Part 5/7 – From Remorse to Revolt

“I did my time… time and again…”

The line from Queen’s “We Are the Champions” is in repeat in my head for about 36 hours by now, and I still haven’t talked with anyone yet it's like they forgot about me in there. Oh yes I did tell the guard “No” when he came asking if someone wanted to use the single phone call we're allowed to. Of course they would be the ones making the call, and I can't trust them talking to my parents on my behalf.

I’m taking on me.

"I’m doing time for all the times I’ve done similar things before. For every time I’ve taken these kinds of risks, even greater ones sometimes. For every time I’ve had sex in the car, for every time I’ve smoked a J in the car. For all those times I crossed fingers at the darak checkpoint, high as a kite."

"I’m doing time for every time I’ve succumbed to each one of these two vices of mine."

The voice in my mind is jumping three languages but it’s saying the same thing over and over:

“I’m a fag and a junkie. Ana Loote w 7eshesh. Je suis un pédé et un drogué”.

I’m about to get punished for both vices, at once. Two in One. I’ve been playing with the devil for too long, as though to force this destiny, and look what’s happened. "You ruined your life. You happy now?”

Still taking on me. The hours seem endless, the mental maturbation is becoming unbearable.

Until finally hours later at the sound of the early morning adaan, the only indication of time since last night, my tears suddenly go dry – And those would be my last tears until I hugged my parents a week later outside the courthouse in Baabda.

For in a moment of clear consciousness, I started to wonder:

“Wait a minute here. Forget the drugs for a second and try to keep it down to the facts. What did I just get arrested for, what the hell was my crime?  The only real facts are: 1) I picked up a guy from the street in a cruising area and 2) I admitted to him that I MAY have sexual intercourse with him because I made it sound LIKELY I’ve had gay sex in the past.

That’s it.

There were NO talks whatsoever about money, which would make me liable under sex-for-money charges. There was NO sexual contact between me and the guy whatsoever, which would make me condemnable for having gay sex in public. There were NO drugs involved at that point.

It’s clear to me today: To put a long story short,

On a random night of 2010 in Beirut, I was ARRESTED FOR BEING GAY.

--by GiL. Photo by GiB#2 from a bookstore in Paris


Pink Dollars

Beware people of the world! GiBs are waging a war: beating Tel Aviv as the gay capital of the Middle East.

According to an article posted in the business section of L'Orient-le-Jour, our local French daily, Beirut is gaining notoriety as a touristic destination for gays from around the world. Can you imagine the potential impact on Lebanon’s economy? And do you realize how efficient this war can be? Drop the guns already. It’s time we compete economically and socially.

This other post provides interesting statistics as well as an overview of the rivalry for the Pink title.

While Tel Aviv offers a somewhat tolerant environment towards gays, GiB lifestyle is mostly underground. This secretive aspect makes everything sexier, sassier and spices things up a notch.

The Tel Aviv Tourism Association recently launched a campaign to market the city to gay communities around the world in a campaign called “Tel Aviv Gay Vibe.” How soon should we expect the Beirut version?

Part 4/7 – Hbeich It Is

I’m now in the back seat of their car, what’s left of my T-shirt red with blood. We’re finally having a conversation but I still have doubts they’re truly from the police as they’re saying. I’m trying to behave as a good boy, and allude to the fact that I’m willing to give them “anything they want”, but not getting a clear answer.

I’m getting driven through Beirut, and I soon figure out I’m headed to the Hbeich detention center – the infamous Hbeich that I’d heard so many horrors about during college.

Hbeich's floor arrangement – Ground floor is 
'Storage house for the Drugs department’ (!!), 
'Mores' on 2nd, ‘Drugs’ on 4th, ‘Gambling’ on 5th,
‘Civil Matters' on 7th
Up two floors and into a hallway, they make me take off my pants and confiscate them (I later learned it’s because I could use the strings that serve as a belt to hurt myself). Then they make me strip off naked and do ten sit ups, in case I’m hiding something in there. Finally they push me into a cell where two other guys are asleep, in that unbreathable smell of urine.

