Where am I from? I’ve always struggled with this question of identity. I was born as a Palestinian refugee in Lebanon. For complicated political reasons that I won’t go into, I am not Lebanese and never will be. Nor have I ever visited Palestine. Today, at the age of 28, I have finally managed to acquire Belgian nationality – for the first time I am a citizen. So, am I Palestinian, Lebanese or Belgian? I feel like I am all of them and none at the same time. Belonging nowhere makes it easier for me to adapt to everywhere.
Growing up, my parents, who have lived through the Lebanese Civil War, never told my sister and me that we were Palestinians. We discovered it ourselves in ways that left us with open scars. My parents never talked about this subject and for 30 years they somehow avoided talking in any detail about where we come from or the family’s history. As children and teenagers, we weren’t allowed to mention it to other people. I believe the atrocities my parents had seen made them afraid for us. So, ever since I was a kid, I grew up as an outsider to society and to myself, with a double life I had to keep under control.
Then came the time where I realized I was gay. I come from a conservative family, was raised in a Catholic school and was very much involved in its religious movements. Luckily for me, I was already the curious person I remain to this day. I managed to grow out of my social and religious origins. Once again, I was growing up as an outsider, this time for my sexuality and not my background. And once again, I had to build a double life, like most young homosexuals do before they come out.
The first time I completely felt safe being myself, both as a Palestinian and as a gay man, was in my second year of Art School. Until this moment, I had constantly been living a lie. I had to confront myself and those around me with these two traumatizing secrets. The friends I made in these times, the ones who made me feel ok with being myself, became my family. Nowadays, ten years later, even though we all live in different countries, we still are as close. I sincerely believe we will be until we’re old.
A few years later, coming to Brussels also helped me to fully become and accept myself as both gay and Palestinian. Although, to say « fully » is once again a lie. Because my parents still don’t know I am gay, a fact which has created a gap that only grows wider with the passing years. This being said, I talk with my mother weekly. But I consciously manage to avoid all questions that could in any way lead to her discovering the truth. She doesn’t know with whom I live, what I do in my free time, etc. I can’t even tell her about my work, my scripts or my films, which mostly deal with bodies and sexuality.
Nowadays, I feel very tired of constantly having to hide the truth or lie to my relatives. I am not afraid of who I am, but I feel they don’t have the background to understand, nor accept. So why to go through it? I say to myself that I live in another country and that it doesn’t really matter. I am afraid that this double life which I was trained to live since I was a child will never leave me. And that even though I think I am free, I will never be until I come out to my parents, or until they die…