“How could anyone ever tell you,
You were anything less than beautiful?” 

Hi, my name is Rita, and I’m a deeply flawed person.

I’m fat, I’m clumsy, and I have huge eyes. I’m a little whiney, and overly dramatic. I’m the world’s biggest procrastinator, I’m almost incapable of sticking to one language per sentence, and I’m stubborn. I move too much when I communicate, and it often comes out as fake.

Despite all that, I have no problem fitting in. Which is odd.

“How could anyone ever tell you,
You were anything less than whole?”

In my school, there’s this man we call Father Charbel, and he is a deeply flawed person.

He has a terrorist-like beard and a devilish grin. He’s a condescending snob, and a hateful hypocrite. He’s mean, and as stubborn as one can get.

Despite all that, he is well-liked at school. Which is annoying.

“How could anyone ever tell you,
You were anything less than beautiful?”

In my country, there’s this man called Antoine, and he is a deeply flawed person.

He’s not especially good looking. He has the most terrible frown, and he is completely heartless. He was single-handedly responsible for some horrible human abuse, and he still refuses to apologize.

Despite all that, people voted him Mayor; and even now, he still has support. Which is absurd.

“How could anyone ever tell you,
You were anything less than whole?”

Out there, there are many people with many names and personalities.

They happen to have certain body parts, and/or they happen to like having partners with certain body parts.

These people are judged, bullied, hated, abused and driven away, every day, based on these facts alone. Which is outraging!

Lebanon, please wake up: it is time to stand up and fight. Don’t you dare settle for a world ruled by hate. Write, draw, argue, scream. Scream louder! Love. Love. Love.

“How could anyone fail to notice,
That your loving is a miracle,
How deeply you’re connected to my soul?”

It is time to search for our rainbow.

By Rita Aoun

Note: The lyrics are from a ballad by Shaina Noll 

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I decided to ignore the warnings, the stories and the rumors.
I kissed him goodnight, in the middle of downtown Beirut.
Everything I expected from a first kiss was there: the pounding heart, the butterflies, the thrill, and the joy… But one unexpected thing happened.
When we opened our eyes, we saw a policeman calling us.  We just ignored it and walked away, until he started screaming.
We ran. We acted like we were guilty of something, like what we did was wrong, like we were criminals, caught red-handed.
Luckily we both got home safely. Stripped of all dignity, humiliated, scared, annoyed, confused, but safe.

Today, whenever I pass by downtown Beirut, whenever I think about him, hear his name, whenever someone ask me about my first kiss, I do not remember touching his lips, running my hand through his curly hairs or trying to control my pounding heart.
No. I just remember the angry and disgusted voice of a policeman, the awkward looks we got while running in the crowded street and our awkward laugh while saying goodbye like what just happened was the most normal thing in the world.

I think about how no one should ever have to face such humiliation. But then the Dekwaneh abuse happens, and what I thought was the worst kind of humiliation possible, an incident I have been afraid to share for a year now, seems stupid and ridiculous.

I open my diary, read what I wrote that night, one year ago, and try to put myself in their shoes, multiply this page on a diary by a hundred, by a thousand.
But I can’t.

Instead, I just do what I would have done if I had to face a similar situation. I write. And today, I am sharing what I wrote, to everyone who has ever been humiliated, by a person, by a city, by a country.

By Karim N.
Original Post

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EQUALATHON: Dekwaneh Part 2: An International Perspective

In Dekwaneh Part 2: An International Perspective, I detailed how an illegal raid against a gay friendly club was undertaken by an arrogant municipality leader. In this post I’d like to talk about the response since the humiliating raid.

Bloggers and activists have moved in droves to speak out against the abuse. You can find posts herehere, and here.

Activists have been organizing beyond basic blogs and taken to Twitter to help rally support. Using the #LebLGBT and #DekAbuse hashtags, discussion has begun about the abuse. In addition, they have organized an Equalathon Facbeook event to spread the word and help organize people against the abuse. Finally, an online picture campaign has begun to get users to change their profile picturesinto a gay themed Lebanese flag that seeks to mimic the Equality campaign in the United States.

