Online gay magazine Mako Pride’s reporter Yonatan Lemze sat with his friends next to gay people from Lebanon on a flight to Barcelona’s famous gay festival, and a unique conversation was developed“We are dying to visit Tel Aviv,” one of the Lebanese guys said. “We hear the stories about this city that is so open and accepting. We dream of Beirut becoming like Tel Aviv. We would love to visit and see up close the nightlife in the city. We love, for example, DJ Offer Nissim, we listen to him in Lebanon and go to his performances around Europe as much as we can. We also understand the religious tension in Israel and we’re amazed by the ability of young people to come out of the closet and walk hand in hand on the streets despite that.”
That was the warm conversation that was developed between an Israeli reporter and his friends and a group of gay guys from Beirut, Lebanon, on a mutual flight to Barcelona a few days ago, on the way to one of Europe’s biggest gay festivals “Circuit.” “It’s the craziest gay festival in the world,” describes Lemze, “tens of thousands of guys, parties and nude performances, and this surprise happened to us even before we landed there.”
During the flight mutual glances and shy smiles began, until one of the Lebanese guys courageously asked “Are you going to the festival?” without naming it or disclosing that they were gays. “Finding out that we are from Tel Aviv and they are from Beirut didn’t keep us away from each other; on the contrary,” says the Israeli reporter. “It raised curiosity and discourse that continued until we landed.”
“We are human beings and the connection between us is immediate,” said one of the Lebanese guys, “and we judge everyone with a glance and a smile. The fact that we are forbidden to contact [Israelis] and we are considered enemies draws us even more to bring the barrier down and show that we are stronger than our coward leaders. The situation in the area is extreme, and I don’t see a reason to be optimistic, but between us, in a distant and disconnected place [like ‘Circuit’], the Middle East rules do not apply to us.”
The Lebanese guys also didn’t hide the fear of being followed or spied on and discovered that they have exchanged a phone number or a Facebook contact with someone from Israel, which can cause them problems when they get home. “In this moment the connection with reality blows up our dream and the fear of ‘the big brother’ paralyzes us and brings us back to our place, keeping our distance from the other side.”
In the article, the Israeli reporter asked about gay life in Lebanon, and learned that there’s not much of a gay life in Beirut, and everything is done in disguise. There are no bars or clubs, and their only way to celebrate their sexuality freely is at festivals like ‘the Circuit’ and trips abroad. Returning home is always tough, but they try to make the distinction between their homeland, and what they can and can’t do there, and the freedom that the western countries provide.
“There’s nothing we can do at the moment,” one of them concludes. “The reality and the extremist leaders are stronger than other social developments. We don’t see a change, we don’t see that it will end, but we dream of the day when we can visit Israel.”