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27 Men Arrested in Agha Hammam, Beirut

On the ninth of August, Lebanese police, from the Hbeish police station, which has formerly been criticised for using the anal probe test to investigate human sexuality, arrested 27 men in a Beiruti bathhouse, Agha Hammam, in the Hamra-Concord district of Beirut. The police have reported that all men were unarmed and that the police had arrested the men based on tip-off information from a previously arrested gentleman, who claimed that Agha Hammam was a meeting place for men seeking to have sex with other men. The raid, according to Helem, the Arab World’s first LGBT rights organisation, is the largest since the Borj Hammoud cinema raid in 2013.

27 men have been arrested for public indecency in a Beirut bathhouse - rights groups, such as LebMASH have been calling for their release.

27 men have been arrested for public indecency in a Beirut bathhouse – rights groups, such as LebMASH have been calling for their release.

Whilst the anal test has been used by this particular police station before, despite the fact it runs against the Lebanese Order of Physicians’ (LOP) Code of Conduct, the police have announced that, thankfully, it was not inflicted upon these unfortunate men. However, Colonel Tony Haddad of the police has claimed that the sexual orientation of 24 of the men has been ‘confirmed’, whereas 3 of the men have been described ‘not gay’.
Despite the branding of the majority of these man as ‘Luwat’ by such media outlets as MTV Lebanon (translating to ‘fags’, in English), there is no proof that any sexual intercourse or activity was taking place at the time of the arrest. The owner, employees and all the clientele present at the time were arrested. The clientele remain in custody.
A coalition of 5 advocacy groups – Helem, The Arab Foundation for Freedom and Equality (AFE), The Lebanese Medical Association for Sexual Health (LebMASH), M-Coalition and Marsa Sexual Health Clinic – have come together and released a strong position statement, saying: “we denounce this incident as a case of homophobic practice that aims to police the sexual rights and liberties of the individuals involved… We call on the General Prosecutor and Hbeish police station to respect the dignity of the detainees and their rights to their (sexual) bodies.”
Legal Agenda, a human rights organisation in Beirut, have announced that the men have been held longer than is legally allowed by the Lebanese Penal Code, for, under Article 47, they may only be held for 48 hours, which is renewable once. However, under Article 105, crimes which are punishable by only one year in jail do not apply. The men are understood, however, not to be being charged with the standard Article 531, which condemns homosexual intercourse as ‘unnatural’, but, rather to be being charged with Article 521, which condemns public indecency.
Sarah Wansa, of Legal Agenda, told Al-Akhbar (a Lebanese daily newspaper), that they [Legal Agenda] no longer consider homosexuality to be a crime punishable under Article 534 because of its designation of homosexuality as ‘unnatural’ – a claim which LebMASH has been stridently fighting against through its seminars around Lebanon.
There have been two precedents where homosexuality has not been punished by Lebanese judges. However, because Lebanese law was based on the French Civil Law system, rather than the English Common Law system, these precedents do not change future rulings, meaning that homosexuals will still be at risk of prosecution under Article 534 is no longer applied to homosexuality.

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Anal Tests in Lebanon

Anal tests for homosexuality are not useful in assessing someone’s sexual orientation or behavior and can be harmful physically and psychologically

The Lebanese Medical Association for Sexual Health (LebMASH) has recently learned that a Forensic physician in Lebanon, Dr. A. M. has conducted anal tests on several individuals to determine their sexual orientation.

LebMASH is extremely concerned to hear that this practice, “the anal test”, continues to take place in Lebanon especially given that:

– This test is antiquated and does not yield any useful information about a person’s sexual orientation or behavior.
– This test can be harmful physically and psychologically to the person receiving it.
– The order of physicians in Lebanon banned this test in an official Memo in 2012.
– The test is unethical, violating a major component of the Hippocratic Oath: non-maleficence or “first, do no harm”.

Before we discuss the anal test itself, it’s important to understand that male homosexuality has three different aspects to it:

  1. Sexual orientation: the sexual and/or emotional attraction to another person of the same sex and the desire to be with this other person.
  2. Sexual behavior: the actual sexual acts that involve two men and can include kissing, body contact, oral sex, mutual masturbation, anal stimulation, and anal intercourse.
  3. Sexual identity: identifying socially as being homosexual or gay.

 

A person can have a homosexual sexual orientation but not engage in sexual behavior with other men and without identifying as gay. Another person can have a homosexual sexual orientation and engage in sexual behavior with other men but not identify socially as gay. And finally, a person can have homosexual sexual orientation, engage in sexual behavior with other men, and identify socially as being gay.

