The government’s targeting of homosexuality in May 2001, following years of ‘turning a blind eye’ to Cairo’s gay scene, is studied here in terms of the links between the sphere of interpersonal relations and notions of national security within international relations. The persecution of men for alleged same-sex relations not only filled newspaper columns and created a spectacle to divert people’s attention away from the government’s failings. More importantly, the event represented an opportunity for government officials, the media and other civil society activists – both within Egypt and abroad – to ‘perform’ a discourse of national security through which national sovereignty was (re)produced and political order was maintained. However, this national security threat was not only posed by the external threat of Western governments, international NGOs and other transnational actors concerned with respect for human rights within Egypt. More importantly, this threat was constructed as originating with those people failing to conform to the ‘norm’ of heterosexual relationships.