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Trailblazing actor Haaz Sleiman reveals ‘debilitating and crippling fear’ over growing up gay and Arab

Patrick Kelleher January 15, 2020
Haaz Sleiman

Haaz Sleiman (Christopher Polk/Getty)

Lebanese-American actor Haaz Sleiman has opened up about his experience of growing up gay and Arab, saying the fear was “debilitating and crippling”.

Sleiman is set to star in upcoming Apple TV+ anthology series Little America, which tells stories of immigrant experiences. He will appear in an episode called “The Son” as a gay man from Syria who is forced to flee his family.

The actor told Salon that he was perfect for the part because of his own upbringing.

“I have similar experiences, where I had to hide and not share [my true self] with my mother and siblings, and even my best friend from age six, who was actually gay,” Sleiman said.

Haaz Sleiman grew up with ‘debilitating and crippling fear’ of being abandoned by his family.

“Later in our 30s, he and I talked, and it was: Look at all these years we wasted!

He continued: “The fear is debilitating and its crippling; you think you will be abandoned by your family and your world will fall apart, and it did.”

Elsewhere in the interview, Sleiman spoke about the impact of “tradition, culture and religion” for gay Arabs.

“It’s the patriarchal aspect,” he said.

The fear is debilitating and its crippling; you think you will be abandoned by your family and your world will fall apart, and it did.

“It’s how much of a man you are. If you have any feminine qualities, the feminine has to be suppressed; to cry is to show weakness. That’s the bigger umbrella that tradition, culture and religion fall under.”

He revealed that his father “emotionally” set him on fire, but loved him over time. He also said his siblings used to mock him and he worried how his brother would react when he found out he was gay.

Actor came out as gay in 2017.

Sleiman came out as gay in 2017 eight years after he first denied his sexuality in an interview.

He came out in a video posted to Facebook where he explained that he was inspired to make his declaration after realising the homicide rates of LGBT+ people.

“A new study finds that more LGBTQ people living in the United States have been murdered so far this year than in 2016.

“So this video is my response to this study.

“I am a gay, Muslim, Arab-American man,” he said.

The star finished the coming out video with a powerful message to homophobes across the world.

“If you ever come to me to kill me just because I’m gay, I will destroy you.”

“I might be gay and I might be a nice guy but don’t get it twisted because I will f**k you up,” he said.

More: apple tv+, coming out, Haaz Sleiman, Little America

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