A national LGBTQI+ storytelling project curated by Maeve Marsden
featuring a book, event series and an award-winning podcast

A national LGBTQI+ storytelling project curated by Maeve Marsden
featuring a book, event series and award-winning podcast

332 Patrick Abboud – Safe House

After a wild night of partying among fellow closeted friends, Patrick nearly loses the safety he has carefully created for himself.

Patrick Abboud is an award winning journalist, documentary director and TV host. He is ambassador for Twenty10 and Wear it Purple advocating for LGBTQIA+ young people. Pat speaks Arabic and German and is Daddy to a two-year-old. He performed this story at Riverside Theatres for Sydney World Pride.


Maeve: Hi, I’m Maeve Marsden and you’re listening to Queerstories. This week, Patrick Abboud is an award winning journalist, documentary director and TV host. He is ambassador for Twenty10 and Wear it Purple advocating for LGBTQIA+ young people. Pat speaks Arabic and German and is Daddy to a two-year-old. He performed this story at Riverside Theatres for Sydney World Pride.

Patrick: I just realised sitting back with the other storytellers that I printed my story on the smallest font you could possibly imagine. And when I get nervous and I’m always nervous on stage I tend to lose sight. So let’s hope I don’t fuck it up!

This is a story that I call Safe House.


*Knocking on the door*

[woman’s voice in Arabic language] “Patrick…..bek shi…” 

Pat translates live: Patrick….is something wrong ? 

….”Patrick…weynak…Nehnah hon al beb…” 

Pat translates live: Patrick where are you….we are at your front door

*Knocking on the door*

It’s 5.59am and the sun’s just come up. That’s the voice of my then very conservative Arab Mum with my very strict Arab Dad standing beside her – they show up completely unexpectedly at the door of my house in Marrickville that I shared with an extended family member who’s still not out…so I can’t name her but let’s call her AMRA.

It’s the morning after we’ve just thrown the most debaucherous high camp party we’d ever known. 

There’s groggy gays, drunk dykes, and tanked trans friends splayed all over the kitchen floor, the lounge room – everywhere – they’re out cold. 

Littered with bodies…the house looks kinda deathly – like a scene at the end of a violent video game. And the scenario that’s about to unfold…is life or death….well at least that’s what it felt like at the time 


*Knocking on the door*

“Ya alla shoo am bi sirrr…. Edesh ela amen deh oh mah embed red…” 

Pat translates live: OH MY GOD What is going on we’ve been knocking on the door for so long now and he’s not answering the door ….?

“Ella fi shi…sayir shi akid ya alla inshallah mahada kon feyit al beyt oh etloo ya rabi dakilach…la…ah..” 

Pat translates live: Something terrible has happened I know it ….oh my god…what if someone broke in and murdered him…god forbid…lord have mercy…oh no…

*Knocking on the door*

“Ha alaina mah ken lesim en khali yeji yahoo bil city…” 

Pat translates live: It’s all our fault – we should never have let him move in the city

“Yar jen ya ami….lash mah ambi red….we need to call the police….sho sarloo lal sabi….” 

Pat translates live: I’m going to go crazy….why isn’t he answering…. Let call the police….what has happened to my son….Patrick….what’s wrong…. 


The year is early 2000 and something. I’m just 21, a baby journo living in western Sydney, not out to anyone – except AMRA and my ex-girlfriend (I think she’s in the audience tonight ..but that’s a story for another time). 

I’d just started working in the media. I wanted to move out of home…into the city…closer to my secret queer friends. But in some circles of our Arab culture – moving out before marriage is still taboo. 

There’s this old adage that you only ever really leave the family home in a wedding dress or tuxedo – or in a coffin – if you die before you get married – morbid I know – but still true for many. 

At first my parents said…‘.The city’ is where problem children go, children that have no values, children that end up on drugs or die from AIDS. You cannot go and live in ‘THE CITY’. Many weeks after my campaign to move out began, AMRA announces she’s bought a house – and it’s not next door to her parents (you see my brother had just bought a house four doors down from my folks for his wife and 5 kids – that’s what my parents hoped for me one day too). Much to everyone’s shock – AMRA had bought a house ‘IN THE CITY’. You see Amra is a widow (that too is a story for another time). 

