Bashar Makhay was tired of having to explain his faith, identity, and orientation to friends and potential partners, the gay, Catholic, Chaldean-Iraqi originally from Detroit tells the Associated Press.
That's why two years ago, Makhay created Tarab, a social group by and for LGBT Arab-Americans living in New York City. The group, which meets periodically for beach days, parties, and other social events, is one of a small number of organized forums where LGBT Arab-Americans can gather and share experiences, friendship, culture, and festivities.
"I was craving community because there was this idea that I could only be one identity at a time," Makhay told the AP.
Living in New York after September 11, 2001, Makhay said he felt isolated and unsafe, as anti-Arab sentiment roiled the nation in a false conflation of Arab identity with terrorism. "I was willing to give up parts of my identity to be in a safe space."
But Tarab aims to create a space where individuals can express all aspects of their identities with like-minded people who share some fundamental cultural characteristics. In advance of the group's second anniversary gathering on Saturday, AP reporter Salim Essaid interviewed several members of the group, who touched on faith, family, and the ferocity of its members.
Watch that report below, and read the AP's original story here.