Saturday, July 15, 2006

Gay Palestinian Prostitutes on the Corniche

In an article in this month's Pink News insert in 3Sixty Magazine, Matthew Streib writes about boys who are prostituting themselves in Beirut to earn a living. The photos seem off (I've never heard of that parking lot/cruising spot), but the article is very interesting. A quote:

“I started sleeping with men about a year ago, when I was hanging out with friends on the Corniche. They left and I was here alone. A man came up to me and asked me if I wanted to…” [a prostitute named Tarek] said, rubbing his index fingers together to insinuate sex. “I asked how much and he said 'sixty dollars.' And that was that.”

Tarek comes to the Corniche once or twice a week, where he sits alone most of the night. He lives with his parents, and says they don't know. “I don't come with my friends any more; I don't think they know. I don't want them to know. If I see someone here I know, I move.” His secrecy is helped by the fact that his parents don't ask him where he goes at night, “They see I have money and they don't have to give it to me.”

Tarek chose to engage in prostitution because it was the easiest way to make money in a country where Palestinians are pushed to the outskirts of society.
The article then goes on to talk about the terrible situation of Palestinians in Lebanon, which are denied jobs, civil rights, and good living conditions. Another quote:

I asked him if he knew any of the other young men on the Corniche. “I know a few,” he answered, adding that he didn't tend to talk with them. He pointed out areas where he knew people hung out. “The ones down there do it because they like it; they think they're women,” he said, indicating a spot near a wall. When I questioned if that was a bad thing, he just asked,“Is it?” and poked me in the ribs.

Tarek says he doesn't like sex with men, and keeps his eyes closed. “I'm never the woman,” he states, indicating that he never played the passive role.

“Do you not like gays?” I asked, and he pointed to himself and the Corniche.“Look at me, look what I have to do.What do I care what other people do? Lebanon hates me, Lebanon hates gays, everyone hates Israel; it's all the same. It's worthless. I hate hate,” he said.“But me, I'm not gay,” he reiterated.

Streib finishes the article by talking about AIDS in Lebanon, warning that an outbreak is possible:

When asked whether he thought cases of HIV could greatly increase in number in the future,Yusef said,“I'll tell you one thing: Usually people who suspect that they have AIDS hide it and go to a place where they take the test at their own expense. Most of the cases are detected when they get symptoms. Unfortunately, most of them come at the final stages of AIDS”.

Dr Yusef argues that people affected by HIV and AIDS do not visit UNRWA because they are afraid of stigmatisation by society. The camps are small, introspective communities, and everything anyone does is bound to be seen by someone else. There's a fear that if someone visits UNRWA, they will be discovered by the rest of the community and will be shamed. It's only at the last stages of the disease, when they feel they have nothing left to lose, that they come forward.

It's a pretty groundbreaking article; I've never seen anything like it before. I've seen a lot on straight prostitution and the abuse of illegal immigrants, but not on gay prostitution. It's sad the way Lebanon treats the Palestinians, no matter what reasons they have (and there are a lot, but I'm not getting into sectarian/civil war politics).

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