The so-called anal test for homosexuality involves the insertion of a metal object into a man’s anal canal through the anus allegedly to find out if this person is homosexual. Homosexuality, just like heterosexuality, is a very complex construct and can’t possibly be determined by a simple test.

The only “medical” reference to the use of the anal test in relation to homosexuality is a paper published by a French medico-legal expert named Auguste Ambroise Tardieu back in 1857. Tardieu claimed that “chronic sodomites” have certain specific penile and anal physical characteristics that are unique to them.

Today, over 150 years later, we know that what is mentioned in Tardieu’s study is not true. Adult men who engage in consensual anal intercourse do not have any permanent penile or anal characteristics that are unique to them.  Therefore performing an anal test on them is futile.

The anus is the external opening of the anal canal, which is the terminal part of the human colon. The anus has 2 sphincters: the internal anal sphincter that is an involuntary muscle and the external anal sphincter that is a voluntary muscle (i.e. can be opened and closed at will by the person).

If we examine the report of Dr. A. M. more closely, we can see in more details how misguided he is about both normal anal anatomy and homosexuality. In his report, Dr. A. M. mentions that there was “no evidence of accumulation, tear or redness”. Normal homosexual anal intercourse between two consenting adults does not lead to “accumulations, tears or redness”. Even if there was evidence of any of these findings on an anal exam, these findings can be attributed to a number of medical conditions such as an anal abscess, an anal fissure, constipation or hemorrhoids all of which can cause changes in the anal mucosa.

Dr. A. M. also mentions in his report that “the anal sphincter is functioning normally”. Adult men who engage in consensual anal intercourse, even if it is on a regular basis, do not have abnormalities in the functioning of their anal sphincters. The anal sphincters have the natural ability to expand when needed (for example to receive anal intercourse) and return to their normal size and tone afterwards. This is seen every day when passing a bowel movement. The internal anal sphincter relaxes naturally and the external sphincter is voluntarily relaxed to allow for defecation. However, following this, both sphincters return to their normal tone and functioning.

Performing an anal test on someone to find out information about someone’s sexual orientation or behavior is not only futile, but can also be very harmful physically and psychologically.

Physically, inserting a metal object into an anal canal in an uncontrolled location such as a police station can place the person at risk for infections such as Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) and Hepatitis, to mention a few. Inserting an object as small as a finger into one’s anal canal by a Forensic doctor can cause excruciating pain and/or tears, even for someone who regularly engages in anal intercourse. The difference is that when engaging in normal anal intercourse, the individual has the chance to gradually and voluntarily relax the anal sphincters, as well as many muscles that exist in the perineal area, in order to receive anal intercourse, that is perceived as pleasurable by this individual. On the other hand, and similar to being raped, inserting an object as small as a finger into someone’s anal canal without their consent and without giving them the chance to gradually relax their muscles will lead to the opposite scenario, i.e. to further contracture of the anal sphincters and perineal muscles, and therefore will lead to severe pain and possible injury.

Psychologically, subjecting someone to this anal test discussed here can lead to severe psychological trauma similar to the trauma that individuals can endure after being raped. In addition to the shame and humiliation, the individual subjected to this cruel procedure is at risk of developing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and possibly sexual dysfunction by being unable to receive normal consensual anal intercourse or even anal stimulation in the future.

LebMASH calls on the Lebanese Order of Physicians (LOP) to take responsibility for the actions of one of its members by enforcing disciplinary measures on Dr. A.M. to reinforce LOP’s ban on these tests issued on Aug. 7, 2012.

LebMASH reiterates its position regarding homosexuality being a normal variation of human sexuality and therefore not a medical or psychiatric condition that requires diagnosis or treatment.

LebMASH is happy to provide LOP members and especially to Dr. A.M. cultural competency training and consulting for issues related to sexual orientation and gender identity.

LebMASH urges the LOP to issue an official statement, similar to those issued in July of 2013 by the Lebanese Psychiatric Society and Lebanese Psychological Association, asserting that homosexuality is not a disease and that homosexuality is a normal variant of human sexuality.

We also call on the law enforcement agencies in Lebanon to abide by Lebanon’s commitment to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, especially Article 5 the part relating to humane treatment of people in custody. We call on those agencies to respect people’s right to the integrity of their bodies. LebMASH calls on lawyers and judges to stop using Article 534 of the Lebanese penal code to criminalize homosexuals since the sexual act between two consenting adults of the same gender is not “against nature.”

