In contrast to a New York Times story on party-time gay males in Beirut, Lebanon, a more realistic portrait of Lebanese LGBT life is portrayed in a 2009 book Bareed Mista3jl (not misspelled) published by Meem (2009). A GlobalGayz blog post reacted to the Times story regarding the narrow middle/upper class male perspective described by the Times’ author. A closer investigation of the real lives of gay Lebanese is lacking in the story.
That said, the furtive lesbian population is not easily accessed by a foreign journalist who visits on a short trip. Unless there are deep and trusted connections, Muslim lesbians do not offer up their lives for examination. Even the women who compiled the stories and edited the book did not at first have an easy time finding willing women to share their lives.
It took three years to finish the project, and what an interesting period of time those three years were! From 2005 to 2008, the book says, “We witnessed the rise of a remarkable lesbian community that brought new meaning to queer solidarity, understanding and grassroots activism, and it became clearer to us that these were they people whose stories needed to be heard.”
So the book happened within a matrix of expanding awareness, probably kicked loose by the notorious gay marriage issue in the West, as well as increased boldness and close support connections (virtual and real) with other rights groups. This first publication of gay Lebanese feminine voices comes at a critical time, when courage and confidence are developing a ‘critical mass’ of urgency and possibility in Lebanon’s culture. “Things are a-changing,” but not all things, and not all now.
One of the lesbian authors expresses the following about lesbian life in Lebanon:
It is completely and utterly false to make the claim that homosexuals are “living the life” in Lebanon. It is true that some gay people have it well – if they are rich, if they go to private universities, if they have the luxury to travel, if they can read English and have internet access, then yes, maybe they are coping and living well. But they are only a small percentage – a tiny percentage – of the Lebanese gay society, just like rich and educated straight people are a small percentage of the Lebanese straight society. Homosexuals suffer everything straight people suffer: poverty, hunger, disease, wars, abuse, sexism, racism, corruption. And they also get discriminated against specifically because they are gay. They get beaten up physically, abused verbally, kicked out of jobs, and denied family ties. Many grow up feeling horrible about themselves and feel insecure their entire lives.
While this woman’s testimony of agony rings true, she also understands the change that’s happening and takes courage from that. She goes on to say, “When we fight for acceptance and freedom and human rights, we cannot exclude anyone or call one right more important than the other. Human rights are horizontal. They are indivisible, non-hierarchical and inter-connected. Gay rights are human rights too.”
Meanwhile, in more recent times comes this dreadful report of Lebanese police arresting gays and trying to ‘proove’ they are gay by humiliating anal exams. http://www.pinknews.co.uk/2014/07/16/lebanon-anal-exams-still-being-conducted-on-suspected-homosexuals-despite-ban/
This is as absurd as thinking sexual orientation can be changed through ‘conversion therapy’. It represents the worst abuse of science and psychology of human nature