How is the LGBT in Lebanon

dis: orient

Fouad B. (27) hides his homosexuality from his parents. And he prefers to dance with women in Beirut's gay bars. The story of a young man who perfected his discretion so as not to attract attention with his partner Ali K. (24).

Fouad B. and Ali K. (Name changed) argue a lot. About the Lebanese government, the sense and nonsense of Islam - and about Fouad B.'s professional ambitions. Because the young artist works intensively on his career even after work, the couple often has little time for two. Fouad B.'s apartment in the Lebanese capital houses a lot of small furniture that he has decorated with elegant calligraphy. At some point he would like to be able to make a living from his handicrafts. Until then, he'll be earning a living as a waiter. “Fouad is so perfectionist,” comments Ali K. on his partner's urge to work, half complaining, half admiring.

The city built on many hills spreads out in front of Fouad B.'s bedroom in the east of Beirut. Small houses in faded pastel colors crowd close together, power cables hang criss-cross between the buildings. Laundry is drying in front of the windows. The exhaust fumes from the cars passing loudly honk give shirts and towels a dusty, matt look and smell. The cars that do not follow the main street into the center can hardly be seen from Fouad B.'s window.

Fouad B. and Ali K. also know what it is like to move beyond the norm, always under the radar. The families of the two men from the south of the country are unaware of the same-sex relationship. Fouad B. has been hiding his sexual orientation from his parents for years. As he says, the family never put pressure on him to find a wife. Mother and father know that the handsome man with the well-toned arms and long eyelashes is a free spirit who would suffer greatly from being determined by others. Unlike his Muslim parents, the 27-year-old is more interested in the ancient gods than in Allah.

Despite the different way of life: The Beirut-born man visits his parents once a week in his old homeland - the relatively liberal city of Sour, which is mainly inhabited by Shiites and not far from the Israeli border. Fouad B. often brings his dirty laundry with him to wash. “One time my roommate's tights got in between. It was clear what my mother was thinking. I let them believe, ”reports Fouad B. in his deep voice. The women's garment has quietly found its way back into the young man's travel bag. “Our parents don't talk to us about things that contradict their conservative values. Maybe for them it is as if these things don't happen at all, ”believes Fouad B.

Premarital sex, for example, is hardly an issue in any Lebanese home. He certainly does not dare to speak about his homosexuality. The young man prefers to accept that the parents - wrongly - think that women take off their tights in their son's room: "Lebanese are a thousand times more likely than a gay son."

Oases for gays and lesbians

Fouad B. feels free in Beirut, a city with around 1.5 million inhabitants. “Still, I would never give up my roots,” emphasizes the young man in perfect English, although you can still easily hear the rough accent of the Lebanese south. Sometimes the residents of the capital annoy him with their soft pronunciation and exaggerated Western attitude: “When terrorists commit an attack in Paris, people here store their Facebook profiles with the French flag. But when IS terrorists blew themselves up here in a suburb last year, killing many innocent people with them, nobody said a word about our compatriots. "

For a while he went back to his hometown of Sour for a job. “But I soon couldn't take it any longer and just wanted to go back to Beirut,” remembers Fouad B. He has tolerant and like-minded friends in the capital. He also loves the local party scene. On a typical evening, for example, he and his friends go to the gay bar "Bardo". Men embrace each other in the corridor to songs by Britney Spears and Bruno Mars. Meanwhile, Foaud B. dances exuberantly with his best friend - which can be irritating in the "gay bar". “Are you homo or a heterosexual?” Asks a curious party guest. Because in addition to the many homosexual visitors, heterosexual people are also drawn to the bar.

Fouad B. is amused by the question of his sexual orientation - because people apparently find it difficult to put him in a drawer: "Whether I am interested in men or women is nobody's business". His friends are not bothered by Foaud B.'s discretion, which he does not want to give up entirely here either.

Places like the “Bardo” or the gay club “Posh” are oases of the homosexual scene even in the comparatively tolerant Beirut. On the other hand, same-sex love is nowhere to be seen on the streets of the multi-denominational capital. The legal situation for gay and lesbian Lebanese has improved significantly in recent years. It was only in January of this year that a judge again refused to apply Article 534 of the Lebanese Criminal Code when he tried the case of nine men accused of same-sex orientation in court. The vaguely worded law states that "unnatural" sexual intercourse is prohibited and punishable by a fine or a prison sentence of up to one year - Article 534 goes back to the French mandate. Lebanese non-governmental organizations such as “Helem” or “Proud Lebanon”, which campaign for the country's gay, lesbian and transgender community, regularly demonstrate for the abolition of this article.

Despite the liberal legal situation, the police harass those affected

However, according to recent surveys, 70 percent of Lebanese still reject homosexuality - at the same time, 90 percent of the population speak out against violence against those affected. In the cedar state, this often comes from the police: officers often arrest (supposedly) gay people and blackmail or abuse them. At the behest of the police, doctors often insert a metal object into the rectum of those affected when arrested. This "anal test" is intended to determine whether same-sex sex has taken place between men. Human rights organizations like "Human Rights Watch" describe the process as rape.

Syrians in particular have been frequently affected by police attacks in recent years: unlike many Lebanese homosexuals, they do not know the comparatively more liberal rights in the cedar state. The situation of homosexual war refugees from the neighboring country is also problematic for other reasons. “Many sell their bodies out of necessity,” says Fouad B. and tells of a Lebanese friend who often receives male visitors: “It has happened that Syrian men have asked him for $ 20 after the one-night stand - supposedly to pay for a taxi home. ”An unusually high price for a trip within the city. An unusually lower one for a sexual service. But in a country with the statistically highest refugee rate in the world and a disastrous economic situation, it is unfortunately no exception.

Fouad B. himself has found his place in society, unlike his friend Ali K .: He only begins to actively live out his sexual inclination and to surround himself with like-minded people.

The 24-year-old attaches great importance to his Muslim faith. He knows that many people around him consider Islam and homosexuality to be incompatible. Ali K. tried to live the Lebanese norm for a long time and even had a girlfriend. “But I was missing something,” remembers the young man with the short-cropped hair and light eyes. Even among friends, he still has a hard time talking about his sexual inclinations. He prefers to discuss politics, which often leads to arguments with his partner. “He's sometimes very conservative,” says Fouad B., explaining the differences.

Despite the different worldviews: Ali K. immediately fell in love with the free thinker. At work, the civil servant hides his feelings for another man: “I would risk my job.” The two Lebanese have also suppressed the idea of ​​a future together. “Men who are serious about each other usually try to go to Europe together,” explains Fouad B. But that is out of the question for the creative Lebanese: “I've built up a lot here over the years, I can get a good job find when the handicrafts do not work. There I would have to start from scratch professionally. ”That is why he continues to follow his strategy and keeps his homosexuality top secret from strangers and relatives.

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