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الفحوصات الشرجية في لبنان

الفحوصات الشرجية للمثلية الجنسية ليست مفيدة في تقييم الميول أو السلوك الجنسية لشخص ما، ويمكن أن تكون ضارة جسديا ونفسيا.

لقد علمت الجمعية الطبية اللبنانية للصحة الجنسية (LebMASH) مؤخرا أن الطبيب الشرعي في لبنان الدكتور أ.م. قد أجرى فحوصات شرجية على عدة أشخاص لتحديد ميولهم الجنسية.

الجمعية الطبية اللبنانية للصحة الجنسية قلقة للغاية لسماع أن هذه الممارسة، “ألفحوصات الشرجية”، لا تزال تحصل في لبنان خاصة وأن :

– هذا الفحص قديم جداً ولا يسفر عن أية معلومات مفيدة حول التوجه أو ألسلوك الجنسي للشخص.
– هذا الفحص يمكن أن يكون ضارا جسديا ونفسيا للشخص الذي يتعرض له.
– نقابة الأطباء في بيروت حظرت هذا الفحص في مذكرة رسمية في العام 2012.
– هذا الفحص غير أخلاقي وينتهك عنصرا رئيسيا من قسم أبقراط الطبي: غير الإيذاء أو “أولا، عدم إلحاق أي ضرر”.

قبل أن نناقش الفحص الشرجي نفسه، من المهم أن نفهم أن المثلية الجنسية عند الذكور لديها ثلاثة جوانب مختلفة:

١-الميل الجنسي: الانجذاب الجنسي و / أو العاطفي لشخص آخر من نفس الجنس والرغبة للشخص أن يكون مع هذا الشخص الآخر.
٢- السلوك الجنسي: الأفعال الجنسية الفعلية التي تتضمن رجلين ويمكن أن تشمل التقبيل، الاتصال الجسدي، الجنس الشفوي، الاستمناء المشترك، إثارة الشرج، او الجنس الشرجي.
٣- الهوية الجنسية: التعرف اجتماعيا للشخص بكونه مثلي الجنس.

يمكن للشخص أن يكون توجهه الجنسي مثلي الجنس من دون ان يشارك في السلوك الجنسي مع رجال آخرين ومن دون تحديد هويته كمثلي الجنس. يمكن لشخص آخر ان يكون ميله الجنسي مثلي الجنس ويشارك في السلوك الجنسي مع رجال آخرين من دون تحديد هويته كمثلي الجنس. وأخيرا، يمكن للشخص أن يكون توجهه الجنسي مثلي الجنس ويشارك في السلوك الجنسي مع رجال آخرين ويحدد هويته كمثلي الجنس.

ما يسمى فحص الشرج يتضمن ادخال أداة معدنية في قناة الشرج عند الرجل من خلال فتحة الشرج لمعرفة ما إذا كان هذا الشخص هو مثلي الجنس. المثلية الجنسية، تماما مثل المغايرة الجنسية، هي مفهوم معقد للغاية، ولا يمكن أن يحددها فحص بسيط.

الاشارة “الطبية” الوحيدة لاستخدام فحص الشرج فيما يتعلق بالمثلية الجنسية هي دراسة نشرت من قبل خبير الطب الشرعي الفرنسي أوغست أمبرواز تارديو في العام 1857. ادعى تارديو أن ألاشخاص الذين يمارسون الجنس الشرجي بشكل منتظم لديهم خصائص جسدية معينة في القضيب والشرج.

اليوم، بعد أكثر من 150 عاما، نعلم أن ما ورد في دراسة تارديو ليس صحيحا. الرجال الذين يشاركون في المعاشرة الشرجية بالتراضي ليس لديهم أي خصائص جسدية معينة في القضيب أو الشرج.

الشرج هو الفتحة الخارجية للقناة الشرجية، وهو الجزء الخارجي للامعاء الغليظة عند الإنسان. الشرج لديه عضلتين عاصرتين: العضلة العاصرة الشرجية الداخلية التي هي العضلة غير الطوعية والعضلة العاصرة الشرجية الخارجية التي هي العضلة الطوعية (أي يمكن فتحها وإغلاقها عند الرغبة من قبل الشخص).

