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FIFA, the Olympics and the favelas

Brazil is in the spot light for these coming years as it is going to host the FIFA’s world cup this year (2014) and the summer Olympic games in 2016.

Both FIFA and the Olympic games promise the flux of thousands of tourists to the events. Numbers that will be impossible to accommodate without opening new spaces, building more stadiums, hotels, transportation systems, etc…

News articles are estimating that Brazil is spending from $63 billion to a a trillion USD in “infrastructure upscaling”, a process that is better known as urban gentrification (refer to Solidere’s gentrification of Down Town Beirut for a closer to home example) . You kick out and evict local residents that are usually poor and acquire the land to invest in more lucrative investments. Gentrification is needed to build the hotels and the spaces that FIFA deems acceptable for the World Cup to happen.

This is being done by a process that has come to be known as “pacification” as explained in the video above. For a better idea, check the pictures below.

A mom washes the blood of her kid, executed during the military occupation. There will be no investigation. (Revolution-news.com)

A mom washes the blood of her kid, executed during the military occupation. There will be no investigation. (Revolution-news.com)

In two communities, state forces have issued “collective” arrest warrants – that means any civilian could be arrested just because living there. (Revolution-news.com)

In two communities, state forces have issued “collective” arrest warrants – that means any civilian could be arrested just because living there. (Revolution-news.com)

Street vendors protest as police expel them from the area around the FIFA Fan Fest during the inauguration in Fortaleza, June 8, 2014. Fortaleza will host six soccer matches of the 2014 World Cup. Picture taken June 8, 2014. REUTERS/Davi Pinheiro

Street vendors protest as police expel them from the area around the FIFA Fan Fest during the inauguration in Fortaleza, June 8, 2014. Fortaleza will host six soccer matches of the 2014 World Cup. Picture taken June 8, 2014. REUTERS/Davi Pinheiro

Mare-300x225 10302385_10203506911695726_4111285481230326227_n 10299529_10203506916855855_5462857402179126161_n 10298769_10203506910295691_2311364603261686683_n 10268620_10203506912535747_5763614971797795607_n 10152552_10203506913575773_3914869362533127789_n 10167994_10203506914335792_8906826471202737924_n 10175062_10203506915295816_6025489540290016241_n 1922084_10203506915855830_7335084916929277647_n

I never really liked football but what is going on in Brazil should make any hardcore fan disgusted at the sheer horror and inhumanity that is going on there.

Boycott FIFA!

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Gay Assimilation is Not a Joke

I stumbled on the below meme a while ago at the LGBT media monitor and I was pretty dejected about its message. To my surprise, it was originally shared by Helem. Following a simple inspection, it turned out to have passed unchecked to reach the Facebook page of the organization and later on shared by some individuals on their personal profiles.

Now the problem and the reason that I wrote this post up is that although the image was taken down, the debate that followed it and the attempts to justify this meme-picture were flimsy and ill-suited. And I believe it is very important that we address the whole normal/non-normal (natural/unnatural) argument practically.

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The meme shows two important messages. In the first (mid picture in the bottom row) it assumes that the media has moved from a portrayal of shame to that of objective support. In the second, it portrays “gays” and “lesbian” to be normal people and in that sense not to be effeminate (top left pic), into parties (top mid pic) or a bunch of girls with bad make up taking a selfie (top right pic).

The basics: what is gay assimilation

Gay assimilation is based on making [queer] people seem average and similar to the general population. Assimilation based strategies are based on normalizing gay men and women into the sphere of everyday life. Assimilation in western movements are based on the 4M’s; Marriage equality, Military enlisting, Media visibility and Making money (of these, we have locally capitalized on the latter two). In many assimilation rhetoric, bisexuals and Trans* people are usually left out as well as queers who intersect with other disenfranchised groups (refugees, foreign workers, women, elderly, etc…). This lack of inclusion might be because they usually can not fit into the (hetero/homo)normative system and expectations of the general society.