Indeed activists organized a protest to speak out beyond the internet and have posted flyers across the neighborhood to spread the message – a sign of bravery that should be commended.

But every day people aren’t the only ones reacting to the news. The Lebanese Medical Association for Sexual Health has also posted a press release condemning the abuse. I’ve posted the full statement below:

The Lebanese Medical Association for Sexual Health (LebMASH) strongly condemns the acts undertaken, based on orders from Mr. Shakhtoura, the Mayor of Dekwaneh on April 21st 2013. According to media reports1, personal accounts of victims2, and the mayor’s confession3 on national TV, individuals in Dekwaneh were targeted based on their perceived sexual orientation and gender identity. Three men and one transwoman were arrested and exposed to verbal, physical, and sexual abuse4.
We at LebMASH believe in the World Health Organization (WHO) definition5 of health as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”
Societal oppression, discrimination, abuse, and homophobia/transphobia against members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community lead to a higher prevalence of psychological problems such as anxiety, depression, suicidal ideation and attempts, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and substance abuse. Such discrimination and abuse were apparent on April 21st, 2013.
The negative impact of this abuse extends beyond the individuals who were arrested. The abuse represents a threatening message sent to all LGBT individuals in Lebanon where many will fear becoming the next victim. Fear of persecution impacts one’s mental health negatively, especially in a country that still criminalizes “unnatural sexual acts” under Article 534 of the Lebanese Penal Code.
We, as health care providers and concerned citizens of Lebanon:
(1)   Call on our fellow healthcare professionals in Lebanon to speak up against these acts of abuse and their serious health consequences.
(2)   Call on the appropriate authorities to launch an immediate investigation into the events of April 21st, 2013. We insist that those who perpetuated the abuse are held accountable for their actions. We must ensure that they face appropriate legal consequences.
(3)   Call on the Lebanese parliament to eradicate the antiquated and unjust Article 534 of the Lebanese Penal Code.

The efforts of these individuals is the silver lining to the tragic and disgusting events that have defined the neighborhood for the past few weeks. They give us hope that progress is possible but only through our own efforts, not just the passage of time. It is also a sobering reminder that in the United States, we are not so different than they are because activists here had to take action into their own hands to bring about the change they seek.

If you wish to help in the fight for justice and equality, please consider joining the Equalathon event, changing your profile picture to the picture below, or reach out to your government representative to get international pressure to build up and help those who need our support!

You can get all these page updates by “Liking” the Facebook blog page! here : http://on.fb.me/hWYYmi or by following me on Twitter! http://bit.ly/fIU3d7 Please Share on your network, email, comment or subscribe!

By: Moussa Hassoun

Original Post: http://dailyvoiceofreason.blogspot.com/2013/05/dekwaneh-part-2-international.html

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In a world with no homophobia, things would go this way:

anti homophobia 2

-Children won’t feel weird about same sex attraction, everyone has it at a certain point

-Guilt towards God would not exist, we’d promise him to have safe sex

-Bullying in schools would not be there, and would not cause Suicide

-Coming out would not be necessary, and therefore less usage of Closets

-Clothes of straight men would be more fabulous, even the word Fabulous wouldn’t be that stereotyping

-There would be no debate about if we chose to be homosexual or not, the word “homosexual” would probably not exist

-There would be no fights for marriage equality, we wouldn’t be even happy for having a gay official

-Straight men would go “aaaahhhhhhh” when they see 2 men kissing in the street, same applies on straight women seeing 2 women kissing.

