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Yaesoun Hamoud 12 May 2015

It Happened to Me: A Gay Drive-By Pick Up in Gemmayzeh

A while back, a foreigner friend came to visit me in Beirut. Even though he’d been to Jordan countless times, he’d never quite made it to Lebanon. When I tried to explain to him how Beirut is completely different from Amman, he never understood what I meant.

After just a few hours here, he admitted that despite everything I’d told him, Beirut surprised him. He simply didn’t expect to see the kind of carefree drinking in the streets and general party atmosphere that I proudly showed off. So, on his last night, we were walking through Gemmayzeh, beers in hand, when we reached the intersection coming down from the main Achrafieh road. A black SUV suddenly stopped in front of us and the driver rolled down his window and began speaking to us.

“Hey, do you guys know a good place to party around here?” he asked in English.

I was a bit surprised. The guy looked Lebanese and I didn’t quite understand why he would be asking for a place to party right as he was about to head toward Mar Mikhael. I assumed he must be from some other country and it was his first time in Lebanon.

“Just keep going either way on this street and there are lots of pubs and places to drink and party,” I replied politely.

I could feel behind me that my friend was exuding an awkward vibe, which I accredited to him being shy. The driver’s next question did throw me off a bit, however.

“Do you know any gay places to party around here?” he asked earnestly.

I know, I’m the most oblivious person in the world but I still didn’t understand what was happening. So, I politely replied.

“Yes, there is a place called Bardo in Hamra. Other than that, I’m not sure.”

My friend’s awkward vibe was much stronger now. I was still just trying to kindly assist this lost man. Then, the man just came out and said it.

“Look, I’m wondering if you guys want to come party with me? Are you gay?”

I was beyond shocked. Was this normal? I’d never experienced anything like this before. I stammered something like, “We’re not interested, sorry.”

“Alright, have a good night,” the driver said, giving me a high-five and then speeding off.

Recovering from the shock, my friend started laughing. He told me he knew from the moment the guy pulled over what was happening. I didn’t quite know what to think. I guess it was a compliment?

It does say something about the sad state of a large segment of Beirut’s homosexual community. Closeted men are forced to solicit random strangers, hoping that they will accept the crude offer. Anyway, the experience definitely proved to be a unique one for me in Beirut: a gay drive-by pick up.