We should not “normalize” Trans*sexuality and/or Homosexuality

Queers that have long been outside the sphere of general society. We have been able to see what a sexist, racist, agist, and able-focused society that we live in (among many other lousy ists). We have witnessed the ease by which people are ostracized from their communities once they do not conform to this system.

So the reasons why we don’t want to normalize our bodies and our sexualities are three folds (at least as how I perceive them)

  1. The system is flawed. It is oppressive and unfair. To want to get back into it and assimilate into it means that we approve of such flaws and are ready to allow them to be practiced on other groups as long as they are not us, the normal people who obey and have become docile.
  2. Every inclusion is reciprocated by an exclusion. We only define the in-group by identifying the out-group. By normalizing trans*sexuality, we categorize the rules and regulations for trans* people to follow and those who do not adhere to these rules remain outside. For example, a trans* person can only apply to change the gender on their ID cards when they have underwent all the surgeries to achieve an appearance of the other sex which reflects a extremist binary perception of gender and those who don’t fall on these two extremes are left out of this inclusion.
    Normalization opens the way to “othering” those who do not conform to this new normal.
  3. By assimilating into a system, we feed it and it grows. We provide it with the needed legitimacy to uphold its position and its flaws in the face of other disenfranchised groups. It also makes it harder for these groups to penetrate the system and to dismantle as we all should be doing.

It is not a joke. It is not about being politically correct.

It would be very childish to brush off the meme as a joke and humor. Jokes that do not challenge existing oppressive systems but rather supports them and enrich them are damaging as they “normalize” the problem at hand.

Advocating for assimilation is a serious and grave matter. Assimilation is a lousy business that supports and gives rise to homonormative concepts that parallel the oppressive heteronormative system. Homonormativity assumes that queers want to be just like heteronormative people and follow similar rules as they do.

HOMONORMATIVITY:  “A politics that does not contest dominant heteronormative assumptions and institutions, but upholds and sustains them, while promising the possibility of a demobilized gay constituency and a privatized, depoliticized gay culture anchored in domesticity and consumption”
–(Duggan 2003)

So No. When we say that we do not want to be normal or nomalized, it means that we reject the idea to make docile bodies out of ours. It means that we reject the concept that we can say who is normal and who is not, who is illegal and who is legal and so on. Rejecting assimilationist politics means that we agree that we can not move forward by leaving other groups behind.

Basically assimilation sucks because it is always done along predictable lines of middle class, [Lebanese], male, able-bodied, straight privilege. So what is “normal” is usually very strongly associated with these meanings. Which then leaves out those of us who can’t be Lebanese, who can’t appear cis-gender because we don’t have the money to look cis-gender and probably never will, etc. It’s normalizing a certain ideal without actually admitting it’s a very narrow ideal that is inaccessible to many many many of us in the queer community. That’s why it’s not funny: it’s leaving so many of us out.
–Dree, a friend
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Dating Apps, (De)Constructed Desires and Non-Inclusive Screwing

“Gay men have forgotten how to have sex (…) For so long that was supposed to be something gay men were good at, but I’m not so sure anymore. They might be good at the technique but not the openness. Sex should be about opening possibilities, not closing them off.”

Why Are Faggots So Afraid of Faggots? by Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore

Imagine Grindr as bowl of fruits and each person is a different looking fruit; some of these fruit look appealing and other not as much. Now imagine that you remembered that you are still wearing your colored eye glasses and you take it off. All of the sudden, the fruits in the bowl look completely different. They are still not the same as each other but they all look as appealing and those couple of exotic fruits stopped being as more tempting as they used to. What I would like to look at through this post is how gay dating apps like Grindr, Scruff and Growlr in themselves, the way people use them and present themselves through them end up perpetuating forms of oppression and racism et al. (homophobia, transphobia, misogyny etc…).

