Posted by: G-AZZI | January 7, 2011

Gay Beirut

Today, again, I had to go through the same old  repeated anecdote!

Please meet the protagonists:

The Western Journalist, who recently visited Beirut, enjoyed the newly flourishing gay nightlife, and decided to write about it with his newly-acquired “expertise.”

The Scandalized Activist, who, and without any delay, will instantly reply to such articles, pointing out that it is unacceptable to write about freedom in Beirut while homosexuality is still illegal, and gay people are still struggling in Lebanon.

The Islamophobic Western Reader, who thinks that the article is misleading and promoting a positive image of Arab countries that doesn’t exist, and insists on reminding his fellow readers that a gay person will be executed anywhere in the Arab world, be it Beirut, Cairo, Rabat, or Tripoli: All Arabs are the same, and all of them will, without exception, stone or hang you to death.

And last but most certainly not least subtle, The Israeli Guy who is trying to win Tel Aviv some more attention after the whole “Tel Aviv is Miss Gay City of the Middle East” business.

It is true that Beirut has been experiencing a certain form of freedom that is inexistent in the Middle East; the gay community is becoming more and more visible, the number of gay-friendly places is considerably increasing, and this visibility has made the situation much more bearable for the LGBT community in Beirut than it was five years ago.

There is an important question, however: is this freedom accessible to everyone? Definitely not. To enjoy this freedom, you need to be able to afford it. LGBT individuals and even heterosexual women from lower economical classes do not have the luxury to live alone in Beirut, or go to bars every day. Their financial dependence on their families limits their ability to move freely or seek any protection, and these are usually the people who are victims of police harassment.

This situation is, however, not specific to Beirut. Neighbourhoods such as “Le Marais” in Paris, Chelsea in New York or “Boystown” in Chicago… are only accessible to middle and upper middle class white gay men. LGBT people in the west are facing daily bashing, verbal and physical aggression and bullying and even where the law protects LGBT individuals, not everyone is able to seek the protection of the police for different reasons. Just ask an African American in southern Chicago, an Arab immigrant in the suburbs of Paris, etc…

The abolishment of Lebanon’s article 534 alone is not enough to offer protection to everyone; the problem is beyond the law and the police. Most of the harassment cases reported to Helem came from family members not from the police.

Gay bars, saunas, and gay parades are exciting and worth mentioning in tourist magazines but they are definitely not indicators of equality and rights. No country or gay activist can pretend to have achieved gay rights unless every single gay person has the same rights and protection and accessibility to services regardless of their economical, racial and religious backgrounds.

Yes, the situation in Beirut is improving, but Beirut cannot and should not be compared to any other city. LGBT individuals and activists in Lebanon should not  fall in the same trap of western gay activists. It is sad to see American activists spending all their energy and money fighting for the right to marry (a hetero-normative institution) and to join the army (the right to kill people) while most of their fellow LGBTs are still deprived from their basic rights.

There are a lot of issues to deal with in Beirut as human beings and citizens of this country first, and as queer people second. We will deal with it our way, all together, gay business owners, individuals and activists. We will enjoy every positive step and build upon it for the future.
Neither constant nagging about how miserable we are nor the blind satisfaction of what we already have will help to improve the situation.

Addendum: Dear Israeli Happy Gay Person, I do not have enough space to go through all the human rights violations in Israel, but I would rather be a gay person in Saudi Arabia or Iran than be an Arab-Palestinian gay in “Israel.” Actually, I would be ashamed to organize a gay parade and celebrate my “freedom” while my government is destroying houses and killing families only a few miles away from me.

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Responses

  1. Thanks for writing what I’ve been wanting to say for long. I love this!

  2. Chapeau bas

  3. True!

    discrimination & harassments are mostly coming from family members!!! and due to the family ties in Lebanon! it’s more difficult to report them!!

    but sometimes such acts are a first step for bigger achievements!
    i know someone! that had some harassments by a member of his family, due to his sexual background!
    what happened is that all his family and friends stayed by his side and showed him support!
    he was able to move on, and create a bigger LGBT dedicated business! 🙂

    i saw him raising back again like a phoenix! 🙂
    he felt down! but never died! 🙂

    I think our LGBT community is stronger than others in the region, because day after day! due the support and awareness provided by some well trained activists like You Georges!!

    in the name of every member of our community, once again, i want to thank you for everything you did and you are doing for the community!

    Lots of Love!

  4. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by georges azzi, Lebanon LGBT Monitor. Lebanon LGBT Monitor said: Beirut to the western journalist, the gay activist, the islamophobic reader and the Israeli guy. http://fb.me/QkcJ96IT […]


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