Hours later, my head is still buried under my shirt as I’m desperately trying not to breath the smell. Occasionally I stick my nose through the tiny window opening in the door, which serves both as the only contact with the outside world (them) and the only air ventilation for the room.

I feel humiliated and miserable like never before, and still don’t realize what’s going on. It must be around 5 am when life takes yet another strike at me. Between two sobs, it sounds so quiet outside that I can hear the sound of my car coming out from the street: it’s this unmistakable noise that it’s been doing when I drive it at low speed.

Oh great. Now they’ve brought my car over. They’re gonna search it down. They’re gonna find the little piece of hashish I forgot in the hand compartment. I’m gonna be in for drugs too. I’m gonna be in months. Someone please help me die. I burst into tears.

--by GiL. Photo by GiB#2


Part 3/7 - Abduct a GiB

Him: “Make a right here. Keep going. Now park here this is a good spot.”

Me: “But there’s cars that pass by this street!”

Him: “Don’t worry they can’t see anything if your headlights are off.”

Me: “But dude THEIR lights are on, so THEY can see us.”

Him: “Don’t worry here’s good”, he says as he lights up a cigarette. “Just turn off your lights”

A guy comes out of the shade and is now approaching my car from across the street.

Me: “Funny looks like this guy’s coming to pee next to the car he hasn’t seen us here!” I say in way of joke.

But the guy outside keeps getting closer and closer to the car. He’s now speeding up his pace.

The Slap - from an Amsterdam Graffiti
[PAUSE HERE] Of the whole experience following what is about to happen, this is the one moment that still gives me chills today: It is the precise moment when I figured out what was going on, while it was too late to take off.

“Oh no please don’t tell me this is what I’m thinking, please don’t tell me this is happening to me”, I think to myself. Next thing I know the guy outside is grabbing my shirt through the window and giving me my first slap in the face. The one sitting next to me, who for a second had pretended he was unbuttoning his jeans, is now lending him a hand.

The slapping is non-stop and getting more intense as I start screaming, screaming as loud as I can. In my head and as far as I could tell from these guys dressed in civil and from the way they set me up, there is no doubt I am getting abducted and/or stolen my car and things. I’ve heard this scenario more than once before.

The two guys have dragged me out of my car by now. I throw myself on the floor. They’re trying to get me inside a white Toyota with a civil plate, they won’t stop hitting and I won’t stop screaming. They’re trying to quiet me down and tell me something but I can’t hear anything. There’s cars that pass by every minute or so, but they seem to ignore my screaming so bad that it really feels like I’m in a nightmare.

One of them is finally able to handcuff one of my hands. If they get the second one on, I’m done. I must resist. I’m fighting back as much as I can, I even bite one of the guys as hard as I can. It must have been about 20 slaps in the face so far, I’m completely detached from by body at this point, my whole body feels numb. I can taste my own blood but I still find the time to check with my tongue if my teeth are still in place.

And then comes the grand finale, a proper Hollywood-style punch in the eye. Within a split second my eye feels swollen and blind. I finally surrender to my two aggressors.

--by GiL. Photo by GiB#2


Part 2/7 – Ambush a GiB

The man standing on the curb looks like he’s coming straight out of Mr Lebanon's cast. Tall, muscular, handsome, and just standing there, at night, by himself.

I’m on my way back home but wait, this guy looks hot as fcuk. Plus this is the Freeway cruising area so he has to be up for some fun. Wow he’s even giving me the look now, that unmistakable look.

It’s kinda weird though, I could swear this guy's Lebanese. Everything about him. And that makes him the only Lebanese guy around here not cruising in his car: The sidewalk is the turf of foreign workers turned rentboys.

There’s something mysterious and hot about this guy. I’ve got to figure him out. Let alone I could use a hunk like this before bed. I pull over the car and stop right next to him.

- Me: Hey there, how are you?

- Him: Good and you… what’s up?

- Me: Nothing much. Just driving around…

- Him: Just driving around eh?

- Me: Yup heading back home. But then I saw you!

- Him: You wanna fcuk or get fcuked?

- Me (thinking: guy's fast!): Umm neither I think… just go for a ride and see what happens.

- Him: You like to scuk?