-The world would be less of an aggressive place to live in, of course more arts and better taste

-We wouldn’t witness the opening of Gay Churches and Mosques, catastrophic

-Gaga wouldn’t have been that famous

-No hate crimes would happen, only love crimes

-Lebanon would be definitely a better country to live in, Ghost would have been still open

-We wouldn’t have witnessed the Online Pillow Fight between Joe Maalouf and Jiyad El Murr, urghhh

-Nidal Al Ahmadiyyeh would have shut Al Jaras magazine already

-Antoine Shakhtoura wouldn’t have been such an asshole

-Marwan Charbel wouldn’t have been that dumb

-I wouldn’t have wrote this post, and therefore you wouldn’t have taken the time to read it

By: Joseph Aoun

Original Link: http://angrytinkerbell.wordpress.com/2013/05/14/a-world-with-no-homophobia/

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I moved to Montreal and a whole new world opened up for me. It wasn’t like I hadn’t already had my share of fun in Beirut, it was just that now I could do it without having to look over my shoulder every two seconds.
Don’t get me wrong, Montreal isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, but I have to admit I did feel more secure with myself after I got here. I couldn’t wait to paint the town red. Now I’m going back to Lebanon for summer break after having heard about the Dekwaneh incident; and I’m thinking “What am I getting myself into?” I told my friends here about what had happened. They called me a warrior. I scoffed. Warrior? Do I have to be a warrior in order to survive the sexual-political minefield in Lebanon? Why am I even leaving? I could stay here and have the time of my life instead of waiting for a police raid every time I go to Bardo. But then I thought that with this mentality I’m making things worse than they already are. I shouldn’t be scared of the police, I shouldn’t be scared of the government. I shouldn’t be scared of an abstract policy penned during the French mandate. None of us should. We should continue being proud, and loud about it. The government doesn’t hate us, the government is afraid of us. We can’t let a scared little man stand in the way of the equality we deserve, an equality that’s been a long time coming. People like me shouldn’t have to escape to Montreal, or New York, or Paris, or London in order to be who they are, we should be able to do so in our own Motherland. I love Lebanon, I will never stop loving Lebanon, and that is why I want to help instigate change. They can raid our privacy, but they will never break our dignity, our community. They will only make us louder.

By Ralph Haddad

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أول مرّة

 لا أذكر جيداً، أو لربما لا أريد أن أتذكر تلك اللحظات. كنت أناهز الرابعة عشر وكنت تلميذاً في إحدى المدارس المرموقة في مدينتي. تعود بي الذاكرة الى ملعب المدرسة الواسع حيث كنت أتحّدث مع صديقٍ لي عندما اقتربت مني “ميريم” إحدى زميلاتي في الصف. كنت أشعر دائما بإنعجاب ميريم تجاهي، وهي التي لم تكن على استعداد لتفوت فرصة دون أن تبرز إهتمامها بي. كلمتني ميريم عن مجموعة من رفاق الصف كانوا واقفين على مقربةٍ منّا لتخبرني أنّهم يثرثرون ويقولون أنني ” Pédé”. للوهلة الأولى لم أستوعب معنى الكلمة، ساورني الشك ولكن رفضت التصديق، لم أدرك كيف يجب أن تكون ردّة فعلي أو ما الذي يجب أن أقوله، فحاولت الاستفسار منها

–          ما الذي تقصدينه أو يقصدونه بكلمة Pédé؟

–          إنّهم يقصدون أنّك تمارس الجنس مع أبناء جنسك، أيّ أنك تحب الرجال

كان وقع جوابها قاسياً، سمّرني للحظات. مرّة جديدة لم أجد الكلمات لأقولها وهي التي بنظراتها تحاول أن تتطالبني بتبرير أو بتوضيح أوبنفيٍ قاطع أقدّمه مع براهين أو حتى بمواجهة محتّمة معهم لأغسل عار التهمة الشنعاء. شعرت بوحدةٍ وببرودة في كل أنحاء جسدي ولم يكن لدي الخيار سوى مواجهتم. لم أكن في حينها أدرك الكثير عن المثلية الجنسية ولم أكن أعتبر نفسي مثلياً أو Pédé كما حلا لهم أن يسمّوني. لم أكن أعرف ما التبرير الذي يجب أن أشاركه معهم أنا الذي لم أمارس الجنس قط وأنا الذي كنت في حينها أنتظر رؤية ثديي إمرأة على شاشة التلفيزيون لكي أشعر بالهيجان فأنال لذةً بريئة. عند مواجهتم، لم أنل منهم سوى نظراتهم الخبيثة وعيونهم التي كانت تلمع كعيون الذئاب وضحكاتهم الساخرة على أمر لم تقترفه يداي على أمر لم أدركه، على أمرٍ، ولو حصل، لم يكن بالعار. حاولت دفع أحدهم مطالباً باعتذارٍ لم أفلح بالحصول عليه قبل أن أنهي الموضوع وأبتعد عنهم والحزن والغضب يختلجني.

