GiB#2 | A quand un Festival Gay Digne de ce Nom à Beyrouth?

... Pour que la ‘majorité silencieuse’ sorte enfin de ses cocons, que la foule (les folles?) de l’Acid se mette en maillot ‘une-pièce’ pour aller danser, et pour que les touristes gays d’Europe, d’Amérique et des pays Arabes (qui n’attendent que ça) puissent enfin se fixer une date pour faire un voyage au Liban.

... Pour regrouper une foule de gens, une masse gay et gay-friendly (pour ne pas dire « hetero-friendly ») avec tous les L, les G, les B, les T et leurs amis; qu’elle puisse se réunir enfin au grand jour, dans toute sa diversité et sa normalité, le temps d'une fête.

... Qu’elle se fasse grande et belle à la face du Libanais lambda, histoire d'accélerer sa prise de conscience, de lui montrer clairement et une fois pour toute qu’elle existe bel et bien, qu’elle vit parmi eux et avec eux, pacifique, festive, créative...

On ne peut pas dire qu’il n’existe rien de tel à Beyrouth, ou qu’on n’est pas sur la bonne voie pour y arriver. Helem a bel et bien organisé des (mini) gay-pride a Beyrouth, et l’organisateur de séjours Lebtour continue bien d’organiser sa ‘croisière’ annuelle BearArabia.

Or du fait de son alliance avec BearArabia, Lebtour s’adresse en grande partie a la scène bear, un groupe finalement assez niche et communautaire. Je n’y suis jamais allé, et ne suis pas prêt de le faire. Sans vouloir paraître moqueur, je ne peux pas m’empêcher de sourire en pensant a tous ces durs-au-coeur-tendre (et poilu ?) jouant des hanches sur les derniers tubes de Nancy Ajram.

Celà dit Lebtour a au moins le mérite d’avoir osé, de l’avoir fait et refait plusieurs années de suite, d’avoir créé le rendez-vous (début Mai – c’est dans 10 jours!), et surtout d’avoir démontré a quiconque serait tenté de se lancer dans ce business, qu'il ne risque pas d'être embêté par les forces de l’ordre, et que ça pourrait bien marcher...

...et je serais flatté si on le baptisait le « GiB Festival » !

(Photo prise à la Laïque Pride de Dimanche dernier (25 Avril 2010) au Centreville)


GiB#2 | Does Damascus

There are quite a few places not too far from Beirut to go on a weekend getaway, and certainly many reasons to want to take a break from this exhausting city.

One such place is Damascus, the capital of neighboring Syria. I went there last weekend and it was such a change of scene for me that I look forward to doing it again – Here are some things I learned on this trip for you to consider before your next Damascus escapade!

- It’s a smooth drive and only 3 hours away: Beirut-Damascus is a 3-hour trip door-to-door, that’s including a stop of about 1 hour at the Lebanese and Syrian borders (also including another stop in Chtaura to munch on the delicious local dairy and exchange money). It is a generally smooth ride if you go outside the peak hours, as there could be more traffic on ‘Damascus Road’ and more chaos at the two borders, especially at the Lebanese border. The trip is also inexpensive: it costs about 15$ per person each way using a shared (and decent) taxi from the Charles Helou station in Beirut, to the Sumariyya station outside Damascus, more if you use the local taxi companies or don’t want to share the cab with other passengers. One of the bummers is that the cost for crossing the borders will vary depending on your nationality, all the way from free for Lebanese to 30$ for Europeans to 50$ for U.S. or Canadian citizens.

- Experience an authentic Arabic metropolis: Damascus offers an urban tourism experience that is very different from Beirut, but a little bit similar to the other two major cities of Lebanon, Tripoli or Saida, which are smaller and more conservative. Although a 'fun scene' is definitely emerging in Damascus, its yuppies will continue to come to Beirut for a few more years, when they need to get a breath of fresh air, despite the fact that going out in Beirut is much more expensive than going out in Damascus: Indeed, there is no such thing as busy barhopping, heavy clubbing or ongoing cultural events in Damascus. The other way around, interest from the Lebanese in visiting Damascus is growing, as it offers the ideal opportunity for a change of air, to spend a couple days wandering around for hours across its picturesque side streets and getting lost in its endless souks, while getting impregnated with authentic Arabic culture and energy -- things that Westernized Beirut has lost a long time ago, or perhaps never really had.

