Haaz Sleiman explains what Pride means to him

(For LGBTQ Pride Month, Q Voice News features a series of interviews and first person essays under the theme What Pride Means to Me. This essay is from actor Haaz Sleiman. Q Voice News launched the series in 2019. Check out previous essays on What Pride Means to Me.)

I had a very lonely and isolated childhood in Lebanon. As a Muslim-Arab man, it was very difficult to conceive that I could come out.

But that was a delusion. There’s nothing more important than self-respect.

Put the oxygen mask on you first.

I learned that my fears should never dictate my life and my decisions. Once I understood that, it was easy to be unapologetically myself.

It took a lot of courage and maturity for me to overcome the obstacles I had to face growing up in Lebanon as a queer person. It’s why, in 1997 at the age of 21, I moved to the USA — to allow myself the freedom of expression and to finally live an authentic life.

However, when I moved to the States, I carried that same prison with me. It took a long time for me to actually come out. When I did, it was in a Facebook video in August 2017.

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My advice is don’t wait too long to embrace, love, and accept who you are. Because, it’s inevitable. Self love and respect are the foundation of living a fulfilling life and achieving true happiness.

Pride is having nothing to hide.

Shame is having every reason to hide. Shame is death. Shame is suicide.

Pride is the perfect antidote to shame. Pride obliterates shame.

Pride is the difference between life and death. Pride means self-love. To be proud of who you are authentically is self-love and self-respect.

Haaz Sleiman

Haaz Sleiman attends the premiere of “Eternals” in Los Angeles on Oct. 18, 2021. Photo: Haaz Sleiman

Each and every one of the queer youth of our world, please don’t allow bullies to dim your light through intimidation and harassment. You’re so precious. You’re not alone. Please don’t deprive our world of your beauty and all of the magnificent love each and every one of your pure souls hold.

You are powerful. You are important. You are worthy. You are so magical.

Keep shining your light as bright as the sun softly with our love songs. 

When I was in the closet, I was hiding who I am from the world. I was ashamed of who I am.

When I came out, I was no longer ashamed of myself. I no longer needed to hide.

Pride means it’s your time to be in the sun. Your time to shine your light and give your love to the world and to yourself.

Pride means I know my worth, and I know that I’m worthy of love. It means I deserve to thrive. I deserve to live a fulfilling authentic life.

No more hiding. No more diminishing myself. No more allowing others to diminish me.

Pride means I understand that humanity is not black and white. That what makes us rich and beautiful is how diverse we all are. All the beautiful different shades of the rainbow that represent the diversity of humanity is what makes us special.

About the author

Haaz Sleiman

Haaz Sleiman is a Lebanese actor. He is known for the role of Tarek in the 2007 film “The Visitor” and the role of Jesus in the 2015 National Geographic Channel mini-series “Killing Jesus,” in addition to a number of TV series, including Showtime’s “Nurse Jackie” with Edie Falco. Sleiman played Ben, the husband of Phastos (Brian Tyree Henry) in Marvel’s “Eternals,” and starred in the gay rom-com “Breaking Fast.”

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