Senior Brendan Carchidi, who majors in Global Interdisciplinary Studies, French and Francophone Studies, and Arab and Islamic Studies, received a VURF travel grant to visit Montréal, Québec to interview staff members from HELEM, the first Arab LGBTQIA organization in the world.
"Thanks to the generosity of the Dean Adele Lindenmeyr from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Drs. Thomas Smith and Allison Payne from the Honors Program, and the Center for Research and Fellowships, I was able to travel to Montréal, Québec to interview staff members from HELEM, the first Arab LGBTQIA organization in the world. Although its headquarters are based in Beirut, Lebanon, HELEM-Montréal, I came to learn, played an integral role in the founding of the organization, and continues to play an integral role on international fronts of queer politics. Perhaps unlike other organizations in the Middle East and North Africa, HELEM looked to the rich, extensive Lebanese diaspora before establishing itself in Lebanon’s capital city; Montréal was one of the most promising locations for such efforts, in addition to Paris, New York, and San Francisco. Interviewing staff members of the HELEM-Montréal proved to be an excellent learning experience in the realms of community building. I came to appreciate the many challenges faced by HELEM on both microcosmic and macrocosmic levels particularly in terms of funding and coalition building with Euro-American focused groups. Like its parent organization in Beirut, HELEM-Montréal has nonetheless persisted to serve and support queer Arab communities across Québec, and challenge normative narratives in transnational LGBTQIA communities in the hopes of greater understanding and equality."