The Guardian

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From giving refuge to offering makeup sessions, Helem is an umbrella for some of Lebanon’s most marginalised people. Tucked away in a quiet neighbourhood of Beirut, Helem, the first community centre for LGBTQI+ people in the Arab world, opens its doors every day from midday to evening. Everyone is welcome. Inside, in a study bathed by the afternoon sunshine, Wael Hussein, a 24-year-old gay man, is chatting with Naya, a transgender woman, ahead of International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia (IDAHOTB) on Thursday. Behind the two is a bookcase filled with donated titles, including Les Amantes by French lesbian writer Jocelyne François. “This is my other home, I consider people here as my family,” says Wael. “Many come to find friends – outside, they find it difficult to be accepted.” Compared with other countries in the Middle East, such as Iran where homosexuality is punishable by death, Lebanon has a relatively thriving LGBT community.

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