Resisting homophobia in Lebanon

Next Sunday, May 16, is the International Day Against Homophobia, or Idaho for short. Uniquely among the Arab countries, it will be observed in Beirut (as it has been for several years now).

Rather controversially, the title of this year's Idaho event in Lebanon is "Ana Shaz" ("I am queer") – a re-claiming of the Arabic term of abuse.

In countries such as Lebanon, where the idea of a Gay Pride event would still be too much for most people to stomach, Idaho provides a more socially-acceptable opportunity for some public activism. Even so, in previous years, sections of the media have tried to make out that it involves sordid goings-on.

I happened to be in Beirut in 2005 at the time of the city's first Idaho event. The organisers had booked a conference hall in the Monroe Hotel for a showing of the documentary, I Exist. I went along, mainly to see if the hotel would decide to cancel the booking at the last minute. But they didn't, and around 200 people watched the film.

Posted by Brian Whitaker, 11 May 2010.