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HeLeM in ILGA: Helemâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s success depends on the community's visibility

Out in Beirut But Dreaming of London Gay life in two cities

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BARRA issue 1 summer 2005


Q~H QÉéjEÓd á°ThôØe áªîa ≥≤°T ôcƒY ‘ ähÒH øe ≥FÉbO 10 ôëÑdG ≈∏Y áq∏£e ≥∏£e Ah~g …ƒæ°S hCG …ô¡°T hCG »YƒÑ°SCG QÉéjEG áØ∏àfl äÉ°SÉ«b ºîah …ô°üY ¢Tôa πeÉch õ¡› ïÑ£e áYÉ°S 24 AÉHô¡c ájÉæÑdG â– ∞bƒe

BADER Luxury Furnished Apartments for Rent in Aoukar, Belle Vue Quiet street, off the Wooden Bakery One mile from the American Embassy 10 minutes from Beirut Panoramic view of the city and the sea

DESIGN:

BaderApartments@yahoo.com | 04 540 613 | 03-275 273 | 03 324 146

MARK MANSOUR

MISTD

Brand new studio, 1, 2, or 3 bedroom apartments for rent weekly, monthly, or yearly Fully furnished Garage parking, 24-hour-electricity, AC, TV, dish, internet connection, stereo, stove & oven, microwave, fridge, washer & dryer


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A#; 5 B;C# 5 ,;C#  5*D,5   ,5 EC-FBG,-# "#,$%&*(%  ,5 B!,5/,G5BI > &* ./,JK#4.85  !LM 5 8N# Ilga's Interview with Ghassan Makarem A Foreign Affair Being positive Le Monde Merveilleux des Happy People Out in Beirut but Dreaming of London Gay Lebanon in the northern European press Horrorscope

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[opinion] Doctor world: Helemâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s magazine, Barra. I, myself, am a closet-case, not as discreet as so many other doctors in the AUB-MC, but not as â&#x20AC;&#x153;outâ&#x20AC;? as the rest of the gay, lesbian, and bisexual doctors in the hospital. â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;God knows how much I long to see Barra on the window-pane of that bookshop, all bookshopsâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; as I passed by a bookshop on Hamra Street. If I were fully â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;outâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;, wish I were and wish I could be, I wouldâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ve confidently stepped inside and proudly said: â&#x20AC;&#x153;This is Barra, and this is I, with no mask on my face, a Helem member, asking you to support our magazine.â&#x20AC;&#x2122; Just the thought of it gives me the shivers. I ended up

A daily trip down Hamra Street I walk down Hamra Street every morning. I walk from our home, where I have been living with my boyfriend for the past 3 years, to the American University of Beirut Medical Center (AUB-MC) where I work â&#x20AC;&#x201C; well â&#x20AC;&#x201C; as a doctor. Holding my heavy suitcase and walking fast to make it on time, my heart races as I pass by the shops, neither from my racing steps nor from holding the suitcase. My heart races as thoughts race in my mind; thoughts of entering a shop and asking for support or sponsorship for the first queer magazine in the Arab

walking by the bookshop and away from it. My heart rate dropped back to 74 â&#x20AC;&#x201C; well â&#x20AC;&#x201C; to normal. Well after all, I found sponsors for the magazine and â&#x20AC;&#x153;Issue 0â&#x20AC;? was published, distributed and sold. I had to come out to some people, but it was worth it. I learned that the Lebanese are not as homophobic as one might believe they are. I learned that you are liked more when you act yourself and you are proud of it. I learned that you are more productive when you act yourself and you are proud of it.[ ]


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MISTD4§„‚¡Hš4fH

[j©¡Dfž<&*] 2005“©„8|

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what are you looking at??? >>>


