HOW, WHEN and why did HELEM or the LGBT movement in Lebanon emerge?
HELEM STARTED around 2001-2003. Before that there was something called Club FREE, which focused on socializing amongst LGBT people. Then people got together to talk about doing political things.
Several activists from different backgrounds came together to form HELEM. The discussion began informally in when a number of us were on the steering committee for the Lebanon antiwar committee against the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq. In 2004, we formalized the group and registered with the government and rented a space.
There were several reasons why HELEM was formed. One was that there are still laws that police and criminalize sexuality in Lebanon. This law being Article 534 of the Penal Code, which criminalizes homosexual acts or "sexual intercourse contrary to nature."
Aside from this obvious reason, there were several other factors that lead to the development of HELEM. One of them being the Queen Boat affair in Egypt in 2001, in which dozens of gay men were arrested and tried in court after a raid on the gay-friendly disco boat, which really sent shock waves through much of the Lebanese gay community.
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