Dear Lebanese Homophobes

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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:

 

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When Arabs Think The Apocalypse Is Near Because The US Legislated Same-Sex Marriage

I’m so honored and flattered to be living in the most open-minded and widely-accepting region of the world. Not only is everything peachy, wonderful and exceedingly rainbow-y around this place, but people in the region are adamant that their quality of life is obviously the way to go for everyone else, and that any deviation from it is quite clearly going to bring about the end of days, Allah-style.

It only took a couple of hours after the United States legislated same-sex marriage on Friday for Arabs across the Middle East to rise in outrage. Obviously, the outrage was restricted to Facebook and Twitter, but some of them were absolutely seething.

Here’s a sample:

How can anyone fathom living in a place where people are equal and requested?

I mean look at Iceland. They have more books published per person than any other country in the world while still being the second happiest country in the world. They legalized same-sex marriage in 2010. How dreadful.

Look at Belgium. The UNICEF called it the best place for children in the world. They legalized same-sex marriage in 2003. How atrocious.

Look at Canada. They are, according to studies, the most educated country in the world. They legalized same-sex marriage in 2005. How horrifying.

Look at New Zealand. They’re the second least corrupt and fourth safest country in the world. They legalized same-sex marriage in 2013. How abysmal.

Look at Norway. They legalized same-sex marriage in 2001, and they’re #1 on the UN’s Human Development Index. How disgusting.

Look at Ireland. In May 2015, they became the world’s first country to legislate same-sex marriage via a public referendum. They’re the #10 in the best places to grow up in. How nauseating.

Obviously, a #GAY_HOUSE is not a suitable place for humanity, because it will destroy everything that we’re about:

Arabs US - 15

 

So, because those horrible same-sex-loving countries are downright appalling at how they do things, I think that we should tell them what “natural” is, because they don’t know, and because we’re excellent at keeping things natural:

  1. It’s okay to have ISIS in your backyard. Clearly, there’s nothing wrong or unnatural about a clan of beheading-loving terrorists who are emanating from our #NATURAL_HOUSE.
  2. It’s okay if you marry an 8 year old girl. As long as the person you’re marrying has a vagina, you’re okay. Also, it’s not pedophilia in our #NATURAL_HOUSE.
  3. It’s okay if you beat your wife to death. The law allows it. No one will bat an eyelash on the news of her ending up in the hospital, brain dead. No one will also care about the bruises on her face. This is how we roll in our #NATURAL_HOUSE.
  4. It’s not okay for you to marry someone who inherited a different set of religious beliefs. Sunni and Shiite can be okay, even though you wouldn’t want that for your children nowadays also. But Muslim-Christian? This is not how things work in our #NATURAL_HOUSE.
  5. You will not be naturalized in our countries unless you’re from a certain religion. It doesn’t matter how good of a person you are, how hard-working, law-abiding and national. We don’t want any strangers in our #NATURAL_HOUSE.
  6. If you hear someone talk about the idea of civil liberties, call them a heretic and hang them at your nearest town square. Civil marriage? Equal right? Human rights? These are foreign concepts in our #NATURAL_HOUSE.
  7. If someone dares to mention Western countries, you will point your finger to his or her face and accuse them of being a follower of the Great Big Shaytan. This is not an insult to anyone’s intelligence in our #NATURAL_HOUSE.
  8. You will bring up Gaza and other violations of human rights in casual conversation about irrelevant topics, over shisha with your friends, to show you care. We are compassionate in our #NATURAL_HOUSE.

Once upon a time, I used to be a homophobe bigot. I used to think what people did in the privacy of their homes was my own business, and that I was allowed to have an opinion into how other people lived their lives, and that their lives are supposed to go on the track of values that I was exposed to all my life, never challenging, never looking at another realm of morality that existed beyond the confines of that little town, nestled on the hills of Batroun, in the heart of Christian Lebanon.

