"Pamela," whose name has been changed for fear of retribution, prepared to go on stage for a drag show in Beirut. She performed for about 70 people, mostly from the LGBT community, who gathered in a small room in the city, back in 2010.
"Pamela" stuffed her bra with water-balloon condoms before she hit the stage at an underground drag show. While homosexuality is illegal, there are, paradoxically, a handful of famous drag queens who perform publically in Beirut. The government turns a blind eye at times.
She took a rest before getting into her glittery pumps as part of her act, which she performed to blaring pop music.
"Kifa" slipped into her high heels before the drag show in Beirut.
It was almost showtime for "Kifa" and "Pamela." After the show that night, Kifa left his eyeliner on and took the bus home, where the bus driver spewed insults at him.
"Aphrodite," 21, is not only a gay-rights activist, but also considers herself an active feminist. The LGBT community has become extra cautious since a raid in August, when 36 men were arrested at a movie theater. Three of them were charged with homosexuality, and those charges were partially based on anal exams that sparked the protests in August.
"Aphrodite" posed for a silhouette shot so as not to reveal her identity. While the community is still the target of harassment, after the raid in August, the Lebanese Broadcasting Corp. opened the story with, “It's the republic of shame." People spread the word via Facebook and Twitter and as the BBC reported, “For the first time, it was not only gay-rights activists who were debating and condemning the practice but mainstream society.”
"Lemon" says she is outspoken about her homosexuality, and sees that openness as one of the best forms of activism. She prefers to start with the people next to her, which is an act of defiance in of itself since many in the community suffer discrimination at home and among friends.
Randa, an Algerian transsexual fled her home after receiving death threats and settled in Beirut.
Her book, The Diary of Randa the Trans, was displayed at a bookshop in Beirut.
An activist draws the gay character Shakibeh, which is featured in Bekhsous magazine in Beirut.
Gay activists cuddle on the steps in Beirut.
A poster of a same-sex couple embracing decorates the office of HELEM in Beirut. It is considered one of the Arab world’s leading gay-rights groups. The acronym, in Arabic, stands for "Lebanese Protection for Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals and Transgenders." A very vocal organization, an entire tab on their website is devoted to the question, “Is Helem legal?”
As a wave of political strife struck Lebanon this summer, gay-rights activists came out against intrusive tests on men suspected of having “intercourse contrary to nature,” which could lead to one year in prison. For a look at gay life in Lebanon, Laura Boushnak goes to an underground drag show, visits with activists and tells their story in pictures.