How to support the LGBTQ community in Beirut
Following the devastating explosion that has left Beirut a disaster zone, the UK’s LGBTQ community is raising funds to help rebuild Lebanon’s capital and support all impacted communities.
Two of Beirut’s LGBTQ hubs, Mar Mikhael and Gemmayze, were only 500 metres away from the point of the blast’s detonation. These areas have been utterly devastated and, like many other parts of Beirut, are now uninhabitable.
The blast comes at the worse time for Lebanon, hitting a country already in disaster. Covid-19 exacerbated a pre-existing political and economic crisis, bringing Lebanon to the brink of collapse. This year has seen thousands of Lebanese lose their savings as the country’s hyper-inflated currency remains in free-fall. One-in-three people are unemployed, while among Lebanon’s poorest, famine is approaching. Donations are needed to support those people immediately impacted by the explosion, but also Lebanese communities and families facing economic desolation.
A crowdfunding campaign is underway to help Lebanon’s LGBTQ community rebuild.
All proceeds from the fundraising will be equally shared between the Lebanese Red Cross, Beit El Baraka , Basmeh & Zeitooneh, and Embrace Lebanon. Beit El Baraka provide food banks for victims of the disaster, Basmeh & Zeitooneh are responding on the ground to those who have been made homeless, and Embrace Lebanon offers mental health support.
What’s life like for LGBTQ people in Lebanon?
While still a socially conservative country, Lebanon is slightly more liberal than other countries in the region.
There’s been no official decriminalisation of homosexuality, but recent judicial interpretation of the relevant laws seems to have established that sodomy is not a crime and people should not be prosecuted for same-sex sexual activity.
Article 534 of Lebanon’s Penal Code includes a prohibition on sexual relations that are “contradicting the laws of nature” – punishable by up to one year in prison – but, in recent years, a number of court decisions have found that this prohibition doesn’t extend to same-sex encounters on the grounds that homosexuality doesn’t contradict the laws of nature.
However, there is still quite widespread homophobia and police harassment of LGBTQ people. Authorities frequently use public morality laws to ban LGBTQ Pride events.
In Beirut, there is a community of LGBTQ people – working together to tackle homophobia and to create safe spaces such as bars and cafes and other meeting points.