Where do we Stand Now?
Coordinator: We have been planning to get to the point of producing the first pod cast in the Lebanese dialect for six months, and we are finally here all together to reflect on everything we have acquired and experienced during all the meetings we ran. Before we start with the podcast which is the result of our project, let’s speak a little bit about yourselves, name, age and present occupation.
Youth1: I’m Mira, 18 currently high school senior and a volunteer at Hayya Bina.
Youth 2: Jad, 18 years, first year of university.
Youth 3: Tarek 18 first year of university majoring in nursing.
Youth 4: Nancy 17 senior high school.
Youth 5: Ghina, 15 grade 10.
Youth 6: Jana 17 currently in grade 11.
Youth 7: Ahmad 21, university student majoring in petroleum engineering.
Youth 8: Sacha 17 still at school; a volunteer at hayya bina.
Coordinator: we’re here to talk about gender issues in our country, so let’s talk and allow others to listen.
Moderator: When we hear about human rights what’s the first thought that comes to mind?
Y5: it’s about the rights every human has regardless of gender, race and religion, everything any human needs to live.
Y7: to me it’s to live stress free, happy, dignified, and not in need.
Y8: as long as you’re human, you should have these rights.
Moderator: what are rights?
Y1: freedom of opinion and expression;
Y2: freedom of belief;
Y4: to me it’s what a people need to live with dignity without humiliation.
Y7: they’re the core needs for a human to live such as shelter and food; also to express his thoughts and live with respect.
Y5: some of our rights are to learn, be equal and to simply be able to live as an individual;
Y1: to live in our own country without being prejudged;
Moderator: judged overall you mean?
Y3: one shouldn’t worry about searching for food and shelter;
Moderator: the right to a decent life you’re right, all of you. All you said is true.
Today you will learn about one of the human rights that we rarely hear about in our country or the Arab region in general as it brings to the light a marginalized and kept-hidden party of people, simply because society decided that they don’t want to live with or acknowledge their presence. Hear the story of Tarek who was an Egyptian boy born in the 1960’s. He had been bullied for as long as he could remember, because of his feminine body language. Neither his parents nor the society would have accepted that their male child was behaving in a feminine way as it is shameful to them. Tarek was physically a male, but he identified himself as a female trapped in a man’s body. As a child, he had to endure all the bullying and discrimination starting with his family! Tarek wasn’t able to face all the bullying as he realized that his oppressors were social customs and traditions. As he searched for ways to accommodate with that, Tarek found acceptance in religion. He said,” God has given me the right to be whoever I want”, so he ran away from his village and went through the operation to change his sex from a man to a woman. Tarek transformed into Hanan the Egyptian comedian actress who showed up in the 1990’s in more than one popular movie.
Youth: We have heard of her.
Moderator: Thinking she would be more accepted, Hanan was fond of the world of movies and showbiz. The fact that her voice was still very masculine, the acceptance she sought was an illusion, and she had to go through the bulling cycle again which led her to a major depression episode. Her family was frustrated by her new fame, and they took her depression as an opportunity to put her in a mental health institution since they have full authority over her still. She lived the rest of her life in the institute where they saw that giving her electrical shock therapy, meds and lots of emotional abuse was the best way to “heal” her. Hanan decided to take her own life in 2004 leaving a note that said “I have looked for happiness in this world but all I found was misery.”
People like Hanan are still a hidden part of our community and like most people who dare to think outside of the box, they are treated the same way Hanan was treated.
How were Hanan’s rights violated?
Y3: I’m not sure she had any rights since childhood, she was bullied till death.
Y7: I don’t know what they saw but they didn’t see a human being, so they didn’t give her rights.
y3: yes! Like she not one of us, not part of society, because she was not part of the majority.
Y2: I think all her rights were violated, she got kicked out of her home.
Y2: They took away her right to live in a loving family, we usually go to our parents if we face trouble she had no one. I sympathize with her and her death, Hanan’s tragedy is a recurrence, her religion let her be but humans didn’t.
