by Rosie Alfatlawi
It may be the Paris of the Middle East, but until recently living out their romances on the streets of Beirut was unthinkable for Lebanon’s LGBT community. A law forbidding "sexual intercourse against nature" was regularly used to prosecute gay people.
That is, until January when a landmark case saw a judge rule that a same-sex couple could not be prosecuted for homosexuality as it was not, he said, a crime under Lebanese law. At the time it seemed that the tide might just be changing with regards to LGBT rights in the Middle East’s “liberal hub”.
Well, four months on and our hopes seem to have been fulfilled; this week, the Lebanese capital will be hosting the region’s very first pride event.
Centered around the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia on May 17, Beirut Pride is a series of events described on its website as “a collaborative platform that takes a positive stance against hate and discrimination.”
The program, running between 14-21 will include “talks, discussions, get-togethers, projections, performances, workshops, parties and collaborations—all of them open to the public.” So far, the festival has seen the launch of a “Gender Fluidity in Fashion” exhibition and a drag workshop.
The rest of the week promises, among other things, a coming-out storytelling session and a night out.
Many are thrilled about the groundbreaking event marking greater visibility of the Arab LGBT community, and increasing tolerance among certain groups in the Middle East.
Oh my goodness!! @BeirutPride is a thing!! So happy!— Queer Arabs (@QueerArabsHFX) May 14, 2017
can't believe im taking part in our first ever pride. @BeirutPride y'all are doing a great job— ukht w/the good hair (@onikashabibi) May 15, 2017
thank you for giving us hope https://t.co/mtffihhNqE— MD (@xzombiemd) May 15, 2017
However, it is not difficult to find evidence of the difficulties faced by gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Lebanese. A pride parade, seen in cities across the world, is conspicuous by its absence in Beirut.
In fact, Beirut Pride was forced to cancel its first event under pressure from religious groups. The Middle East Eye (MEE) reported that the authorities shut down the seminar on discrimination against the LGBT community following alleged complaints by the Council of Muslim Scholars in Lebanon, who apparently made threats against the venue.
@jaureguesus The rest of the week is still happening. They canceled the first event after religious pressure to the hotel that was hosting— Joey Ayoub (@joeyayoub) May 15, 2017
Bertho Mekso, director of the “Proud Lebanon” group, told MEE "We believe the authorities did not want to protect us."
Still, Beirut Pride is another sign that times are a-changin for Lebanon’s LGBT community. It comes only a week after Lebanese restaurant chain Crepaway launched an advert showing a same-sex couple. The restaurant received an outpouring of support following its release.
They featured a gay couple in their ad yaaaas https://t.co/WA8Mab827H— George (@catsandlabneh) May 10, 2017
Here's to more of this across the Middle East!
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