A 24-year-old gay Syrian is hoping to debunk misconceptions about not only queer people from his country, but also generalizations about Syria as a whole. A group of men brought a message of hope to gay and trans people in a country at war with extremism by throwing a Mr Gay competition. Twenty-four-year-old Hussein Sabat was crowned the winner, and is using his new platform to champion gay rights as well as stand in defiance against the Islamic State who has been widely recorded putting gay men to death (one of them being his boyfriend).
“Everyone is scared of ISIS but it doesn’t stop me from living my life. I won’t let them be a barrier and I hate them more than I’m scared,” he told the Daily Mail. “I want to show that Syrian gays are not just bodies thrown off buildings by ISIS; we have dreams and ideas and we want to live our lives,” he told the MailOnline. “Of course we were nervous but we we’re excited – we all wanted to be Mr Gay Syria to do something empowering.”