Buying a new house of her own was seen as something that’d help her move forward so it wasn’t frowned upon so much. 

I’m the only person who knew that although AMRA was widowed after being with a man – years later she’d grown close to a woman – who’s she’s still in a relationship with today. Anyway, AMRA’s new house needed extensive renovation. My folks adore her, they’d move mountains for her, after her great loss they wanted to help and protect her however she needed. So Amra and I colluded – spinning a story that she needed my help renovating the house and because my new job in the media was ‘ IN THE CITY’ and very close to her home it made sense that I would go and live with her. It’d make her feel SAFE having a ‘man’ in the house. Little did they know her butch dyke girlfriend is more masc than I’ll ever be. But BOOM there it was – the magic word…’SAFE’. In my parents mind…women should never live alone and ironically all they ever wanted for AMRA and I was to feel safe and to be looked after. So permission granted to move out – well sort of – I would sleep at Amra’s house a few nights a week but I still had to go home for a couple of nights. It wasn’t ‘MOVING OUT’. They’d tell the community I was doing a good deed helping AMRA, so there’d be no shame or shade thrown on my parents for letting me leave the house before marriage. What they didn’t know…is that AMRA’s city house would quickly became a refuge for many other closet gay wogs….Lebanese, Greek, Italian, Iraqi, Christian, Muslim, Maronite – a real mixed bag of queerbo’s that found solace in our chosen family because we couldn’t be out to our own. AMRA became our femme lesbian matriarch. The home she created was the only truly welcoming place we knew. Although we were all carrying the huge burden of lying to our families all the time, the dreamy days and uninhibited nights spent there were some of the most formative of my gay life…..a freedom… I and many of my new friends only knew in the confines of the four walls of Amra’s house. We laughed, we danced, we fucked, we cried, we shed the pain that comes from living a double life…being stuck between two complex worlds. And then just months into this homo haven we’d all found….came… 

that knock at the door… 


It was 5.59am…remember…it was the night after one of our biggest….messiest…. gorgeous…gay extravaganza house parties. 

My parents were banging on the door for at least 10 mins before it woke me. 

Thankfully all 25 closet queer wogs scattered across the floor…. still high, still reeling from that glorious night…were all too rooted to move or get up. 

But AMRA and I….are now wide awake because we hear my mothers voice get louder and louder… I start to see what’s about to happen…and the doom sets in…
We’d all be OUTED – this place would sink – our lives would be ruined.
And I just couldn’t let that happen. 

Through frosted glass paneling on the top half of the front door my parents can see waist up down a long corridor that runs the length of the bedrooms and the lounge room….the kitchen is tucked away at the back of the house. 

If someone’s stands in the corridor or walks out of either bedroom – you’ll see their shadow right away. Amra is in her bedroom (right by the front door) with her Lebanese Muslim girlfriend. I’m in the bedroom next door with my Catholic Italian boyfriend. AMRA and I don’t have our phones – they’re dead – sitting somewhere on the kitchen table beneath sticky bags of all kinds of substances and empty bottles of tequila. Neither of us can leave our rooms because if we do, my parents will see us and we’ll have to open the front door. How would we explain the girl on girl, boy on boy coupling asleep all over each other in every fucking room. How would we even wake everyone up to get them out in time… The knocking on the door doesn’t stop but my mothers shouting out finally has. I hear her on the phone trying to call the police… They’ve now been out there for 15 mins or so….All that’s in my head is….FUCKKKKKKKK!!! AMRA laid on the floor in her room and I layed on the floor in mine – we both opened the door just enough to whisper to one another….what the fuck do we do….!!! AMRA’s tears started, and the sound of my closet boyfriend’s teeth chattering was unnerving. I had to do something so I gently pulled my bedroom door open more… just enough to sneak my slinky laid upon the floor body through I was twink skinny back then

I slithered like a snake on my gut down the hallway waking the bodies in the lounge room…[with an aggressive whisper]…. WAKE THE FUCK UP WE’RE GOING TO GET BUSTED AND WE NEED TO GET YOU OUT OF HERE RIGHT NOW…MY PARENTS ARE THE FRONT DOOR AND THEY ARE CALLING THE COPS. THEY THINK I’M IN HERE DEAD! 

