Beirut Filled With Pride Flags, Despite The Cultural Terrorism That Lebanon’s Government Allows

Pictures via Helem.

In Lebanon, religious extremism and cultural terrorism are more accepted than basic human rights. We’ve known this for a while, but got another reminder this week when a fringe religiously extreme group with so much political clout managed to get the Lebanese government to force the cancellation of two scheduled events as part of Beirut’s pride week.

The latest event was organized by the Arab World’s first ever LGBT advocacy NGO Helem, and was aimed at raising awareness through actual facts and expert opinion about the LGBT community in Lebanon. It was supposed to be one of the last events to take place during Beirut’s Pride Week schedule, until Lebanon’s security forces “couldn’t ensure the security of the event” anymore, as was relayed to the location that was hosting it. When Metro El Madina, the location hosting the event, resisted, the pressure from official sides in Lebanon’s governance also rose leading to the event’s cancellation.

As I said before, religious extreme group in Lebanon are a cancer in our society, regardless of which religion they practice. They come in all forms and have been given so much power by our political system that they can literally walk all over our personal liberties and the only thing we can do is sit by and watch as they do so, under the guise of various dimwitted slogans that they permeate, mostly about how anything their religious beliefs don’t conform with is a western ploy to destroy our societies and a sin aimed at fragmenting the fabrics of Lebanon’s holy society.

Except it’s exactly their religious extremism that’s the main threat behind everything Lebanon stands for, when it comes to its societal fabric and construct. The fact that they are allowed to perpetuate their sickening beliefs and force them onto everyone else, especially when the people they’re trying to oppress are acting within their legal and constitutional rights, is horrifying. And this won’t change any time soon.

Shame on Lebanon’s government. They’re the side to blame about both cancellations here. They’re the ones who couldn’t put an irrelevant religiously extreme group in its place and allow an event that was planned within the framework of Lebanon’s guaranteed freedom of expression from going through unscathed. They’re the ones who have allowed our rights as Lebanese to be entirely dependent on whether they abide by the moral code of some religious group somewhere. They’re the ones who don’t have the spine to stand up for the citizens they’re bound to protect.

If Lebanon’s government thinks that massive PR overhaul the country needs will only come through articles in American or European media about how beautiful the country is to visit, they’re massively mistaken. It will come through events such as Pride Week that show the world that this country in the Middle East is grossly different than all of its surroundings and that minds are more open and tolerant here, and that maybe it’d be worth looking at Lebanon with consideration.

And yet, despite all of the religious extremism and cultural terrorism that’s permitted by our political system, Beirut’s Mar Mikhael neighborhood has its bars filled with the LGBT pride flag, also known as the rainbow flag, in order to celebrate the end of the Arab world’s first ever pride week.

As you can see from the above picture gallery, with pictures taken off Helem’s Facebook page, more than a dozen bars around the area sported the flag on one of their busiest nights of the week as a sign of solidarity. This shows that, against all odds, Lebanon’s youth is coming together to advance rights in the country for everyone. Maybe there is light at the end of that tunnel after all?

It’s truly a beautiful sight to see Beirut, against all odds and all threats, wear those flags in such a high profile area and literally not give a fuck about the police or the government behind the police or the extremists who run our government behind the scenes. Perhaps it bodes for a better future. Perhaps one might be foolish in being hopeful, but for such flags to fly high in the Middle East is, well, unheard of. Beirut literally did that.

Now let’s wait for those religiously extreme people’s minds to blow.

Advertisements

Dear Lebanese Homophobes

Make sure you download this blog’s iOS app to stay up to date! (Link). 

Over the past week or so, I’ve had the honor to write about two major advances for the LGBTQI+ community in Lebanon. The first was them being represented in an ad for a major company, which you could check out here, and the second was to proclaim how Beirut is the first Arab city ever to celebrate Pride Week, despite Islamists threatening one of its events eventually leading to that one event’s cancellation (link).

Nevertheless, they persisted.

On those posts, be it in the comment section or on my Facebook page, the amount of vitriol homophobic – or more globally LGBTQI+ vomit although homosexuality takes the cake in aversion – was just too ignorant and insurmountable to be addressed in Facebook comments that could, sooner or later, degenerate into shouting rows and manifestations of immaturity that one can’t come back from.

