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The British Embassy in beirut. Picture via U.K. Ambassador Hugo Shorter
The Dutch Embassy in beirut; Pic via Proud Lebanon
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: