"Let's Be Gay" writes Hala Deeb Jabbour in today's post on her awesome literary blog, MySeventyYearOldEyes --where this modern-day Scheherazade tells the best true stories connecting modern history/culture with current global social issues through the eyes of an Anglo-Leventine and decades-wise woman. I introduced Hala to Broo readers in a previous post, titled "3 Sisters in Blogging,"
With her permission, and hopefully with regularity, I'll be re-posting some of her essays here because I think they're such a treat.
Cecile was the first lesbian I met. She
was a tall and beautiful Lebanese woman who spoke only French as many
Christian people did owing to the fact that Lebanon was colonized by
France for many years, and it had become a classy feature to associate
with the colonizer’s language and disassociate from one’s mother tongue.
Cecile was my manager at the newly established FM department of the
Lebanese Broadcasting Station. One afternoon, as we were working, she
suddenly got weepy and told me how men had always taken advantage of
her, cheated on her and how her marriage of some years ago had failed
because of a scoundrel of a husband. She had, as a result of all her
heartaches, made a rational choice to love women only. The fascinating
revelation for me – I was twenty-one years old and quite naïve – was
that I had come to know a lesbian for the first time, a woman I happened
to admire and like, and that her sexual nature did not affect our
relationship in any way; did not affect her job; did not cause the
Lebanese Broadcasting Station to explode or Lebanon to go up in flames!!
And no one, though many in that building knew, treated Cecile in any
way that was different. Later on in my life, I came to know a few women
of my generation who were also lesbians. Now that does not mean that
every member of society condoned this behavior. Most, though, considered
it a benign infraction, or a subject for gossip mongering.
Next door to our office was the Classical Music Division of which
Paul was the manager. Paul had taken it upon himself to look out for me
from the many wolves roaming around in the building. One day, he called
me into his office and very gently told me that I should watch out for
our programmer and avoid being alone with him in the studio. It turned
out that the programmer had let it be known that he was quite interested
in getting me into his bed! That was Paul: soft, intelligent and
caring. Paul was homosexual. I learnt that from Cecile. He was born that
way. Again, most knew. No one treated him any different. The sky didn’t
And, yes, we all heard in those days of Afif who was found shot to
death at his seaside villa. His male lover had done that in a fit of
jealousy. You see the Sixties had brought out of the closets many
societal issues that were hidden but that had been going on for
thousands of years. It happened in the US, in Europe and – Surprise! –
in Lebanon, too! I remember Tucker Carlson* getting all excited as he
was reporting from Beirut during some upheaval or another, and literally
shouting into the camera that Lebanon should be protected because it
had a gay nightclub for God’s sakes! I mean, imagine! An Arab country
with an openly gay establishment!! However, if one just reads the social
scene described by poets and the intelligentsia of the region
throughout time one wouldn’t really find that to be such a surprising
revelation! Though gay liaisons weren’t explicitly overt, they were,
historically, throughout the Arab and Middle Eastern Worlds a fact of
life. Some gay individuals were royalty, others were just ordinary folk;
they might be likeable or obnoxious; highly successful and educated or
not at all. They were, and are, no different from heterosexual people
worldwide. Believe it or not, Aleppo and Istanbul were once the gay hubs
of the Middle East.
Since meeting and knowing Cecile, who had made a choice, and Paul,
who was born that way, and so many others in Lebanon and the US, I
cannot for the life of me understand why anyone should twist their
knickers because of Anyone’s sexual expressions. Not the Ayatollahs in
Iran and not US Conservatives! (And pray, are they that different on
some of these issues, after all?) This planet of ours has many more dire
and pressing matters than people’s sexual expressions! Or is it that
our politicians are good at riling us up about these private issues as
they weave their mischief away in the afterhours and far from the public
eye and pass Bills and Laws that profoundly affect each and every one
of us in much more weighty ways than our sexuality ever will; Rules and
Regulations that we’ll never even realize the dangerous extent of until
it is much too late? Grow up everybody! Chill!
*Tucker Carlson is a well known political news correspondent.