إذا نظرنا إلى تقرير الدكتور أ.م. عن كثب، يمكننا أن نرى في مزيد من التفاصيل مدى ضلله في مجال المثلية الجنسية وفي التركيبة البنيوية للشرج. يذكر الدكتور أ.م. في تقريره أنه لم يكن هناك “أي آثار لتكوم أو تمزق أو احمرار في أو حول منطقة الشرج”. في الحقيقة، لا تؤدي المعاشرة الشرجية العادية عند مثليي الجنس إلى “تكوم، تمزق أو احمرار”. حتى لو كان هناك أي دليل على هذه النتائج في فحص الشرج، يمكن أن تعزى هذه النتائج إلى عدد من الحالات الطبية مثل الخراج الصديدي، الشرخ الشرجي، والإمساك أو البواسير وكلها يمكن أن تسبب تغيرات في غشاء الشرج.

يذكر الدكتور أ.م. أيضا في تقريره أن “العصارة الشرجية تعمل بشكل طبيعي”. في الحقيقة، الرجال الذين يشاركون في المعاشرة الشرجية بالتراضي، حتى لو كان بشكل منتظم، ليس لديهم عطل في عمل العضلات العاصرة للشرج. هذه العضلات لديها القدرة الطبيعية للتوسع عند الحاجة (على سبيل المثال عند حصول المعاشرة الشرجية) والعودة إلى حجمها الطبيعي بعد ذلك. يحصل ذلك يوميا عند الخروج. العضلة العاصرة الشرجية الداخلية تسترخي بشكل طبيعي والعضلة العاصرة الخارجية تسترخي طوعا للسماح بالخروج. ولكن، بعد ذلك، تعود العضلات العاصرة إلى وضعها وأدائها الطبيعي.

إجراء الفحص الشرجي على شخص ما لمعرفة توجهه أو سلوكه الجنسي ليس فقط غير مجدي، ولكن يمكن أيضا يكون ضارا جدا جسديا ونفسيا.

جسديا، إدخال جسم معدني في قناة الشرج في مكان غير منضبط مثل مركز للشرطة تضع الشخص في خطر للعدوى مثل فيروس الورم الحليمي البشري (HPV)، والالتهاب الكبدي، على سبيل المثال لا الحصر.
إدخال شيء حتى بصغر الاصبع في قناة الشرج من قبل طبيب شرعي يمكن أن تسبب ألام مبرحة و/أو أمزاق، حتى بالنسبة لشخص يمارس الجنس الشرجي بانتظام. الفرق هو أنه عند ممارسة الجنس الشرجي العادي، لدى الفرد فرصة لاسترخاء العضلات العاصرة تدريجيا وطوعيا، وكذلك العديد من العضلات التي توجد في منطقة العِجان، لكي تحصل المعاشرة الشرجية، التي تعتبر ممتعة بهذه الطريقة من قبل هذا الشخص. من ناحية أخرى، وعلى غرار التعرض للاغتصاب، إدخال شيء حتى بصغر الاصبع في القناة الشرجية لذلك الشخص دون موافقتهم ودون منحهم فرصة لاسترخاء عضلاتهم تدريجيا يؤدي إلى السيناريو المعاكس، أي إلى مزيد من انكماش في العضلات العاصرة وعضلات العِجان، وبالتالي يؤدي إلى ألم شديد وضرر.

نفسيا، إخضاع شخص ما لهذا افحص يمكن أن يؤدي إلى صدمة نفسية حادة مشابهة للصدمة التي يتحملها الأفراد الذين يتعرضون للاغتصاب. بالإضافة إلى العار والذل، الفرد الذي يخضع لهذا الإجراء القاسي في خطر أن يصاب اضطراب ما بعد الصدمة (PTSD) وربما العجز الجنسي عن طريق عدم القدرة على تلقي الجنس الشرجي العادي بالتراضي أو حتى إثارة الشرج في المستقبل.

تدعو الجمعية الطبية اللبنانية للصحة الجنسية نقابة الأطباء في لبنان لتحمل المسؤولية عن تصرفات أحد أعضائها من خلال فرض تدابير تأديبية على الدكتور أ.م. لتعزيز الحظر على هذه الفحوصات الصادر بتاريخ 7 أغسطس 2012 من قبل نقابة الأطباء.

الجمعية الطبية اللبنانية للصحة الجنسية تكرر موقفها من المثلية الجنسية كونها اختلاف طبيعي في الميل والنشاط الجنسي، وبالتالي ليست حالة طبية أو نفسية تتطلب التشخيص أو العلاج.

الجمعية الطبية اللبنانية للصحة الجنسية مستعدة لتقديم التدريب والاستشارات لأعضاء نقابة الأطباء في لبنان، وخاصة للدكتور أ.م.، في القضايا المتعلقة بالميول والهوية الجنسية.

