‘How ironic that many Lebanese gay men, including myself, actually feel more comfortable in places like Damascus or Amman and go there often in order to escape the Beiruti agitation. There might be no Kylie Minogue nights there, but on the other hand there is a lot less snobbery and less fuss about homosexuality. My friend Ali recently went to Jordan to be wedded to his boyfriend by a Muslim cleric and then spent his honeymoon in Damascus. The advantage of such trips also comes in finding an anonymity one is denied at home.But even Amman seems to have its “globalised” gay crowd. Watching Ugly Betty and wearing D&G is what gay culture is about, these people seem to say, along with the NYT article and many gay men across the global village. I can still remember how discovering Steven, the gay character in Dynasty, during my childhood in the 1980s, opened a whole new perspective for me. It is another matter altogether to equate this mass consumption with gay culture, or even with gay rights advocacy. Just as Beirut’s old neighbourhoods are being gentrified, its “superb architecture” (sic) being torn down to make way for soulless, surveillance-camera-equipped skyscrapers, its local gay culture is facing the challenge of McDonaldisation. How long before writers start describing Beirut as a new Bangkok – rather than a Provincetown? Will sex tourism advance its population’s gay rights or social wellbeing? In the meantime, Beirut is certainly turning back into the playground of multinational companies, regional interests and greedy entrepreneurs.’
This, by the way, is only the second reference I ever heard to Sunni sheikhs performing gay marriages – the other case reportedly occurred some years ago in Kuwait, where a sheikh married two women – but only because one of them was actually born as a man and had undergone a sex change: as his birth certificate asserted he was a man, however, the sheikh saw no legal problem there.