We believe that our desires are real and natural since we usually experience them as strong, passive impulses from within and are usually unique to us. I argue that this sense of innate preference is in fact an artifact of social desirability and popular aesthetics; we are attracted to bodies that exhibit attributes that are considered positive and beautiful. In doing so, we create bodies that are not desirable. Moreover, I will try to show how we marginalize and “otherize” these non-desired bodies in patterns that are based on and also re-enact forms of discrimination and “sexual segregation”. By the end of this post, I would hope that you become convinced of the need to challenge constructed concepts of beauty by opening up to greater possibilities of encounters with bodies and persons that we would usually dismiss as non-desired.

Grindr has become a large cultural phenomenon within the gay community that offers an experience that may be both liberating and oppressing. (±)

These dating apps have been incorporated into the majority of queer spaces in Lebanon and many people are joining them every day. Although they are mainly regarded as “hook up” services, many people are discovering new and innovative ways to use them. Some people are making use of the anonymity of the cyber space to reach out and find a friend or a confidante whom they would otherwise find it difficult to connect to. Over the past summer, I have met one of my best friends over Grindr, met someone who showed me how to prepare a mojito drink and helped a tourist lost in Hamra find his way around among many other wonderful encounters.

But these apps also hold within them the possibilities and potential to be oppressive and marginalizing.

By exotifying flesh we otherize people (±)

Exotification of the body could work both ways. By praising certain bodies, we create their alternative reverse. If the masculine figure is held in high regards, it is kept there at the expense of devaluing the feminine one. If the able-bodied (including the athletic, the sportive…) raises interest and curiosity then the disabled one raises doubts about inconvenience. If the fit body is considered healthy then the “fat” body is considered lazy and sick.

In using these apps people are expected to disclose their sexuality and gender, but are also expected to disclose their body types (±).

In using these apps people are expected to disclose their sexuality and gender, but are also expected to disclose their body types (±).

People would not and do not fall on these exact binaries; fit vs. fat, able vs. disabled, masculine vs. feminine, but rather fall somewhere on the spectrum along these two end points. What we need to understand though is by praising and valuing certain body types, we do so by “othering” body types that do not fit that profile. Each construct that we create holds within itself its own reversal; its own nemesis.

A lot of hate when all we want is head (†)

If you have ever used these apps then you surely have noticed the amount of hate and oppressive speech on some people’s introductory profiles.

photo 1

“Manly for active manly men”, “real men”, “fit or muscled”, “only masculine”, “gayish eyeglasses”, “huge muscled beefy manly guys”, “fat”, “chubby”, “no syrian”, “no Asians”, , “khalik 3ala ramlit el bayda”, “feminine”, “dwarfs”, “tall”, “bitzabit 7wejbak”, “psychos”, “no overtall”, “no overweight”, “no full hairies”…”no offence”; All of these are a sample of headlines collected from a selection of profiles available within my radius through the months of November 2013 – January 2014.

photo 4

As a person who lived through the age of Manjam and web-based dating sites in Beirut, I am troubled by the amount and ease by which users feel comfortable and to some extent confident about declaring such oppressive and racist (et al.) declarations to express their modes of desire for other users and which is “somehow made allowable as a language of sexual attraction or personal preference (§).”

There is also the suggestion that the speech act itself could be some form of violation. (§)

There is also the suggestion that the speech act itself could be some form of violation. (§)

Although one’s intent might not be racist et al. (and many people do point that out by adding a “no offence” remark after a line or two of bigoted epithets), we can not disregard that the negative language that is being used to indicate preference, desire and fantasy is in itself bigoted and othering.

Grindr, Scruff, Growlr and other similar apps present a very interesting trend in gay dating services. Even though they operate through the non corporal cyber space yet they are grounded with physical location through the use of the GPS. In that sense, it allows queer bodies to gather and congregate without the usual geographic and social barriers where the placement and accessibility of queer spaces are governed by the usual suspects of history, race and class just like everything else (§).