Y6: I’d say she was stripped of her rights. The right to learn healthily, the right to be among a comforting family who would make her feel safe, loved, and accepted. We can talk about gender equality here or equality as a whole regardless age, language or skin color.
Moderator: How do you feel now?
Y1: I’m sad and angry, not just at her parents but at society as a whole. There are others like Hanan, and people don’t want to change their norms; they won’t accept change. We are forced to live in such a society and not be able to help others most of the time.
Y5: the sad part is Hanan took her own life.
Y5: I feel sad because Hanan had too many hardships and her story is not just hers, there are so many people like her. It’s sad and shameful to see how our society views us, we are all different somehow and change must happen. We should work for it to happen.
Y4: honestly, I can’t express my emotions, mostly anger, Hanan passed away without having a life to live.
Y3: lots of emotions, sad, frustrated, it’s not their fault they’re born different, imagine a human unable to express themselves for a lifetime, sad and alone. How can we be human if we do this to people?
Y7: I was surprised, didn’t expect the ending, lost faith in humanity somehow. How can someone be humiliated to the point of enslavement?
Moderator: how is it enslavement?
Y7: they put her in an institute unwillingly, same goes for the meds. We have the right to refuse meds, yet they forced her to it.
Moderator: yes, if you are sane enough to make that decision.
Y7: they considered her insane. It was inhuman.
Y1: Hanan’s story enraged me but it will be a push to change starting with me and trying with the people around me.
Y5: I know she was alive, eating and sleeping but that’s not a life, she was an outcast and it was not her fault that’s the way it is , this touches me as a visually impaired girl the subject of equality is a priority to me, Hanan didn’t do anything wrong or against religion and morals, society created rules and wants everyone to follow them, if you u stick out you will be rejected by society, peers and family.
Y2: when you started it was upsetting that she was treated that way and was wondering how we are any different from animals, when you got to point where she got famous and her movies reached us here I figured there will be a happy ending but no she was still targeted, that made me frustrated because look at where she got herself her movies made it to Lebanon and could’ve done a lot more! Just give her a change. The story happened in the 80s and 90s we didn’t have social media to shed the light on these issues the LGBTQ+ community and women rights, I know there are a lot of people that don’t accept them still but with us here and all people that believe in equality we can start to change and give them what they deserve, I also believe with Hanan’s will to get what she wanted and her strength, if she was here now her life would have influenced a lot of people and she would have been a beacon for others.
Moderator: can you imagine how hard she had to fight back then? her story ended in 2004 but started in 1966.
Y3: back then they didn’t even talk about this.
Y3: few people knew that LGBTQ community existed, how would they know how she feels?
Moderator: at that time no one had the courage to talk about these subjects out loud, taboos!
Y4: it’s weird that she was fighting for basic human rights. It is her natural right..she didn’t have to put any effort to earn them.
Moderator: but we do, unfortunately we have to fight this mentality, so what can we do to make a change?
T4: there are lots of ways we can help. In fact this is what we are doing here today. We need talk and be heard starting with our families and siblings.
Moderator: Do you know our Lebanese law considers homosexuality a crime?
A couple of years back two men were in a car having a conversation but it was obvious that they’re not just friends and they get caught by the police and lawsuit was filed against them, in our country we still force males to undergo humiliating test to prove that they are not homosexuals and “against human nature” and for the first time the judge decided to let them go because he knows it’s not against nature but any homophobic judge would have humiliated them because homosexuality is against the law in Lebanon.
Y7: What the judge did is awesome and should trigger change in the country.
Moderator: we celebrated his decision!
Y7: It’s a start of open mindedness.
Y3: He’s raising awareness in his own way.
Moderator: the judge found a way to raise awareness and help, what would you do?
Y3: We need more people like that judge. The fact that he acted that way gives us some hope. Every judge must follow his lead.
Y6: we should start with ourselves, think outside the box and accept others.
Y2: The judge was a spot of light in the darkness of our law. What I can do as a person with friends from the LGBTQ community is to help them integrate with other friends. I have help people accept them as I do, one by one we can help integrate and normalize difference.
Moderator: we can work on laws with attorneys, lots of NGO are working on laws now.
Thank you all.