Dana after the Beirut disaster..the struggle for survival and discrimination because of gender identity

On the line between Mirfa and Karantina in the Lebanese capital, there is a small house consisting of two floors, the area of ​​​​the basement does not exceed 30 meters, while the upper floor is a small room that accommodates one person.

The house is small but striking, looking like a green space in the middle of an arid desert, surrounded by unfinished buildings, which were destroyed by the explosion, and they became like the buildings of Beirut after the Lebanese civil war.

Dana comes out of the upper floor, she doesn’t need to talk to show how much anger is raging inside her, anger mixed with sadness and surrender. An equation that is difficult to understand except for those who are actually in that place.

Dana’s face is a mixture of all of that and more, she is briefly depressed, like everything has turned gloomy in and around the harbor.

She descends from the second floor, and, sitting on a plastic chair, says even before greeting: “What do you want to know? Look around. Here is hell, welcome.”

Dana, a transgender woman, used to enjoy a beautiful life, everything about her is joyful.. She works, earns money, and has many friends and acquaintances. During the day she does her beauty work, and at night she goes out to enjoy music and friends.

Dana is silent for a while and then talks about “friends I’ve all lost”, or rather it turns out that they weren’t really friends: “They were taking advantage of my generosity. Today I don’t see any of them, as if they had disappeared or had never been in my life”… The words came out of her mouth with difficulty.

When the explosion occurred, she and her friend were in the house, not knowing how they survived together.. The proximity of the house to the harbor makes the chance of survival almost impossible. Only the abandoned building facing her house may carry the definitive answer in staving off part of the pressure of the explosion from her small house, which seems even after its restoration. Weak in the ability to withstand rain, so how is the situation in the face of highly flammable chemicals?

For 3 days after the explosion, she and her friend were looking for a hospital to treat their wounds until they reached Sidon, and there they underwent treatment, then another tragedy appeared: Dana could not get food for more than two days, she was sitting in front of her demolished house, and she asks what next? Dana lost everything in seconds. Life was sweet. That time is over.

The building facing her house was her sanctuary for days on end. The building is reminiscent of the days of the war, and of many dark stages in the history of Lebanon. It was the shelter that Dana sought refuge in, who refused to leave the area, her home and its surroundings.

She “stolen” from somewhere nearby some of the timber used in construction, and erected what looks like a tent on the corner of the alleged building, and slept days and nights, in a spot surrounded by all kinds of rubble and backfill, and slept with her eyes watched over a house that had become a thing of the past. (The UNDP later rebuilt the house.)

When the reconstruction phase, which was undertaken by foreign associations and NGOs, began, Dana waited for someone from her “country” to ask about her. This did not happen. She waited for a long time while she slept beside the rubble of her house. Someone came under the pretext of helping, asking, “Are you a man or a girl?” Dana loses her temper when she hears this question: “What does this question have to do with help, or with what I need? No home, no food, no drink, no money, not even a phone. Then they ask me if I’m a girl or a man.”

“A lot of people come and say they’re here to help,” says Dana. “They take pictures and take pictures with me, they hear me say nice things, so I start weaving big dreams, and then they completely evaporate with the dreams. I don’t believe anyone. They are all liars.”

After every photo that she publishes, Dana and her family are insulted and slandered by associations dealing with gay and transgender people, saying: “Helm” (the Lebanese association that works to improve the legal and social status of gays and transgender people) helped me for two months and then disappeared. They say they are with homosexuals, but where are they?

She is angry and angry at everything around her. Nothing good, the explosion took all of her life or hope.

“I can’t mention the names (who received assistance from us) because this is a breach of the privacy of individuals,” says Tarek Zeidan, CEO of Dream. In the end, we cannot replace the state. This crime bears the responsibility of the authority, which must be held accountable and bear responsibility for what it has done against people, and the LGBT community is among these people… and he suffers much more.”

Other than Helem, another association appeared and asked it what it wanted? She said she needed bread and a can of tuna every day, so her rep disappeared.

Others asked her, so she asked that they go to a shop at the beginning of the street and pay her debts. I asked the shopkeeper the next day if anyone had come and paid her bill. He replied in the negative. Dana’s disappointments in an endless year. Now she is not waiting for anything. “I don’t want to live,” she says.

Before the explosion, she did not feel that she was being ostracized or that her gender identity was an accusation, or the object of bullying or discrimination. The reality has now changed. She is subject to all kinds of discrimination. Besides the small house, there is a good space for raising chickens. She runs to the entrance to the house, takes a trash bag and puts it on the table. You open it and take out the old bread that has rotted. “I go around the containers and collect the bread to feed the hens, get the eggs and eat,” she says.

On the corner of the table is a small plate with a few dry olives. This is what is left for her to eat on another of her fateful days.

For Dana, “everyone is a thief.” If you hear her brother say he’s going to help her, she’ll say he’s a liar. The authority as you see it today is a group of thieves and criminals: “If people steal from each other, then what is the situation for those in a position of authority”? she asks in amazement.

Dana walks the soldiers around her house, takes a cigarette from each one, and returns home, waiting for a new day… with the same misery.

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