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throw out a case based solely on article 534 that the rainbow flag was flown in such an action in an Arab country. Helem’s full participation in the antiwar on Iraq coalition, allowed us to be in contact with the major political currents in the country, especially the left, Arab nationalists, and Hezbollah. Although they are all equally homophobic, they were forced to deal with the issue in a political platform, raising the level of debate on the relationship between democracy and personal freedoms. Other political currents, even those with a liberal slant and who are supposedly active on human rights issues, have avoided contact with us. Helem is organizing a gay and lesbian film festival in Beirut. Do you feel the administration is a bit more progressive or is the LGBT movement now just ready to be proactive? The film festival is scheduled for April. But judging from other public events organized by Helem, the reaction has been mainly positive. Civil society’s support has been wavering. Although there has been no direct negative feedback from local Human Rights and social NGOs, they are still not willing to be involved directly with Helem, with the exception of some organizations working on HIV prevention and the National AIDS Prevention Program. Mediawise, we have had only two examples of negative reporting, one in a defunct magazine, and the other in an ultraconservative Arabic newspaper. The success of Helem’s activities had been dependent on the community’s readiness to become more and more visible. This situation is improving, based on the membership of Helem and the fact that when we started out with the registration process a few months ago, only five people where willing to publicize their involvement. In a very short period, the number increased to 18. In addition, there are some semi-public figures who are now willing

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The great majority of judges would

to associate their names with the movement. This allowed us to consider the publication of the first LGBTIQ magazine in an Arab country. The first issue will be out in a few weeks! Does that mean Lebanon may finally abolish law 534 which prohibits “unnatural sexual intercourse?” How is Helem working on this? 18 Actually, the campaign to remove article 534 was one of the first initiatives of Helem in 2001. We helped establish a human rights organization, Hurriyyat Khassa to lobby for personal freedom issues in the criminal code. The campaign began in 2001 when the draft of the new penal code was leaked by a member of parliament. The suggested amendments by the Parliamentary Subcommittee on the Reform of the Penal Code concerning article 534 and articles related to women’s sexuality were considered by many as a major setback. This prompted Hurriyyat Khassa to start a coalition calling for a conference on the issue, where Helem was very visible. Around 20 local NGOs became involved, mostly human rights and feminist organizations. The pressure of the campaign led to the government’s reconsideration of the new draft of the law. The process was restarted, and the law was sent back to the parliamentary subcommittee. Unfortunately, civil society representatives in the subcommittee, the Lawyers’ Order and a couple of women’s organizations, are rather homophobic. They were not willing to include the removal of 534 in the demands. To our surprise, the subcommittee, nonetheless, proposed to remove the article along with some laws on adultery and a law that gives amnesty to rapists if they agree to marry the victim. We are still waiting to see what will happen when the proposals reach the Judiciary Committee of the Lebanese Parliament. To date, our attempts to contact a member of parliament who is also a president of one of the most established human rights organizations in the country have failed. When will the law be discussed? Time is still on our side, since the law will reach the committee after the next Parliamentary elections (April 2005), thus postponing the reform for many months. Our current strategy is to try to work with the Judiciary Committee not to overrule the suggestion of the subcommittee, because there is a big possibility that when the new proposal for the penal code reaches the stage for a parliamentary vote, there might not be any discussion, since all the deals and arm-twisting happen in the committees. I need to mention that the code itself is rarely used. The great majority of judges considers it to be outdated and would throw out a case based solely on 534. Unfortunately, it is usually used when connected to another “crime”, such as prostitution, drug use, or “public indecency”. [ ]

2005“©„8|

Western influence in the recent past. Moreover, even though Lebanon is a religious country, the fact that it has 19 officially recognized religious groups which are constantly fighting with each other allows for more secularist approaches and organizations, albeit with slow impact. So, what made you decide to register it now, was there any specific motivating factor? Our participation in the anti-war demonstrations of 2003 was decisive. It was the first time to our knowledge


ILGA

an interview with Helem represented by Ghassan Makarem This article was published in “Campaigning” of ILGA, Issue 117 | March 2005

“The success of Helem has been dependent on the community's readiness to become visible”