- Me: Yeah I guess that part could happen. Listen do you want to come up or not?

- Him: Ok I’m going to walk back this way and you’ll pick me up from over there.

- Me: But why from over there? Just hop in here it’s much more quiet!

- Him: No, I want people to see me get in the car with you.

- Me (thinking: WTF?!): Fine, let me pick you up from over there then”

I drove forward into the light and picked him up.

How is it I could ignore all the signs, how is it I couldn’t see that everything about this guy was getting weirder by the minute, I still can’t figure….

... I guess the fish-hook must have been way, way too pretty and the fish (me) must have been way, way too horny.

-- by GiL. Photo by GiB#2 in Paris.


It Gets Better | by Art Hake

Something’s been messing my mind. This epidemic of teen suicides in the US, involving kids who were taunted for their sexuality and then chose to end their lives in order to escape the bully. Four independent incidents in a month do not label as an epidemic, thankfully, but I hope we can agree that it’s four times more than acceptable. Some of the kids were not even sexually active yet; they were different. Some stronger kids called them “fag” or “sissy” and hit them. They became frequent victims of groups. They got cornered. They were lost. And they couldn’t take it anymore. 

The sad part is, if enough light is shed on the topic, I’m sure we can come up with darker numbers.

As a result of low media exposure and total inertia from authorities, the “It Gets Better Project” was founded. And things did get better. At least for the movement. Joel Burns’s emotional speech, a city councilman from Texas, was streamed on YouTube more than 2 million times. Ellen DeGeneres featured a special on her show. How cliché! And President Obama raised his eyebrows. But most importantly, hundreds of individuals from around the globe uploaded amateur videos of their own “it gets better” experiences on the net, facing their videocams from their bedrooms, voicing hope and support to the confused youth. I can’t get enough of watching these films. Google them! The Google Employees’ video is not bad at all either.

Being a sexually-confused teen is no easy job, especially in Beirut. Hell, being Lebanese is no easy job! Justin Aeberg. Billy Lucas. Cody Barker. Asher Brown. Seth Walsh. Raymond Chase. Tyler Clementi. All gone. How many Tonis, Abdos, Ahmeds and Alis were bullied for being GiBs? To be honest, we don’t hear of too many scary stories. Beside a fishy double death this summer, I do not recall of any major GiB news headline lately. I guess these things are kept within intimate circles, away from social scrutiny. Never underestimate the fear of shame.

We hear stories or rumors or both. Probably both. But not on the news. We’re not worthy of being mentioned. We don’t exist! But we’re targeted. By jokes. By law. By practice. By habit. By norms. By local gods. By locals. By ignorance.

Our strongest feature as a society is our ability to bond with each others and develop social networks. They replace support groups and LGBT-friendly associations. They also cause wars, sometimes, but they do keep us away from dying old in total solitude. However, in most cases, what else do we have but ourselves?

These videos refreshed bad memories. I was so fucking lucky for an unbelievable family and for the luxury of a decent education. I was granted good health and an agreeable lifestyle. Despite everything that was offered to grow up normally, I couldn’t escape those bumps on the road. I was different; I tried hard not to show it. The bullying was acceptable: it’s more or less what every kid goes through. We’re big on asserting who has bigger balls. And some occasional verbal abuse did sting. But it was nothing compared to my incomprehension of my feelings and urges. At first I refused my body’s choices. I will spare you the emotional rollercoaster I went trough. But god what a ride! You’re packed, ready to go and things still go bad. With the challenges of school and friendships, the shooting hormones, the identity crisis, the one-way infatuations, the fear of reaching out, the terror of being caught… you’re in deep to your knees. Not to mention the burden of an injured country with bad odds. University days were softer due to a new level of independence. I just wish I had GiB friends to talk to back then, they would have spared me discovering myself through creepy sexual encounters fetched on the Internet. Ambushed by diseases and sexual deviants, this is how most of us start our GiB career. When I finally accepted myself, I was an adult already. But time was on my side. I met incredible people. I lived in a happy city for a college year. I met the man of my dreams. I came out to friends and friends came out to me. I don’t live in a GiB ghetto, I am a hardworking Lebanese man with a career and big hopes. And friends. I love my life despite all its imperfections. I’m motivated. I want more of life.

