He felt safe in the city, knowing that what he did in Beirut, stayed in Beirut, and was unlikely to ever reach his parents. But please, please, please don’t bring Tony and Ziad.” Tony and Ziad are the more flamboyant ones in our group of friends.Once he graduated from university, he found a job in Hamra and an apartment in Gemmayzeh, two of the city’s most hip neighborhoods and centers of nightlife. Tony wears lots of rings, eyeliner, and often talks to us in the Arabic feminine.
As such, it is not Beirut that is a haven, but rather money and social standing.*** As things stands today, the only gay bar/club around that has not been shut down or raided by the police is one where a gin and tonic costs nearly USD.In 2009, for example, Lebanese officers dragged two men caught having sex in an abandoned building in Sassine Square, the center of Christian Beirut, and beat them, as passersby watched.In 2012, police raided a cinema known for having gay patrons, arresting many, and submitting them to the humiliating egg test— a medieval test in which a wooden egg is inserted into the anus to determine whether someone has had anal sex.Yet beyond the glitz and glam, life for gay men in Lebanon is not a fabulous experience for all.
While Beirut has plenty of places where they can be as fabulous as they wish, these establishments are limited in number and come with a hefty price tag.
Then, a crisis happens, and he has to deal with his worlds colliding. Eventually, he abandons his village life completely, realizing it will never be gay friendly.
This is where Samer stands today, though I am sure with time he will reconnect with his village.
The cinema was located in Bourj Hammoud, the working class Armenian quarter that is literally across the street from Mar Mikhael, the gentrified neighborhood where hipsters blossom and gays mingle.
Even more recently in 2013, a local mayor ordered a raid of a gay nightclub, arrested a few Syrians and a transgender woman, took nude pictures of them, and closed the nightclub down.
Outside of these safe zones, Beirut’s reputation as a gay haven quickly falls apart.