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Lebanon: TV Shows on Homosexuality Create Buzz

“A gay killer has the passion of a woman and the aggression of a man,” states Zaven Kouyoumjian, Lebanese host of Siree Wenfatahet, a program broadcast by Future TV and  one of the highest rated TV shows in the Middle East.

Last week's show focused on “gay crime in Lebanon”, stating its intent was to explore the reasons behind the “increase of gay emotional crimes” occurring in the country.

The show, however, has been not been well-met by the queer community, due to the nature of some of the pronouncements, like the one above, and the sensationalism of the subject.

Beirut Boy addresses a letter to Zaven – who claimed in his show to be ” breaking gay stereotypes “- stating:

Dear Zaven,

You are not breaking any stereotypes. In fact, you just created a new stereotype!

Instead of talking about gay crimes happening in Lebanon (crimes where gay men and women get killed just because they’re gay), you chose to talk about a crime committed BY a gay man.

You should have talked about gay stereotypes and broken myths about gays.

How is the murderer’s sexual orientation of any relevance to you? He was gay and he happened to murder someone. Do you have to do a whole show about “murderous gay men and women”?!

Are you ****ing insane? I can’t believe your show is watched all across the Arab world.

Whilst the The Lebanese LGBT Monitor has collated a number of reader comments left on Zaven's Facebook fanpage which show the same disappointment.

Hasan writes:

While العميد (the brigadier) said he saw only 5 cases of “homosexual crime” in his past 10 years, you made a whole episode about this very rare topic, further alienating and stereotyping LGBT people. LGBT people get bullied and blackmailed in Lebanon on a daily basis, do you believe this warrants an episode on سيرة وانفتحت Siree Wenfatahet? Or does this not sell well in the media?

and Gay Middle East asks:

How about addressing homophobia and challenging stereotypes about sexualities in one of your near future shows?

Commenter Omar adds:

I think you could have learned a thing or two from a “better” journalist, Riyad Kobeisi who had a show about homosexuality the same night at the same time. Watch and learn

Indeed, another program, Mithy Mithlak, aired its first episode on New TV last week. This two-part program has been generally better received, as it provides a broader exploration of sexuality and sexual difference.

Myra Abdallah gives a brief summary about the two TV shows on Lebanese LGBT Monitor [AR], where she states:

كانت حلقة تليفزيون الجديد مع رياض قبيسي جديرة بالمشاهدة. فإنه لم يوجه أي إتهام أو حكم على المثليين، بل إنه عرض
حالة المثليين الحقيقية في لبنان
Riad Qubeisi's New TV program was worth watching. It did not pass any judgment on homosexuals, rather it presented their true status in Lebanon.

She continues:

كانت الحلقة تتمحور حول شهادات حية من أشخاص مثليين، … إن هذا البرنامج، وللمرة الأولى على التليفزيون، كان إيجابيا وألقى إعجاب الكثيرين من الذين شاهدوه.
The episode focused on real testimonies of gay people… This program, for the first time on television, was positive and has gained admiration among many who watched it.

Online queer Arab magazine Bekhsoos features an http://www.bekhsoos.com/web/2010/10/what-did-you-think-of-the-ntv-and-ftv-shows-on-homosexuality-in-lebanon/”>article calling for readers’ opinions on the two programs.

One commenter, Phoenix states:

pfff Zaven Kouyoumdjian is such a typical sucker for ratings.
a sensational slut.
he only used the title to attract audiences when his show was a waste of time as it always is when he uses enticing titles such as “awal zawaj li thakareyn fi loubnan” [first marriage between men in Lebanon] in which a woman had “male” instead of female on her id card and she was married with children.

as for the New TV’s show, it was a a wonderful step from him to talk to Helem and the people involved in it. He had an objective take on the subject showing different points of view and I’m looking forward to watch the second episode of his show.

Note: Helem is a Lebanese LGBTIQ advocacy group.

It seems the two shows could not have been met with more different reactions. In response to Beirut Boys post, Gay Middle East tweets:

and a commenter adds:

Mr Zaven and the Future TV should applogize. The program is so shameful and definitely not up their standards!

We can only wonder if after all of the offense caused, said journalist and network will…

1 comment

  • Great coverage about this “buzz” Katharine!

    The two shows were very different in how they approached homosexuality.

    Let’s hope Zaven addresses the negative reaction he is receiving from us viewers on his show.

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