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         Lebanon: Homosexuality in Lebanon
         Saturday, September 20th, 2008 @ 22:51 UTC
         by Nash Suleiman

               Cyber-Activism, Human Rights, LGBT, Media
               Arabic, English

         Homosexuality is one of the topics you would find on the black list of any Middle East government and
         almost in all of its societies and cultures. And while the presence of homosexuality can be spotted in every
         country in the region, governments and societies are still intolerant to such life style. Intolerance can even
         reach a point of denial as it was witnessed during Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinajad’s speech at
         Columbia University in 2007.
         Lebanon stands out as a more tolerant space for homosexuality in the region compared to Saudi Arabia for
         example where homosexuality is often punished by flogging, life imprisonment and even beheading.
         Lebanon’s homosexuals enjoy the first association for gay people in the Middle East, called the Helem

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Global Voices Online » Lebanon: Homosexuality in Lebanon

         Foundation. In addition to that, Lebanon also has gay bars and nightclubs. But the real life for this section of
         the community is not paved with roses. A quick round up of blogs and spaces promoting this issue in Lebanon
         should give the reader a brief peek into how this community lives.
         Mazaj at Majaz75 wrote about homosexuality in the Middle East and the role of religion in it, expressing his
         personal opinion on the matter:

                Some people relate the attitude towards homosexuality in Arab countries to Islam, but that’s not
                completely true. Arabs, Muslims and Christians, consider homosexuality to be a sin. All Arabs
                are attached to religion; the Church and the Mosque have a key role in Arabs lives. Born as a
                Muslim, I feel it is very important to explain Islam’s and Sheiks’* views of homosexuality.
                Some scriptures of the Quran, the Holy Book of Islam, were taken out of context, added to a
                Hadith** not correctly reported to Prophet Muhammad, and conveyed to Muslims by ignorant
                Sheiks to form a general look at homosexuality as a sin that is against the nature intended by god
                for humans. In this Hadith, gay guys caught in act are to be killed by throwing them down from
                the highest building in town. Considering that most buildings in most Arab peninsula’s towns
                were about 5-7 meters high at that time, this Hadith seems very ridiculous.

         Majaz adds:

                Being raised in a strict Muslim family, I struggled with my homosexuality in my early adolescent
                years, but I also had access to some rare Islamic scriptures, which allowed me to have a great
                look to how Islam dealt with homosexuality. I had come to the conclusion that Islam considers
                sexuality to be an identity, something to be born with. I also discussed this conclusion with
                well-known moderate Sheikhs, who confirmed it to me. Nevertheless, even the most moderate
                ones insisted that it is not acceptable to convey this fact about homosexuality in Islam to people
                for so many unconvincing reasons.
, a news site that focuses on the homosexual communities in the Middle East, posts an
         article written in a local Lebanese newspaper about an architect called Danny and his daily struggle in
         Lebanon as a homosexual:

                Danny said he was open about his sexuality in Europe, but has been forced to keep a low profile
                in Lebanon mainly for two reasons: a non-tolerant society, and fear of his parents' reaction.
                “Being gay in Lebanon is very hard,” he said.”I come from a highly conservative family, and if
                my parents knew about my sexuality it would be devastating for the both of us,” he said in a low,
                shaky tone. “I don't want to ever think about their reaction if they knew.” Danny added that he
                has never tried to be open with any of his friends about his sexuality, saying he preferred to stay
                “in the closet” for the time being.
                “I can never consider being open about my sexuality over here,” he said, explaining it might
                cause him a lot of trouble, especially at work.
                “I have seen how colleagues at work react when they encounter a person who they suspect is
                gay,” he said. “They avoid him as if he has a disease, and even harass him sometimes.”

         Another post by refers to few incidents that occurred a couple of years ago regarding
         two social clubs known for their homosexual crowd:

                On the night of November 12, 2005, 6 men were arrested in Acid nightclub, a known gay venue
                in Sin el Fil. No charges were pressed against them. The detainees were released after 3 days of
                detention. Although no physical abuse was reported, the police were verbally abusive towards
                the men.

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Global Voices Online » Lebanon: Homosexuality in Lebanon

                A week later, another known gay club, X-OM, was raided. The police checked IDs and inquired
                about drug use in the venue. No arrests took place that night.
                Acid and X-OM were probably targeted by the police for their openly gay clientele, although
                legally they had no pretext for any arrests. Article 534 of the Lebanese penal code explicitly
                states that “penetrative sex against nature” is punishable by law, and not homosexuality per se or
                the adoption of a gay identity. Laws against public indecency may be enforced if excessive
                displays of affection or other such behavior is witnessed, but this does not entail the same sort.

