June 4th, 2006

palestine

drag in palestine

Queen Hussein

by Liad Kantorowicz

The Palestinian gay and lesbian community has yet to leave the closet, but it's on its way. Today it's possible to go to parties of gays from the Occupied Territories and see young residents of the West Bank perform drag. They have not told their mother about this, but one day they intend to conquer the entire Palestinian Authority.

Recently, a young nineteen year old Palestinian resident of the West Bank performed drag for the first time in front on an Israeli public in a dance club in Tel Aviv. The public consisted of gays, straights, and freaks in costume. A minute before he went on stage, while a bearded guy wearing a blonde wig was performing Israeli folksinger Hava Alberstein's "Like a Wildflower," Hussein (a pseudonym) was reading verses from the Holy Qur'an. His overexcitement about his first contact with the Tel Aviv audience did not mar his act, which included performing a song of the diva Haifa Wehbe, considered one of the prettiest women in Lebanon. For an hour, some 800 people became excited when Mrs. Hussein-Haifa sashayed on stage all the while removing her high heel shoes and dancing. Several Palestinians present in the audience ran ahead to encourage him and even stood in line behind the curtains to shake the shaking hands of Hussein and thank him.

Hussein prays five times a day, but he also worships Britney Spears and popular stars in the Arab world, like the French singer Alizee and the Lebanese singer Nancy Ajram, whom he imitates in his drag performance. In the West Bank, he lives in the border zone between life in the closet and life outside the closet. Like several of his friends, he is considered one of the pioneers of the Palestinian gay-lesbian community, and not only because of his drag performances which he performs in private parties of the gay Palestinian community.

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