When it comes to LGBTQ rights, Lebanon is a bit of a blur. On the one hand, it’s renowned for being one of the most gay friendly Arab countries, but on the other, life is still a challenge for the local LGBTQ community.
Lebanon has a fantastic gay scene (by Arab country standards!), it has the largest gay club of the Arab world (called POSH), it’s the only Arab country that has a Pride event, and has a growing number of politicians that publicly campaign for the decriminalisation of homosexuality.
But, this is still a place where conservative homophobic religious voices retain a strong influence in politics as can be seen by the way they try to repress Beirut Pride each year.
We were fortunate to meet the founder of Beirut Pride, Hadi Damien. In 2018, Hadi was arrested and only released on condition that he cancels the remainder of that year’s Beirut Pride. A year later, the 2019 Beirut Pride formally went ahead, but the organisers were, again, forced to cancel the opening event due to the same religious pressure. In this interview, Hadi tells us more about his experience as an LGBTIQ+ activist in Lebanon, his experience being arrested, and what life is like for the local LGBTIQ+ community.
Lebanon Gay Life
I grew up in a family that was not obsessed with gender roles and stereotypes. There were, admittedly, the occasional “you’re a boy, don’t act like a girl” comments which destabilised me and contributed to my self-consciousness. I monitored my gestures, my tone of voice, and later on my glances.
Gay or not, I’d probably have gone to the same school, but my experience with homophobia would have been different.