الجمعية الطبية اللبنانية للصحة الجنسية تحث نقابة الأطباء في لبنان لإصدار بيان رسمي، مماثلاً للذي صدر في شهر يوليو من عام 2013 من قبل جمعية الطب النفسي اللبناني وجمعية علم النفس اللبنانية، مؤكدة أن المثلية الجنسية ليس مرضا وأن المثلية الجنسية هي اختلاف طبيعي في النشاط الجنسي.

كما ندعو الاجهزة ألامنية في لبنان على التقيد بالتزام لبنان بالإعلان العالمي لحقوق الإنسان وخاصة المادة (5) والجزء المتعلق بالمعاملة الإنسانية للأشخاص في الحجز. ندعو تلك الاجهزة إلى احترام حق الناس في نزاهة أجسادهم.

الجمعية الطبية اللبنانية للصحة الجنسية تدعو المحامين والقضاة على التوقف عن استخدام المادة 534 من قانون العقوبات اللبناني لتجريم المثليين جنسيا نظراً بأن الفعل الجنسي بالتراضي بين شخصين بالغين من نفس الجنس ليس “ضد الطبيعة”.

نشكر الاستاذ باتريك ريميلي على الترجمة إلى اللغة العربية.

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Break the Silence 2014: The Winner

The Lebanese Medical Association for Sexual Health (LebMASH) is proud to announce the winner of the 2014 “Break the Silence” competition as Rami Shukr.

To enter the competition, students in the medical field were asked to submit an essay about a specific issue related to either women’s sexual health or LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) health in Lebanon.

Submissions are reviewed and graded by LebMASH’s Executive Board. The winner receives funding to attend a medical conference anywhere in the World. This year’s choice was the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association (GLMA) 32nd annual conference to be held in Baltimore, Maryland from the 10th to the 13th September 2014. This year’s conference theme is ‘Innovation & Collaboration for LGBT Health Equality’.

GLMA

Rami, who will graduate this year from the Lebanese American University with a BA in Pscyhology, entered the competition in order to “contribute to the growing movement of LGBT research in Lebanon”. He wants to shift the discourse on LGBT health and other issues away from the traditional and moral dogma towards a scientific and research based focus.

His prize-winning paper focused on stress, identity, and community among a sample of gay men in Beirut. Although there are Lebanese studies on MSM (men who have sex with men), there is no study, which uses culturally-relevant research, on the dynamics of MSM/gay (self-)identification. He also sought to investigate the feelings gay men have about the current state of advocacy in Lebanon and what they believe is lacking or could be improved. In his own words, he believes that “Investigating these factors would help elicit better advocacy and would help us point-out where change is most needed. Although my research was quite preliminary in nature, focusing exclusively on gay men, it could provide a starting point for more empirical research into the dynamics of LGBT stress, identity, and community in Lebanon.”

LebMASH formally congratulates Rami on winning the competition. We would also like to thank all the entrants whose essays we received. Finally, we take this opportunity to encourage as many students as possible to apply for next year’s competition.

LebMASH at USJ: Homosexuality Seen by the Professionals

On the 29th May 2014, LebMASH was hosted by Université Saint-Joseph in Beirut to give a talk on the perceptions of homosexuality within the medical profession and wider society. Chaired by Dr. Sami Richa, head of psychiatry at the university, and Father Michel Scheuer, head of the university’s ethics department, the talk was the first time that the subject of sexuality and gender identity had been broached within the Jesuit-run university. In his introductory address, Dr. Richa explained that the goal was to understand the problems of the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) community, being a medical subject of great importance. The talk was attended by over 100 people, including many medical students from the university and members of the public.

The Board Members of LebMASH present at the talk (from left): Dr. Omar Fattal, Dr. Omar Harfouche and Dr. Hasan Abdessamad. Alongside the Board, Dr. Hala Kerbage, a Member of LebMASH, gave a talk on the history of social perceptions to homosexuality.

The Board Members of LebMASH present at the talk (from left): Dr. Omar Fattal, Dr. Omar Harfouche and Dr. Hasan Abdessamad. Alongside the Board, Dr. Hala Kerbage, a Member of LebMASH, gave a talk on the history of social perceptions to homosexuality.

Dr. Fattal speaking about the clinical approaches physicians and healthcare providers should take, when dealing with LGBT patients.

Dr. Fattal speaking about the clinical approaches physicians and healthcare providers should take, when dealing with LGBT patients.