This extended to the way I dealt with things as well: when the only thing you know is that different is not okay, that “other” is frowned upon, that anything existing beyond your moral code is cringe-worthy, you slowly but surely regress into not being human.

But then I left home, and I realized that there were a lot of things I didn’t know. I realized that being challenged, morally, by things I had never been exposed to wasn’t only mind-boggling, it was also exhilarating. And slowly, over the course of many years and friendships in between, I not only do not recognize the boy that I was a few years ago, but I cower at the idea of that person still existing in some people’s memory.

I’ve seen some people say that discussing the new American legislation should not be done by people not living in the United States. I believe it’s the exact opposite. The most heart-warming story I’ve seen over the weekend is how a friend of mine, whose mother thought homosexuality was an abomination only a few years ago, is now a person who just wants people to live and let live, because what they’re doing does not affect her in any way whatsoever.

The more we discuss such topics and issues that challenge what we know, the more we inch towards truly bettering ourselves as societies, crawling slowly but surely towards a better state, one where people realize that the people who are different in all aspects are not an issue, but not accepting them is.

Homosexuals Not Allowed To Enter Lebanon?

Our minister of interior Marwan Charbel, also known as the gift that keeps on giving, issued a statement on the matter:

Marwan Charbel Homosexuality Lebanon

Picture via Facebook

The above statement hasn’t been altered. It’s what the minister said verbatim (link). “Lebanon is against gays,” he said. “The Lebanese law considers them a felony and I wonder if after France allowed same-sex marriages, we allow them to enter Lebanon?”

Beware gay people, Lebanon will enforce some new airport regulations to ban homosexuals entry to its land. Lebanon is a no-gay zone, according to Marwan Charbel that is.

The statement will resonate with all the people who approve of what the mayor of Dekwane did (link), the people who will applaud Marwan Charbel for “protecting their families,” the people who are busy putting up posters such as this around their towns:

Picture via Stop Cultural Terrorism in Lebanon's Facebook page

Picture via Stop Cultural Terrorism in Lebanon’s Facebook page

Lebanon, the country with entrenched homophobia, isn’t changing anytime soon.

PS: Mr. Charbel, your radar may have missed several hundred thousand individuals of the Lebanese population.

The Closing of Ghost & Lebanon’s LGBT “Crust” Activism?

“Gay people should not exist. They are an abomination.” Raise your hand if you’ve heard this countless times in your life.

It doesn’t matter what your sexual orientation is. Homophobia is entrenched in Lebanese society and pretending it doesn’t exist because you live in a more “liberal” place in Beirut doesn’t mean it’s not there.

People see someone wearing something they may not fancy and they say he’s gay. People see a girl with super-short hair and not-so girly clothes and she’s a lesbian. People see two close friends from the same gender walking on the street and they’re automatically dating.

And sometimes, when someone has enough power, they act out on their homophobia. It’s very easy to freak out how someone as homophobic as the mayor of dekwane, the newest a place to close down a gay pub, made it to office. But is it any surprise?

Is it any surprise really and honestly that your security task force, which has no problem wolf-whistling your women on the streets, also has no problem in violating people that your law considers as “unnatural?”

I had no idea what “Ghost” was until today. I asked a few LGBT friends the following question: if it had been a hetereosexual place, do you think it closing would have been justified if the same stuff were happening in it?
They answered yes. The question begets itself: is it okay to do whatever people did at Ghost just because it’s a gay place?

Of course, Ghost closed down because it broke one particular Lebanese law, not the many others that, in any normal setting, should have counted. Of course the mayor wanted to protect his city against the “louwat” and whatnot. And you know what’s also interesting? For everyone person outraged by what happened and by what that mayor said, there are many more others who were just convinced to re-elect that mayor. No amount of Facebook sharing and Tweeting will change what people believe in deeply, surely and resoundingly: gay is not right and should not exist.

You know what’s the best way to tell a homophobic official to go to hell with his decisions? To have the law on your side to protect you, to have a law that doesn’t label you as an inferior human being just because of who you want to sleep with.

