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Family love in Lebanon against all odds

I was fifteen years old when I came out to my Mom. I actually screamed it in her face. I was just another teenager except that I had a really hard time understanding my sexuality in a context where there was no support from anyone. I even thought I was the only gay person in the world. Luckily the internet was becoming accessible so I had had the chance to talk to other people and meet some. One day I was having an argument with my Mom when I yelled out, “I have my own problems you know!” to which my Mom replied, “Then tell me your problems.” “I’m Gay! Ok!”

My Mom fell to the ground in tears, that’s when my sister ran in to comfort her. I slammed the door and left for a long walk. It did not get easier. My Mom’s dream of a married son and grandkids were shattered. For years, she kept asking me to get married, to which I would respond that if I ever did, it would be to a man. When she asked me if I never wanted children, I said that I would not bring children into the world but I would consider adopting children and give them a good life and care for them. That’s when my mother realized that I was still her son. That things could be different to what she had planned. My Mother never asked me any question after that.

My Father, a very traditional oriental man, was very calm when he found me working on an article in the middle of the night for Helem, the first LGBTIQ organization in the country. He simply said “We will talk about this later.”.

We never did talk about it later, though. Many year later, I was twenty-one and was going through a hard time after a break-up, which I was not handling very well. I sat at home drinking whisky and smoking. My parents were really upset. Eventually my Dad rang. I barely spoke a word when he said, “We do not like to see you like this. Whatever happened, you do not deserve to do this to yourself. He is an idiot for leaving you and you can find one hundred thousand people who are better. Get up, shower and go see your friends.”. I never ever thought I would hear my Dad say these words, but he, just like my mum, spoke from their heart. They only saw their child.

In our society and our culture, it is not easy for parents to accept their gay children. I was lucky that my family’s love defied all boundaries. Though there are some areas of my life they do not understand, they have chosen to support me regardless. Things are not always easy, but I know that whatever happens I can come home and my family will be there to support me. They are always there and I only hope to repay them back with my love. I have a safe space and that space shields me from the aggression the society has in store for me. We need more safe spaces in this world, and who better to provide them but our own family ?

Elie is the coordinator of M-Coalition, a regional network of organisations fighting HIV in the MENA region