Global LGBT Briefs: Lebanon and Language

Gay theater raided in Beirut, while new Chinese dictionary omits most commonly used term for gays

Compiled by Kelsey Brannan
Published on August 2, 2012, 3:57am | Comments

Beirut Authorities Raid Gay Movie Theater 

The Box Turtle Bulletin blog is reporting on a July 28 raid of a Beirut cinema reputed to screen gay pornography. According to BTB, plainclothes secret-service agents, ''mukhabarat,'' arrested 36 men.

Despite Beirut's reputation for relative LGBT tolerance, the arrested men were reportedly subjected to medical exams in prison.

Citing Charbel Maydaa, executive director of Lebanon's Helem LGBT-advocacy organization, BTB reports that ''all 36 men were subjected to anal probes in order to ascertain their sexuality — those who 'passed' the test were reportedly released. An anal probe in this context consists of a physician of some sort checking the man's anal cavity for traces of sperm and dilation diameters.'

Helem is demanding the release of those still being held.

New Chinese Dictionary, Same Gay Omission

Gay activists are angry that the most common colloquial term for ''homosexual,'' essentially the Chinese equivalent of ''gay,'' has not been included in the sixth edition of the authoritative Contemporary Chinese Dictionary, released July 12.

According to the BBC, the word, ''tongzhi,'' was originally used as ''comrade.'' The literal translation is ''same will.'' The 2010 release of China's top dictionary, the 11th edition of Xinhua Zidian, made the same omission.

The BBC reports that linguist Jiang Lansheng, one of the Contemporary Chinese Dictionary compilers, in a television interview, said, ''We knew of about the usage, but we can't include it. … You can use the word whichever way you like, but we won't put it into a standard dictionary because we don't want to promote these things. We don't want to draw attention to these things.''

Another authority, Ding Xueliang, a social sciences professor at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, told the BBC, ''There is growing sympathy towards and even support for gay people. Otherwise, there would not be so many people out there to protest against this new edition.

"But China still has a long way to go in protecting the rights of gay people in employment and promotion, and many other aspects of society."