(De)Constructed Desire

Although it would be hard to differentiate between the innate and socially constructed expressions of desire and preference, we can safely acknowledge that the majority of this desire and its expressions are built through popular forms of beauty and aesthetics. Literature supporting the claim of innate preference are scarce and inconclusive while a huge bulk of it support the later claim.

What we can also acknowledge is that by specifying our desires into set blocks of what is appealing and what is not, we limit ourselves into pre-defined constructs. This simplifies our potential experiences and moves us from a culture of sexual liberation to one of “sexual segregation” (†).

By advocating desire as natural factor versus an artifact one, we perpetuate forms of oppression that are based on racist and discriminatory rhetoric.

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Moving Forward

For starts, we can begin by moving from negative exclusionary descriptions to positive ones. Instead of specifying what we are not interested in (or more specifically what we do not want to experience/experiment) to what we require and/or like. We still have to acknowledge that we are not changing the message and the content but only the wording (†). This can only address the principle of exclusion and othering that users experience while shuffling through the profiles while failing to address the oppressive nature of such descriptions.

A better approach is to embrace the diversity and flexibility of our desires and shift the focus from sexual attraction to sexual pleasure. Indeed, sexual pleasure can be achieved via all bodies regardless on how they are presented; whether these bodies adhere to normative notions of beauty and attraction or not is separate from the pleasure that can be induced and experienced through them.

Words can beat people down, but it’s within our power to change how we frame our desires, and even to change our desires to create more inclusive screwing. By challenging ourselves and others we can expand our desires. So go out there and be indiscriminately promiscuous. Or deny that bigoted beefcake a hookup because of his prejudiced profile (†).

The following readings are very interesting to see what others have also written on the matter;

±) No Fats, No Femme; The Politics of Grindr by Nick Atrip

†) Not Just a Preference by Alex Rowlson

§) ‘No Fats, No Fems’ by Dale Cooper

∞) Trans* and Grindr by Jon Henry

∂) Grindr – Everything That is Wrong in the Gay World? by Cristos Dallas

¥) On Grindr: Closeted Discrimination Within the Gay Community by Michael Bennett

Many thanks to the awesome friends who were kind enough to review my post and pimp it out; Dree for the careful edits and remarks and Joe for reminding me to ground the post better and for the bowl of fruit example.
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Scribblings on a Restroom Stall

A while ago, a friend showed me some of the writing in one of the girls’ restroom stalls at university. It was interesting and funny to see what some of the women were writing on the walls. More interesting was when I noticed  how the people were more open about sharing private information and others commenting on them; sometimes in words of support and other times in words of hate.

So here’s a little thing from one of the men’s restroom stalls of the same university.

1. Gay or Straight?!

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A two-columned table where people mark their sexual orientation as “gay” or “straight”.

I expected more X marks in the straight section rather the other way around but I guess that makes sense too (some placed themselves on the midline).

Other replies included:

  • Respect
  • “Kess imel gays ibm shramit” (which someone replied to it with “Tru dat! [sic]” and then  scratched and comment with “U mad?! [sic])

2. This pic is self-explanatory, I think!

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Gay =)

Replies included:

  • me too 🙂 love you honney [sic]
  • & proud

3. Story of my life

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This one was started with the title, “Story of my life”. Probably the most interesting one.

You would need to zoom in to read the text but here’s what it says;

Story of my life:
– Born (Bullying)

– School(Bullying)

– 12 –> gay/straight?!(Bullying)

– 17 –> ok gay 🙂 (Bullying)

– 18 –> AUB 🙂

– 18 –> many people hate me 😦
I feel sick
no one likes me
no one respects me for who I am

– 18 –> suicidal thoughts because I feel useless and not accepted
discovered counseling at AUB
counseling helped me a lot
told my dad about my sexuality
he accepted me 🙂 ^_^
continuing a normal life again
told my bestie and she loved me

Thank god 🙂

– Put something to share some love

Replies included:

  • glad you are fine now & never be shy of what you are 🙂 ok
  • Bravo, you have my respect. Society is a bitch sometimes but never forget that there’s still people like me (illegible)
  • louté air
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Posh and Tony Yatakalam: Because Some People Are Made of Stupid

Disclaimer: This post makes fun of a TV show on Al-Jadeed called “Lil-Nasher (للنشر)” that is hosted by the journalist Tony Khalifeh. Before you start reading this, please be advised that there is nothing much in this post. It might be a good laugh at some points (hopefully), but if you are bored of cats on the internet or are like, “whatever, dude”, then yeah sure, hope you like it!

