Posted by: G-AZZI | March 14, 2011

Gay bars and activists

A recent article in al-akhbar signed by  hibba Abbani, the [co]president of helem board caused a lot of reactions, the article is part of a bigger campaign that started in october last year. 

Below is  my response not only to the current article but to the whole campaign targetting gay bars, then i will recommend practical solutions that could help solving the problem.

1-It is true that only few people can access “gay-friendly” bars , not only you need to be privileged financially but you need to be somehow comfortable with your sexuality. but it is not the job of bar owners to outreach the rest of community and provide the community with safe spaces for empowerment, if these places are lacking that means that LGBT NGOs are not doing their job. Those constant attacks against gay businesses and boycott campaigns will not make the situation any better for those who are not “privileged”. if Gay bars are to close tomorrow, how will that make the situation better for the LGBT community ?

2- Most of the arguments given in the article are based on assumptions, Ms. Abbani  assumes that people who go to bars are superficial and not politically engaged which dangerously shows that  not all LGBT activists  know the community.

3-  Bars and nights clubs are definitely not a sign of liberation, but that does not mean that we should not be happy and celebrate the fact that we have businesses run by members of the community and offering a space that is obviously needed ( ref to my article flashback) and is benefiting a big group of LGBT individuals that we have not right to exclude from our activism work.

4- Body image and lifestyle are serious issues that need to be addressed, but throwing judgements left and right is definitely not the best way to approach people.( tips for a perfect body)

5- Gay bars are not multinational corporations, they are local small businesses and they are not to be blamed for the “ the big evil capitalist system”.

6- We were offered the space in a national newspaper to address LGBT issues in a country where homosexuality is still illegal and where report of police abuse are frequent, and we chose to speak about the consumerism of the gay community ? i think we need to set our priorities. 

Below are some recommendations that i hope will be taken in consideration:

1- We need to understand the community , we need to answer the following questions: where is the community and how to access them, who goes to the bars? understand the demography of people we need to work with. A quick mapping i did for the national aids program in 2009, showed that around 50% of people who used to go to acid club came from rural areas, which contradict Ms. Abbani’s assumptions, i cannot pretend that my mapping is a comprehensive research. but we need to spend more time and energy working in the field trying to understand the community and their needs. Helem did great job in assessing the needs of the community in the HIV/aids field maybe we should continue doing the same work in other fields.

2- NGOs in Lebanon need more independent funding  to respond to the needs of the community, most of the current funding is based on the requirements set by international funding NGOs. The only way to get this independent funding is through individual donations, the money should come from the community to the community. it is the perfect way to engage everyone in our activism and promote the concept of solidarity instead of dividing the community.

3- The activist circle is infested by intellectual elitism, which is even more exclusive than the bars. Activists should be less angry less theoretical and more in touch with the community. it is a fact that people are less and less interested by activism maybe we should try to understand why.

4- Ms. Abbani is a  personal friend, and this debate continues online and offline, but i hope that this will engage more people in thinking about future strategies and ways for all of us to work together for a better society.

another article to read by Hasan Abdessamad :


  1. I can’t agree more.

    This should be seen as a division in the community as much as a door for a healthy debate that should strengthen the righteous fight and make it more efficient.

    Thank you for linking to my article.

  2. Great post. The more we “victimize” ourselves as an LGBT community, the more we shall be treated as victims. No, gay friendly bars aren’t made for everyone, and yes, people who are not very capable financially might not be able to go to such places. Nevertheless, straight pubs and clubs aren’t made for everyone either. Let’s look at the greater picture here, because I think we have got more to worry about than whether certain places aren’t offering cheap drinks or not…

  3. Great opinion !
    I totally agree with you, especially on taking the activism and the education and the intellectuality as a hostage !

  4. Excellent respons! Sometimes gay activists are a danger to their own cause!

  5. I highly encourage people who share my opinion to join helem, use this space that is already there. their input can only be beneficial.

  6. I totally agree with everything Georges said. But I have few more things to add.
    1- We are talking about problems that are actually w whole society problems but we are narrowing them to make of them LGBT community problems. I mean capitalism, people being privileged or not, is a problem of the whole society. I would like to go to very expensive bars like Casino or Library, but I can’t because I’m not that privileged money wise. Does it mean I have to boycott these places and throw campaigns against them?
    2- Why do I feel that only leftist gays have their place in a gay activism movement. I mean, I am not totally leftist, where do I stand?? Not being leftist does not mean that I can’t be activist in LGBT community or fight for human rights. And this issue goes beyond Ms. Abbani’s article and all the misunderstanding/diversity that the article created. Gay bars are mostly in Hamra street (leftist), Helem location as well, 90% of Helem members are leftists. But fortunately/unfortunately I am not totally leftist (even if I share a lot of values with this movement), I always feel I am pushed away because of this. Isn’t this a certain kind of discrimination??
    3- For the solutions Georges proposed, I think this is not the only time somebody proposes this kind of solutions. I’ve worked in Helem a lot. These issues were being discussed over and over again, but no body was able to take the initiative. And discussions remained “very beautiful dreams” that can’t come true. Not soon.
    I think this is an issue that needs to be solved urgently.

    Thank you

  7. Nice constructive criticism

  8. […] March 14, 2011: Mr. Georges Azzi Blog – Gay bars and activists […]

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