2005“©„8|

Waving the flag in Lebanon and in the Arab world From the official registration of Helem as an association to the publication of the first ever LGBT magazine in the Arab world, Ghassan Makarem tells us of the LGBT community’s coming out in Lebanon, how his association plans to work for the removal of article 534 which prohibits “unnatural sexual intercourse”. Most media and organizations targeting the LGBT population in the Middle East are based in the West. This has been the case for Helem. Why choose Canada first? Helem was actually founded in Lebanon in 2001. Many of the founders were members of a group called Club Free, also based in Lebanon. It is a coincidence that Helem was first registered in Canada. Since many members of Helem have in the past either lived outside Lebanon or had to leave the country for various reasons, mostly economic, we decided to start “chapters” for the organization wherever there is a substantial-sized group of LGBT, Lebanese or Arab, willing to do so. These chapters are autonomous and, therefore, went through registration processes on their own. Today, we are registered in Montreal, Paris, and Beirut, and will apply for 501c.3 status through our San Francisco Chapter. Lately though, you succeeded in registering it with the Lebanese authorities. Was it 19 difficult to get the organization recognized in Beirut? We had a few options when it came to officially registering Helem. The best one appeared to be through the 1909 Ottoman law governing associations and groups. Largely based on the French law of associations of 1901, the law itself is extremely liberal, even compared to association laws in some western countries. However, the Ministry of the Interior has been putting up administrative obstacles to any group trying to register a human-rights organization. When deciding to register Helem, there were three factors we considered. First, we needed to have at least five members willing to give their names and supporting documents to the Ministry of the Interior, where they could be subject to a public investigation. Second, freedom of association is explicitly guaranteed in the Lebanese constitution, so the government cannot

simply outlaw our organization. Finally, two major legal decisions have come down in Lebanon. The first involves what constitutes a “secret society” – by claiming that we were a secret society, the government could have denied us registration. Fortunately, the courts have ruled now that those organizations that have been subject to open media coverage cannot be deemed secret societies. Since Helem has been covered in three major Arabic newspapers as well as in numerous French and English dailies, this definition then could not be applied to us. The second important ruling was a court decision in favor of a

Our participation in the AntiWar demonstrations of 2003 was decisive. It was the first time that the rainbow flag was flown in such an action in an Arab country.

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human-rights organization that had sued the government for unconstitutionally adding undue administrative roadblocks to its registration. Although the Ministry of the Interior has not yet given us a registration number, the return receipt is considered by many legal experts to be proof of our registration. To this date, there has been no attempt to investigate Helem or any of its founding members, in spite of the fact that none of them have friends in higher places to protect them. Wasn’t visibility an issue? Of course it was. The main issue is having an organization that is willing to go public about LGBTIQ issues. In Lebanon, the laws and the political situation have always allowed the creation of social groups and political parties. It was just a matter of time. The particular problems usually created by “outside” intervention on social issues in Arab countries are usually not much of a factor in this country, since it has been more open to


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a foreign affair It has been 210 days, 50 mexican beers at Walima, 40 Helem meetings, 30 “bayeh lebneneh” conversations with military men, 20 cruises at UV, 10 Cinnzeo coffees, 6 visits to the hemmem, 4 swims at Paradise Beach, 2 visits to the “cinema” in Nabha, and 1 drag show since I arrived in Lebanon. So how is gay life in Beirut for a Sydney gay boy like me? All I can say is 7amdella! I certainly take a lot for granted in Sydney…not having to think about the illegalities of having sex with a man, being able to french-kiss a boy in a nightclub without being kicked out, or not having to wonder about the religious background of a cute boy. Must say, religion is rarely a topic of discussion in a Sydney gay bar…It’s a different story here. Religion does impact on many aspects of life in Lebanon, be it politics, or even the language…so why wouldn’t religion have an impact when it comes to sexuality (this is the Arab world, after all!)? It has intrigued me why some Muslim boys give up Gaydar and sex during Ramadan; and then there are some Christian boys who give up “meat” during the Easter holy week (and I ain’t talking about the dinner table!). I’ve heard of sexual healing, but sexual fasting is a new thing. Man cannot live on bread alone, I say! In fact, a church-going straight Lebanese guy recently encouraged me to read the New Testament so that I could discover the joys of heterosexuality. I responded by inviting him to my place to discover the joys of homosexuality … Both invitations were politely declined. And speaking of straight boys, it’s much easier working