There were three speakers, two of whom came from LebMASH. Dr. Fattal, a board member, discussed the approaches that the students might take towards their LGBT patients, focusing on the state of medical care in Lebanon for the LGBT community today and how it might change in the future. He particularly emphasised a gender and orientation inclusive way of speaking, so that it appears to the patient that the doctor has thought through every possibility. He also addressed the lack of understanding around the gay community, hoping to shed some light on the myths and realities of the LGBT community.

Dr. Hala Kerbage, also of LebMASH and a psychiatrist at Hôtel-Dieu de France, followed his talk, by discussing the historical perceptions of homosexuality around the world. She focused her attention on studies such as the Hooker Report of 1957 which was the first report to research non-patients, meaning that for the first time, people without current medical or mental illnesses were part of a research experiment. Hooker found no more signs of psychological disturbances in a group of non-patient homosexuals compared to non-patient heterosexual controls. Dr. Kerbage also referenced the Kinsey Report, which found that 37% of people have experienced at least one homosexual act in their life. The Beach and Ford study was also mentioned and this study found homosexuality to be common across cultures and to exist in almost all nonhuman species. Their work supported the idea that homosexuality was natural and more widespread than previously thought.

Dr. Hala Kerbage discussing the historical perceptions of homosexuality in the West and the East, focusing her attention on Lebanon.

Dr. Hala Kerbage discussing the historical perceptions of homosexuality in the West and the East, focusing her attention on Lebanon.

She then turned her attention towards Lebanon and Article 534, which unfairly criminalises homosexuals forbeing ‘unnatural’. However, consistently throughout the talk, she had proved that homosexuality was not a mental disorder or a deviance from the norm, indeed it being normal. Recently, LebMASH, the Lebanese Psychiatric Society and Lebanese Psychological Association, have all come out against the classification of homosexuality as unnatural and stood against conversion therapy, stating that it is not effective and it is harmful for the individual.

The final talk of the conference was presented by Ms. Mima Mzawak, a sociologist, who spoke about homosexuality beyond the social perception. Science is the best method, according to Ms. Mzawak, to discover the truth about Man, halting the continued use of institutionalised terms for the LGBT community and stereotypes surrounding what it means to be a man, or a woman. She focused on different approaches towards combatting homophobia.

The panel at this talk on Homosexuality as seen by the Professionals (from left: Dr. Sami Richa, Father Michel Scheuer, Ms. Mima Mzawek, Dr. Hala Kerbage and Dr. Omar Fattal

The panel at this talk on Homosexuality as seen by the Professionals (from left: Dr. Sami Richa, Father Michel Scheuer, Ms. Mima Mzawek, Dr. Hala Kerbage and Dr. Omar Fattal

LebMASH would like to thank Dr. Richa and Father Scheuer and the Université Saint-Joseph for hosting the talk. We would also like to thank the over 100 attendees for their attentiveness and considered questioning.

 

LebMASH at AUB: Clinical Approaches to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Patients

On the 31st May, 2014, the Lebanese Medical Association for Sexual Health (LebMASH) held a 5-session medical conference on

Dr. Faysal El Kak at the LEbMASH conference on clinical approaches to LGBT patients

Dr. Faysal El Kak presents his talk on the discussion of same-sex sexual relations with regards to health.

health needs of LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) individuals in Lebanon, in the West Hall of the American University of Beirut (AUB). The day commenced with an introduction by Dr. Faysal El-Kak, a senior lecturer at the Faculty of Health Sciences at AUB. Drs. Hasan Abdessamad, founder and current president of LebMASH, and Omar Fattal, co-founder and executive board member of LebMASH, presented on the topic. Dr. Nesrine Rizk, AUB instructor of infectious diseases, gave an elaborate talk on sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). The session lasted throughout most of the day and was followed by a Q&A session with strong interaction from the audience.

Dr. Fattal at LebMASH's conference on clinical approaches to LGBT health

Dr. Omar Fattal presenting his final talk of the day on LGBT health.

Dr. El Kak spoke about the need for such seminars, discussing how “no healthcare is complete without healthcare for all people, based in human rights” and that these seminars go a long way to helping people understand homosexuality and not view it simply in the light of the myths surrounding it.

Then, Dr. Fattal presented the same talk that he had given at Université Saint Joseph the previous week, which discussed the history of, and perceptions towards homosexuality. Focusing on the difference between attraction, behaviour and identity, he underlined that healthcare providers must not jump to making assumptions, without focusing on each area of the patient’s sexuality. However, he stressed that questions about sexuality and sexual health are of the utmost importance.