تمالكت نفسي حتى وصلت الى منزلي ودخلت الحمام. وضعت وجهي في الزاوية الملاصقة للباب وأجهشت بالبكاء وبصمت. لم أكن أريد أن تسمعني أمي أو أحد أفراد العائلة. كانت الدموع تنهمر على وجنتي بغزارة مترافقة مع شهقاتٍ متقطعة وخوفٍ ورجفة في اليدين. حاولت البحث في هذه اللحظات العصيبة عن ما أثار حفيظتهم، عن ما جعلهم يسخرون مني ويعايرونني بما لا يدركه وجداني. حاولت أن أسمع نبرات صوتي لأرى إن كانت أنثوية بعض الشيئ أو أتذكر أي تصرفٍ إن كان ملفتاً أو غريباً. لم أجد شيئاً مقنعاً كان يسمح لهم بإهانتي. يومها لم أجد الجواب لم أعرف ما الخطأ الذي ارتكبته.

مرّت الأيام وآثار هذا الحادثة لم تزل، كونها كانت الأولى من نوعه. كانت الأولى من حيث مواجهتي للرهاب الفكري ضدّ المثلية الجنسية من قبل جهلة كما تجري العادة. هذا الرهاب الذي يحميه مجتمعنا بعلمانييه ورجال دينه والذي يغذيه بالتعدي على حقوق الانسان، وبإهانة المثليين والمتحولين جنسياً والذي ينقله بفخرٍ للأجيال المقبلة ليبقى أساساً في تراث العنصرية في بلادي وخوفاً دائماً مما هو مختلف وغريب. أنا اليوم فخورٌ بمثليتي وبحياتي المثلية التي بدأت باختبارها منذ حوالي خمس سنوات ولم أكن أدركها جيداً قبل عمر الثالثة والعشرين. أنا اليوم فخورٌ بأنني أمارس الجنس مع من هم من أبناء جنسي، مع الرجال. أنا فخورٌ أنني أقبل شفاه رجلٍ وأنني أحضنه، وأنني أتشارك معه لحظاتٍ حميمة. لم أعد أهتّم لثديي امرأة كما في السابق بل لقضيب رجلٍ أتلمسه بين يدي في لحظاتٍ مليئة بالشغف والإثارة. أنا اليوم على كامل الاستعداد لأواجه هؤلاء “الرفاق” مجددأً أو حتى غيرهم لأخبرهم عن مثليتي التي كانوا وعلى الأرجح ما زالوا يعانون من رهابها.

بلبناني Be Lebani

يمكنكم قراءة هذه التدوينة أيضاً على مدونتي الخاصة بلبناني على العنوان التالي www.blebnani.wordpress

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EQUALATHON: Multi-Gender Society: A Harmless Reality

A Bissu practicing his role as a spiritual leader

Middle Eastern and Western societies are or have traditionally been narrow-minded as far as the roles of sexes, and subsequently that of genders, are considered.

Gender identity is complex and sometimes difficult to comprehend but to put it simply, a gender is defined by a set of social norms affixed to your biological identity. These norms are often rigid and changing them takes time and requires an adequate environment to flourish.

Most societies had and still have some pretty specific ideas on what a man or a women should be or do. The two-gender societies can seldom accommodate for anything different from this rigorous vision.

But what if a society was able to deal with the natural differences that exist within it in a peaceful and harmonious way without the need to engage in a bitter fight for equality? The answer might just come from a special tribe in Indonesia: the Bugis.

The Bugis divide their society not into 2 genders but 5. Yes, five genders! They acknowledge three sexes (female, male, hermaphrodite), four genders (women, men, calabai, and calalai) and a fifth meta-gender group: the bissu.

