Marginalization is a worldwide issue, but its impact is especially present in Arab countries, including Lebanon, a country where homophobia is, unfortunately, a recurring and common phenomenon. According to many secular and religious authorities in Lebanon, being anything other than heterosexual is perceived as a sin against nature and god and carries with it the threat of hate and judgement.
Borderline Love in Beirut, the first novel by author and translator Majd Zaher, brilliantly illustrates the struggles of the LGBTQI+ community in Lebanon and accurately presents homophobia as one of the most recurring forms of marginalization. In a society where conservative and religious sentiments can run deep, internalized homophobia is a very common phenomenon that can lead to an extremely damaging self-image and to the absence of self-acceptance. This is why books like Zaher’s are so important: they promote inclusivity, push acceptance, and validate the struggles of an unheard community.
In the tragic love story that is Borderline Love in Beirut, Zaher portrays love as a potentially damaging challenge that includes unmatched sacrifices and that ends in a heart-wrenching tragedy. Passion, indifference, acceptance, loss, love, isolation, dependence, recklessness…it is safe to say this book is everything but a walk in the park; but its turbulent quality is what makes it a worthwhile read.
At the heart of the novel are two individuals struggling to find their place amongst a society that doesn’t accept them, looking for shelter amidst a storm of prejudice. As their lives entangle, they soon face their tragic downfall. Zaher successfully poses a question to his own society and demands answers for the ongoing difficulties of being accepted for who one really is.
Borderline Love in Beirut is a book that anyone can relate to. It is a raw representation of life and love and doesn’t sugar coat or romanticize the damaging challenges that it presents. In a country like Lebanon, a book of the sort is necessary to encourage change and to shed light on oppression and inequalities that are faced by countless young people, especially the LGBTQ+ community.
While homophobic and anti-LGBTQI+ sentiment still weighs heavy on Lebanese society, there have been positive achievements in recent years. In 2017, a major step was taken towards LGBTQI+ equality in Lebanon after Beirut held the first ever Pride celebration in the region. In 2018, a court of appeals in Mount Lebanon re-examined Article 534 of the Lebanese penal code that claims that having any sexual relation that contradicts the law of nature is illegal and will be legally punished. This statement was often used to penalize people suspected of being part of the pride community. Judge Randa Khoury, however, stated that homosexuality was indeed not a crime, which was an enormous milestone for LGBTQ+ community.Abolishing laws that discriminate against homosexuals and other members of the LGBTQI+ community in Lebanon is crucial and Zaher believes that it is a major step towards inclusivity and integration throughout the country.
Publications like Borderline Love in Beirut can be powerful messages of hope for many who feel alone or desperate to be heard. While the book tackles a variety of topics related to marginalization and social exclusion, but its support and sensitivity towards the issues facing the LGBTQI+ is especially poignant, for readers of all ages and backgrounds.