This is my little contribution to the Project. Look at us, in tiny Beirut, thrown like unwanted puppies in the forest. Things will get better.

Part 1/7 – Let’s Go Get Some Gays!

It’s about 10 pm and it sounds quiet on the Adaab floor of makhfar Hbeich (1). The convicts must be asleep. The voice of a taHarre (2) breaks the silence of the interrogation room, a small room with a minimalist décor done in typical Lebanese Bureaucracy style – an empty desk, two chairs, a rusty file cabinet and no computer. Except it now boasts a camera, supposedly imposed by Human Rights following a morbid scandal of torture interrogations last year:

The entrance to the Hbeich detention center next to AUB
- “Boss we only have one guy in number 2 tonight, Boss. The stinky old Syrian guy. And he’s leaving tomorrow!”

- “Hmm that’s not good… Alright let’s go get some gays, then. We’ll do it as usual, you stand, I hide”, the Boss, a robust family man and former torture interrogator, says with a smile.

- “Yeah of course Boss, I’m the good-looking one around here!”, the young and handsome guy says laughing.

- “Yeah that much is true kid… remember I’m the one with a wife and two kids!”

1- Adaab: the floor dedicated to ‘Mores’ in the infamous Hbeich police detention center next to AUB
2- taHarre: undercover police agent in Lebanon - they dress in civil

(Conversation Fictional).
-- by GiL. Photo by GiB#2


GiL’s Wake Up Call

GiL comes to GiB with a seven-post series retracing his experience being arrested in Lebanon under charges of homosexual activity, followed by charges of drug use.

Lucky he took only a week for it.

Only it takes more than a week to recover. GiL decided to write it down to help himself move on from this dreadful experience.

As a testament of GiB’s full support for GiL, for the next couple weeks GiB will be the outlet for his story. A tribune for his cause. A loudspeaker for his call.

A call to those like Diamond Walid who in her recent piece in the Guardian “Gay, straight, or just Lebanese?” pretend that “the anti-homosexuality law is no longer really applied” in Lebanon: sorry my jewel but… go check your sources.

But GiL’s wake up call is actually two-fold:

- One to the local GiB community saying: “Stay Careful and Hang in There”,

- and the other to the rest of the world out there: “Beirut Ain’t Gay Heaven on Earth, Dude”.

… Two messages that were well relayed by Helem at the IGLTA (gay travel) conference that was held in Beirut two weeks ago .

Now without further ado… the seven-post series by GiL.

- by GiB#2. Photo off the Net.



It might seem like ages ago in Beirut standards, but the Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious party two Saturdays ago, is one that’s worth stopping back at for a minute.

When the trendy gadget shop in Saifi commissioned an as-GiBfriendly-as-it-gets bunch of folks, to help it throw a theme party to advertize its brand, the result was simply brilliant. Litterally.

As the colorful, stylish and energetic crowd, quite mixed really but with way-above-average GiB attendance – a crowd that looked similar in some ways, but fresher and healthier than today’s Cotton Candy by an order of magnitude…

…Took over this amazing outdoor venue busting a 180 seaview from the rooftop of an abandoned sugar refinery on the Zalka seafront amidst splashes of artwork, candy and goodies all over the place, with a full-fledged Lomogrpahy photo exhibition featuring some pretty good pieces… and with mandatory glitter for everyone

…Moving to eclectic music by DJ’s Caline, Djette (Leila) and the 5-hour closing set by duo-de-choc Richie and Georges (pictured) playing all kinds of 90’s / 2000’s ear-candy tunes that kept the crowd going and going till the bar went dry, the glitter got sticky, the free water bottles moutain eroded, and the crowd got gibbier…

And then…

I did something I’d never done before ‘in front of everyone’ in Lebanon, not even in a shady corner in Acid. There, out on the dancefloor on this nicest pied-dans-l’eau terrace and surrounded by the cutest things in Beirut...
… I Kissed a Boy.

And I Liked It!

Only that three days, four showers and another one-time-guy later… I still had glitter on.

- Post and photos by GiB#2.

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