The calabai and calalai roughly translated mean false woman and false man. The term might seem derogatory, but in reality calabai and calalai are accepted in society and are not harassed.

A calabai is anatomically a man but prefers to lead a life somewhat similar to that of a woman. Most importantly, a calabai is the person everyone refers to in weddings. A calabai would oversee the whole preparation and gets the final say.

A calalai is a born female but lives her life as a male in terms of clothing, work, and so on. Though not a must, but some calalai take wives and even adopt children.

The bissu is the gender that combines all genders; they don’t have to be but can be hermaphrodites. Bissu play the vital role of medicine men or spiritual guides, they offer blessings and oversee the harmony and spiritual balance within society. Some westerners refer to bissu as transvestite priests, but this is incorrect as bissu have their own special dress code different from that of women.

It is easier to understand the Bugis society as a pyramid, at its base are the men, women, calalai and calabai and on top of which the bissu sit. But most importantly, they believe that all of these genders must harmoniously coexist.

What’s more surprising about this tribe is that they actually converted to Islam a long time ago, but they kept many of their pre-Islamic habits and incorporated them within an open and tolerant system that believes in the basic tenets of Islam.

Unfortunately, fundamentalist uprisings with strict interpretation of Islam attacked the Bugis tolerant model, forcing many bissus to abandon their ways. Some survived the persecution and continued their age-old traditions.

So beyond the cultural aspect of it all, the Bugis teach us that gender and sexual diversity do not destroy societies, but indeed they can help it to live more peacefully.

The Bugis model is quite unique and does not apply to most socities, certainly not ours, but if a small society managed to find an ingenious solution to embrace its intrinsic diversity and make everyone, no matter how different, to feel welcome, why can’t we at this day and age do the same?

The Bugis’ society is indeed exceptional and inspirational, but each society should find its own unique way of dealing with sexual and gender diversity. The forward-thinking Bugis found solutions to problems that countries on the cutting-edge of human rights only recently found.

Lebanon is trailing far behind. Though the LGBT community made great strides to push things forward, it’s a fight far from being won. Every now and then a blow or a set back  reminds us of how far we really are from reaching the finish line.

The events of the past couple of weeks showed us that we live on thin ice. Mr. Antoine Shakhtoura won favors among the country’s homophobes. Even Mr. Marwan Charbel proclaimed his antagonism towards homosexuals; a threat as he reckons.

It would help if Shakhtoura and Charbel paid a visit to the Bugis and witnessed first hand that gender diversity is not an abomination nor is it a threat to society. In fact, it’s a richness worth celebrating!

Colorful celebration in Bugis society  with bissu at the forefront.

By: Elie Wafi

Original Post: http://lejourun.blogspot.com/2013/05/multi-gender-society-harmless-reality.html

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The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer (LGBTQ) community around the world has been making significant progress. Whether it be marriage equality inEurope and South America, or finding basic recognition in Asia the walk to equality hasn’t always been steady, but it has been moving forward.That unsteadiness showed itself again a few weeks ago in the small country of Lebanon. Police raided a gay-friendly club called “Ghost” as ordered by the municipality’s head, Antoine Chakhtoura. As a result of the arrest, four people were arrested, forced to strip, had their pictures taken and distributed  and were emotionally and psychologically abuse while held in captivity.

One of the captives detailed that they accused them of prostitution, moral degradation, and more. For those unfamiliar with the region, Lebanon is a small but geologically important country when it comes to Middle Eastern politics.

Club raiding has happened in the past and is sometimes used by politicians to boost their own popularity. Below, Mr. Chakhtoura comments in an interview about what happened. It has been translated in English for English readers to understand.

As you can see, he believes that he can use the force of government to impose his own views on those in his community, even when that power isn’t warranted or given to him and he lacks justification to act.

It’s also quite ironic that he establishes his belief in human rights, but can’t seem to tolerate those with differing orientations than his own. As a Lebanese American, I am saddened at what happened. The country’s (and region’s) persecution of people for being who they are (no less) and for what they believe (on a broader scale) reduces the pride I feel in a country I spent much of my childhood in.

