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Guest Privileges : Queer Lives and Finding Home in the Middle East

Featured Speakers

Gaar Adams & Mohamed Tonsy

We are very excited to be hosting Gaar Adams for the launch of Guest Privileges, an intimate chronicle of the lives of queer residents and communities in the Gulf States that pushes back against stereotypes of what it means to make a life elsewhere.

“This place is history, too.”

About the book:

Upon moving to the Gulf States – where penalties for queer acts include deportation, imprisonment, torture, and death – Gaar Adams wanted to understand why LGBTQ+ migrants might choose to live amid such peril.

From the UAE to Bahrain and Oman to Saudi Arabia – a region where four of five residents are noncitizens – he begins riskily gathering interviews outside the tightly controlled state media, leading with what he thinks is a simple question:

Isn't it harder for you to make a life here?

But as unforgettable residents share a kaleidoscope of stories – from uproarious Filipino salon workers throwing secret drag parties to a courageous Pakistani farmhand helping his compatriots smuggle themselves across borders – cracks emerge in the framing of his inquiry, revealing disquieting assumptions about the motivations, places, and identities of others.

And as Gaar begins his own clandestine queer relationship, fault lines and deeper questions begin to emerge within himself: about what we perpetuate and refuse to examine, and how we balance opportunity, risk, subversion, and assimilation.

Weaving revealing memoir with unprecedented reportage, Guest Privileges is a decade-long journey of dislocation not just through the Gulf States – one of the most maligned and misunderstood regions in the world – but into the very nature of home, belonging, and how we form a life and community.

We need so much more time to talk about these things,” so join us for a night of discussion of what it means to belong with Gaar Adams who will be chaired by our very own Mohamed Tonsy!

About the author: Gaar Adams is an American writer whose work has been published in the Atlantic, Foreign Policy, Rolling Stone, Al Jazeera, Slate and VICE. He lives in Brixton and is an alumnus of both the Penguin Random House WriteNow and London Library Emerging Writer programmes. Guest Privileges is his first book.

About the chair: Mohamed Tonsy (he/هو) is a queer Egyptian writer and ceramicist. Formerly an architect and a triathlete representing the Egyptian Triathlon Federation, he completed a PhD in Creative Writing at the University of Edinburgh. His writing has appeared in Mizna, Epoch Press, won a Quarterly John Byrne Award and was Shortlisted for MFest’s 2021 Short Story Competition. His debut novel, You Must Believe in Spring was published in 2022 by Hajar Press.

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