Extensive studies have shown repeatedly that there is a direct and indirect relationship between discrimination and marginalization against LGBT people and major health issues especially in the areas of mental health, HIV/AIDS and access to care.

In Lebanon, while stigma and taboo provide an overall context for the marginalization of LGBT issues, including LGBT health, government and media censorship pose a direct obstacle to any efforts of promoting the health of LGBT individuals. This year, we share with you an unfortunate example of this censorship.

While TV and radio stations routinely host individuals who freely spread myths and misconceptions about homosexuality, LebMASH has been banned from appearing on several TV programs and radio shows to discuss its awareness campaigns and the reasons vary between “we don’t talk about these things out of respect to our viewers” to “these issues are taboo in Lebanon”.

And earlier this month, despite several candidates in the recent parliamentary elections speaking publicly in support of LGBT rights, the Lebanese General Security decided, without a given reason, to ban the airing of a series of billboards that were meant to be part of a LebMASH campaign aiming at raising awareness around homosexuality not being a disease and more importantly highlighting the harmful effects of attempts to change people’s sexual orientation. The billboards were meant to display the three following messages:

– Homosexuality is not a disease
– Homosexuality is a natural state
– Attempts to convert gay people are harmful and should be banned

It’s worth mentioning that these messages are backed by science, have been endorsed by major mental health professional organizations around the world, and have been endorsed by our own Lebanese Psychiatric Society and Lebanese Psychological Association in 2013. But, due to government censorship, 72% of the Lebanese public will continue to believe erroneously that homosexuality is a mental illness, and numerous parents will continue to drag their teenage gay sons and lesbian daughters to mental health professionals so they can be subjected to various forms of harmful mental and physical practices in the futile attempt to “convert” them from gay to straight.

By Omar Fattal, MD, MPH LebMASH Executive Board Member

Transgender health guidelines: Covering the gap in knowledge among healthcare providers around transgender health

Beirut, May 10th 2017: With the support of the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH), the Lebanese Medical Association for Sexual Health (LebMASH) brought closer to the Arab speaking world the Standards of Care (SOC) for transgender and gender non-conforming individuals.

LebMASH took the initiative to translate these international health guidelines on transgender health to Arabic in order to make them accessible for both healthcare providers and transgender individuals. LebMASH believes that this translation will play an important role in starting the conversation around providing gender-affirming care to transgender individuals in Lebanon.

In collaboration with the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public health, LebMASH also conducted interviews with healthcare providers to assess their knowledge about transgender health. Additionally, interviews were done with pharmacies to assess the current prices and availability of hormone therapy provided to transgender patients during their transition. Representatives from organizations who work with the transgender community were also interviewed.

Dr. Chady Ibrahim, psychiatrist and LebMASH board member launched the press conference by defining transgender identities (individuals whose sex at birth is different than their gender identity). Dr. Ibrahim then talked briefly about the different points addressed in the Standards of Care and how different healthcare providers can use these in order to provide better care to transgender people.

Dr. Omar Harfouch, LebMASH president then talked about the lack of knowledge around transgender care among healthcare providers. Dr. Harfouch also addressed stories of discrimination, violence and attempts of murder that were facing this community.

The discussion that followed the presentations focused on the role of the media in fighting discrimination that faces transgender individuals as a gateway to providing this community with better health. Community engagement within research was also a focus of the conversation in which Dr. Harfouch insisted that LebMASH will be consulting with the transgender community about future steps in research and when educating health providers.

LebMASH thanks its volunteers, the WPATH, and all those who attended the event and support our cause. You can watch the video of the event at: https://www.facebook.com/lebmashorg/videos/1562180723794325/

Please feel free to email us with your questions or suggestions at info@lebmash.org