DENVER — The thought of holding another man’s hand in public was once a far-fetched dream for Luai Qubain, a man raised in the Middle East; but those days are behind him as he gives his husband a kiss while sitting on a bench in Cheesman Park.
Qubain’s fight to live an authentic life still haunts him. He detailed his past in his book, “The Kingdom's Sandcastle.”
Qubain grew up Catholic in Jordan and was the youngest of two kids. He recalls always having a feminine side.
He was in 7th grade when he realized he was attracted to his gym teacher.
“I started feeling feelings that I had never experience before,” Qubain said.
The feelings fueled his search for his true identity.
“I realized I was gay,” Qubain said.
But as man in the Middle East, the revelation was something he had to keep secret — even from his family — which he did for more than 16 years.
“Being gay there is not ‘just a sin.’ It’s a crime in a lot of countries in the Middle East. It’s punishable by death,” Qubain said.
Same-sex relationships are a crime in 68 countries, and while Jordan isn’t one of them, Qubain adds that the threat is evident among families.
“If it’s not legally punishable by death, your family would punish you by killing you,” Qubain said.
In May of 2020, an LGBTQIA civil rights group claimed a 20-year-old Iranian man was murdered by his family after discovering he was gay.
Qubain said he knew the dangers he would face if he came out as openly gay in his country. He said he experienced depression and, at one point, started hating himself for his identity and all of the obstacles he faced.
Qubain lost his mother when he was 18 years old; she was his support system growing up. He says he never told her he was gay but adds that she knew and accepted him for who he was.
Months after her death, he met another closeted gay man and they began a relationship, but it turned volatile. Qubain said, at one point, the man threatened to tell people he was gay.
“He ended up abusing me physically, emotionally, sexually, raping me even for almost 18 months,” Qubain said. “I knew that if I went to my family for help or to the authorities, I’m either going to get laughed at or I’m going to get killed and thrown in jail.”
In 2007, Qubain fled Jordan with $200 in his pocket and enrolled in college in Oklahoma.
“Escape is the only way that I would survive, the only way to find peace,” Qubain wrote in his book.
He said after living in the United States for seven years, he came out to his father.
“I haven’t talked to him ever since,” Qubain said.
After countless years of struggling with his identity, Qubain found the love of his life and got married in 2017.
“I’m married to a wonderful husband who supports me and loves me unconditionally,” Qubain said.
As he walks through his apartment, he says his life, at times, still feels so surreal.
“To this very day I struggle with depression, PTSD, anxiety, and it’s very difficult,” Qubain said.
This Pride month, he and his husband are excited to celebrate their freedom to be their true selves: two men in love.
“We are very fortunate to be living in the U.S. We are very lucky. Not a lot of people get to experience freedom, experience love, experience being married to the love of their life,” Qubain said.
By sharing his story, Qubain wants to call attention to Middle Eastern countries where people continue to hide their true identity because it puts their lives at risk. He says he’s not sure how he can create change but hopes his book sheds light on the dangers people face in other parts of the world. And for those living in fear, he wants to breathe hope of a brighter future.
“Life is worth living, love is out there, and you are going to find it," Qubain said. "Acceptance is out there, and you are going to find it.”