So I decided to write this instead, coupled with a great documentary by HELEM about some key facts regarding the LGBTQI+ community in Lebanon, which you can watch at the end of this post. It’s worth the 22 minutes of your time.

Without further ado, here I address some of the more recurrent “opinions.”

Opinion #1: Homosexuality is against nature:

This is factually incorrect. If you’re going to use the nature argument, you can’t disregard the fact that all species on Earth exhibit homosexual behavior. From penguins to dolphins to a ton of species in between them, almost all species walking the Earth exhibit homosexuality. And yet, the only species that has homophobia is humans. Food for thought.

Opinion #2: Anal sex is the root of all STDs:

This is factually incorrect as well. I mean, if you’re going to talk medicine, you should really back up your claim with hard medical data not what your local priest or sheikh told you once upon a time.

It is statistically significant that HIV has a higher rate of transmission through anal sex compared to vaginal sex, yes, but that doesn’t mean that anal sex created HIV or other STDs for that matter or that “doing it from behind” (as one comment said) is “scientifically proven” to be the root of all sexual diseases. You see, there are more STDs than HIV, and the key to combatting all of them – regardless of the genitals you’re sleeping with – is to practice safe and clean sexual habits.

If you’re straight, bisexual, gay, trans or intersex, regardless of whoever you sleep with if that person is not a long term partner whom you are aware is healthy, safe sex is a key towards prevention of all major STDs.

Opinion #3: If homosexuality is okay, then why do they have a high prevalence of HIV?

While anal sex is proven to have a higher risk of transmissibility compared to vaginal sex, due to the type of cells in the anal mucosa and the viral load in penile secretions, that is not the full story. The reason why HIV has a higher prevalence among homosexual and bisexual men is because of the stigma that their community faced over the years, leading them not to have access to healthcare or needed awareness that is needed.

It’s almost ironic that an argument whose answer is discrimination is used to defend one’s bigoted views about that which you’re discriminating against. Instead of fostering a world of non-judgemental healthcare, you are discriminating against someone based on the disease they contracted. This is not okay in any day and age. To quote a dear friend: Epidemiology ALWAYS has social reasons. Now that is a fact.

Opinion #4: Kids brought up by same-sex parents will grow up to be gay:

No, this is incorrect. All psychologic studies to this date have not shown this to be accurate. Being gay is not a matter of upbringing. It’s a complex interaction between genetics, hormones, environmental factors, etc… Science has not even fully understood why homosexuality exists as the issue is that complex, but I’m glad you can reduce it to someone’s upbringing. It sure saves every scientist a lot of effort and future accolades into the study of human sexuality.

And yet, despite all of this, the science is clear. Not only are children brought up by same-sex parents not at an increased “risk” of not being straight, but they’re also not at a disadvantage when it comes to life (link).

Opinion #5: Same-sex couples have higher divorce rates:

Literally incorrect. The biggest study on the matter surveyed 150,000 married same-sex couples and found their divorce rate to be at 1%/year, whereas it is 2% for opposite-sex couples.

Yet again, if you’re literally telling someone they can’t love another person because of that person’s gender, I would assume it’s unfathomable for you to believe that two people who love together can stay together.

Opinion #6: If you like homosexuality, why don’t you approve of beastiality or pedophilia?

It’s actually quite simple. The whole point behind Lebanon’s Pride Week is to advance the mantra of “live and let live,” which is to say it’s none of anyone’s business who people love and why they love them.

How the hell is sex between two consenting adults, regardless of their gender, the same as when someone forces oneself on a helpless animal who doesn’t possess the agency nor the mental capacity to give consent to what they’re being forced into?

Or even worse, how is a sexual relation between two consenting adults the same as when one adult forces themselves on a child who doesn’t possess the agency or legality to give sexual consent?

The only resemblance between beastiality, pedophilia, and homosexuality is, you know, the fact that both involve sex, which – gasp – also applies to heterosexuality.

