The question of homosexuality, except for those unfortunately still suffering, even facing death, for being who they are, must be becoming rather boring but, as the western world, with Christian exceptions, becomes more enlightened, more tolerant, less superstitious, so in the Middle East it would seem the exact opposite is happening. As the West takes one step forward the Muslim world takes two steps back. By Christian exceptions I think of the American Bible Belt, the Russian Orthodox church, and now the Greeks who once upon a time before the advent of Christianity knew exactly what it was all about both in myth and reality, have entered the fray with dire threats of excommunication!
In the West some parents are learning that if they have a gay child it isn’t because they have done something wrong and should feel guilt in some way, and there is simply nothing to be done about it except accept and continue to love and cherish.
Recently a boy gave as his Bar Mitzvah speech a defense of same sex marriage. What? A thirteen year old? And in the synagogue of all places?
In Muslim countries women buried from head to toe in black simply do not exist outside the home. In the West women (for the most part though here is still a way to go) are treated for what they are worth. The Church of England has 29 women bishops and number 30 to be ordained in
happened to the Biblical injunction that women should know their place, stay in
it, subject to their husband’s will and keep their mouths shut?
During Macy’s Thanksgiving parade a number was performed by the cast of the award winning musical “Kinky Boots” which caused an immediate outcry from conservatives.
“Kinky Boots disgusting and wrong.”
“Kinky Boots is what’s wrong with
“Kinky Boots is a disgrace”
“After watching the Kinky Boots” show from the parade I have a little less hope for humanity.”
And the answers are quite illuminating. Here are only two.
“Dear World: if you are personally outraged (or, even if you're miffed...I'll accept miffed) by this specific performance at the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, I truly don't want to know or associate with you. I will never understand your POV. That's my problem. I accept full responsibility. Let's just not associate with each other. Ok? Thanks.”
“All of these outraged people should lighten up and get over it. Teacher for 37 years, parent, and grandparent. Kids can handle life. Parents sometimes...... Not so much. Life is too short to get upset over silly things. Too many serious things to worry about.”
The locals, many dressed in designer clothes, sit on the verandas drinking cocktails till dawn. The city's liberal demeanour really does make it like no other place in a deeply conservative region.
has another side to it that highlights this difference - it has an underground scene
that is private yet very much alive with discreet gay bars and clubs.
However, recent events are said to have challenged
Last year, a
cinema was raided by police who arrested more than 30 people believed to be
homosexual. They were each subjected to anal examinations by a doctor at a
police station to ascertain whether they had been having "unnatural"
intercourse. The raid evidently sparked a public outcry but then psychiatrist
Nabil Khoury went on prime-time television and told the nation that
homosexuality was "a disease that needs to be treated". (Still? Will
they never learn?)
Four months later, censors blocked a screening at the Beirut International Film Festival of a French film that features a gay love story. The interior ministry cited a news report which attributed the decision to "obscene scenes of kissing between gay men, philandering, naked men and sexual intercourse between men
In an empty bar on the outskirts of
Beirut, a man in his 20s told how he had
recently been arrested for being gay. The man revealed that he had been
subjected to an anal examination that was painful and incredibly humiliating.
"Obviously it was really demeaning. It made me feel like I had no body rights, like the government had access to my body," he said.
"I wasn't stable psychologically. I was really depressed for a really long time. I was feeling so resentful, and was just staying by myself all the time."
Even though the government strongly condemned and banned anal tests after the cinema raid, the BBC has spoken to dozens of gay people in the country who strongly believe it is still going on.
"These tests have been banned by the ministry of justice and the syndicate of physicians," says Ahmad Saleh, from the Lebanese LGBT rights group Helem.
"However, we have reports from people who have been arrested, who told us that police officers had threatened them by saying that they would be subjected to these tests unless they confessed to whatever charge they were facing."
Anal testing is widely discredited as a method of determining sexuality. Some gay people avoid anal sex and people with other conditions can be wrongly identified as gay. The Lebanese Psychiatric Society has now publicly stated that homosexuality is not a mental disorder and does not require treatment, but campaigners think that is not enough.
."The way gay and lesbian people are treated by wider society, the serious abuse, the torture and ill treatment to which they're subjected to in police cells and detention is wrong," says David Mepham,
Director of Human Rights Watch, which published a report in June on the
abuse of LGBT people in police custody.
"We've documented very serious patterns of abuse. That abuse needs to end, and this culture of impunity needs to end."
In countries like
being homosexual can lead to the death penalty.
The World Health Organisation and many countries in the West stopped considering homosexuality disease years ago, and
Lebanon became the first Arab
country to do so. Even so, there are many in the country whose views are in
line with the teachings of Islam and Christianity, which are traditionally
opposed to homosexuality.
Some gays are optimistic about the future. They say the media is devoting more time and attention to the topic of homosexuality, and hope that this will help break down prejudices and stereotypes.
But the fear is palpable and illustrates the long journey they have yet to travel in order to be accepted in this "liberal city".