 - Meet a mixed crowd of friendly people: Damascus is a cosmopolitan city and the faces on its streets are amazingly diverse, starting with the Syrians who are quite a mixed (and good-looking!) people. Then there’s the hordes of Iranian and Pakistani pilgrims hopping around the hundreds of mosques of this ex-capital of the Islamic empire. But you also see many foreigners on the streets of Damascus. As it turns out, many of them are not just visiting on tourism, but actually living in Damascus, from students studying under an exchange program to learn Arabic to young people working for local NGOs, to business people who went there trying to take advantage of Syria’s awakening economy. Most importantly, people in Syria seem to be under less stress and seem to be less worried about the hassles of life than the Lebanese (and God knows they have many!). It is immediately noticeable: people in Syria smile more easily, help out more readily, and get mad less quickly.

- Pamper yourself with affordable little pleasures: One of my pleasant surprises was that you can actually eat well in the restaurants of Damascus, with the added benefit that the bill is so low that coming from Beirut, you’re surprised you’ve actually had good food for this price. As for shopping, the streets of Damascus are a place where you can still use your bargaining power to buy anything and everything, from Arab/Ottoman antiques that are way overpriced in Beirut, to good quality cotton linen to delicious oriental sweets. Unfortunately, much like in the souks of Lebanon, the rest of Damascus’ souks has become mostly made-in-China crap. And then, after long hours of walking around, nothing beats a traditional hammam experience. And don’t say you couldn’t find any, for Damascus has over 20!

- Get a glimpse of the emerging GiD life: If like myself and like Paul you know how to appreciate the erotic energy of the hammams, Damascus is the place for you. Some of the historic and/or renovated ones are of exceptional architecture. A couple of them are said to be kind of gay, and one of them is way gay (Al Jadid). But despite Damascus’ huge size and a population of over 4 million, gay life in Damascus boils down to only a handful of spots beyond the hammams: a few gay-friendly hangouts, a couple cruising zones like Shaalan… and the rest of it is confined to the realm of the Internet. I did get the chance however to meet a couple of GiDs (Gay in Damascus), and definitely think there is room out there for much more GiB/GiD synergy!


My Moon My Man | by Art Hake

My boyfriend is killing me. He works non-stop, goes out all night, then returns home vegging next to me on the couch, considering late-night TV sessions as “spending time together”. This is no relationship counseling but when I look around, I can only confirm the obvious: relationships are a whole lotta shit to deal with.

Straight friends? Forget it. They don’t communicate, they never say what they think or do what they say and they’re too insane. Complicated, immature & selfish. Imagine that coming from a GiB! What we share with those is the anxiety of commitment; but we deal with that just fine. At least, when we play around we have the decency to assume it. And we don’t mind crowded games.

Gay friends? Diddo. We’re moody and unstable. Plus, our relationships are often based on our “condition” and that shapes our dealing with our BF. Are we out? Are we gonna see each others again? Are we fcuked up from closeted behavior and overexposure to society’s homophobia? We have difficulty finding our soulmate (someone please kill gay social networks), we have issues meeting in public (or at least most of the public spots -knowing not all of us necessarily enjoy flamboyant ghettos) and we are left with a delicate choice of 2 alternatives: be an open couple or an exclusive couple. We know by now that one of those don’t really work, so good luck with the patch work.

Around my couch, I see few single men & women. One girl friend left her BF of 5 years, because of lack of commitment. One GiB friend suffers from CUS (Chronic Undertwenty Syndrome) -they never learn! One other GiB friend has been lonely for so long he’s successfully passed the 24/24 horniness stage. Then another one anxiously awaits seasonal vacations, hoping to binge on European sweets. His diet forbids any local flavors. I also happen to regularly see 2 happy straight couples, but that’s boring, since they make it a point to rub it in your face. And I confirm one successful local normal adorable GiB couple. How swell, they even have a dog!

