Queering the borders

Doctoral candidate Suad Jabr is listening to the stories of LGBTQIA+ refugees.

Suad Jabr leaning against building outdoors
Suad Jabr is a doctoral student in the geography department studying the media's portrayal of LGBTQIA+ refugees fleeing the Middle East. (Andrew Russell/Endeavors)

Suad Jabr is my ideal interview. They’re passionate and discuss topics beyond my initial question. They talk fast, and I try to keep up, writing more questions inspired by their insight.

Jabr is a doctoral candidate in Carolina’s geography department. In Fall 2021, they defended their thesis on the identity of Middle Eastern refugees in the LGBTQIA+ community and how that identity is expressed in legal proceedings, media coverage and memoirs. The topic makes it easy for me to practice a skill I’m developing: making an interview conversational rather than a stiff Q&A. A typical member of the media, obsessed with my own industry, I’m more than ready to discuss how journalism pigeonholes people into strict categories, even in glowing profiles.

When analyzing profiles in international publications about LGBTQIA+ refugees, Jabr finds the media has one narrative for these subjects: They couldn’t freely express their sexual or gender identity in the Middle East, and the West allowed them to express themselves as they really are. This oversimplifies the queer experience in the Middle East and glorifies the West, which still struggles with cultural and political acceptance of the LGBTQIA+ community.

Learn more about Jabr’s research.