This article examines the relationship between emergent LGBTQ movements and the state in the Arab world over the past two decades. Focusing on the efforts of various LGBTQ social movements to confront the criminalization of homosexuality in the Arab region, the article puzzles over a cascade of legal victories for LGBTQ rights advocates in Lebanon in recent years in spite of a hostile justice sector mired with corruption. It interrogates a set of prevalent assumptions about the effect of regime type (democracy v. authoritarianism) on gay rights activism and litigation. This article explains how some LGBTQ Arab movements have successfully relied on strategic litigation to confront criminalization laws while others have had less success in pursuing overtly confrontational approaches. The paired comparison between Tunisia and Lebanon shifts our focus back to the agency of judges and social movement leaders in shaping legal outcomes for LGBTQ citizens.