by BRETT BARAKAT

out who is gay and who is straight in Sydney. Pretty much all boys here take the time to look sharp. And even the straights check each other out (from a competitive/fashion perspective, of course). So when a cute Leb boy, wearing tight jeans and sharp hair, checks me out in Downtown, it ain’t necessarily a sex thing - which leads me to another question… Is it really only the gay boys in Lebanon that are having man-on-man sex? A Lebanese newspaper recently quoted that 35% of Lebanese men have had sex with other men; and this percentage is even higher throughout the Arab world. This statistics is incredibly high, considering that it is widely known that 5% of any population is homosexual. Maybe it’s the over-protection of Arab girls that results in boys playing with boys (I can just hear some Lebanese parents say: “no wedding…no touching”). This 35% statistics makes me wonder about Lebanese taxi drivers. After a brief discussion about the weather, lack of money in Lebanon, and the joys of sex, a significant number of taxi rides have ended up in a sexual liaison, of sorts. No! These taxi drivers aren’t gay…but they are comfortable enough to have sex with men, especially if there is money involved. A definite “rise” in the Lebanese economy! Despite the differences between the Sydney and Beirut gay scenes, I can happily say that for every type of Sydney gay boy, there is a Beirut equivalent! So it’s good to see that the illegalities of homosexuality and family pressures in Lebanon is not stopping the butch, the bitchy, the effeminate, the muscle-mary, the “straight-acting”, the virtual (Gaydar user), and the label queens from getting out there … After all, boys will be boys! [ ]


by MK

made me make all the wrong decisions? Looking back, I know the answer is: fear and pity. I realized as I went through that horrible month that those emotions were bad for me. Talking to my real friend now makes me think about how my NYC sex partner must have felt. Yes, he might have needed me by his side but he didn’t need me being afraid and he certainly didn’t need me doing it out of pity. I apologize to him, wherever he might be. Context is everything. The word “positive” can have totally different connotations. A positive outlook on life is very important especially when you are HIV positive. Being HIV+ is all about context too. It is just an alternate way of managing one’s life. The symptoms are annoying, yes. But then, again, so are asthma and diabetes. And the big percentage of people who know will tell you that anxiety attacks feel like death every time. Drug side effects? Sure. But the palpitations an inhaler causes aren’t exactly pleasant either. OK so no one would choose the disease. And certainly no one should. But what have I ever really chosen for myself anyway? Certainly not the shape of my nose nor the fact that I’m practically blind without my glasses. What I am able to choose is what to do with my nose or weather or not I should swim with my glasses on. But I over simplify perhaps. My experience taught me that in order to see well, I have to take a few steps back and look at the big picture, then re-arrange the elements of my life so that the happiness is maximized and the pain is minimized. The side effects are something I would have to endure. The will to live well is something I don’t need to sacrifice. More importantly, my experience taught me not to be scared. I will not be scared of the disease. I will not be scared of people who carry it. I will not be scared of life.

Being positive

2005“©„8|

I am sitting on a real chair in a real room listening to my real friend telling me about his real disease. I’m finally confronting the reality that is called HIV. I am finally bringing this reality home. The confrontation started maybe three summers ago during a trip to NYC. My anxiety about catching “the gay disease” was at an all time high. On that trip, I found out that two friends of mine who lived in the US were HIV+. The prospect that this disease hit people I knew was nerve-racking. I was obsessing about it. The obsession culminated with me sleeping with an HIV+ man to whom I was totally unattracted. “I must have been attracted to the virus”, I thought back then. Today I know I was attracted to the idea of me not being scared of it. I did everything wrong. I almost didn’t use a condom. I was embarrassed to say no to anything he asked me for. I saw him apply an oil-based gel to my condom and I wasn’t surprised when it broke. I was convinced the virus had made a passage into my body. “It was meant to be”, I remember thinking. My friends there advised me to immediately see a doctor. The doctor told me I had the option of 21 using the day-after pill. I had no idea it existed but I jumped on the idea immediately, not knowing that this was not a pill, but a full fledged HIV treatment for a month. I started on two cocktail pills a day in the US but when I got back home to Beirut, the picture was different. Back then we didn’t have cocktails in Beirut. I don’t know how many pills I was taking but it was a lot of pills taken in different intervals. My day suddenly started revolving around pills and alarm sounds. The side effects were terrible. Headaches, nausea, and fatigue compounded the anxiety. I was taking up to 4 Xanax pills per day and it wasn’t helping. Why did I sleep with someone I wasn’t attracted to? Why was I embarrassed of saying no to unsafe sex? What

