Gay Pride Event Takes Place In Lebanon

| by Simone Stover

During the week of May 14, a gay pride event is being hosted in Lebanon and is the first of its kind in the country's history.

Beirut Pride -- as the event is called -- officially launched on May 14, reports The New Arab. Unlike other gay pride events which often include parades, the event will consist of film screenings, lectures, and a party at a nightclub. For example, the first event of the week was an exhibition on gender fluidity in fashion.

Gay pride events such as Beirut Pride often take place during LGBT pride month in June, reports Reuters. However, the timing of the event was very deliberately planned. Wednesday, May 17 -- a day that stands right in the middle of the week -- is Lebanon's International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biophbia. 

"I wanted to pick a symbolic date, a day that would be hopeful," Hadi Damien, who organized the event, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

According to CNN, other anti-homophobia events have taken place in Lebanon in recent years. However, Beirut Pride is being called the first event of its kind. In fact, Reuters reports that this is the first event of its kind in any Arab country.

At the moment, sexual acts that are "contrary to the order of nature" are prohibited under Lebanese law, reports The New Arab. However, according to Proud Lebanon Director Bertho Makso, another of Beirut Pride's organizers, this does not mean that the country has imposed a "ban" on homosexuality.

"Lebanese law does not forbid homosexuality. What 'unnatural' sexual behavior means is debatable and judges have ruled this law does not cover the LGBT community," Makso said. 

Lebanon is reportedly more tolerant toward the LGBT community than other counties; however, this has not prevented discrimination in the form of threats from occurring. The New Arab reports that on May 15, organizers of Beirut Pride had to cancel a seminar on discrimination for "security reasons" after an ultra-conservative Salafist group -- called the Association of Muslim Scholars in Lebanon -- threatened to hold a demonstration. 

Makso said that in spite of this cancelation, the other events would go forward as planned.

Aside from the grim views from groups such as The Association of Muslim Scholars in Lebanon, attitudes toward the LGBT community seem to be changing in Lebanon. For example, CNN reports that Lebanese restaurant chain Crepaway recently released an advertisement featuring a lesbian couple. Crepaway reportedly received an outpouring of support following the ad's release.

Feelings such as these seemed to also surround Beirut Pride.  

"This is definitely a big milestone. I'm very excited that this is happening," Diana Abou Abbas, a manager at Marsa, a Beirut-based sexual health center, told CNN.

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