I wrote something earlier on about the “Barbara” party at Posh where the show [Lil-Nasher] was allowed into the space with a hidden camera and took footage of the attendees, you can check it here. Let’s start with a little something that wraps up the episode!


Akh…where do we start?! Let’s do it by order…

طوني (ط): هيدي الحلقة أثارت الكثير من اللغط وكتير من الناس اتصلوا فينا لإيقاف هذه الحلقة وعدم بثها

Me: Dude! That’s what you say every time. I mean…not that I watch your show of course…but I’m told so (save’d)!

ط: المقصود من بث هذه الحلقة مش الإساءة لأي حدن أو لأي فئة من فئات المجتمع. إن كانت مرغوب فيها أو غير مرغوب فيها

Me: Ouch…this is rich. Let’s start with the concept of intention. No! you did mean to promote homonegative bigotry simply by selecting a queer space to feature as a “scoop that everyone is begging you to not talk about” (they are not, we barely care about you). The very fact that it is in a show that you promote as “a show that break taboo” (like everyone else) and similar illusions of your making, you are branding that space (and consequently, those who frequent it) as a space that operates outside the “respectable” (whatever that means) society. Moreover, the fact that you feel that it is ok that a slice of the population might be “accepted” or not by the society only shows how progressive (not) your mentality and your show are.

ط: الكاميرا الخفية للنشر دخلت صدفة…خلسة…على أحد المقاهي اللبنانية على أساس أنها تقيم سهرة البربارة

Me: Aha! You never had an ethics course at university?! Well I’m gonna assume that you didn’t do that and that you and your production team lack the rational thought process that would allow you to reach the conclusion that it is not permissible to take footage of people without their knowledge and consent. Just saying!

ط: ليتبين لاحقاً أنها سهرة لمتحولين الجنس أو مثليين

Me: Really?! You went to Posh and was surprised that it’s a queer party. Were you drunk?! or just that stupid!? Anyway, I’m not gonna even comment on your inter-changeable use of Trans* and Gay, go educate yourself here. Wallaw!!

ط: وكان هناك أشخاص عاديين أيضاً

Me: Wallaw!! x2

ط: ما عندن أي شواذ

Me: Wallaw!! x3

ط: أو مثلية في الجنس

Me: Wallaw!! x4 (please stop it)

ط: و لكن ما أثار “الزكزكة” الإعلامية هو تواجد بعض الشخصيات السياسية…والإعلامية…والإجتماعية…والدبلوماسية المعروفة جداً

Me: Kilon at Posh?! I only went once to Posh but I’m gonna take your word that I trust so much (not), that it’s the hub for all these high profile personalities. Khalas, I’m gonna start going to Posh in order to mix into that group.


Then that horrible reportage starts on with that horrid music…I felt I was watching Psycho or something like that. Zahraa Fardoun, the lovely woman behind it, tells us why she is doing it. It goes something around this logic

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Zahraa actually went as The Grinch. She really got the into the role.

Anyway, the reportage was really empty but she did add that on top to the personalities that are frequented to Posh and that Tony already told us about, you can also find:

  • أبناء نواب – children of MPs (I do hope they are accompanied by an adult guardian)
  • رؤساء بلديات – heads of municipalities (do you think Shakhtoura was there too?!)
  • قنصلين لبنانيين (huh?! what?!)
  • and a former candidate for the Parliament Elections, whom had his face hidden but we’ll just have to take their word on it. And what if? I can’t for the love of goodness see the point that he was there…but the music was dramatic so it must be something serious. (btw, when was the last elections…I miss those days when we could still pretend that we were citizens).

