Posted by: G-AZZI | April 18, 2011

Did the LGBT movement trigger sexual liberation in Lebanon?

A few years ago, hardly any Lebanese mainstream organizations (I am tempted to say none) spoke bluntly about sexual rights; human rights organizations were either concerned with being politically correct or did not think that sexual rights were a priority in the Lebanese context.

Helem (which emerged from ClubFree, an underground LGBT group created in 1998) was the first organization to break the wall of silence by speaking about LGBT rights and causing discomfort and/or excitement within the civil society and activist circles.

In its early years, Helem attracted many non-LGBT activists who found in Helem a potential for change. On the other hand, others wondered if it was the right time to speak about LGBT rights in a country which – to this day, even – lacks any form of sexual rights.

Very few mainstream NGOs supported Helem; others preferred to observe discreetly from the sidelines to see what reactions the launching of such an organization might trigger.  In 2007, Meem, a sister organization of Helem’s, broke another taboo by creating the first space for queer women in Lebanon. Meem continues to attract the attention of many young feminists who have lost hope in the aging “feminist” movement of Lebanon.

Nasawiya, the feminist collective, emerged not long after Meem, creating an alternative space for LBT and non-LBT women and feminists. Regardless of my disagreement with some of their political stands , Nasawiya has definitely achieved something important, and that is opening previously padlocked doors to a new discourse on women’s sexual rights in feminist circles.

Meanwhile, the increasing number of non-LGBT beneficiaries from Helem’s health services brought forward the need for the provision of sexual health services in Lebanon for everyone regardless of sexual orientation. This is how MARSA came into existence. The center is run by LGBT and non-LGBT professionals and is the first mainstream comprehensive sexual health center in Lebanon.

OSE (Organization for Sexual Education) has also recently been founded by former LGBT HIV outreach workers and a group of psychologists and experts in the field of sexual education.

Along with these new organizations, civil society networks have also gradually been adopting sexual rights causes and are becoming more and more inclusive of such matters.

While the LGBT movement emerged from mainstream organizations in many countries worldwide, the Lebanese LGBT movement was definitely behind many of Lebanon’s mainstream sexual rights initiatives.

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Responses

  1. GREAT POST AS USUAL. IT IS ALWAYS NICE TO READ YOUR BLOG AND THOUGHTS.

    • thank you Hasan much appreciated coming from you 🙂

  2. Why would they always blame LGBT community? Are they that too influential? If that is the truth, won’t you blame those people who just showed up their real feelings? Well, it was just a thought of mine.

  3. I applaud Helem for all it does to help the LGBT community in Lebanon. In fact, I included a special audio tribute to them on my radio show on KZSU 90.1 FM (Stanford University). You can listen to the Podcast for free at

    [audio src="http://radio4all.net/responder.php/download/51214/57403/71747/?url=http://www.radio4all.net/files/author30@gmail.com/4294-2-HKC_Ep_5_Part_2.mp3" /]

  4. This applies everywhere. The main argument behind the LGBT movement in the USA is “leave politics out of the bedroom”. This would naturally affect sexual rights.

    • in most countries LGBT groups emerged from mainstream feminist , sexual right , peace movement organizations … in Lebanon it is the other way around 🙂

      • Touche

  5. I agree Georges, but you really have to do something about the colour scheme on this blog of yours. It’s quite dreadful.

    • what would you recommend ? 🙂


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