Until a time when closing down pubs because they’re gay-friendly becomes illegal and raiding cinemas because someone thinks “unnatural” things are happening there becomes not allowed, isn’t getting up in a fit because of those events happening while forgetting the base of the issue sort of like crust-activism whereby the small victories that might result are celebrated but the underlying cause for the struggle leading to those victories remains?

Until a time when homosexuality is removed form Lebanon’s penal code and homosexual men and women are not considered in law with a prefix, pubs will keep closing and cinemas will keep on being raided and activists will keep on panicking. It’s a cycle that will repeat itself indefinitely – until Lebanon’s LGBT community manages to get LGBT-friendly officials on their side in order to advocate for their rights and make laws that can be shoved in the mayor of Dekwane’s face.

I don’t see that happening anytime soon.

My Bout With Homophobia at AUB

A couple of days ago, two friends and I decided to participate in a trivia night serving as a fundraiser for the Achrafieh blast victims. 27 teams participated, each made up of three people. A first round brought those teams down to ten and my team qualified. A second round brought those teams down to five and my team qualified again.

When it came to the last round, the questions were – to me at least – rather silly.The categories, in a jeopardy-like system, were: who made this (Macbook Pro, vPro processors, etc…), colors (black market, red lines, etc…), TV shows by cast (Michael C. Hall, Jim Parsons, etc…), 21st century hitmakers (who sings “Call Me Maybe?” Who sings “Teenage Dream?” etc…) and last but not least Glee Songs where they asked about some of songs sung on the show such as R.E.M’s Losing my Religion and Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody, among others.

My team knew the answers since last time I checked we don’t live under a rock. But it seems knowing the answer to who sings Teenage Dream and the title of the Journey song that has the lyric “Just a small town girl” is “gay” to some of the other participants who had their asses handed to them by us knowing basically everything.

So as we answered one question of useless pop culture after the other, the other team kept spitting derogatory terms at us. They guessed a Bruno Mars song so I looked at them sarcastically and asked: now how do you know that? Turns out that Bruno Mars song was a “straight” song.

Even songs have sexual orientations now. And they wouldn’t stop until one of my teammates threatened them to shut up. As we won the top prize and everyone congratulated us, they were not happy. “Law kenna 3erfin hal2ad lawtane ma kenna shtarakna” (If we had known it would be this gay, we wouldn’t have participated.)

The thing is though they would have known the answer if they actually had been fast enough to get a turn. After all, if someone didn’t know the character “Cosette” is found in “Les Miserables,” then that person is – at least to me – absolutely ignorant. The purpose of the whole night being a fundraiser seemed to have eluded them as well. But I know a few people who were shocked that such a thing would actually come out of AUB students, with the illusion of them being slightly more open minded than your average Lebanese.

As a former AUB student, I know how these students see themselves as the best of the best – being accepted at Lebanon’s version of “ivy league” makes them automatically better than anyone else. Now add the fact that these students are future physicians on top of that and you have an extra twist to the sense of elitism that they have – we are surely better than anyone else. Of course, this doesn’t apply to everyone.

It’s not like if they wouldn’t have known the answer to all the questions if they had put on Radio One for a few minutes this past summer. But I have to ask what would these obviously beyond mature future medical doctors do if they ever got a homosexual person to their practice? Would they shut them out just because they don’t agree with their lifestyle?

And this a specimen of Lebanon’s future doctors: homophobic people with an obvious lack of sportsmanship. So as they call my friends and I derogatory terms for beating them, we’ll be laughing all the way to the bank. Assholes will forever be assholes. And this was the first time I’ve had homophobic slurs thrown at my face all my life which has gotten me thinking: what do gay people go through – at least in the medical field – just because they’re gay?

Then I remembered when an acquaintance who happens to be involved in the medical field said to me once: if I ever had a homosexual patient, I’d stop treating them. I asked: what if they die? The acquaintance replied: it would be for the better. That acquaintance was a nurse.