Bareed Mista3jil, meaning express mail, isn't just the first queer Lebanese book ever published -- it's also the first queer Arabic book, period, to be published
A compilation of anonymous personal narratives from Lebanese LBTQ women of all social classes and religions, Bareed Mista3jil addresses coming out, religion, family, emigration, abuse, and activism. MEEM, an activist and support group for Lebanese LBTQ women, publicly released the book at the Al Madina Theater in Beirut last May, attracting an audience of 400 people.
MEEM organizer Shant (who declined to give her full name) described the book as a big step for Lebanese LGBTs.
"We can actually talk about our experiences and show that they touch more than just the lesbian community," she said.
Shant reports a lot of positive feedback for the book, which is sold at Virgin Megastores in Lebanon, and MEEM is already planning a fourth reprint to keep up with demand.
It's not surprising that the first queer Arabic book debuted in Beirut, given that Lebanon is known for having a relatively free press (compared with other Arab nations) and a liberal capital city. However, queer activists in Lebanon still have their work cut out for them. Homosexuality is sometimes punished under a law banning "sexual acts against nature," so coming out is not always safe or even possible (hence the anonymity of Bareed Mista3jil's writers).
"Some [queer women] are very out with friends and family and closeted at work; some [are] out at work [but] closeted to families. There isn't the notion of 100 percent out," said Shant.
MEEM is now campaigning to overturn 534, the Lebanese law used to punish homosexuality, and maintains a monthly e-magazine, Bekhsoos.