Beirut, Internet-Dating and (Online) Queer World-Making
Annual Conference of the American Anthropology Association
This paper explores the participation of men desiring men in Beirut, Lebanon in the gay-male only dating website GayRomeo.com. Methodologically, the project uses a text-based analysis within the online forum, drawing on user profiles. Theoretically, I approach this participation as part of a process of queer world-making and the construction of queer subjectivities via the intermingling of mediating and mediating categories, images, and words. The queer self becomes fragmented and re-configured according to a series profile categories of character traits, interests, and demographic information, as well as the self-descriptions included in the profile’s free space. Further, these categories, while limiting a user’s self-description, can functionally provide opportunities for producing new subjectivities and queer imaginations of potentiality via the indeterminate configuration of identity categories within user search results, according to which users interact. I explore user participation as argue that the website, as a mediating forum and cultural artefact, facilitates various constructions of queerness in Beirut, mobilizing categories of ethnicity and national origin, gender, and (homo)sexuality. While the website is transnational in scope, participants remain territorialized subjects desiring offline interactions for sex, friendship, love, or romance. As such, queer desires are dispersed into a number of realms of queerness within user profiles, raising important questions about issues of ethnicity, nation, gender, and sexuality that are imbricate in the production of queerness in Beirut. This online queer world is a hierarchically structured space that generates forms of queerness based largely on normative masculinity and sexuality.