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Barra is out (again)

Been two weeks since my last post but it’s been worth the wait.  This is also the first post that deals with something that I am actually working on (so very excited).

Well…as you have already guessed; Barra will be relaunched.  A group of amazing peeps got together and decided to work on the relaunch of the much anticipated LGBTIQ-oriented magazine.  If you haven’t heard of Barra from before, here’s a quick refresher.  A couple of years ago (probably sometime in 2005 or so), Helem released a magazine that was solely oriented to issues related to our community. This magazine was called “Barra” and it was able to publish three issues before discontinuing due to logistic and distribution obstacles. Now, we are relaunching it with a whole new theme, logo and approach.

So here’s the basic teaser;

  • we’re going online and print. First issue will be up in May and the relaunch is scheduled for the IDAHO2012.  Yes, it’s a close call but we’re challenging ourselves and we’re gonna make it.
  • It’s in Arabic format but will also accommodate other languages.
  • Minimalistic and clean layout with rich visuals
  • Rich material in six sections; news (civil society/legal/…), feature story and interview, the platform (المنصة), health, Lifestyle & Art and Marketplace & Fun.

We, at the team of Barra, will our do best to provide the community at large with a magazine that is at the heart of the queer movement in Lebanon and contribute to the ongoing queer discourse in the country (and regionally if possible).

Your contributions are the core of this magazine, so write to us at info@barramag.com with you questions/comments and – most of all – your submissions.

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Lebanese internet law that compromises our online freedom of expression

Almost two years ago or so, a law that regulates internet use in Lebanon was proposed. It was – for the lack of a better word – “sloppy” and vague but none the less allowed the Lebanese government to pursue what people publish and express online. The civil society rose in an uproar and the law didn’t pass the Parliament and was killed in its cradle.

Regrettably, another similar law was recently proposed by the new Lebanese Minister of Information Walid al-Daouq. The law prohibits the publication of “anything that offends public morals or ethics”. With such a vague directives, the Lebanese government can trace and prosecute anything that runs contrary to socio-normative standards, which is technically most of what is taken up on the internet since it is the only place that we can express ourselves freely. For a better review about the law, refer to Khodor Salameh’s cover on the issue.

What does this mean for the LGBTIQ movement?! everything probably. We have gone too far in establishing a platform for free expression online after our voices have been suffocated by a socially homophobic sectarian and political silencing. Now this scarce freedom of expression is under attack by a law that will enable the government to sue such an online presence that are deemed “immoral to social norm” (whatever that means). Last time this happened, we all mobilized against it and took it down. We’ll defend our freedom of expression again and defeat this one as well. Stay tuned and spread the word, this must not pass silently.

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Gay rights and solidarity- Part 1: what’s in it for the straights?!

The international day against homophobia and trans-phobia (and bi-phobia and pan-phobia and…) 2012 is right around the corner. It’s also around this time of the year that a lot of us (or at least me) start thinking about the concept of homophobia. I mean…seriously, what the hell is homophobia?! We all know how it works and how  the whole cycle thing goes. But the question that eludes me is why is there this hate thing in the first place?! What do people get from it?!

Well…where did it come from?!

Luckily, I came across what I would call the best conceptualization of homophobia (and probably of any other related type of discrimination) in the book of Sherry Woolf “Sexuality and Socialism“. She, as any well-behaved socialist, links homophobia to the capitalist system and class struggle. Now even if you were not a huge lefty fan, I really suggest that you hear this one out cause it makes a lot of sense. The way she puts it is that because of class struggle, it would be in the benefit of the employer (authority, capital head…) to limit the opposition of the worker (employee, people….). How does one do that?! You simply divide them and let them picker and compete among each other.

Hmm..then homophobia and discrimination is just a bunch of people competing?! 

Yeah sort of but not really. Let’s first jump over the mess of how exactly did homophobia gets instilled in people since a lot of us have an idea about that (thought it’s actually very interesting to take a look at it), and get to the part of how things turns out to be. What we have now is that a straight person in a given building might throw a couple of homophobic swears at his transgender neighbor. So what?! Well it gets very hard for these two to get together and ask their landlord to fix the water system in that building later. Now take that and expand it a little more to basic civil rights. Homophobia, in Woolf’s words, is not sign of power and strength, its “a sign of powerlessness”. An oppressed class is divided by those in power, in this “powerlessness” they compete with each other and build up illusions of power and control. In that sense, this is not true competition because both sides are bound to lose. There is no winning team in this equation.

Got it…what do you think we should do?!

Well, the first step is that we need to realize that homophobia is not a one sided phenomenon. It’s a mutual interaction between two parties who “think” they are on opposite sides. What the LGBTIQ community needs to do now is build its network of straight allies. And I’m not talking about the scarce friends here and there and other joyful supporters (although those folks do rock!!). I’m talking about a bunch of fierce activists who realize that gay rights are not a “gay issue” but rather a civil rights issue that affects the whole of society.

(A pic that I found on the net. GSA clubs at schools in the US are still a major controversy – at least to right conservatives – probably since they have proved in many occasions their ability to mobilize the student body to stand up to unfair and at times bigoted school policies)