Opinion #7: It’s a Western ploy to ruin our societies:

You’d be surprised to know that Arab society was much more open to homosexuality and other manifestations of human sexuality than it is today. Abu Nawwas, the famous Arab poet whose works on love and wine and even sex are taught in schools and universities today, was an open bisexual. He was embraced by society, because his “behavior” was more accepted back then.

In fact, homosexual behavior can be traced back to earlier civilizations that existed in these parts of the world and our neighboring countries and regions. There’s literally nothing Western about it. If anything, our regions “exported” it to the West when we started emigrating from our own countries to the New World.

Regardless of what politicians want to tell you or what your own “we’re better than the West” mantra, human behavior is very similar across the Earth. This is why we can find common ground between two individuals who are worlds apart. And yet, it sure is telling that anything that Arabs find to be at odds with what they know gets attributed to the “West.” It’s a major shortcoming of our own societies, if anything.

Opinion #8: I don’t know any gay people:

Yes, you do. 10% of the population falls among the LGBTQI+ spectrum at the most conservative of estimates. Your class of 20 people in Brevet had at least 2 people among your classmates, and maybe even your friends, are LGBTQI+. That 300+ biology course you took in university has around 30 LGBTQI+ people, maybe even that person sitting next to you. Your family and extended family has a couple people or more who are too afraid to be who they are because of you.

Don’t live in denial. Embrace others and be open to the people you love for them to find a beacon of safety in you.

Opinion #9: Medicine says it’s an illness:

This is not true at all. Psychiatry has declassified homosexuality as a disease for over 50 years now. The Lebanese Psychiatric Association declared it not an illness more than 4 years ago. The Lebanese Order of Physicians has restricted its physicians from practicing any anti-LGBT medical practices and, if a physician was found doing such illegal practices, their license could be revoked.

So if you find a “doctor” who’s giving a “lecture” about why homosexuality is bad, know that that doctor is a fraud who is not practicing medicine. Hocus pocus would apply more in that case.

Opinion #10: When will we have straight pride week?

Straight people in Lebanon are not being persecuted, discriminated against, put in jails, and subjected to all kinds of human rights violations against their bodies just because they happened to have that particular sexual orientation.

No one’s walking around the street telling people they like vagina or penis or whatever other body part you seem to have a problem with people liking. The point is them asking you not to point your finger at them and judge them and call for them to be shamed and persecuted because they like to sleep with people who have that body part.

Bonus opinion We have other issues to worry about:

Yes, we do. Electricity, internet, water, ISIS, Hezbollah, elections… We can name them for months. But that doesn’t mean we can’t focus on other things, too.

Bonus opinion 2.o: Fuck you, faggot lovers.

It may be hard to fathom, but there are people in this world – such as me – who will always stand with human decency, and support a person’s right to be who they are, love whoever they love and be comfortable in their own skin without worrying about simply existing.

I leave you with Helem’s documentary:

 

Lebanon’s Cancerous Islamists & Other Religious Extremists Didn’t Win: Beirut Celebrates LGBT Pride Week

One step forward, a bunch of steps backwards thanks to cancerous religious extremists whose political reach is always overreaching; this is the story of modern Lebanon.

A few days after Crepaway’s left field ad which featured a same sex couple cuddling by the shore (link), Beirut was in full gear to celebrate its own version of Pride Week, as part of the Lebanese International Day Against Homophobia.

Multiple LGBT NGOs have scheduled multiple events throughout the week for the occasion, from storytelling nights featuring Mashrou’ Leila’s lead singer Hamed Sinno, to a conference on Saturday by HELEM about fighting homophobia, transphobia and biphobia in Lebanon.

Yesterday, however, Lebanon’s establishment dealt a setback to the organization Proud Lebanon which had planned an event this week as part of Beirut Pride Week. The reason was that a Lebanese Islamist organization – hay2at al 3oulama2 al muslimin – decided that such an event was in violation of their own fragile self and what they believe in, which led them to pressure the ministry of interior which prompted the hotel to cancel the event under the guise of them “not being able to keep the participants safe.”

It’s intriguing, isn’t it, that a conference about basic human rights in 2017 cannot be kept safe somehow by security officers. You’d think that they’d be capable of doing the most mundane of their jobs: assign a few officers to the hotel in question, in order to guarantee the well-being of Lebanese citizens who are expressing their constitutionally given right of freedom of expression, but no.

