Let’s talk about sexual orientations and gender identities.
Lots of fuss these days that Lebanon has “taken steps” (which steps? how many steps? in which direction?!) in a court ruling that “paves the way” (which way? how far was it paved?!) towards decriminalizing homosexuality in the country.
I don’t want to poo-poo anyone’s party here – but I’ll forever be baffled that we – anyone, anywhere – ever thought we had the “right” to regulate who people can love. And it infuriates me that we – other people, over there, far far away from me – actually argue against love and in favor of making decisions on behalf of others. Some days I think we’re fucked beyond repair.
Anyway, here’s what happened: last week a Lebanese appeals court upheld the 2017 acquittal of nine people prosecuted over being gay. They argued that homosexuality was “a practice of their fundamental rights”, despite the fact that the Lebanese Penal Code, notorious for its discriminations against pretty much anyone who isn’t a heteronormative male, states that sexual relations “against nature” are outlawed and punishable by up to one year in prison.
Oh, Lebanon! There are so many things we do that are “against nature” – literally and figuratively – I don’t even know where to start!
Anyway, hooray. We creep like snails towards modernity.
So, the appeals court basically said that the article didn’t intend to criminalize homosexuality but rather “offense to public morals”.
Again, about a bazillion things that happen in Lebanon offend my morals: how people drive, treatment of female migrant domestic workers, animal abusers, how (most) men speak to (most) women, the guy in the pharmacy who feels entitled to cut in line, pet owners who refuse to pick up poop, and so on.
So, Lebs, you can have any sort of sex you want, as long as you’re an adult (yep!) and you don’t do it in public (ok, no prob!). This is indeed a milestone because yes, sex between consenting adults is NOT A CRIME. Phew, Lebanon. At least we agree on that.
But… we’ve got work to do. Lebanon might be slightly more tolerant than other Arab countries, but LGBTQ individuals still experience harassment, discrimination, neglect, abuse – and police still raid gay nightclubs and other venues. Anything that differs from the hetero-norm is still not fully accepted.
And, LGBTQ individuals lack social support and access to adequate information. Specifically in Arabic. What they’re left with is stuff that is largely judgmental and religious, rather than accepting and sex positive. There’s work being done, and progress made, but building a society that is open, respectful, supportive, accepting isn’t just the job of NGOs and activists – it’s for all of us.
It’s in how we treat people who are not like us. It’s in the way we create – or confine – space for others. It’s in our sense of community and our commitment to care for each other. And – it’s in our fundamental belief that freedom is for all of us – without conditions and constraints.