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Fear, and not the virus, is the worst enemy. [ ]


22

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et NANCY par cœur; soyez les premiers à découvrir le dernier vidéo-clip de CAROLE et ELISSA; apprenez les dernières chorégraphies de MARWA et RUBY; et surtout, ne ratez pas un PRIME de la STAR ACADEMY et de SUPERSTAR, sinon de quoi auriez-vous l’air??? Et si vous êtes obsédé par les célébrités, courez vous inscrire au FAN-CLUB de ASSALAH ou NAJWA, vous finirez bien par passer un soir à la télé, chez notre ami ZAVEN... Côté salons, votre conversation doit être aussi à la hauteur de votre apparence. Pas de demi-mesure donc! Choisissez les mots les plus excessifs: J’ADOOOOORE, JE DETTTTESTE, C’EST AFFFFFREUX, C’EST GENIAAAL, etc... Une citation tirée de la dernière SEASON de SEX AND THE CITY vous placera bien au-dessus de la compétition et sera toujours plus branchée qu’une phrase du PROPHETE de GIBRAN... Pour conclure, un seul conseil: soyez NATUREL, excessivement naturel, et n’ayez pas peur du ridicule. Et si certains ricanent dans votre dos, dites vous bien que ce sont des JALOUX![]

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contenter de sucer... les aliments bien sûr! Même habillé de la tête aux pieds, vous vous sentez complètement nu sans votre SAC A DOS! Cet inséparable compagnon est utile à toute heure et à toute occasion. Qu’il soit en cuir ou en tissu, à bandoulière ou sans, compact ou large, il saura contenir tous vos KALAKISH, et ils sont nombreux: humidifiant pour les lèvres, pince à épiler, miroir de poche, capotes parfumées aux fruits exotiques (car on ne sait jamais!), le dernier CD de MADONNA, un DVD sur la vie et l’œuvre de MARIA CALLAS et le dernier numéro de BARRA, bien évidemment! A toute heure et en toute saison, vos lunettes de soleil ne quitteront pas votre petit nez... (Si par malchance, le vôtre est gros ou crochu, prenez rendez-vous TOUT DE SUITE avec le chirurgien le plus proche de votre domicile). N’hésitez pas à acheter les lunettes les plus extravagantes! Après tout, vous ne voudriez surtout pas que l’on vous confonde avec un hétéro... QUELLE HORREUR! Si toutefois vous n’avez pas les moyens de vous offrir la dernière paire de ARMANI ou D&G, vous pouvez toujours emprunter celle de votre mère; les mamans c’est fait pour ça! Côté culture, soyez toujours dans le vent; retenez toutes les chansons de NAWAL, HAIFA


le monde merveilleux des

happy people 2005“©„8|

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23

PHOTOGRAPHS BY REESHEH

par Dabbour

Ce n’est pas tout d’être GAY, encore faudrait-il mériter le LABEL GAY et ce n’est pas une mince affaire... Vous avez beau ressentir la différence à l’intérieur de votre âme; mais tant que les autres ne la perçoivent pas, le combat n’est pas gagné! Vous ne ressemblez à personne, c’est bien vrai, et pour le prouver, vous ne manquez pas d’accessoires typiques, utiles ou moins utiles, mais tellement, tellement INDISPENSABLES. Un petit tour d’horizon pour explorer le MONDE MERVEILLEUX des HAPPY PEOPLE! Pour commencer par le commencement, il vous faut des sous-vêtements IN, car la feuille de figuier est peu pratique et le vert ne va pas à tout le monde. String, slip, caleçon ou boxer, peu importe le modèle pourvu que ce soit un CALVIN KLEIN... (N’oubliez pas de baisser le pantalon le plus bas possible au niveau des hanches afin que l’on puisse bien lire la marque