It’s not that they can’t guarantee the participants’ safety, it’s that they don’t want to. Our system is too afraid of irrelevant snowflake Islamists whose entire existence these days is about making sure nothing about this country moves forward in any way that threatens their power. Our system is too terrified of the advances that Lebanon’s LGBT community is making, be it in fighting homophobia to court victories to Lebanon further being the lead Arab country in such issues.

It should come as no surprise that those same Islamists wanted a Coca-Cola poster taken down in Tripoli because it was too “obscene” for their taste. Spoiler alert: it featured two people standing very close to each other. Those same Islamists also objected to a lingerie ad in Beirut under the guise of it being too close to a Mosque. That same ad had been approved previously by the same authorities that were forced to remove it.

The problem is that we have authorities that keep listening to such pests. When will this country stop listening to such cancerous infestations that are hell-bent in keeping everyone in their own dark ages? I guess we’ll never know.

However, those Islamists and other religious extremists who have terrorized the country with their horrendous thought don’t know that the years of struggle that Lebanon’s LGBT community has and is enduring has made them resilient to the hate and discrimination that infests their being.

As such, Beirut’s Pride Week is still underway, and if there’s anything to be proud of, it’s the fact that Beirut is the only Arab city to have such celebrations, in spite of Islamists and religious extremists, and in such an open way. L’Orient Le Jour published an article earlier saying that obscurantism had won. It may have prevented one event from taking place, but that hasn’t stopped the rest of what was planned from still being underway.

Lebanon’s extremists did not win. Their hate won’t win, and it sure as hell won’t find ground this year.

You can check out some of the events at this link. I will be updating this post if any other events are brought to my attention.

Lebanon Should Participate In Eurovision 2018

Make sure you download this blog’s iOS app to stay up to date! (Link). 

The Eurovision is quite the global thing. More than 200 million people tune in each year to watch the show, not just from the 42 countries which happen to be members of the European Broadcasting Union that have the right to participate, which is why you see countries such as Israel or Australia or even Azerbaijan participating.

The 2017 version of the Eurovision concluded yesterday with Portugal getting crowed the winner after votes from the people in those 42 member countries and their juries allocated points. They succeed Ukraine, which was voted the winner in 2016 in an obvious political jab at Russia.

The Eurovision, apart from being a celebration of (bad?) music, isn’t only about the music but about the politics behind all the ways these countries interact with one another. Regardless, it’s still interesting to watch and pretend to be surprised that Cyprus, for instance, voted for Greece. I’m shocked. Can you even fathom it?

In 2005, Lebanon was supposed to participate through Tele-Liban and Aline Lahoud in that year’s version of the Eurovision. Except, as is always the case, Israel happened. You see, Israel also happens to be a member of the European Broadcasting Union and has been since the 1950s, which means they’ve been participating for over 4 decades in the Eurovision contest and have actually won 3 times.

The problem for us, therefore, becomes in the fact that we pretend they don’t exist and have laws that forbid us from even acknowledging their existence, which was why we had to withdraw in 2005, be banned from participating for 3 years and pay a penalty: Tele-Liban didn’t show Israel on the official poster of the event. When they were confronted about it, they replaced the poster with a generic one about Eurovision. They were then told they’d have to broadcast the Israeli contestant’s song, which they couldn’t legally do, leading them to withdraw.

Israel, however, will not be participating in the 2018 Eurovision, as they announced live on air yesterday as they allocated their points. Their announcer said:

“This is IBA, Channel 1 calling from Jerusalem. For the past 44 years, Israel has participated in the Eurovision Song Contest, winning three times. But tonight, is our final night, shortly IBA will shut down its broadcasting forever, so on behalf of all of us here in IBA, let me say thank you Europe for all the magical moments and the beautiful years. And hopefully we shall meet again in the future.”

For how long Israel won’t be participating in Eurovision remains to be seen, but I believe this gives Lebanon an opportunity to finally participate and avoid all the drama we went through in 2005. And why wouldn’t we? We have good singers, as long as we don’t send Star Academy grads. And we can deliver a good show, if we invest enough.