         Meem, a community of lesbians, bisexuals, transgenders, queers and questioning women in Lebanon,
         moderates a blog where members can post and share experiences and news. Pazuzu, in her post, shares a
         personal experience she went through while walking home one night:

                Well, I passed by a couple of guys, one those men that scare you (or is it any man that scares you
                when you are in my situation?). Anyway, typically the first sign of your vulnerability in these
                situations is that the predators start discussing you in your face:
                - Bint yamma sabe hayda?
                And for our non Arabic readers :
                - Is he a boy or a girl?
                But it’s fine I guess, it wasn’t the first time that my sexual identity was questioned, though I
                didn’t look particularly boyish that day. The real treat was when the second guy opens his mouth.
                I guess he was encouraged by his friend’s attitude, thinking maybe I am a boy that likes to look
                like girls, to be honest, I am not sure what he was thinking but he said to me:
                -Baddak nitsalla? Ta3a nitsalla
                Again, respecting the non Arabic readers:
                -Wanna have fun? Let’s have fun together

         Al Jaras, a local Lebanese TV station, was commenting over some photos of Portia de Rossi and Ellen
         DeGeneres’ wedding when Jexy at Meem's blog realized that in addition to pronouncing Portia's name wrong,
         the TV presenter went on insulting the homosexuals in general as she describes it:

                The first thing that was on my mind: “Seriously you dummy! You wanna trash them? Fine! But at
                least get the names right!”. And what added up, she was talking at the same time about the Indian
                man that married a certain animal! Is this where we belong? In the same category of man/animal
                marriage!? She kept displaying the photos over and over again, adding up “Hayda dod el din [this
                is a sin]!“. The heavenly angels assigned her to label people and decide what’s wrong and what’s
                against religion! I wanted to call and ask her: “Honey, if the sight of Ellen and “Borita” sickens
                you this much…why do u keep displaying them?” But then again, every word she was saying was
                showing nothing but IGNORANCE.

         Learn more about the gay community in Lebanon by visiting Helem Association and Meem Foundation.
         Posted by Nash Suleiman
           Print Version

         5 Responses to
         “Lebanon: Homosexuality in Lebanon”
           1. Marc:
              You don’t mention Israel. While orthadox Jews also consider homosexuality September 21st, 2008 at 12:36 pm
              a sin, there is a large gay population in cities like Tel Aviv. Yes, gay bars as well. Of course Israel,

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Global Voices Online » Lebanon: Homosexuality in Lebanon  

               unlike its neighbors, doesn’t imprison gays. Thanks.

           2. Dan:
              “Of course Israel, unlike its neighbors” blah blah blah… you feel special     September 21st, 2008 at 21:22 pm
              Marc? Superior, maybe?
              Didn’t the article clarify that homosexuals aren’t imprisoned in Lebanon? If anything, they’re detained
              for questioning because they were in openly gay and well-known drug-filled clubs… Let’s not jump to
              conclusions here.
              Oh and Marc, Israel’s got the cleanest human rights record in the world and especially in the Middle
              East… NOT!

           3. oyzz:
              and israel doesnt exist aslan….he3 :-)                                                September 22nd, 2008 at 8:47 am

           4. Fares:
              Honestly: interesting article.                                                  September 22nd, 2008 at 12:32 pm
              But it seems to be a regular trend for most writers discussing homosexuality in Lebanon to only mention
              the negative factors, disregarding the numerous examples of successful openness among gay men and
              lesbians. It is not rare for homosexuals here to enjoy a comfortable, livable, relaxed environment. It is
              not unusual for gay people to spend a night in Gemaizeh and not get harassed. As a matter of fact, from
              my experiences, verbal abuse is as far as it goes with most gay people I know. And even that is rare.
              Yes, the cases and stories listed above are true and harsh. But I would guess that, for the most part,
              little more happened over the past few years. Yes, you’ll always have the shady neighborhoods with
              disgustingly ignorant guys who will forever poke fun at the gay community. Those exist everywhere, all
              the time. Yes, there will be police officers questioning gay people all the time. Either because they want
              to sleep with them, or because they have doubts about their sobriety.
              Gay people in Lebanon - and usually rightly so - are often and normally associated with drugs, sexual
              indecency, and prostitution. Okay, gay people in the world are often assumed to fit one (or more) of
              those illegalities. That’s why they get stopped. Acid and X-OM were most probably raided for the same
              reasons BO18 had been raided. If anything, those two got raided less times than BO and its like, only
              because of the stigma associated with “they’re raiding a gay club”.
              Point is, there are issues, but they sound a lot worse when taken out of context. There are cases of
              abuse, but there are many more cases of the absence of abuse; cases of tolerance.
              In general, you get one sob story for every 10 good stories. And two great successes for every 10 good
              stories. I would think those should be mentioned as often in articles discussing the universal situation of
              homosexuality in Lebanon.

           5. Clara Onofre:
              Hello Nash,                                                                     September 22nd, 2008 at 15:16 pm
              i liked this post because of the subject you brought here. It is important to know about subjects like this
              in order to enlight people and to end prejudice. I agree with the comment made by Fares because it´s
              always interesting to know the the two sides of this matter.
              People don´t talk much about homosexuality in countries like Lebanon, so i was really happy to read
              your post

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Global Voices Online » Lebanon: Homosexuality in Lebanon

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