You see – what my parents didn’t know is there’s a laneway at the back of the house… 


Meanwhile, my boyfriend had been frantically texting everyone we knew who wasn’t there and owned a car telling them to get to the back laneway as quickly as they could…his phone had 4% battery left – just enough juice to get enough responses back that assured us everyone would be able to jump in a car and make a quick get away… 

Amra and her girlfriend slither down the hallway and push everyone through the back door like cattle being herded…many had no clothes on, a bra or undies at most…there was no time to get dressed. They jump the fence…some pile into two cars that made it to the rescue mission…others just ran up the laneway as quick as they could. I looked around at the mess in the kitchen, grabbed a big black garbage bag and scooped up what I could…and threw it in a cupboard. 

Just when I thought we might get out of this OK…I hear my Dad saying to my Mum… “there must be a back laneway….all these CITY houses have back laneways…” FUCKKKKKKKKKKK!!!!!
Dad sets off to the laneway. I jump in the shower and soak myself silly…. then I bolt to the front door and open up to my mother screaming saying… 

“OMG you’re alive…I just called the police… I thought you were dead in here…” 

Apologising profusely to Mum, I said I had music on in the shower and didn’t hear the knocking until just now… that I’d woken up early to clean the house as we’d had some of AMRA’s work colleagues over the night before…. that would explain the mess I’d hoped. 

While mum rings the cops back to cancel the emergency call….my Dad comes back through the front door telling me I should be careful because it seemed like some dodgy business was going down in the back lane just up from our house…with half naked people piling into cars…. 

And at this point…I laughed so hard saying…” yeah that sounds like something that’d happen around here….’it’s the city’ Dad…you know weird shit happens here… 

We all laughed together….and My Mum says…’oh thanks god you’re ok and you are not hanging around with people like that… now why is the house such a mess….in arabic….JEBLI EL MAKENSI…give me a broom… I will clean up….’ 

LOL that really was the icing on the cake…having Mum clean up after what went on the night before was a godsend…the place was grose. 

So I put a raqui on the stove (that’s a pot of arabic coffee), my Mum swept and mopped and dusted and dried the dishes …while my Dad fixed some broken electricals in the lounge room and changed some blown light bulbs…. 

AMRA walks in the front door in active wear saying oh what a beautiful morning… I’ve been out running in the park…such a great workout…what a great surprise to see you here Tant…Amo (Aunty and Uncle)…I love a sobhiye (that’s Arabic for early morning surprise visit)… 

Shall we make some breakfast ? she says…. 

We all sit down at the now Mr Sheen clean kitchen table and my Mum asks AMRA about how she’s feeling in the house. AMRA replies – it’s the SAFEST I’ve ever felt in my life… Actually I’m thinking about getting a sign out front…you know those ones they put on these old city houses… I want it to say… ‘SAFE HOUSE’. Thank you. 

Just a little post script that I want to say, it’s really important for me to share this. My Mum and Dad have come a long way since this story. Especially my Mum – she’s now my biggest supporter, my rock and we have the most incredible relationship. She’s grown to become a strong advocate for our queer community and she’s literally saving lives everyday with the work she does to try and educate other Arab parents on accepting and embracing their gay children. I wouldn’t be who I am today without her support. Love you Mum. Love you AMRA. Thankyou for both for being incredible humans who inspire me everyday to be better. 

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Queerstories is produced by Maeve Marsden and recorded by wonderful technicians at events around the country. Editors and support crew have included Beth McMullen, Bryce Halliday, Ali Graham and Nikki Stevens.