I believe that private TV stations such as MTV and LBC would and should jump at such an opportunity. They’d get the ratings, the ad money and the international exposure they always crave. It’s also a good medium for the country to have exposure on such a scale, in a setting that doesn’t involve talking about the Syrian crisis or some other issue that plagues the region.

So dear MTV or LBC or some other private media company with similar resources, connect with the organizers of next year’s Eurovision and check what we need to do in order for us to participate. It should be fun.

No, this isn’t a Phoenician attempt at building bridges with European BFFs It’s not a political move, even if the competition can have political undertones, at distancing Lebanon from its Arab history. It’s just a medium for fun, healthy artistic competitions and we need such things in this country.

I vote to send Hiba Tawaji. Who’d your pick be?

These Are Lebanon’s Upcoming New DSL Plans

Yesterday, head of Ogero Imad Kreidieh announced on his Twitter page (link) the upcoming DSL plans which are still awaiting our government to ratify in order for them to be operational. We’ve actually been waiting for over 40 days as Mr. Kreidieh had previously imagined the plans to be functional starting April 1st.

However, as it is with Lebanese governance, anything that could serve to improve our quality of life in such a way got delayed, as our politicians bicker over that new electoral law which they won’t be able to come up with. At this point, figuring out the existence of parallel worlds is easier.

In a series of tweets, Imad Kreidieh said that most of the new plans won’t feature any speed limits which means you get the speed that your line can handle.

This is a double-edged sword: while it’s good to know that some of us might be getting more than the 2Mbps we currently get, any future problems we might face could then be blamed on the quality of our copper lines.

However, as I’ve asked Mr. Kreidieh on Twitter back when the “Unleash The Speed” campaign was underway in different areas of Beirut, the speed that your line got on that day is the speed you’d get under normal conditions once the new plans are implemented. I personally got 12Mbps back then and would be happy to get that much on a daily basis.

Because of our dying infrastructure, however, the speed that you’ll get is highly dependent on how far you are from the exchange site. A few weeks ago, LBC did a report on the issue from which the following figure was obtained:

Hopefully our government will ratify the new plans soon. Here they are:

  • 2 Mbps, Unlimited: 60,000LL.
  • 4 Mbps, 40GB: 24,000LL.
  • Open speed, 50GB: 30,000LL.
  • Open speed, 100GB: 45,000LL.
  • Open speed, 150GB: 60,000LL.
  • Open speed 200GB: 75,000LL.
  • HDSL 100 gb: 100,000LL.

Extra consumption will also be made cheaper: the first 50GB are priced at 1,500LL each, with each GB after those priced at 1,000LL.

I think the new plans are fair. They’re much better than what we previously had, but a far cry from what we truly need. For instance, I have no idea if the new quotas will be enough with the new speeds we’d be getting. Can you imagine how many GBs you’d race through when YouTube decides to automatically load in HD?

I hope that these plans are, therefore, a stepping stone and that we won’t need to wait another 3 years before they get updated again.

A First For Lebanon: Crepaway Features Same-Sex Couple In Their Beautiful New Ad

Make sure you download this blog’s iOS app to stay up to date! (Link). 

Earlier today, Crepaway released a new ad to celebrate them turning 33 years, along with their famous tagline: #ComeAsYouAre.

The ad is exactly what you’d expect from the phrase “Come As You Are,” except it’s taken to a whole other level with some Lebanese taboo-breaking as Crepaway features a same-sex couple for the first time ever in an ad made for a Lebanese company. It’s also just in time before Lebanese LGBT NGOs start a week-long campaign to fight homophobia in the country.

Some people might gullibly think that the two women in question are just best friends and brush it off, but it’s far from the case. The voice over says: “And here’s to never hiding your love-bites,” as two women cuddle by the sea, come sunset time.

I was completely taken off guard by them including such a moment. I never expected a high profile company like Crepaway to go there, but I’m glad they did because it raised the quality of their ad’s message so much more.

The ad itself is as “woke” as that moment which is bound to have some people talking in the next few days: it is inclusive, features all kinds of kinds of Lebanese people you’d encounter on a daily basis, and celebrates all those differences that make each one of us, us.

Crepaway, I salute you for the courage you’ve put forth into making and approving such an ad to be how you represent your message in 2017, as you turn 33.

