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    The First Openly LGBTQ Individual from Qatar

    By Dr. Nasser Mohamed–

    My name is Nas Mohamed, MD. I am a primary care physician and an activist living in San Francisco. I have lived in San Francisco since 2015. This is my coming out story for the San Francisco Bay Times. There is a lot to capture,F so I decided to write small paragraphs describing where I was every few years of my life. 

    1992: I was born and raised in rural Qatar, a peninsula off Saudi Arabia. I had a very traditional upbringing. Qatar remains one of the countries where being an LGBT person is criminalized by the law. Therefore, I had absolutely no LGBT visibility around me. I had no access to the internet and we did not watch TV regularly at home. We only had access to local stations. I was 5 years old at the time. Our small neighborhood felt safe. Our doors were never locked. I was often out playing in the streets with other kids. 

    1997: We moved to another city in Qatar. My parents were doing a little better than they did when I was younger in many ways. Some of my older siblings had already married by this time, resulting in nieces and nephews. They are not much younger than I. I had 6 older siblings and I remember thinking to myself that I did not want to have a similar life. I thought I would try to do something about it academically, the one factor I had control over. 

    2005: This is the year I graduated from high school. A lot had happened in my life. The memories of me learning about my sexuality are somewhat blurry. I remember a collection of moments. I remember being a young teen (between 11–13 years old) looking at families around me and thinking to myself that I did not see myself in that structure. I thought that men and women just got together without biological drive. I thought it was something that we just “have to do.” We are typically encouraged to get married by our late teens and a lot of people start having children in their early 20s. I was focused on my studies at that time. I was avoiding thinking about it. I also started to hear from friends in school about what happened to some of us who were trying to be with men. This confused me at first and then started to scare me later. In 2005, my father and I were invited to meet the royal family in Qatar as I was one of the top 5 Qatari graduates from high school. I decided to go to medical school that year. 

    2010: I was a third-year medical student. I never faced or discussed my sexuality. I told my family that I could not get married while going through medical school. So that was an excuse that could carry me for many years. This year, my research article was selected for a presentation at a medical conference in Las Vegas. I traveled to Las Vegas and it was in that very sexually charged environment that I could not avoid seeing where I fit. I remember staring at a female dancer and being really confused by how other men were looking at her. I felt nothing. A man bumped into my shoulder and I felt everything. I went back to my hotel room and decided to go to my first gay bar to explore this further. I found one on the strip. I was so afraid to show my ID at the door. I was afraid my own government would know what I was doing. I walked in, looked around, let that sink in for a moment, and then went back to my hotel room and cried for the rest of the weekend. I was in a crisis. 

    2015: I finished my primary care residency and sports medicine fellowship. Now I was living “openly” as a gay person. I had allowed myself to date. I met some gay friends. I knew where I belonged and what I needed. My visa was set to expire in a few months, and I learned a lot more about what happens to LGBT Qataris. I walked into an immigration attorney’s office in a panic and told them what was going on. They recommended I seek asylum. I thought about it for a couple of months and then decided to do it. I was too afraid to go back home. I called my mother and came out to her. I remember starting the conversation by saying: “Mom, I am never coming back home again and I think you need to know why.” That conversation was difficult. It was emotionally charged. That was the beginning of the end of my relationship with my mother. I was cut off from my family. 

    2022: As of 2022, I have been practicing medicine in San Francisco for 7 years. I found passion and purpose in providing primary care to LGBT patients. I opened my private practice in 2019. I have also been helping other LGBT individuals seek asylum from different countries in different capacities. This year, my country is preparing to host one of the largest sporting events in the world: the FIFA soccer World Cup. I am following the debate about LGBT rights. It is getting more heated. Some of us are worried about being able to successfully seek asylum in other countries after this year. This year, Qatar is painting itself as a cosmopolitan country without talking about all the things that actually happen to us as LGBT Qataris. At some point, an official from Qatar told the British that “we do not have LGBT people in Qatar. This is a western thing.” 

    On the 18th of May, 2022, I came out on BBC News in both English and Arabic, becoming Qatar’s first publicly out LGBT person. I am sharing my story and will be sharing the stories I know, the stories of those of us who have to suffer in silence because we do not fit in the Qatari society. I have since spoken to many other countries and have started a petition demanding that FIFA take a position on human rights violations in Qatar, including LGBT rights, and say something to protect us at home. This year needs to be the year visibility is brought to us and our issues and not the year it gets sportswashed and buried further. 

    Dr. Nasser Mohamed is a primary care physician and the founder of Osra Medical, a San Francisco-based practice with an LGBT focus.

    Published on July 28, 2022