The United States and Lebanon both boast of ideas of diversity and progressiveness, however, neither seems to be particularly adamant on practicing these ideas. LGBT communities in both countries still fear discrimination and oftentimes violence. The difference between the two countries however can be seen in the legal system. Currently in the U.S. eight states have legalized gay marriage but prejudice is still widespread. On the other hand, the Lebanese government had a law (article 534) that deemed same sex relations as “going against nature” and being caught committing physical acts with someone of the same sex could result in up to a year in prison. Fortunately, this law was publicly denounced in 2009 but LGBT individuals still face the threat of violence and arrest from the police and individuals.
There are numerous pro-LGBT groups fighting for equality in both countries but those in Lebanon face a particular set of challenges. Without widespread support from communities it is often difficult to organize and assist those that categorize themselves as LGBT, this is especially true outside of the bigger cities. One group, Helem (literally meaning “Dream”), works towards protecting the LGBT community and advocates for social and legal equality. Another group, Meem, is specifically focused on providing support and counseling to Lebanese LGBT women. Branches of these organizations have also begun to spring up in the U.S. and several European nations with a large Lebanese population.
Recently, in Lebanon, there has been an enormous outcry made by the LGBT community to end anal exams by doctors on supposed gay men. The men receiving these exams were not willing participants but were brought in by police authorities. This is just one example of the violence that continues to frighten the LGBT community. This issue has brought about a great deal of support though from groups outside of the LGBT community which is a hopeful sign that progress will be made and social stigmas are beginning to fade.
In the U.S. homosexuality has become more or less socially acceptable to the point that same sex couples feel they can hold hands or express affection in public. LGBT couples in Lebanon however do not feel the same level of security. Although the U.S. often boasts its superiority in relation to human rights it often times does not see the people that are slipping through the cracks. Yes, eight states have legalized gay marriage and that is amazing progress but there is still so much that can and needs to be done. The same goes for Lebanon, one cannot boast of its progressive views without practicing them. In both countries I think anti-LGBT sentiments have multiple origins but religion is often cited as a main reason against it. Religion has, in the past and still to this day, shaped culture and this is an offset of that. Meaning, what started as a religious belief has now turned into a social concept of what is “right” and what is “wrong.” As the U.S. and Lebanon slowly become more and more secular, ideas of homophobia will also begin to fade, it will just take time.