 

Dr. Hasan Abdessamad at the LebMASH conference on clinical approaches to LGBT patients.

Dr. Hasan Abdessamad presents his talk on Lesbian health at the American University of Beirut.

Dr. Abdessamad discussed the health of lesbian patients (and you can watch his talk with Arabic subtitles on LebMASH’s YouTube channel). Briefly, he underlined specific challenges faced by Lesbian patients, such as access to care. He stressed that in an ideal world there would be no need to discuss lesbian health as a separate topic since physicians should provide care to all patients equally, regardless of their sexual orientation. However, we do not live in an ideal world. He elaborated on how Lesbian and bisexual women’s health differs from that of heterosexual women, such as an increase in heart disease, breast cancer, substance abuse or obesity among others. This difference is not based in intrinsic or biological factors but rather extrinsic ones due to social and institutional discrimination.

Dr. Nesrine Rizk took the attendees through the A to Z of STDs, showing pictures of what to look for and explaining the symptoms and likelihood of sexually transmitted diseases amongst various different social groups.

Dr. Nesrine Rizk presenting at the LebMASH conference on clinical approaches to LGBT patients.

Dr. Nesrine Rizk discussing the various STIs which doctors must watch out for, focusing on the specific threats facing the LGBT community.

Finally, Dr. Fattal returned to the stage where he discussed barriers to care faced by LGBT patients and suggested various ways by which healthcare providers can improve LGBT patients’ experience when they seek medical care. For instance, he spoke at length on the need for an inclusive language and a welcoming and relaxed body language.

Dr. Nesrine Rizk discussing the various STIs which doctors must watch out for, focusing on the specific threats facing the LGBT community.

LebMASH would like to thank the Continuing Medical Education (CME) Office at AUB who helped organise the event and hosted us within the university.

Below is a link to a part of Dr. Hasan Abdessamad’s talk on Lesbian health.

Response to Dr. Khoury’s interview about homosexuality

  • En Français ici
  • إقرأ بالعربية هنا

The Lebanese Medical Association for Sexual Health (LebMASH), in response to the interview conducted with Dr. Nabil Khoury by OTV on June 6th, 2013 would like to clarify the following:

The use of the terms “louti” (derogatory Arabic slang for gay) and “sou7ak” (derogatory Arabic slang for lesbian) is offensive and further alienates lesbian and gay individuals in Lebanon.

We call on all health care professionals in Lebanon to refrain from using such terms. The terms milthi (gay) and mithliyya (lesbian) are the appropriate, non-judgmental terms to use when discussing members of the gay and lesbian community. It is our duty as health care providers to help people attain healthier lives. Using derogatory terms to describe a group of individuals in our society fuels the abuse, bullying, prejudice, and discrimination to which this group is already subjected to and leads to worse health in these individuals. (1)

We agree with Dr. Khoury regarding the lack of association between secondary sexual characteristics and sexual orientation. A masculine man can be sexually attracted to other men and a feminine woman can be sexually attracted to other women.

Dr. Khoury disregards the current and evidence-based knowledge science provides us about homosexuality. Instead, he discusses different views that, in his opinion, explain homosexual tendencies. According to Dr. Khoury:

  1. The first view considers homosexuality pathological and secondary to hormonal imbalances.
  2. The second view is that of the church and Islamic Sharia which considers homosexuality abnormal and sees homosexuals as sinners.
  3. The third view is about triggering factors that can “cause” homosexuality such as over- and under-affection, sexual abuse, using feminine pronouns for boys and masculine pronouns for girls, and “negativity” that can lead to attention-seeking behavior. Dr. Khoury claims that “the most important factor that leads to homosexuality is sexual abuse.” He goes on to discuss that sexual abuse can lead to isolation, distrust and psychological problems, and therefore leads to homosexuality.
  4. Dr. Khoury adds that girls watching and interacting with other girls can lead to sexual attraction and homosexuality. He asserts that, in some cases, female homosexuality is due to failure of a woman to attract men. He claims that a woman would “become” a lesbian to compensate for her failure with men.

Unfortunately, almost all of what Dr. Khoury discussed is inaccurate and misleading. There is no scientific evidence linking spoiling children or sexual abuse with homosexuality. His attempt to explain female homosexuality is also not based on any evidence-based research or scientific knowledge.

