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August 4th 2021

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December 2022

In Solidarity with Ontario's Drag Performers

November 2022

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Notice of The 519 Annual General Meeting 2022-23

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Green Space Festival 2022: Neighbourhood Information

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April 2022

Lifting the Blood Ban: A Step in the Right Direction

March 2022

Trans Day of Visibility: Affirmations and Calls to Action

Online Dating Safety 101

International Women's Day: Our History, Our Reality, Out Future

February 2022

The 519 Black Collective – Black History Month 2022: ‘Black Health & Wellness’

November 2021

Public Statement on Trans Day of Remembrance (TDoR) 2021

October 2021

PRESS RELEASE: The 519 Annual Gala 2021

The 519 Annual Gala 2021 – Meet the Artists

September 2021

September 30: The National Day for Truth and Reconciliation

The 519 Board of Management Candidates 2021/22

August 2021

The 519 Annual General Meeting 2021-22

Shattered Hearts, Healing Together

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Shattered Hearts, Healing Together

For 12 years and counting, Ian Abinakle has played the key role of producer of the Green Space Festival, The 519’s largest annual fundraiser that goes to support our year-round essential programs and services. In 2020, an unforeseen tragedy in Beirut took Ian back to his childhood home to tell the stories of Beirut’s LGBTQ+ communities, and soothe their shattered hearts. 

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. 

Collage of a portrait of Ian and a photo of him recording a scene in Beirut
Left: Ian Abinakle; Right: Ian onsite at Beirut. 

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. 

Screengrab of a video interview with one of Ian's participants. Silhouette of a person against a light.
Screengrab from one of Ian's interviews with a participant of the project.

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/

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