de votre culotte!). Mince, robuste, rachitique ou même obèse, votre corps est votre fonds de commerce et vous devez absolument le mettre en valeur. Un BODY, choisi de préférence deux ou trois tailles en dessous de la vôtre, saura envelopper votre corps divin... Vous ne savez pas quelle couleur choisir? Optez pour le noir sans hésitation; ça ne passe pas de mode et ça va avec tout. Et puisqu’on parle de votre corps sacré, attention à la ligne... L’été s’approche et vous ne voudriez surtout pas ressembler à FIFI ABDO sur la plage. Ne buvez que du thé vert, ne mangez que les produits LIGHT et gardez toujours une boite de CANDEREL dans votre poche. Ceux qui souffrent de gros problèmes de poids, devront s’abstenir complètement de manger et se


out in beirut but dreaming of london

2005“©„8| 24

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Something happened when I came to Lebanon. My gaydar stopped working. I had spent years programming it to the point that, in London, I reckoned I could spot any gay man accurately within a range of 50 metres. In Beirut it’s different. That cute guy, for instance, owns a shoe shop down the road. I could have sworn he was gay… but no. I’ve noticed the way he looks at women when they go past. In Hamra and in the downtown area, you see men—straight men—wearing clothes that only gay men would wear in London. Sometimes these straight men touch and put their arms around each other. They even kiss on the cheek to greet one another, but it doesn’t mean what I’d like to think it means. A European who has been living in Beirut for a while informed me that 23% of Lebanese men would not decline a bit of you-know-what. There was a survey, he said, so it must be true. But what worries me is the possible reaction if I accidentally start making eyes at one of the remaining 77%. I’ll just have to re-program my gaydar. That’s not the only difference between London and Beirut, as I found out when a Lebanese friend came to London a few months ago. I took him to a gay bar and showed him two of the gay magazines that we have, full of pictures of people partying and news about the bars and clubs. He took a sip of his beer and said: “Yes, but what about the gay politics?” “Sorry,” I told him with a smile, “but you’re about 20 years too late for that.” Of course we do have a few campaigning organisations but most of the battles have now been won and the vast majority of gay and lesbian folks in London are far too busy having a good time to bother with that sort of

activism. In Lebanon, of course, it’s still illegal. I also have heard terrible stories about the problems people face because of their sexuality. It got a lot better in Britain but even by John Bull there, gay people sometimes get beaten up in the streets. A few months ago, a gay man was murdered by homophobic thugs. The police department, however, is generally sympathetic and helpful. At the annual Pride parade, for instance, gay policemen and women take part in the march, wearing their uniforms. Nowadays, it is easy to forget that Britain hasn’t always been like this. One could be executed for homosexuality until 1861, homosexual sex act remained illegal until 1967. In the 1950s hundreds of gay men were jailed every year or forced to have hormone injections that were supposed to “cure” them. In those days, gay British men often fled to Arab countries, such as Morocco, where their sexuality was tolerated. A few weeks ago, on the radio, I heard an elderly British lesbian talking about the time when it was against the law for women to wear men’s clothes. The courts had some difficulty defining what exactly was meant by “men’s clothes”, and they eventually decided that it was legal for a woman to wear a suit and tie as long as she had women’s underwear beneath it. Policemen were then given the interesting job of checking that women visiting lesbian meeting places had suitably feminine underwear. In London, I occasionally come across gay men who are old enough to remember the bad days when they lived a life of secrecy and fear. At the time it seemed to them that nothing would ever change—but of course it did. That, at least, gives hope that one day gay men and women will win their freedom everywhere. []


