you have to nurture them — and we don’t nurture them. Even men staying at home is looked down upon in America, where there is gay marriage and women’s rights. We don’t have equal pay yet, but women are more respected. This is ingrained, and centuries in the making. It’s a slow process, and being aware of that made me see the truth of it all and not believe the lies and noise you have growing up in the Arab or Western world. It’s not gay/straight, but masculine/feminine. Gay men have strong feminine energy and that’s my favorite thing about being gay. But you don’t have to be gay to have that.
In the queer community a lot of gay men don’t want to be associated with effeminate men. People are embarrassed. But it is shocking that gay guys are offended by guys who appear very effeminate. I lived in Lebanon in the 1980s and I thought effeminate guys were interesting.”
“I felt so isolated and lonely,” he recalls, “and I felt I couldn’t share who I am with anyone. I felt I was not seen, that I didn’t matter, that something was wrong with me. But no matter how much I tried to change, you cannot fight nature, and I kept losing to what’s natural.”