Jafar and Aslam
Twin brothers Jafar Gibbs and Aslam Abdus-samad live in different cities, but they speak so often that the distance between Sydney and Melbourne barely registers. If Jafar is walking to the store for a snack, he’ll call his twin and they’ll update each other on their joys and sorrows, their successes and failures. It’s the daily accumulation of small conversations, interactions and stories which, together, mean that the brothers are as close as could be. Besides sharing a birthday, parents, vocal syntax and similar looks, the twins share a sexual orientation, too. Now 28-years-old, they are perfectly transparent with one another about this core component of their individual identities.
This wasn’t always the case, however. While growing up in Logan, a city located 26 kilometres south of Brisbane, Aslam was the first to share his homosexuality by confiding his secret in a close friend midway through high school. Word spread, and the reception was so poor that Aslam backtracked on his statements, effectively returning to the closet. To his regret, Jafar was among the loudest antagonists – a particularly cruel betrayal, as he, too, suspected that he was attracted to men. At age 18, Aslam came out with greater confidence, earning the ire of his strictly Muslim stepfather, with whom the twins had never had a good relationship.
Around a year later, in 2005, the brothers were living together in the Logan City suburb of Eagleby. Aslam knew that his twin was gay, too, but any conversation about this matter would be quickly shut down.
“I caught him looking up gay porn, and there’s only so many times he can say, ‘Oh, it’s a pop-up!’” laughs Aslam, who is now an artist, actor and theatre-maker based in Sydney.
“There’s only so many times his friend Alex can buy him nice things before it becomes suspicious.”
Jafar recalls that his coming out was much less traumatic than what his brother went through. One night, the two of them were at The Beat Nightclub in Brisbane’s Fortitude Valley, a venue which has long been a central pillar of the city’s gay community.
“We were having some drinks,” says Jafar. “I was chatting to this fellow, and started holding his hand. Aslam asked, ‘Why are you doing that?’, and I said, ‘Because I like guys.’ His response was basically, ‘Oh, okay. Kudos to you. Let’s go dance!’”
When their stepfather eventually saw a Facebook photo of Jafar kissing a “blonde boy”, he attempted to enforce a rule that neither twin would be allowed in the house. Their mother replied that he couldn’t stop her from seeing her children, and so when they return home, it’s now a matter of negotiating visits in his absence.
Once they were both out and proud, at age 19, the brothers immediately noticed a shift in male interest. This was a symptom of the widespread fascination that surrounds twins in popular culture: Canadian pop artists Tegan and Sara Quinn are perhaps the world’s best-known example of gay siblings, having built an international fan-base since they began performing together in 1995.
When asked by Dallas Voice in 2013 whether they were more challenged by growing up gay or being a twin, the sisters had different answers. Sara chose the former; Tegan, the latter, “because we didn’t come out until we were almost out of high school,” she said. “I didn’t feel weird about being gay, because we had gay friends and we had a really alternative group of friends and my mom was a social worker. Being a twin and just always being grouped together — always having to share same stories, the same friends, everything — it was so hard. That was way harder.”
"When there’s two of you, it’s easier to maintain a person’s affection and to flirt with them. We’ll occasionally play it to our advantage.”
Although Aslam and Jafar are fraternal twins, rather than identical, their dark features and brown eyes make them look remarkably similar.
“When we got a bit drunk, we’d play it up a bit on the dancefloor to get free drinks,” laughs Jafar, who now studies entertainment business management at JMC Academy in Melbourne.
“It was stupid teenager stuff. But it was really good to have somebody you can do that stuff with, and to find out about that world with someone who’s gone through everything up until that point.”
Aslam agrees that they were handed more drinks than usual when out clubbing together.
“It’s nice to feel desired, no matter what the context,” he says. “And when there’s two of you, it’s easier to maintain a person’s affection and to flirt with them. We’ll occasionally play it to our advantage.”
When visiting Jafar in Melbourne recently, Aslam – who is in a relationship – helped out his brother, who is single.
“In terms of approaching other people, it’s a lot easier when you’re a twin,” he says with a smile.
“You know the concept of a wingman? When you’re a twin, it’s even better, because your wingman knows your selling points. They know you inside-out.”
Luke and Nathan
While clubbing in Fortitude Valley in the mid 2000s, Jafar and Aslam happened to meet another pair of gay twin brothers.
“They were always together; anytime I saw Aslam, Jafar was there,” recalls Luke Hart.
“I wasn’t much of a party animal; Nathan was my twin, and he was the social bunny. I’m more conservative. I didn’t start going out ‘til I was 19, and I didn’t come out until I was about 21. Nathan came out when he was, like, 14.”
Luke and Nathan Hart were originally quads, but three or four months after conception, their two siblings passed away, so they entered the world as a fraternal pair. Born in South Australia, the family moved to the southern Brisbane suburb of Inala when they were aged four. As adults, their personalities were vastly different.
“Nathan was out every weekend, sometimes seven days a week,” says Luke.
“He was a really social person. He loved to make friends, and always liked being around people. I’m more of the secluded type of person. He seemed to be living a nice, free life, happy with himself.”
"That connection with Nathan, I still feel it. I don’t feel he’s gone.”
As they hit Brisbane’s nightclub scene together with Aslam, Jafar and their other friends, the brothers discovered a strange quirk of gay culture.
“90 per cent of people were like, ‘Have you slept together?’” says Luke.
“What the heck? You’d get a lot of people that ask that question. I hated that. I didn’t like that at all.”
He learned how best to respond to such queries: by turning the question around, and asking the interlocutor whether they’d had sex with their own sibling. When they’d inevitably respond with repulsion, he’d reply, “Well, there you go. What’s the difference?”
While speaking about Nathan, Luke frequently interchanges past and present tense. This is because his twin died in late July, soon after their 30th birthday party at the Limes Hotel in Brisbane. When we speak, Luke – who works as a hotel manager himself – admits that he has not yet processed the loss.
Nathan's death was a suicide; his mother and twin found his body at home.
“Sorry, I’m gonna get sad now,” Luke says over the phone, before taking a few moments to regain his composure. His brother’s name is now tattooed on his inner forearm in a font so large it can’t be missed.
“I’m just that kind of person who pushes anything emotional aside,” he continues quietly.
“I’ll deal with it when I’m ready. That connection with Nathan, I still feel it. I don’t feel he’s gone.”
Readers seeking support and information about suicide prevention can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467.