Check out the ad here:

Make sure you download this blog’s iOS app to stay up to date! (Link). 

GQ or How White People Ruined Beirut’s Nightlife on Their Last Day on Earth

This is a guest post by Lary Bou Safi, a self-proclaimed stylist and nightlife ambassador. You can follow him on Facebook here.

In today’s episode of ‘Things White People Do’, GQ attempts to teach Westerners how to party in Beirut like it’s their last night. The idea seems nice, and Beirut IS, whether you like it or not, a party city, but the old saying ‘The Road to Hell is paved with good intentions’ couldn’t have been more fitting in that case.

Who in their right mind would consider B018 a plat de resistance on their last night on Earth? Who in their right mind would pass out at 3 am in Beirut on their last night on Earth.

Let me tell you how that laughable scenario should’ve gone.

Your last night on Earth is Saturday night. Which Saturday night? ANY Saturday night.

Dinner:

Before you go wild, you should always eat, and Mar Mikhael-Gemmayzeh is perfect for that, if it’s only for step 2 of your last night on Earth.

Whether you’d like to indulge in some Lebanese food at Em Nazih, Kahwet Leila or Enab, international food at Prune, À Coté or The Happy Prince, try Beirut’s best burger at The Smoking Bun or drool over Soul Food at Butcher’s BBQ Joint, that area, the Lower East Side of Beirut (yup, I’m using your metaphors, sue me!) is perfect if you’re feeling like having a bite before you plan next day’s hangover.

Whatever you’re planning on doing, never do it on an empty stomach. Now that your dinner plans are set, it’s time for pre-drinking.

Drinks:

Forget what any straight couple from the 09 (the area code, not the year) has told you. I’m sure they’re nice people, but they party like it’s Ayia Napa, circa 2010. And it’s 2017; the times they are a changin’.

I’m one of Beirut’s main party animals. Just ask anyone, and if I don’t go to Mothershucker, then neither should you. No one cool ever goes there on their last night on Earth. I’m sure it’s a nice place, but a gin/oyster bar before getting hammered? Really? That’s a recipe for disaster! No wonder you were passing out at 3am.

There are a lot of cool bars in Mar Mikhael, from Floyd The Dog to Vyvyan’s to Internazionale, and if you’re lucky enough, you might get invited to some cool private house party. Actually, all you have to do is be white & have an accent, and you’re there already. You’ll meet most of Beirut’s elite, and you’ll probably end up on some guestlist for step 3. You also might get to meet me, which could be the highlight of your night.

Party:

It’s 12:30 am, which means you should get going if you’re someone’s +1 if you don’t want to miss on any guestlist.

For the main course, you have 2 of Beirut’s party moguls: The Grand Factory and Überhaus. Both will make you forget your last name, with their taste in EDM and their love for extravagant lights & setups.

Whoever compared B018 to Berghain should be fired. You might get some of Berghain’s PG-13 action at Reunion, the elite’s room in The Grand Factory beside the perennial CU NXT SAT, or even inside Überhaus’ monster or under The Gärten’s dome (‘Haus’ summer location), but B018 is not what it used to be. You’ll be dancing there for hours to international DJs that would usually be playing in Berlin and Amsterdam.

After-Party:

It’s 4:30 am. It’s time for the after-party. How come no one ever told you about the after-party scene in Beirut? My personal favorite is usually Projekt, but Pre and Off & On deliver as well. You’d be dancing your ass off till 9 am and suffer from jet lag once you leave the premises. This step is almost as unmissable as the previous one.

After-after-party:

If you’re not a shmuck, which I doubt you’d be, since you’ve already made it through this phase, you have 3 options: go to Barbar or any food place that opens 24/7, tag along a bunch of party animals and finish at some house party with some techno, some booze & some Zaatar w Zeit takeout, or get lucky & go home with someone.

In all cases, why would anyone want to pass out on their last night on Earth, in a city that covers every aspect of nightlife? Next time you decide to write an article, just tag along someone who’s actually relevant in Beirut’s nightlife, perhaps then your article would be worth a read.
You can also follow Lary, the author of this post on Twitter: @larybs.