‘Covid-19 means I can join Pride and not get arrested’
Over the past two years, Hadi Damien’s grand plans to celebrate pride in Lebanon have been destroyed.
In 2018, he was arrested and detained minutes in a recital of a comedy about homophobia.
He was released, but had to cancel the rest of the week’s Pride events he and his team had organized.
So last year, the concert in the center of Beirut Pride had to be canceled after violent threats were made against the venue and attendees.
“The past two years have been a roller coaster for me,” said Hadi.
“We knew it would be difficult to organize pride in a country where the LGBT state is criminalized, but the funny thing is that despite all the hostility towards us, we never chose to cancel – it’s always forced on us “.
In early 2020, Hadi and her team of volunteers were determined not to be put off and started planning some Pride events when, once again, everything had been canceled.
This time, however, Hadi’s difficulties were truly global.
“All you need is an Internet connection”
The coronavirus pandemic has forced hundreds of LGBT groups to clear thousands of events. But the solution to carrying on the celebrations, despite Covid-19, has the potential not only to be a technological triumph, but also to be a turning point for future pride celebrations.
On Saturday, a 26-hour broadcast called Global Pride was streamed on YouTube, Facebook and other social media platforms for the first time for the Pride movement, which has filled the streets around the world with rainbow marches and flags from the years ’60.
In countries where access to traditional social media is blocked, organizers make sure people can tune in.
Cathy Renna of Inter Pride, one of the groups behind the event, said: “Even in places like China and the Middle East where YouTube may be blocked, we have organized other streaming sites, such as Revry, which you can access via PlayStation.
“All you need is an Internet connection and you can try it.
“I’m literally getting goosebumps as I say it, but we will be able to reach people in countries where it’s a strange death sentence. This is a great silver line for the terrible pandemic situation.”
The broadcast is a mix of live and pre-recorded material that has been presented since the project was launched in April.
The organizers, who are mostly volunteers, have edited over 1,000 content submitted by supporters including singers and performers such as Rita Ora, Pussy Riot, Dannii Minogue and LeAnn Rimes, as well as political figures such as the American Presidential candidate Joe Biden, Prime Minister Canadian Justin Trudeau and Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar.
Virtual gear mapping
Elsewhere tech giants including Facebook, Google and IBM have released a website called “Pride March From Home: United for Covid Relief”.
People are encouraged to map the path they would like to have marched if the pandemic hadn’t stopped them, and then share it on social media.
Rainbow-colored lines wind on a world map, with new routes updated continuously. “Protesters” can make a donation that will go to LGBT communities affected by the coronavirus pandemic.
“A crime in 70 countries”
Amnesty International research suggests that same-sex sexual activity is a crime in 70 countries and is punishable by death in nine.
The human rights campaign team says that even where these restrictive laws are not effectively enforced, their very existence reinforces prejudices against LGBT people, leaving them with the feeling that they have no protection against harassment, blackmail and violence.
Lebanon is one of these countries where homosexuality is criminalized. Article 534 of the Lebanese penal code prohibits “sexual relations between two people contrary to nature”, although several courts have ruled that it should not be used to arrest LGBT people.
Hadi Damien has participated in the Pride marches in France and the United States, but it seems that this is the first time that she can have the same experience as Pride as everyone else in the world, despite the restrictions in her country.
He hopes it’s a success and it’s built in normal times when the pandemic is over.
“It’s so powerful. By sending segments to the show, young people from some of these countries are able to attend a Pride event for the first time,” he said.