Whatever happened to us? Internal Bitter Feuds
The #LebLGBT Weekly is out. Here is this week’s editorial.
To read about Mohamad Eskandar’s sexism is not an issue that surprises anyone, however, you’d be taken aback when such accusations float around Lebanon’s leading LGBT rights organization: Helem. What’s even more intriguing is the fact that these accusations were made by individuals from within. Former Helem members described the atmosphere within the organization as sexist, centred around the priorities of gay men while relegating the needs of women and lesbians to second ranks. Some female activists accused Helem of perpetuating patriarchal structures and norms that govern our society at large. According to http://nfasharte.wordpress.com, when a female activist from Helem got “sexually harassed” most of the organization’s members and board remained silent, dismissed the issue or took it lightly. These are indeed some serious accusations that Helem didn’t address officially as of yet. Is it possible for the leading LGBT organization of Lebanon to be oblivious to the gravity of sexual harassment that belittle and objectify women? If true, can we accept such a behavior from an organization as important to our cause as Helem? Should we demand an urgent clarification from Helem? On the other hand, the Lebanese LGBT Media Monitor has received a message from a Lebanese LGBT activist who wanted to remain anonymous. He/She reported to the monitor that while Helem works hard on the ground to enhance LGBT rights in Lebanon, extremist activists do nothing more than talk and stir fights within the activist community. He/She mentioned Helem deepest commitment to enhance LGBT rights and recent achievement made on that front. (Tests of shame, campaign against MTV, Eskandar campaign.) For this activist, these accusations represent a hate campaign that aims to smear Helem’s reputation. While Helem is made up of individuals of diverse backgrounds, anyone who joins its ranks should be motivated by the will and passion to work for a society that equates all of its citizens regardless of race, gender, religion and above all sexual orientation or gender identity. Did Helem stray away from its mission? Is it making mistakes along the way and refusing to admit them as some of its critics are reporting? Is Helem too proud to accept criticism? Nevertheless, does the community need these kinds of bitter rivalries and feuds? Aren’t we all in the same boat and face the same problems? Do we really win when we debate in this way? There is a need to have an honest talk addressing all of these issues. Non-activist members of the LGBT community deserve to know the truth of what’s really going on. Helem and these independent activists owe them that right. After all, Helem and its critics draw their strength from the support of the not-so-vocal or outspoken majority of the LGBT community.
Activists in our community should get together and have an open dialogue instead of bringing their fight publicly to social media. This is futile and all it does is weaken us, wears off our energy and deem us less efficient. There should always be a place for reconciliation.