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This post was originally published on habdessamad.com on Oct. 26, 2014.
“Fifo is a Lebanese man who is being ostracized for expressing himself the way he wants.
People don’t like it so they pathologise it. He lives in New York and gets back at his haters with traditional Arabic proverbs. All wisdom in the proverbs is overseen and overlooked, his words and wit become meaningless as people can not get themselves to see him deeper than his appearance and mannerism.
“He is sick – mentally ill – sexual deviant” in the eyes of many on social media portals and until these misconceptions and fallacies get rectified many, like Firas, will not feel they can ever fit in, develop and prosper, will not even feel safe.
We can rectify it. That is why I believe in the work the Lebanese Medical Association for Sexual Health is doing. That is why I support LebMASH.
The Lebanese Medical Association for Sexual Health (LebMASH) has already started to make a difference on the ground in Lebanon.
In 2014, LebMASH helped organize three medical conferences on LGBT health and provided educational sessions to Syrian refugees and womyn victims of sexual or physical abuse. LebMASH is in communication with the Lebanese Order of Physicians (LOP) to work on developing tools that will help bring an end to futile and harmful “Anal Tests” forced onto detainees to assess their sexual orientation. Shame Tests as the Lebanese media called them, were banned, on paper, by the LOP and the Ministry of Interior in 2012 but continue to be performed.
For the third year in-a-row, LebMASH sponsored a medical student to attend GLMA medical conference and continues to encourage students to read, research and write about LGBT and sexual health through the “Break The Silence” BTS competition grant. LebMASH already started sponsoring research on LGBT health in Lebanon, in the coming years, publications will start trickling into peer-reviewed medical journals and enriching a literature thirsty for such data.
LebMASH continues to network nationally and internationally to advance the healthcare of sexual minorities in Lebanon. LebMASH is in communication with Helem, Marsa, Arab Foundation for Equality, Kafa, the Legal Agenda among other civil society organizations to orchestrate the work needed to achieve its mission. Internationally, LebMASH has been an invited speaker in 2013 and 2014 to the annual medical conference of GLMA: Health Professionals Advancing LGBT Equality. In Sept. 2014, LebMASH ran a plenary session at GLMA’s conference in Baltimore discussing global LGBT health and showcasing Lebanon as a prototype of how health advocacy could be started. We also discussed LebMASH’s involvement in advocacy within the World Health Organization. On a different front, LebMASH was represented during the World Bank Spring meetings this year to work on gender, sexual orientation and gender identity safeguards. LebMASH continues to follow up and will again be present at the World Bank consultation in Beirut in Nov 2014.
All this work has been self-funded by the executive board and personal donations from supporters. This year, LebMASH is hosting its second annual fundraiser in New York. Fifo, which now became a #LebLGBT social media sensation, will be there and supporting. He already made a special #Hashtag #LebMASH video for the event:
To help LebMASH continue and build up on this great work, please keep LebMASH in mind when you are looking for a charity or an NGO to support. LebMASH also offers volunteerism, internship and partnership opportunities that you can read about on lebmash.org.”
On the 26th July 2014, the M-Coalition, hosted by the Arab Foundation for Freedom and Equality, was launched at the International AIDS Conference in Melbourne, Australia. The M-Coalition, featuring delegates from 5 Arab countries- Lebanon, Morocco, Algeria, Mauritania and Tunisia – seeks to better facilitate the access that men who have sex with me (MSM) have to HIV/AIDS prevention, care and treatment. Furthermore, another aspiration of the grouping is to encourage healthcare professionals to treat MSM clients in the same way as all their clientele. The M-Coalition is, furthermore, the only Arab HIV/AIDS organisation specifically dedicated to the needs of MSM, who are between 50 and 130% more likely to have HIV than the general population across the Arab World – according to M-Coalition’s own statistics.
The MENA (Middle East and North Africa) region, as compared to Sub-Saharan Africa, is generally considered to have low levels of HIV and AIDS across the populace, with the exceptions of Djibouti, Somalia and South Sudan. However, within the target group, who are also one of the most vulnerable social groups, subject to arrest and legalised torture, the rates are disproportionately high, explaining the need for such a group to come together to help create a better environment for MSM to seek treatment.
Johnny Tohmy, Executive Director of M-Coalition, said “at this key moment where the end of the HIV epidemic is potentially within reach, we have committed to increase our efforts envisioning an Arab world where right to health and all other human rights of MSM are recognized, realized and protected.” (Full article found here)
LebMASH is proud to work with the M-Coalition and would like to congratulate Dr. Omar Harfouche, one of the founders of LebMASH, on his concurrent position on the M-Coalition board. Dr. Harfouche was selected by the members of the M-Coalition to work with them. We believe that the participation of the M-Coalition at the International AIDS Conference is a great step forward, representing the unheard voice of the MENA region within the discussion of LGBT rights and HIV/AIDS rights, both subjects traditionally considered taboo within the Arab World.
Dr. Harfouche explains that “the importance of the M-coalition lies with the exchange of all the experience and expertise of different organizations and different approaches from different countries in the Arab world. While meeting in Tunisia with the rest of the board members, we are able to look at the ways of addressing discrimination against PL-HIV (people living with HIV) and MSM in different countries and try to think of different ways to tackle these issues based on each person’s own experience.
“M-coalition’s strength also lies in being a new reference point for MSM living with HIV in the region and on prevention strategies for this key population. This population has been neglected by many prevention campaigns and this subject wasn’t tackled the way it should have been, knowing that MSM are still one of the most populations at risk in the MENA region.
“Finally, here’s what I think LebMASH can offer to the M-coalition: I will be representing Lebanon in the M-coalition and not only LebMASH but I feel that the medical background that LebMASH has is of great importance to guide other initiatives that would work with health care professionals in the MENA region.”
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.
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.
- 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.
The Lebanese Medical Association for Sexual Health (LebMASH) calls on students in any medical field who are interested in sexual health and LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered) health to apply for the second annual “Break the Silence” academic paper competition.
Students are invited to:
- Write an academic quality paper of a maximum of 1500 words on any issue related to either women’s sexual health or LGBT health in Lebanon.
- Submit the paper along with a CV and contact info to: email@example.com
The deadline for submissions is Friday June 20, 2014 at midnight.
At the end of the competition, LebMASH executive board members will review all submissions and select one winner who will be granted a trip (Up to max of 1500 USD) to Baltimore, Maryland, USA to attend GLMA’s (Health Professionals Advancing LGBT Equality) annual conference that will take a place from Sep 10 to 13, 2014.
LebMASH will help the student publish her/his work in a peer-reviewed medical journal. LebMASH will also publish a French and Arabic translation of the winning paper on lebmash.org.