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mr-absentia

Lebanon Just Did a Whole Lot More Than Legalize Being Gay

by Erin Kilbride - March 8th, 2014
  • “LGBTQ rights supporters rejoiced on Thursday with news that homosexuality is no longer illegal in Lebanon. A court ruling abolished a case against an unnamed transwoman – accused of having a ‘same sex relationship with a man’ – stating that homosexuality can no longer be considered a crime because it is ‘not unnatural.’ Lebanese law only prohibits sexual acts ‘contradicting the laws of nature.’

    Mirroring coverage of LGBTQ advancement in the Western world, however, a vast majority of reports, blogs, tweets, and celebratory Instagram posts conspicuously erase the critical role of trans people in securing this victory.”

  • “The absence of trans-anything from most headlines is, in part, due to the nature of the court’s words, which stated specifically “homosexuality is not illegal.” However, it is also due to the tendency to elide gender differences with simplistic ideas about sexual preference, in a way that does not speak to – or do justice to – the complexities in the Lebanese court’s statement.”

  • “Western onlookers have a very firm notion of the trajectory along which LGBTQ rights should advance. That trajectory places trans rights as a clear ‘next step,’ something that can only be achieved once the groundwork has been laid by the advancement of the ‘L,’ ‘G,’ and perhaps ‘B’ contingencies (representing lesbian, gay, and bisexual, respectively). But the Lebanese courts are not following that trajectory. The same ruling that decriminalized homosexuality also formally recognized gender variation and codified principles of self-identification. This nuanced view of the interplay between sexuality and gender identification doesn’t fit with the traditional (Western) ‘gay rights’ narrative, and has resulted in Western media coverage that almost completely silences the critical role a transwoman played in achieving this landmark ruling.

    Proclaiming Lebanon’s ruling as merely a ‘victory for gays’ is not only an insult to the trans issues underpinning the ruling, but also whitewashes the Lebanese LGBTQ movement, painting it with strokes more easily digestible by Western consumers. The Lebanese case was not and is not merely a ‘victories for gays’ – it is a nuanced and praise-worthy assessment of gender variance. While critics have commented that the ruling falls short of tangible ‘rights’ for gays, in many ways it also far surpasses mainstream Western understandings of gender identity. And this deserves some press.”

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