Queer exceptionalism and exclusion: Cosmopolitanism and inequalities in ‘Gay-friendly’ Beirut

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This article examines how LGBTQ individuals in Beirut articulate discourses of progress, modernity, and exceptionalism in light of the regional geopolitical situation. While transnational discourses portray Beirut as an open and cosmopolitan city in the Arab World, the study focuses on how LGBTQ individuals engage with and negotiate these discourses in their everyday lives. The author examines the gap between discourses of Beiruti openness and exceptionalism, and the realities of exclusion experienced by LGBTQ individuals in Beirut. Focusing on unequal access to space, the author asks, for whom is Beirut cosmopolitan and gay-friendly? Drawing on ethnographic observations and 20 life-history interviews with LGBTQ individuals in Beirut, the author finds that LGBTQ individuals in Beirut create relational understandings of modernity and cosmopolitanism that situate Beirut in relation to other Arab cities, rather than just Euro-American cities. In addition, gender normativity and class shape LGBTQ individuals’ access to several types of spaces. Finally, it is suggested that scholars must be attentive to celebratory discourses of exceptionalism and cosmopolitanism of places, and conceptualize them as relational and contextual designations which obscure inequalities that characterize those places.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)174-190
Number of pages17
JournalSociological Review
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2018


  • Cosmopolitanism
  • Exceptionalism
  • Gender/class/sexuality
  • Global and transnational sociology
  • Inequalities
  • Queer theory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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