On August 4, 2020, Lebanon was ravaged by a disastrous blast in Beirut’s port, resulting in over 200 deaths and 6500 injuries, and causing massive destruction over a 10km radius from the explosion site. Primary data collected from LGBTQI-focused Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) and from queer individuals right after the explosion has pointed to an overwhelmingly negative impact of the blast on the LGBTQI community, particularly in terms of their access to basic services, resources, and safe spaces.
The areas most severely affected by the Beirut Blast, particularly the neighborhoods of Mar Mkhayel, Gemmayze, and Geitawi, were known for their reputation as the most queer-friendly neighborhoods in Beirut. Being home to many queer residents and queer-friendly restaurants, bars, clubs, community centers, and public spaces, these neighborhoods offered a refuge for queer individuals in an otherwise hyper-(hetero)sexualized city of Beirut. As such, these areas allowed queer bodies to be safely visible, and offered an alternative space to develop non-heteronormative discourses and to gather, organize, and resist against all forms of oppressions they face. Subsequently, the potential loss of these spaces as a result of the Blast could have an especially damaging impact on queer individuals given the scarcity of similar inclusive and safe spaces elsewhere.
The Beirut Blast was not the only catastrophe that hit the country in 2020. The country had already been facing its most precarious economic crisis since the end of the civil war in 1990. Since 2019, the Lebanese Lira has devalued by more than 85 percent and unemployment has reached a record high, leading to economic recession, high inflation, more capital and bank controls, and crucially, devastating social conditions. The COVID-19 pandemic, which also arrived in 2020, has made a disastrous situation only worse, especially for the LGBTQI community - an already vulnerable group that constantly suffers from systemic discrimination, lack of governmental protection1 , and deep-rooted legal, social, and economic inequalities. The series of COVID-19 lockdowns implemented by the government since the start of the pandemic in March 2020 have raised many concerns among queer individuals, with LGBTQI-focused CSOs sounding the alarm about their safety and wellbeing put in jeopardy.
Within this context, with EU financial assistance Oxfam conducted a research study aiming at understanding the impact of the series of crises on the livelihoods and wellbeing of queer individuals in Lebanon, mapping available and needed services and resources, and generating recommendations to guide and support future efforts targeting the LGBTQI community in Lebanon. The findings of this research showed that members of the community have limited access to safe spaces, are facing a housing crisis, are in dire need of basic assistance, and are facing worsening mental health and psychological wellbeing.