On a side note, I’m really proud of myself that I’m back to posting stuff.
Also check this status and try to help out those in need of cloth and covers in this cold weather.

Post <–Click here…yalla!

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Posh Allows Al-Jadeed’s Hidden Camera(s) into Its Space

On Friday the 6th of December 2013, Posh held a “Barbara” party in their regular venue. Unbeknownst to the attendees of the party, there was a hidden camera set by the Al-Jadeed’s show Lil-Nasher (للنشر) to video tape the party and the attendees.

On Monday the 9th of December 2013, Tony Khalifeh jumps up on the show and covers the topic of the party “that is attended by politicians, famous performers and artists and so on”. Nothing really different from his tacky amateur work which is nothing more than a poor excuse for journalism, spiced up with sensational rumors and tabloid material.

Spaces like Posh promote themselves as a space for queers to party and enjoy themselves in safe environment. What is a shame is that while we are struggling to call on them to live up to that promise; while we still demand them to fight attitudes surrounding entrance and admission and services that are selective against non-normative bodies like trans* bodies or attitudes that are oppressive for women, we get Posh allowing such a low-grade show to enter and place hidden cameras to take footage of the people showing up to its party.

Posh has flagrantly failed to protect the attendees of the party and to secure a safe space as it promotes itself to be. It has failed its basic expectations and responsibilities as a queer party space and should be avoided.

I ask everyone to tell their friends to avoid this space as it has proved itself to be a non-safe party space for queers.

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The Fixation on Being the “First”

Last week, I collaborated with some friends to hold an event called “TransFocus: A Trans* Film Festival”. Together, we were able to hold the event independently from any party, collective or organization working in Lebanon in order to explore different spaces of activism that I have not been accustomed to work in previously.

One of the policies that we followed was limited media exposure and to some degree, we resisted any coverage from foreign and non-local media outlets. The few reporters who did reach out to us to cover the event were turned down and we talked to them on the reasons for such. We resist that our event be made representative of the Trans* community and the (non-existent) Trans* movement in Lebanon.

The event ran from November 29th till December 1st and we really enjoyed the discussions that were raised within and the new spaces that we were discovering. As we started working on documenting the event’s proceedings and the discussions, an article was published on December 2nd that covered the event (last day of the event at least) in NOW by Mr. Alberto Mucci. Unfortunately, the article was titled “Lebanon’s First Transgender Festival” even though we have made it clear on different occasions and places that we resist being represented as the “First” of anything or seen as representing anyone or any community or population.

I would like to elaborate on this point in this post. Being called the “First” presupposes that there were no previous similar event before. That is something that we do not know since there might have been one that we were not aware of (which is very likely since these events are usually done underground and away from media coverage and attention). Moreover, the purpose of using the word “First” is to “measure” the progress that a certain group or country have achieved in terms of queer activism and specifically Trans* activism.

Edit 1: A very interesting fact that @myra_m pointed my attention at is that the term “First” also presupposes that the event in question is the “true” and “original” one and all subsequent ones are imitation of that one singular event.

Our event did not progress anything in this country nor in this “Arab” world (whatever that terms includes/excludes). In fact, and as my colleague Dree put it, our event did not help or change the life of a single Trans* person in Lebanon or anywhere else and we do not (and can not) claim that it did anything of that sorts.

The only thing that we did achieve with this event is that we were able to explore existing laws and regulations that police Trans* bodies; from the available medical services to the process of identity change to the ways Trans* people navigate laws surrounding identification and “public morality” (again, whatever that means). Moreover, we were also able to explore new alliances and map out some gaps that we need to cover in the services that are provided/found in Lebanon.

If there is something that the media can help out is to share our call to share resources.