Authors: Nizar Aouad, Dana Abed
On August 4, 2020, Lebanon was ravaged by a catastrophic explosion in the port of Beirut, killing more than 200 and injuring 6,500, and causing massive destruction within a 10 km radius of the explosion site. Primary data collected from LGBTQI-focused civil society organizations (CSOs) and gay individuals immediately after the explosion highlighted an extremely negative impact of the explosion on the LGBTQI community, particularly in terms of access to basic services, resources and spaces.
The areas hardest hit by the Beirut explosion, particularly the Mar Mkhayel, Gemmayze and Geitawi neighborhoods, were known for their reputation as the more gay neighborhoods in Beirut. Home to many queer residents and gay-friendly restaurants, bars, clubs, community centers and public spaces, these neighborhoods provided a safe haven for queer people in a hyper- (hetero) sexualized city of Beirut. As such, these spaces allowed queer bodies to be safely visible and provided an alternate space to develop non-heteronormative discourses and to come together, organize and resist all forms of oppression they face. . Subsequently, the potential loss of these spaces as a result of the explosion could have a particularly damaging impact on queer people given the scarcity of similar inclusive and safe spaces elsewhere.
The explosion in Beirut was not the only disaster to hit the country in 2020. The country was already facing its most precarious economic crisis since the end of the civil war in 1990. Since 2019, the Lebanese pound has s ‘is devalued by more than 85% and unemployment has reached an all-time high, leading to an economic recession, high inflation, more capital and banking controls and, above all, devastating social conditions. The COVID-19 pandemic, which also arrived in 2020, has only worsened a dire situation, especially for the LGBTQI community – an already vulnerable group that constantly suffers from systemic discrimination, a lack of government protection1 and legal, social, and economic inequalities. The series of COVID-19 lockdowns implemented by the government since the start of the pandemic in March 2020 have raised many concerns among gay people, with LGBTQI-focused CSOs sounding the alarm on their safety and well-being -being endangered.
Against this background, Oxfam conducted a study to understand the impact of the series of crises on the livelihoods and well-being of gay people in Lebanon, to map the available and needed services and resources, and to generate recommendations to guide and support future efforts targeting LGBTQI people. community in Lebanon. The results of this research showed that community members have limited access to safe spaces, face a housing crisis, urgently need basic assistance and face worsening mental health. and their psychological well-being.