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Lebanon: “We’re Here, We’re Queer, We’re Online”

Bekhoos screenshotBekhsoos is an online magazine “covering topics related to (homo)sexuality in the Arab world”. Founded by the Lebanese group Meem, a support community for lesbians, bisexuals, queers, questioning women, and transgender persons, Bekhsoos was recently relaunched and will publish weekly from now on.

“Bekhsoos” means “concerning…”, and is a reference to the changing topic of each issue. As well as news articles and opinion pieces, Bekhsoos includes poetry, fiction, and personal stories that focus on queer and transgender identities in the Arab world. It also plans more investigative reports.

Nadz, one of the editors, explains the relaunch:

This is the new Bekhsoos. We’re back after almost a whole year of no publishing (the last issue we put out was in December 2008). So what’s different? For one thing, we’ve decided to publish weekly. […] Bekhsoos.com started out as a replacement for a “real” print magazine. We knew we probably couldn’t manage printing a magazine because we’d need lots of money to purchase a publishing license, do the printing, and it wouldn’t fit too well with Meem’s underground nature. At the time (exactly 2 years ago), Bekhsoos online was a replacement. Today, and with the way information sharing has evolved, it is clear to me that Bekhsoos actually belongs online. That’s where young LGBTs in Lebanon are looking for information, connections, and support. So it’s up to us to provide the information quickly, accurately, and consistently.

Nadz continues:

The age of “wow, gay groups in Lebanon, that alone is impressive” is over. It’s not impressive anymore. Now is the time for us to become engaged with our own societies, to think analytically, to advance politically, to understand the truth about oppression, to create, to research, to be proactive, to write, to write, to write! The LGBT community has always had a strong online presence – way before people were calling it “ICT [information and communication technologies] 4 social change” and “social networking.” That’s because we had no other choice. So we built websites and chatrooms on mIRC. Then we became bloggers. Then we came out on MySpace and started groups and causes on Facebook. Then we started a YouTube channel. Now, we’re tweeting. And guess what? The world is now moving into our side of the playground. And when media moves online, they’re coming to where we are strong and numerous and unafraid. They’re coming to where the younger generations are. And no, of course, this side is not the best because it leaves out the older generations, it leaves out the people who can’t afford internet or computers, it leaves out my mother. But they are on the course to getting there. It’s getting more affordable, more Arabicized, and more widespread. The Middle East is adding 500,000 internet users a month. That’s 6 million a year. If the queer community is everywhere online, then the internet users are bound to bump into us somewhere. They’re bound to listen to what we have to say.

A recent Bekhsoos article was called “5 Reasons Health Care for Lesbians in Lebanon is at Stake”:

Lesbians and bisexual women are alienated from the health care system in Lebanon. Barriers to medical care that lesbians face can cause poorer mental and physical health. […] Heterosexism and homophobia are endemic in Lebanon. “Coming Out” to your physician, even though essential, might be challenging. […] Lack of any adequate training of health care providers about lesbian health issues. The absence of formal education about homosexuality in medical school and residency training leads to an alarming lack of understanding of health issues relevant to homosexuals. Misconceptions and dogmas about homosexuality are prevalent in Lebanon. […] Some physicians still believe homosexuality is a mental disorder even 15 years after the World Health Organization has removed homosexuality from its list of mental illnesses.

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