Middle Eastern gays in Michigan emerging from ‘out of the shadows’

Jason A. Michael
By | 2018-01-16T12:29:36-04:00 October 31st, 2017|Uncategorized|

FERNDALE – The event was called Arabian Nights, and it took place Friday night at Club Q in Ferndale. It was the sixth such event -a gay club night for Arab-Americans and their friends – that has been put since September 2003, when a group of gay Arabs began meeting.
“We came home one day after AIDS Walk Detroit and we just said that we needed to form a gay Arab group,” recalled Chris Ayoub, one of the co-founders of AL-GAMEA.
An acronym for GLBT Association of Middle Eastern Americans, the group officially formed about a year ago.
“We said Middle Eastern and not Arab because we want to include everyone, the Muslims, Christians, everyone,” said Ayoub.
Indeed, an eclectic mix of about 200 people made their way to Club Q for the latest gathering. There were whites, blacks and Latinos, but the majority of the crowd was, in fact, of Middle Eastern descent. They danced to Arabic music, ate from a buffet of Middle Eastern foods and watched a performance number by what may very well be have been Michigan’s first Arab-American female impersonator.
But not even that female impersonator, who goes by the name of Nina, would consent to taking a photograph for Between The Lines. None of the Arab-Americans approached agreed to pose, except for Ayoub, and even the information he could share with the paper was limited. The name of the restaurant, for example, who donated the buffet and the baklava was held in the strictest of confidence per their agreement with AL-GAMEA.
“It’s a community that’s just beginning to stick its head out of the shadows,” said Ferndale Mayor Pro Tem Craig Covey, who is also the CEO of the Midwest AIDS Prevention Project, who puts on the events in collaboration with AL-GAMEA.
When MAPP polled Arab-Americans as to where they’d be interested in attending events, the city of Ferndale was atop of their list.
“They all said Ferndale because they don’t want to meet in the cities they live,” Covey said. “They consider Ferndale safe for gays and they consider it safe for Arabs.”
Ayoub agreed that there was still much work to be done in this community, but he’s happy with the progress that AL-GAMEA has made already.
“There are people here tonight for whom it’s their first time ever at a gay bar,” he said.

About the Author:

Jason A. Michael
Jason A. Michael earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Wayne State University before joining Between The Lines as a contributing writer in 1999. Jason has received both the Spirit of Detroit Award (presented by the Detroit City Council) and the Media Award from the Community Pride Banquet & Awards Ceremony for his writing and activism. Jason is also an Essence magazine bestselling author having written the authorized biography "Strength Of A Woman: The Phyllis Hyman Story," which he released on his own JAM Books imprint.