Beirut, the Provincetown of the Middle East - NYTimes.com
While homosexual activity (technically, sexual relations that officials deem “unnatural”) is illegal in Lebanon, as in most of the Arab world, Beirut’s vitality as a Mediterranean capital of night life has fueled a flourishing gay scene — albeit one where men can be nervous about public displays of affection and where security guards at clubs can intercede if the good times turn too frisky on the dance floor. But even more than the partying, Beirut represents a different Middle East for some gay and lesbian Arabs: the only place in the region where they can openly enjoy a social life denied them at home.
Asu, a 35-year-old gay man visiting from Damascus — who, like many men interviewed in Beirut, asked that his surname not be published — said that only two close friends in Syria knew that he was gay and that there were no bars, clubs or cafes in Damascus where gay Syrians felt at ease.
“I thought I would meet other gay men at university in Syria, but it didn’t happen, and then I thought as an adult man living in Damascus that it would happen, but it hasn’t,” said Asu, who was nursing a club soda at Wolf, a gay-friendly bar near the American University in Beirut. “I’m 35 years old. I feel very lonely at home. There’s only the Internet for me, to e-mail with other gay men. The Internet, and Beirut. I try to come here every year now, because it is a relief.”