by Staf de Cock

gay lebanon

brave women and men who walked the 5km fun-run for unity with rainbow flags. All in all, the four articles mentioned above give a helicopter-view of Lebanese gay life and make the community much more visible abroad. But not only in The Netherlands is the Lebanese community an item. Go a little to the east and you are in Germany, a much bigger country, also known for its freedom and liberal stands on homosexuality. In one of the magazines aimed at German gays, a frequent visitor to Lebanon wrote a major piece on what is going on in the country. Dealing with more or less the same problems as his Dutch counterpart, the German author states that the Middle East is not a backward region. His article, aimed more at European gay tourists, gives the idea that Lebanon is a paradise

in the northern european press

2005“©„8|

Since the murder of Rafic Hariri and his companions, Lebanon has been featured in the foreign press almost daily, due to the big changes that are shaking up the country. But before all that, Lebanon became increasingly noted by journalists from Europe, who also teamed up to mention the country’s vibrant, if underground, gay-life. In 2003, in one of the Dutch quality dailies, Trouw, it was mentioned that Lebanon is a country where lesbians can go to jail for “unnatural sexual activities”. This shows that Beirut is the hippest city in the Middle East, yet Beirut is a place where “everything is forbidden, but you can do anything”. The same idea comes from an article in the Dutch Volkskrant, also a quality newspaper. Two female journalists went clubbing in Beirut in 2004 and mentioned Acid as “the” place to go for gay people, although the actual sexual act is forbidden. Lebanon, and more precisely Beirut, is a place in between modernity and classical Arab culture. From June 2003, the queer subculture in Lebanon has been described in a series of articles in the Dutch gayweekly Gaykrant. Starting with a general overview of the many sides of Lebanese 25 gay life, from Dunkin—at that time—to the beach, the magazine dived into the hammams. Through short interviews with Lebanese gay men, the Dutch reader was given a view of what was going on in Lebanon. Because, as one of the articles stated, “The Middle East is not only a region where men with moustaches and

guns walk around, but also a place of diversity and, in Lebanon, a vibrant gay sub-culture”. A much needed addition, since after 9/11 and the events in Afghanistan and Iraq, many Europeans, even the better informed, got a distorted view of the region. In a third article in Gaykrant, which is the biggest gay-oriented weekly in the Netherlands and read by 100,000’s of people, Helem played the major part. Georges Azzi, the Coordinator of Helem, was interviewed and starred with a big yet bad-quality picture, explaining the aim of the first gay-rights association in our region. Ending by saying that there is much

The four articles mentioned above give a helicopter-view of Lebanese gay life and make the community much more visible abroad.

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to be done, but what is being done is irreversible, Azzi gave the Dutch reader an idea of what can be done to emancipate a large number of people, which, through the nature of the culture of Lebanon, have a very hard time to stand up for who they are. Azzi received some support emails from the Netherlands as a result of this coverage. The fourth article in the row, which is yet to be published, marked the launching of the Lebanese Barra, the magazine you are reading now! It mentions the uniqueness of the fact that, although queers in Lebanon mostly live in the closet, there is now, for the first time, an almost glossylike publication specially aimed at their interests. Written during the recent events, it also points at the

for gays in the region. The first Dutch article, by the way, had the same headline! Originally written in German, James, the author, translated his piece into English and agreed on publication, later this year, in Barra. “Exist!” is one of main slogans of Helem. Let people know you are there. At least in Northern Europe the existence of Lebanese gays, lesbians and queers is becoming more and more visible. Through the articles about the country, European readers have been given an insight of what is going on here. Barra does the same, but then inside Lebanon. Visibility, as Georges Azzi put it in one of the interviews, is one of the main roads to acceptance. And thus: let Barra exist! []


[horrorscope] Madame Horreur

ARIES (21 March-19 April) What will it take to get through to you? Youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ve been after the same person for how long now? El3ama shu laz2a! Give it up already. Go for someone else. There are so many mediocre people around. Spread out and open up. Stay within your area of expertise. TAURUS (20 April-20 May) Tired of the scene? Well maybe you are, but the answer isnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t in the cocoon, or worse, the closet. Get out, get in, WHATEVER, but for Godšs sake get IT once and for all: in this life, you have to make the best of what you were handed, ESPECIALLY if you were handed a finga.

