The American University of Beirut values inclusivity as one of its core principles, with gender and sex-based discrimination against its community being prohibited by Title IX.
This coming Thursday, an event on “ ‘Homosexuality’ in Lebanon: the Challenges of Modernity” is being hosted by the AUB Insight Club. The talk will welcome two medical practitioners and university professors who hold problematic and outdated views on the subject, believing that homosexuality is an illness that can be cured using reparative (shock) therapy.
For several reasons relating to our core beliefs as Outlook, we have co-signed an email to the administration in protest of the event, along with the Gender and Sexuality Club, the Feminist Club, the Red Oak Club and other AUB students.
Before discussing these reasons, it is essential to note that this protest is not an attack on the Insight Club, whose members are welcome to reply to with an op-ed in Outlook. This is only a protest against an event that would perpetuate false information, as well as incite bullying and hatred towards an already persecuted segment of the student body.
Although AUB encourages freedom of thought and dialogue, even that has its limits –which is something that Outlook has learned through 67 years of trial and error. Today, the Editorial Board has made the judgement that this event risks veering into hate speech by negatively categorizing the LGBTQ+ community and reinforcing its subordination.
According to an official statement released by the Insight Club, the subject will be approached from an academic and scientific perspective. The controversy lies in the fact that the guest speakers, Dr. Raef Rida and Dr. Raafatt Mikati, hold outdated perspectives that were discarded by the international medical community over 20 years ago.
Today, all reputable medical or psychological associations –including the Lebanese Psychiatric Association and the AUBMC –agree that homosexuality is not a disease, and does not need a cure. Attempts at converting an individual’s sexual orientation are condemned as they are harmful to their psychological well-being, often leading to depression and suicide.
Dr. Raef Rida does not hold that belief. He endorses electroconvulsive therapy, and believes that homosexuality is a form of deviance. How do we expect the LGBTQ+ members of our AUB community to feel safe and accepted when information about their “illness” is being passed as scientific evidence within their campus walls?
We cannot accept hate speech in our newspaper because we refuse to perpetuate it on campus, and we refuse to see it perpetuated, as well. We hope that the administration will see the distress and possible harm that this event inflicts on the AUB LGBTQ+ community and act promptly to prevent it.