We want to clarify that many theories have been proposed regarding the origins of homosexuality, but definitive answers have yet to be found. Research has not been able to discover the origins of homosexuality or of heterosexuality, for that matter. Similar to left-handedness and other human attributes, homosexuality is likely manifested due to a mixture of genetic, biological, and environmental factors.

We are surprised that Dr. Khoury speaks of a school which considers homosexuality a disease, when 40 years ago, in 1973, the American Psychiatric Association, a world leader on mental health, declassified homosexuality from its list of mental disorders. The following year, the American Psychological Association also declassified homosexuality as an illness. Since then, every major medical and mental health organization has followed suit. The World Health Organization (WHO) declassified homosexuality as a disorder in 1990. The WHO states that “in none of its individual manifestations does homosexuality constitute a disorder or an illness and therefore it requires no cure.” (2)

Currently, the global consensus among health care providers is that homosexuality is a normal and natural variation of human sexuality without any intrinsically harmful health effects. It is surprising and disappointing to see Dr. Khoury completely disregard this current common knowledge and instead, propagates out-dated stereotypes and misinformation that have clearly been proven to be false.

We are also very disappointed to see Dr. Khoury portray a very conflicted image of homosexuals who come out (i.e. those who do not hide the fact that he/she is gay/lesbian). Dr. Khoury uses the term “ positive rudeness” which is a very interesting and unusual term. He also states that these people are “out” because they have a “spirit of defiance.” We believe that gay and lesbian people are equal citizens in the societies where they live and therefore should have the right to express themselves without being called rude or defiant for simply being who they are.

Dr. Khoury refers to people who are not homosexual as being “3adi” (normal), which implies that he personally believes that being homosexual is abnormal.

Dr. Khoury also wrongfully explains that that Article 327 of the Lebanese Penal Code prohibits homosexuality. This is not true. Article 534 of the Lebanese Penal Code prohibits “unnatural sex between two people.” This law is often interpreted in Lebanon as referring to homosexual acts. In 2009, a verdict came out of a court in Batroun regarding Article 534, in which the judge discussed “nature,” negating the application of the article on homosexuals. (3)

When speaking of treatment, we agree with Dr. Khoury that sexual orientation cannot be changed. However, we are deeply concerned that he is admitting, on national television, that he encourages families to try to change their loved one’s sexual behavior.

Homosexual individuals in Lebanon suffer bullying, verbal and physical abuse, and discrimination from their families, schools, communities, and society at large. Around the world, fear of discrimination and prejudice has been found to alienate lesbian and gay individuals and lead to a delay in seeking health care. It remains our duty as health care providers to rid ourselves from any prejudice that might affect the health of our patients.

Dr. Khoury brings up a very troubling point at the end of his interview. He states that he sometimes recommends that people see homosexuality as a choice and treat it as such. Authorities in the field agree that sexual orientation is not a choice. In the same way that heterosexuality is not a choice, homosexuality is not a choice either. Suggesting that homosexuality is a choice puts homosexual people in Lebanon at higher risk for bullying, hate-crimes, and abuse since they may be perceived as willingly choosing what is morally unacceptable for the perpetuators of the discrimination.

Dr. Khoury ends his interview by asserting that we still do not have a good understanding of homosexuality and that we have no conclusive evidence about this subject. We would like to stress that this statement might have been true in 1969, but in 2013, we have overwhelming literature that indicates that homosexuality:

  • Is not a choice
  • Is not considered a disease
  • Is considered a normal variation of human sexuality
  • Cannot be changed and attempts to change from homosexual to heterosexual causes a great deal of harm to homosexual individuals.

LebMASH calls on all health care providers in Lebanon to be careful with the information they disseminate about homosexuality in the media. An up-to-date review of the scientific literature on the topic is necessary before any media appearance. LebMASH would be more than happy to provide any scientific evidence and literature needed on this topic. We owe it to the public to ensure the health information we are sharing is scientific, accurate, and unbiased.

References:

  1. Wagner GJ, Aunon FM, Kaplan RL, Karam R, Khouri D, Tohme J, Mokhbat J. Sexual stigma, psychological well-being and social engagement among men who have sex with men in Beirut, Lebanon. Cult Health Sex. 2013 May;15(5):570-82. (Abstract)
  2. The Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization PAHO/WHO Position Statement. “Cures” for an illness that does not exist. 2012 May 17. (Retrieved on June 24 2013 from here)
  3. “Lebanese Judge Rules Against the Use of Article 534 To Prosecute Homosexuals” Bekhsous. 2009 Dec 28. (Retrieved on June 24 2013 from here)

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