A year ago, on August 4, 2020, a massive explosion ripped through Beirut, the port city and capital of Lebanon. That night, over 200 lives were lost, and 6,500 people wounded in what was one of the largest non-nuclear explosions in human history.
Among the most impacted were the city’s LGBTQ+ communities. The neighbourhoods of Gemmayzé and Mar-Mikhael — considered as safe havens, and home to Beirut’s LGBTQ+ communities — were severely damaged. Within moments, lives and relationships were changed, and those who lost their homes were forced to seek shelter in non-affirming households — among family and friends.
“From here, I watched in horror and helplessness as my childhood home collapsed, and I could not imagine the hardships our community members were facing in the wake of the pandemic and now the explosion,” Ian recalls.
Through this anguish and the will to throw light on the struggles and resilience of Beirut’s queer and trans communities came the idea for 'Shattered Hearts' – an oral history project. On April 17, as a birthday gift to himself, Ian decided to travel to Beirut to tell their stories and fundraise for their recovery.
Through June, Ian met with and interviewed 14 individuals who lived through that fateful evening. It was overwhelming to go through over 40 hours of video footage recounting the pain and suffering of these individuals.
“Beirut’s LGBTQ+ victims of the explosion are the forgotten among the forgotten. We should see them, listen to their stories, understand their fears, and help in any way possible.”
Most of Ian’s subjects identify as trans individuals, and the disproportionate levels of discrimination they have faced does not come as a surprise. There are others that have been seeking refuge in Lebanon, escaping violence and persecution in their neighbouring home countries.
“In addition to the global pandemic, the explosion exposed and exacerbated an already weak economy, political corruption, and lack of government supports. Additionally, LGBTQ+ folks are subjected to homophobia, transphobia, gender, and racial discrimination,” Ian adds.
Through Shattered Hearts, Ian hopes to tell the stories of the people he met, as well as those of countless other people who are picking up the pieces a year later. “Funds raised through this project will help provide essential supports to our protagonists. All additional funds will help offer aid, and many other community members tell their untold stories, from their shattered hearts.”
“What can make life better? Having it return to the way it was before the explosion, getting a job and a place of my own. I dream of finding work, but for that I must move back to the city. I am ready to work hard and make enough money to afford my own place.”
– Moudi, 38, a Shattered Hearts participant
Learn more about Shattered Hearts: https://www.thequeerproject.org/
Read and watch all the stories: https://www.thequeerproject.org/stories/