By Natalia Elmani
LAU Tribune staff
Walking slowly up the large steps in front of Nicol Hall, Tarek leans down to kiss his friends on the cheek as he makes his way to the edge of the stairs, an area that is the base for his contagious laugh and poppy jokes.
Just like some of the other men at LAU, he dresses in the casual jeans and tee shirt, but lets a little color beam through with small accessories.
Tarek, whose name has been changed for the purpose of this article, is openly homosexual. Regardless of his sexual preferences, he has made a name for himself with both males and females, acceptant to any and everyone.
His contentment didn’t arise from the moment he stepped through LAU’s gates, but rather coagulated overtime with accepting friends.
“When I first came here, it was a bit hard on me because I came from an environment that was really gay tolerant and accepting,” Tarek explained. “Even the gay people at LAU weren’t out, but having me as someone who’s out, kind of opened the door, or made things easier for them.”
Homosexuality can sit on the forefront of many people’s minds, yet on the back of people’s tongues; considered a taboo, sin or downright disgusting, homosexuality is yet to be accepted throughout a majority of the country –and many on campus.
“It’s not something I like to see regardless of where I go, and especially not in university,” Ali Sulaiman, a business student, said. “In university, we come to learn, not to see this kind of stuff; I don’t tolerate drinking at university, so I don’t tolerate homosexuality either.”
Investigations suggested that an invisible divider stretches its lines across various areas on campus. Students who sit around the Fine Arts Building are more tolerant toward homosexuals. Students who sit near the Business Building seemed to dislike, or completely reject, the idea.
Serene Dardari, a student who conducted a survey of LAU students’ acceptance to homosexuality, witnessed the same differences.
“People at Fine Arts are more open-minded so everyone’s okay with homosexuality, but if you go to the upper gate and Business Building, it’s pretty bad, they have a more violent approach,” the radio/TV/film student noted.
Dardari reported that she herself was scrutinized for asking about the topic.
Tarek knows what the young woman is talking about.
“I wouldn’t go to the really upper area where the Shiite people sit, or the conservative Druze people or the Sunnis who are really into politics sit,” Tarek explained. “I wouldn’t go to Malik’s alone the whole time because the people up there are a little bit more homophobic; I choose areas where I know I’m accepted.”
Dean of Students Raed Mohsen said he has neither witnessed, nor heard of an incident in which a homosexual student felt threatened or unwelcomed within LAU.
“The environment in the classrooms is receptive, heterosexual students don’t have any negative reaction or feedback to gay relationships,” Mohsen said. “Occasionally, you have one or two students who would say something like I will not accept my daughter or son to be gay.”
Mohsen feels that, for awareness to be instilled within the students, problems that cause a division throughout the students must first be witnessed.
However, the problem may be more deeply embedded than one may think.
Rita Merhej recently conducted a small survey in her social psychology class –a simple questionnaire about homosexuality.
She found 19 out of 23 students acceptant to homosexuality, but quickly began seeing question marks. The results seemed all too real, and alongside various students in the class, she wasn’t the only one to believe that even though the survey was anonymous, students weren’t completely honest.
“One of my impressions was that I perceived a lot of embarrassment. Although it wasn’t their answers, they were reading other answers without even knowing who that other student is,” Merhej recalled. “You would see some embarrassment among some students; raising of the hand was a bit shy or timid.”
Merhej also found that students were acceptant of homosexuality at a distance, yet, when it became closer to their personal boundaries, positive reception took a sudden dive.
“In general it’s wrong. On campus, of course it’s wrong,” a business student said. His surrounding friends explained to him that homosexuality is in people’s “hormones.”
Near the Fine Arts building, students were more sympathetic. “Basically the people that make situations harsher for these people have nothing better to do with their lives,” Thea Khoury, a communication arts student, said.
Meanwhile, Tarek tries to stick to his circle of accepting friends.
“It’s not a matter of them accepting or not, we exist and being here is more than enough to make our point,” Tarek said. “So I think instead of wasting their energy to stop us or mock us or say what they want to say, go on the internet and try to research the topic.”