While American politicians pretend to be “tolerant” of homosexuality while continuing to deny equality to gay citizens, some countries are even more up front with their homophobia. In Lebanon, homosexuality is not only socially unaccepted, but illegal — and punishable to jail time. Unlike many other Middle Eastern countries, however, a group of gay rights activists have been making quite a splash, and this week released the country’s first ever book about queer life in Lebanon.
Bareed Mista3jil: True Stories (which translates to Mail in a Hurry) is a collection of 41 stories from “lesbians, bisexuals, queer and questioning women, and transgender persons from all over Lebanon” and was released today in both English and Arabic. On Saturday, hundreds of supporters came out to the book’s release party in Beirut, marking a historical day for gay activists in the country.
The book was published by Meem, a group created in 2007 to support queer women in Lebanon.
The stories in the book aim to “reveal a glimpse of the lives existing invisibly and silently in different Lebanese communities,” according to the book’s website. “The stories are about love, pain, identity, suffering, overcoming, and the intricate complexities of the human heart. And above all, these stories are about hope.”
Some excerpts from the book are available on the site. The honest, touching and sometimes quite upsetting testimonials show how much work gay rights activists in Lebanon have to do. There are stories of rape and abuse, along with funny stories about trying to meet other lesbians (which I’m sure many of us can relate to.)
Here’s an except from a story called “My Quest to Find Lesbians”:
The popular chatting program at the time was called ICQ, which I immediately downloaded, created some romantically morbid nickname, and set out to find other lesbians. There was some method of searching through lists of people and I spent hours looking till I found someone with a nickname like “sexy lesbian 4u.” Oh my God! I thought, a sexy lesbian for me! I messaged her instantly and said: “hiiiiiiiii! I am a lesbian too!” She said hi back but with far less enthusiasm and then asked me if I wanted her to bite my ear. I wondered why she was saying that, but was so excited about meeting another fellow lesbian that I just started babbling on with details about my life, the suffering I’ve been through, the identity crisis, the broken heart, and other teenage lesbian drama. You have to remember, it was over 10 years ago, and I was very slow at typing. Then the sexy lesbian 4 me made a very indecent proposition that involved touching her private parts. I was shocked! Mortified! No! I said. I want us to talk and share our life stories!”
We hope the book does well, and that queer women in Lebanon continue to make strides toward equal rights in the country.
The book is available at all major Lebanese bookstores at the moment, but for more information on purchasing it, you can email the book’s editors.