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’.
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 was invited to participate in a student project on sexual health in Lebanon. The project consisted of having an interview on a talk show organized by Amine Rhayem, 3rd year journalism student at the Notre Dame University. Rhayem chose to have LebMASH and Marsa (sexual health clinic) on his panel to discuss sexual health in Lebanon.
LebMASH, represented by its vice president Omar Harfouch, talked about the difficulties that face individuals who seek sexual health services in clinics especially LGBT individuals and sexually active women. Harfouch also talked about LebMASH’s achievements so far on lobbying for the release of the Lebanese Psychiatric Society and Lebanese Psychological Association’s statements on homosexuality not being a disease and condemning so called reparative therapies. Harfouch also mentioned the recent educational sessions and workshops done with health care professionals on how to deal with LGBT health and sexual health. Marsa, represented by its communication officer Yara Al Mousawi, talked about the services that are offered to Marsa and about the discrimination that still surrounds sexual health in Lebanon.
The talk show was attended by professor and journalist May Chidiac who congratulated the guests on their work in the sexual health field.
We at LebMASH wish Amine Rahyem all the best on this project and thank him for thinking of us as an outlet to spread awareness on sexual health.
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.
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.
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.
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.
On the 31st May, 2014, the Lebanese Medical Association for Sexual Health (LebMASH) held a 5-session medical conference on
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. 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. 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.
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.
- Read in English here
Le Centre Universitaire d’Ethique de l’Université Saint –Joseph et Le Département de Psychiatrie de la Faculté de Médecine ont le plaisir de vous convier à une conférence sur «l’Homosexualité vue par des professionnels», le Jeudi 29 Mai 2014, de 17h à 18h30 à l’Amphithéâtre C de la Faculté de Médecine de l’USJ
Modérateurs : Père Michel SCHEUER, Dr Sami RICHA
1. Interviewing techniques when working with LGBT people – Dr Omar FATTAL (Psychiatre – Etats-Unis, LebMASH)
2. L’évolution de la perception de l’homosexualité par la profession médicale – Dr Hala KERBAGE (Psychiatre – HDF)
3. L’homosexualité au-delà de l’œil nu social – Mme Mirna MZAWAK (Sociologue – USEK)
- En Français ici
Saint Joseph University’s Ethics Department & The Department of Psychiatry at the Faculty of Medicine are pleased to invite you to a conference on “Homosexuality seen by professionals” at Amphitheater C at USJ’s Faculty of Medicine on May 29th 2014, 5-6:30 pm.
Moderators: Father Michel SCHEUER and Dr Sami RICHA
- Interviewing techniques when working with LGBT people – Dr Omar FATTAL (Psychiatrist – USA, Lebanese Medical Association for Sexual Health – LebMASH)
- Evolution of the perception of homosexuality by the medical profession – Dr. Hala KERBAGE (Psychiatrist – Hôtel-Dieu de France)
- Homosexuality beyond the social perception – Miss Mirna MZAWAK (Sociologist – Holy Spirit University of Kaslik – USEK)
LebMASH would like to thank Mr. Antoine Bedaoui for designing this event’s poster.
Titled: “Breaking the Silence about LGBT & sexual health in Lebanon: The work of the Lebanese Medical Association for Sexual Health – LebMASH” was presented by Drs. Omar Fattal and Hasan Abdessamad at GLMA’s annual conference in Denver, Colorado, USA on Sept. 19, 2013.
May 2014 is going to be a busy month for us with three medical conferences on LGBT health in Beirut at the American University of Beirut (AUB), l’Université Saint-Joseph de Beyrouth (USJ) and with the Lebanese Psychological Association (LPA). To stay updated on our work, join our newsletter here lebmash.org or follow us on Facebook or Twitter.