We all have issues, blah blah blah. My beau and I have been together for a while now, which helps. We screw up but we end up fixing things. Whatever we do, works. At least for us.

In Happy Life, if you have a cute; loving boyfriend, keep it! And before changing others, change yourself. Who’s in for a drink?


GiB#2 | Beirut Down Under

I knew I had reached rock bottom when I ended up visiting one of the “porn theaters” of Beirut last year. Tired of the useless social-flirting and the pointless online-dating (a common condition known as the GiB Boredom Syndrome) and feeling horny as hell, that’s where I went to get anonymous, right-here-right-now sex.

Picture an old movie theater, probably dating back from the 80’s, torn down so bad it has obviously never been renovated since the glory days of Beirut Cinema. Ignore the 007-type posters in the lobby and forget the 5$ entrance fee (when a regular movie theater is no more than 8$). Then come on in to an extremely dark room where the only source of light is a faded screen showing straight porn from a classical French movie; One in every two seats is broken and the smell around the bathroom area is abominable.

It takes less than a minute to want to flee this place. But I stayed, and it took me another minute to get used to the dark inside and to start noticing by the fire of their cigarettes that there are actually guys sitting here and there in the room, scattered across the rows. Most of them sit there apparently alone, but in some instances I could see the silhouette of two heads next to each other, suggesting there’s some action going on.

Once I thought I had figured out how this place works, I started walking around the room. I chose a guy who looked decent and around my age, sat in the seat right next to him, fooled around for a few minutes until I came, and left without a word... talk about a quickie!

Who are the regulars in these places, I haven’t been able to figure it out. Of about ten people I came across that day, a few were 20-something Arab workers, a couple were old fat guys, a couple others were mid-aged taxi-driver-type guys, one was a total queen… and one was an adventurous GiB lost in lust (that would be me). Go figure if there's a pattern.

My other unsolved mystery remains: is everyone there gay? Or is it more of a place for those nasty straight guys who get so horny and with no woman around, they’re willing to take a walk on the wild side for some sexual attention?

From Lebtour’s online cruising guide:
Cinemas & Dark rooms

Commentary: All "At Your Own Risk" and specify clearly what you want and whether money is involved:

-    Cinema Al Khayyam located in Jeanne d'Arc str. Hamra - Beirut
Cinema showing old films and straight porn. Best for cruising on Sun afternoons.

-    Cinema Morocco located in Mar Doumit str. Sin el Fil – Nabaa - Beirut
Movie theatre showing old movies - straight porn and mainstream films. Cruising and pick-up area's for men. Some "action" in the upstairs seating and bathrooms.

-    Cinema Royal located in Cornish el Nahr – Nabaa side - Beirut
Movie theatre showing old American & international movies - straight porn and mainstream films. Some "action" in the upstairs seating and bathrooms used as a dark room.

-    Cinema Plaza located in Mar Doumit str. Sin el Fil – Nabaa - Beirut
Best on Sun afternoons. Very busy. Best crowd can be found here.


GiB#2 | Party Treats

Unless one really doesn’t want to see it, the drugs are all over the place in Beirut and this also holds true in the GiB community. Lebanon’s rehab centers and anti-drug NGOs are being kept quite busy (photo of Skoun’s latest brochure).

How could it be any different when the drugs are constantly grown and smuggled into and out of the Beqaa valley, en route to and from Europe and the world, all under political inaction, not to say political cover?

Yes, they’ll set on fire some of the fields each year; they’ll occasionally arrest a few low- or mid-level dealers; shut down the local ecstasy lab, but no, people are never left sniffing Xanax lines in Lebanon as they are in Dubai.

Blame it on the war, on the hippies or on the country’s decadence as a whole, but it’s been the same status-quo for decades if not centuries. So who knows, they might well review the legislation one day! (photo taken in California).

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