Lebanon is holding the country’s very first Pride celebrations this week, with a series of exhibitions, film screenings and parties aimed at taking a “positive stance against hate and discrimination”.
While anti-homophobia demonstrations have previously taken place in Beirut, this will be the first event of its kind in the Middle East nation.
The Beirut Pride program includes events that explore gender fluidity in fashion, drag workshops and screenings of The Birdcage, Carol and Tomboy.
"This is definitely a big milestone,” activist Diana Abou Abbas told CNN. “I'm very excited that this is happening.”
Organisers acknowledge that Beirut Pride would not have been possible without the work of the LGBT+ community who for decades have been “tackling many social issues, confronting others for recognition”.
The event pays tribute to activists who have been “exhibiting their artworks, going on stage, dancing, singing, speaking in the most casual ways about themselves and their identities, celebrities publicly endorsing sexual and gender diversity, showing courage and pride, and being authentic—at any cost”.
Lebanon is considered to be one of the most progressive countries in the Middle East yet same-sex acts are still technically illegal.
Beirut Pride organisers said in a statement that the event is a “constructive platform that invites people to express themselves" in an attempt to speak out against the homophobia that has forced "many fellow-citizens out, towards other countries that guarantee their basic rights”.
A Pride parade will close the festivities on Sunday but organisers say it will be “casual” and will not mimic American or European Pride parades.
“The aim is not to copy, or import patterns, but to have something specific to Beirut, the city that hosts our Pride."
The group noted that they were also wary that a “full blown” parade could cause safety concerns—and that they “will not compromise anybody's peace of mind for the sake of an event. Not even for a parade".
"It will still be an outdoor parade, showing your real colours, and we still promise a fabulous parade, on the street and beyond," organisers promised.