“Intifada” is Arabic for uprising. People of the Lebanese gay community and their supporters are working very hard on their own intifada of supporting LGBTIQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersexual, and Queer) people and defeating homophobia. A lot of this work is being done by Helem and Meem. I personally work with Helem (“Dream” in Arabic), which is an NGO protecting LGBTIQ from all types of social and cultural discrimination. I also know many of the wonderful people at Meem working to provide a safe and supportive environment for lesbian, bisexual, queer, and questioning women, as well as transgender people. Both groups are extremely important for spreading awareness and providing assistance for LGBTIQ “on the ground” in Lebanon.
No one should underestimate the work being done by Helem and Meem. At the same time, however, the power of the Internet cannot be underestimated either. There are huge groups of people who are unable to benefit, in person, from the services of Helem or Meem due to distance, fear of being “out-ed,” or a plethora of other reasons. The gay intifada therefore has to transform itself into the gay electronic intifada.* We rebels must now turn to the Net to fight for our cause.
My own “intifada” all started with the Facebook group called “Support Group for HELEM.” I joined simply as a member to support the cause. Then, I posted a pro-gay article that I wrote for the official student newspaper at the American University of Beirut (AUB), Outlook. (At that time, I didn’t realize the impact of posting something like that on the group, but I’ll get to that a bit later.) I became very active in this group, which now boasts almost 1,300 members (consisting of both LGBTIQ people and heterosexual supporters). I also got to “meet” many members who had joined through fake accounts to protect their anonymity (I never realized how many gay Lebanese people had such fake accounts, so that they could feel safe expressing their opinions).
Eventually, one of the Facebook group administrators, recognizing my activism, appointed me as another administrator. I was now part of a special little group that is a testament to diversity of this intifada: some administrators are Helem members; others are heterosexual supporters; and one administrator is actually using a fake account, which makes it possible for a person to function as an activist while still safely “underground.” This one Facebook group has been successful in reaching out to those unable to physically attend Helem events, with the other administrators and I actively monitoring group activity to remove any defamatory remarks to keep the environment a safe one.
Someone in the “Support Group for HELEM” liked the aforementioned article of mine. He informed me that he knew the people in charge of “Raynbow,” a Lebanese non-profit fundraising organization. It tuned out that Raynbow also wanted to post my article on its site, which became my introduction to this organization.
The Raynbow organization was founded on April 4th, 2005. By November 2005, it started donating all of its funds to NGOs that support human rights in Lebanon. Raynbow not only has an online store, but also the Raynbow Media Monitor, which is an extensive archive of articles, videos, and translations about LGBT issues in Lebanon (some of which are submitted to Raynbow and others of which were published elsewhere). It meant a lot, personally and politically, that Raynbow offered to publish my Outlook article because Outlook is not available online, only distributed in hard copy around AUB campus. Thus, Raynbow gave much wider exposure to my writing, and it has done the same for other gay rights articles originally published in Outlook. For instance, one week, someone at AUB wrote an anti-gay article that got published in Outlook, which led to a flurry of pro-gay replies. All were subsequently posted on the Media Monitor.
Raynbow also founded the “Lebanese LGBT Media Monitor” page on Facebook. In just two months, it has accumulated almost 600 members. The group essentially serves the same purpose as the Media Monitor, but it is also interactive. Members can have discussions about posts and can post their own articles.
Groups like Raynbow are hugely important because they can effectively spread information to the LGBTIQ community and its supporters. The articles posted on the two media monitors quickly spread because people re-post them on their Facebook profiles and send them to others by email. Had it not been for Raynbow, only select Lebanese people would have known that people at AUB were fighting for gay rights. Now, the Outlook articles have gone international! On top of that, Raynbow helps preserve online activist resources, counteracting the ephemeral quality of the Web: some online articles are available for only a limited amount of time and then they disappear from their sites or their sites go defunct; Raynbow backs up useful articles on its own site to ensure that there is no time limit to viewing them.
By now, getting articles re-posted by Raynbow and Facebook has become a sort of status symbol because they can make the audience so vast. This vastness encourages people to submit their own articles and thus furthers the cause. I feel more encouraged when I write something — like this article for instance — knowing that it will not only be read by the people who read MRZine but could potentially spread further, thanks to Raynbow and Facebook.
Here is another example of the power of the Net. On April 28th, 2009, the Freethought Society at AUB organized a conference entitled “Homosexuality: Dispelling the Myths, Presenting the Facts.” Over 200 people attended the conference, but many more have heard the speeches due to YouTube. The (anonymous) people who ran the Lebanese-based YouTube channel “MithliProduction” (“Mithli” is Arabic for homosexual) wanted to edit and post videos of the conference. Because of their hard work, four videos of the main speeches made by the speakers of the conference — including one by yours truly (yes, I shamelessly self-promote, I admit it) — are now online.
These wonderful online organizations helped me become politically active; hopefully, I have been able to help them in turn. To recruit more rebels, I am leaving you with links to the online organizations and many others that are also doing an amazing job. The gay electronic intifada is alive and kicking, but we still have a lot of work to do before we can successfully defeat homophobia and hatred in the state and society of Lebanon.
Organizations Mentioned in the Article:
Helem Official Website:
Meem Official Website:
Support group for HELEM (Facebook Group):
(No public listing available; available to Facebook members)
Raynbow Online Store
Raynbow Media Monitor:
Lebanese LGBT Media Monitor (Public Listing):
MithliProduction (YouTube Channel)
Other Noteworthy Organizations:
GayLebanon (Social Networking Website):
Gay-Straight Alliance in Lebanon — G-sail (People’s Movement):
GayDruze (Social Networking Website):
Al-Fatiha (advocating rights of LGBTIQ Muslims)
* The title of this article, “The Gay Electronic Intifada of Lebanon,” was inspired by “The Electronic Intifada,” a Web site dedicated to presenting Palestinian perspectives on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I thought I’d modify the name of that site to fit my vision of a different type of “intifada.”
Anonymous is a master’s student in psychology.