LIBRA (23 September-23 October) Thereâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s a trip in the air (I spelled it a.i.r. so stop making faces). On this trip you will have a kiss (I spelled it k.i.s.s. so the rest of you stop making faces). Start getting ready. You may be going places and I have nothing bad to say to you so Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ll shut up!

GEMINI (21 May-21 June) OH Baby! Youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re so busy. Poor little Gemini. Working hard? Or hardly working? Youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re juggling so many things that you canâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t make time to call friends who love you every once in a while. All it takes is a few minutes a day. Just skip a BJ or two.

SAGITTARIUS (23 November-21-December) Stop blowing your money away! People will stop knowing you once the moneyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s gone and thatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s a fact. If you want to be generous, try calling in on your grandma or the old lady that lives on your street. Theyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re your future you know.

CANCER (22 June-22 July) You need money? Try working for a change. Money doesnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t grow on family and friendsâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; fingertips, you know! Whatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s that? You canâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t find a suitable job? MA KILL 3OMRIK SAAAN3A! Grow up ba2a!

CAPRICORN (22-December-20 January) You are angry with your habibi? EH STOP CALLING HIM THAT! Out with the mushy talk cause itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s so two years ago. You heard right: no BIBI, no bebe, and for Godâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s sake, no bubu. Fattastouneehhhh!

LEO (23 July-22 August) When was the last time you had a conversation with your best friend? Today you say? That doesnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t count because; notice I said CONVERSATION, which unfortunately, for you, includes listening once in a while. Youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re becoming your own mother and youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re too dumb to notice.

AQUARIUS (21 January-19 February) I have never seen a fortune so full of sex. Play your cards right and the right one could be around the corner. In your hopelessly slutty case the right ones I guess.

26

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PISCES (20 February-20 Mars) OK so how many adult sites are you subscribed to? How may dates a week? A day? Have mercy on your body parts. Stay at home for a change. Read a book. I said a book, with an author and preferably no pictures.

2005Â&#x201C;ŠÂ&#x201E;8|

VIRGO (23 August-23 September) Virgo is bored. She is eaten up by Dajar -our local version of Ennui that is. Princess that she is (editor better not censor this or I will personally kick your bottom end) she cannot find anything to entertain her. But I know why. The TRUTH is out: she cannot be entertained. She can only entertain! Oh yes she can. See for yourself. Call 00-123 4567 or write her at: dajraneh@princesse-ennui.com

SCORPIO (24 October-22 November) Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s time for you to change those bad habits. Masturbation makes you deaf you know. Try having sex with one other person in the room for a change. I said ONE!

I L L U S T R AT I O N S B Y C O C O

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Walaw Hakim!

2005Â&#x201C;ŠÂ&#x201E;8| 28

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As I was in Downtown Beirut trying to distribute Barra and looking for sponsors, one of my patients approached me with eyes wide open and a huge smile: â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;Marhaba Hakim. Kifak, Ca Va? I still donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t know how to thank you enough for treating my knee. Ana albi dalili. Ana irtihtilak min awwal ma shiftak. You told me it could never be cancer and it definitely was not.â&#x20AC;&#x2122; â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;My pleasure madame .â&#x20AC;&#x2122; In a further attempt at picking up a conversation with me she said: â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;Did you buy this from here, hakim?â&#x20AC;&#x2122; pointing at Barra magazine tightly grabbed in my right hand. â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;No, Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;m actually trying to sell it.â&#x20AC;&#x2122; â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;Really! Show me, Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ll buy one.â&#x20AC;&#x2122; I handed her a copy of Barra. She gradually became flabbergasted as she scanned through the pages. â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;Câ&#x20AC;&#x2122;est impossible... Tabâ&#x20AC;Ś Butâ&#x20AC;Ś is this normal?â&#x20AC;&#x2122; â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;It is.â&#x20AC;&#x2122; â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;Shou hal haki. Walaw. Ma inta hakim, how could you say so?â&#x20AC;&#x2122; â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;Madame Sara, didnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t you trust me when I reassured you about your knee? Trust me on this one.â&#x20AC;&#x2122; [ ]


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