Despite threats of violence, the LGBT community of Beirut, Lebanon hosted their first Beirut pride celebration last week.
Hadi Damien began planning Beirut Pride last summer as a special week to coincide with the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia (IDAHOT) on May 17.
On Saturday night, the rainbow flag flew high outside 18 bars in Mar Mikhael, a popular nightlife district of the Lebanese capital.
From May 14 to 21, multiple events were held in Beirut’s cultural centers, bars, offices and outdoor venues. These events included exhibitions, talks, concerts, parties, performances and screenings. In a country where homosexual acts remain illegal, some 4,000 people attended.
A statement posted on the Beirut Pride website says, “Beirut Pride is a happy, friendly, constructive platform that invites people to express themselves, in an attempt to contribute to our liberation from the destructive hate that poisons our country and forces many fellow citizens out toward other countries that guarantee their basic rights.”
One unofficial LGBT event was canceled after threats were made by an Islamist organization. The League of Muslim Scholars in Lebanon, a Salafist group, used social media to voice its opposition to the Proud Lebanon’s day-long series of discussions and presentations on LGBT issues and rights.
“Our day was canceled because the hotel received threats and the Islamist organization put pressure on the management, which became afraid for the security,” Causette Maalouf, Proud Lebanon’s advocacy officer, explains.
The cancellation brought more visibility to Beirut Pride than planned. “In the end, we did things properly, got all the authorizations from the authorities and our events are safe,” Damien told Al-Monitor.
He added, “We are Lebanese citizens, after all, and as such [our gatherings] are protected by the Internal Security Forces, like any other event. This week has actually been made possible by the work, for more than a decade, of citizens, groups, associations and lawyers who advocated for us.”
“We are simply saying that because you think someone is different than you, it is not OK to harass, bully, attack or discriminate against this person,” he explained. “We are not asking for consent or acceptance, but we are against aggressiveness and the stereotypes shared by Lebanese media. They display stereotyped images of homosexuals as people you can mock, who do drugs, are prostitutes or abused — so at the end of the day people are misinformed. We are here to make what being LGBTQ+ means commonplace.”
Damien also expressed his admiration of younger Lebanese who live “without taboo or fear, with a real pride, who expressed so much during this week.”
“People just want to lead their lives without hiding, being scared or ashamed, and at the end of the day, things are going in the right direction,” he added.
Beirut Pride will return for its second year May, 2018.
Here are 12 pics we found under the hashtag Beirut Pride:
You do not need to be a Palestinian citizen to condemn the Israeli occupation. You do not need to starve to understand the plight of the 3 billion people who live under $2.50 a day. You do not need to be a refugee to acknowledge what it feels like to be a victim of war. You do not need to be raped to condemn rape culture. I do not need to be gay to support LGBT+ rights. You have a voice that can move mountains; use it. After all, the world is full of hatred, but it is our job to make it a better place -and you can. #beirutpride
Tonight, at the opening of the Beirut Design Week, Bashar Assaf and Marwan Kaabour reveal the series of T-shirts they have conceived in celebration of the first edition of Beirut Pride. Be there, at KED, at 6 pm, and stay with us for the BDW opening party. The T-shirts will be also displayed at the ongoing gender-fluidity exhibition at Station (open until May 26). #BeirutPride
Last night, on Saturday, May 20, Radio Beirut hosted Beirut Pride Saturday Night Party. In celebration and support of Beirut Pride that denounces hate and discrimination based on sexual and gender diversity, more than 15 bars and restaurants in Mar Mkhayel raised the rainbow flag in front of their institutions. A premiere in Beirut! #BeirutPride (photo vkurumilian)