Censorship and Sensibility
by Sari Chreiteh
With all the pictures of London pride flooding my feed, I couldn’t help but take a second to reflect on my experience with Beirut Pride last month. I had just recently moved back home from the UK after studying for three years. I had the joy of witnessing the London parade in person, with all of its topless men, anal beads, glorious glitter beards, Soho shows called things like “Anal Shock”, unicorns and rainbows everywhere, and people from every gender, race, and sexual orientation enjoying just being themselves in public.
Beirut Pride, unfortunately, does not have a parade. There wasn’t even one planned after last years attempt was met with death threats from Salafi extremists. If you're wondering why you are still reading about my impressions of Pride and where the theatre comes in, Beirut Pride mainly constitutes of events. That encompasses music, theatre, dance, design and just straight up parties. I had been working at a new theatre called Zoukak for about a month and we were hosting one of these events. It was a staged reading of a new text about international stories of homophobia called Ogres, sponsored by the French institute.
The play was slightly delayed, and then, just as we were about to let the audience in, a large group of men came in demanding to talk to the manager. They were obviously trying to shut down the play right after it started, just to add some of their own political theatre to the performance. By the end of the night we had the heads of five police agencies, including the General Security, National Security and the Intelligence Agency, discussing the correct terminology to use while they were talking about homosexuality.
It is really astounding that 50 kilometers away from Syria and considering the shit storm happening inside Lebanon, the most dangerous thing that demanded the attentions of the highest police authority in all of Beirut, was a staged reading, not even a full production. I know the Lebanese police are shit most of the time but at least they have a higher regard for the social power of theatre than I do. If I were in charge of a sudo-authoritarian state, my priorities would be elsewhere, man.
Anyway, the show still got cancelled despite there being no real legal precedent to do so, but regardless, schooling the big boys on political correctness was a pleasure. The organizer got taken into the station overnight and forced to cancel all the remaining events or face some sort of prosecution. Which is probably why it did not get any media attention what so ever. I believe, however, that while the London pride, rightfully so, is a celebration; Beirut pride is an act of resistance. It is very likely in harsher circumstances than the first London Pride was ever in. I say this because it is the only Pride event in the whole Arab world, which is famously hostile to homosexuality. So, I think we need to take a leaf out of the PoPo’s books and start believing in the effects of theatre on our socio-cultural sphere, and make sure we keep Beirut Pride alive through ANY global media coverage. It might not be pretty, but its still fucking fabulous.