Gay Muslims Pack a Dance Floor of Their Own

Jan-Peter Boening for The New York Times

The crowd at Gayhane, a monthly party for Arab and Turkish gay men, lesbians and bisexuals at SO36, a Berlin nightclub. The event’s name is fashioned from gay and “hane,” Turkish for home.

BERLIN — Six men whirled faster and faster in the center of the nightclub, arms slung over one another’s shoulders, performing a traditional circle dance popular in Turkey and the Middle East. Nothing unusual given the German capital’s large Muslim population.

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Jan-Peter Boening for The New York Times

Fatma Souad, a transgender performer and Gayhane’s organizer, before dressing for a Gayhane party last week.

But most of the people filling the dance floor on Saturday at the club SO36 in the Kreuzberg neighborhood were gay, lesbian or bisexual, and of Turkish or Arab background. They were there for the monthly club night known as Gayhane, an all-too-rare opportunity to merge their immigrant cultures and their sexual identities.

European Muslims, so often portrayed one-dimensionally as rioters, honor killers or terrorists, live diverse lives, most of them trying to get by and to have a good time. That is more difficult if one is both Muslim and gay.

“When you’re here, it’s as if you’re putting on a mask, leaving the everyday outside and just having fun,” said a 22-year-old Turkish man who spoke on the condition of anonymity out of fear that he would be ostracized or worse if his family found out about his sexual orientation.


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