Booklet Dispels Myths about Homosexuality606 views
Helem, the first public gay and lesbian organization in the Arab World, launched on Thursday, October 29, 2009, in Beirut, the awareness-raising booklet “Homosexualities and Bisexualities: Myths and Realities”.
Helem’s George Azzi and psychologist and psychotherapist Dr. Maha Rabbath, who prepared the booklet, headed the panel.
Following Mr. Azzi’s overview of Helem’s advocacy work against homophobia, on the one hand, and support of the LGBT community in Lebanon on the other, Dr. Rabbath introduced the booklet, a project three years in the making.
“This booklet is based on interviews with gay, lesbian and transgender people who shared their experience with us, as well as findings of independent studies and research,” she said. “It serves to dispel the myths surrounding homosexuality and bisexuality that abound due to politicized and institutionalized heterosexism and homophobia.”
The booklet is divided into three sections, which can be read separately. The first section explains the methodology of the publication as well as the two social phenomena that heavily influence people’s perceptions – irrespective of their sexual orientation, namely heterosexism and homophobia. The second section includes the most common 20 myths about homosexuality and bisexuality. The third and final section addresses misconceptions within psychology itself about homosexuality.
“This awareness-raising booklet targets the general public, health professionals and people of diverse sexual orientations, irrespective of their socio-professional status,” Dr. Rabbath explained.
In summarizing the booklet, she underlined three facts:
- Sexual diversity is a normal and natural aspect of human life. “Majority does not equate normality,” she said, negating the argument that heterosexuality is the norm because it seems to be the majority.
- In psychology, what makes a relationship “normal” or “healthy” is the quality of the relationship itself (quality of intimacy, emotional reciprocity, connection with the partner, etc.), not the sexual orientation of the people in it.
- Homosexuality is not a mental illness.
The presentation of the booklet was followed by a heated discussion, during which two middle-aged members of the audience in particular insisted on perpetuating some of the myths mentioned in the book, such as homosexuality is not natural; it’s a deviance; and it leads to AIDS.
Helem’s biggest challenge thus resides in the distribution of the booklet to effectively sensitize both the general public and politicians, as a continuation of its advocacy work against homophobia and efforts to push for the repeal of Lebanon’s Article 534, which criminalizes homosexuality with up to one year in prison.
Mr. Azzi said that Helem’s distribution plans include sharing the booklet with other civil society organizations as well as politicians and health professionals.
Funded by the Heinrich Boll Foundation, the booklet is currently available in French and Arabic. English and Armenian editions will be released soon.