The world is progressing forward and Lebanon, often called a beacon of progress in the region, falls behind on it’s reputation. The victims in the raid were traumatized, disrespected, and humiliated – all at the expense of a man drunk on his own ego and false definition of manhood.

The ultimate measure of a country’s progressiveness is by how it treats it’s most vulnerable minority populations. By this measure, the neighborhood of Dekwaneh continues to fall behind other parts of the country and the rest of the world.

In Part 2 I’ll discuss the reaction and work to fight discrimination.

You can get all these page updates by “Liking” the Facebook blog page! here : http://on.fb.me/hWYYmi or by following me on Twitter! http://bit.ly/fIU3d7 Please Share on your network, email, comment or subscribe!

By: Moussa Hassoun

Original Post: http://dailyvoiceofreason.blogspot.com/2013/05/dekwaneh-international-perspective.html

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EQUALATHON: I Chose to be Gay

Yes, you’re reading it right. Your eyes are fine.

It was back in 2000. I was 18 years old. I woke up on a rainy sunday morning, had eggs and tea with my parents, headed back to my bedroom and took a decision: I want to become gay. I guess it was a similar decision my brother took 8 years earlier. In his case, he decided to continue disliking penis and stick to vagina.

My choice however, wasn’t a spur of the moment thing. I had reasons, valid ones. Here are a few:

I chose to be gay because I enjoy being considered a second class citizen.
I chose to be gay because I want my acts to be considered illegal in my country.
I chose to be gay because I enjoy lying to my parents about where I am going and whom I am hanging out with.
I chose to be gay because I like to keep pretending that boobs are hot in front of my friends.
I chose to be gay because I like not being able to share my happy and sad relationship moments with my best friends.
I chose to be gay because I want to be not able to bring my bf home and let him meet my parents.
I chose to be gay because I don’t want to be able to go clubbing without getting paranoid about the police raiding the place.
I chose to be gay because I refuse to have the right to have a family of my own.
I chose to be gay because I don’t want to be able to have kids.
I chose to be gay because I want to risk losing my job when they find out about me.
I chose to be gay because I enjoy depriving my parents of having grandkids.
I chose to be gay because I enjoy not being able to talk on the phone with my bf in front of other people.
I chose to be gay because I enjoy going to a party with my bf and watch people dance while we sit on our separate chairs.
I chose to be gay because I don’t want the chance of surprising my bf with a ring and post the video on youtube.
I chose to be gay because I don’t want to be equal to others.

Do you understand now why I chose to be gay? Obvious, right?

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Because the first time I really felt free was that day spent at Brighton while seagulls were peacefully gliding above the pier.
Because Elphaba didn’t let anyone pull her down, she flew away when everyone told her she couldn’t even if she is always seen as wicked.
Because Jonathan Livingston reached the highest skies by leaving his flock, flying alone and reaching every limit.

     On a finger that will stay ringless as long as I’m in my country, the seagull will forever stay.


     I have had this dream of flying away for 4 years and when it finally hit me, I started having doubts about it. Why would I ever leave home? It did not make sense.
And then, thanks to Mr. Chakhtoura and Marwan Charbel, I came back to my senses.
I want to leave the country I have learned to understand, the city I have grown to love, the people with whom I have spent my life because of them.

     I think that fighting back can change something but how absurd is it? To fight for a justice that is given to me elsewhere? To fight for rights that are as basic as the ones we are fighting for?
At the end of the day, I am just checking another box on my calendar, another number on my countdown.

“The Motherland don’t love you. The Fatherland don’t love you. So why love anything?” (Vampire Weekend – Ya Hey)

     But then I read this:
“Think about the experiences of marginalization, oppression, and violence you may have lived though, and learn about the ones you haven’t. Take your time to realize what kind of world you’re living in. In whatever way you can, learn to fight back”

Discrimination only fuels your power to stand up for what you believe in. The world we live in is far from being even close to perfect and for an Idealist like me, it is every man’s duty to help it reach this utopia.

Fight, fight back, in whatever way you can.

By Karim N.
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