Today, I am 30. And after being born in Beirut in 1982, I return for the first time to celebrate my birthday in this wonderful city.
It promises to be an awesome weekend, I have guests visiting from San Francisco to Hong Kong, and I hope to make my country proud by showing them the sights, having them taste the food and live the generosity of the Lebanese people.
Even though I am blessed for having a wonderful family, incredible friends, a stellar education, a job and solid health, I cannot help but think about all the benchmarks I have had in my life. People that have inspired me and continue to do wonderful things for those that are less fortunate.
In this day and age, it sickens me that where you are born defines who you can be.
In Africa, having HIV means you have no access to the drugs that can save your life, and even if you do, you may not have the necessary nutrition that makes these nasty cocktails effective. You may live in the middle of nowhere, which means you struggle to get clean water let alone to get to the clinic to collect your medication on time (if ARVs are misused, you become immune to them and they are therefore ineffective).
So, what about the kids in Africa that are born with HIV? Why aren’t they allowed to have the treatment and life that so many of us in the western world take for granted? And the 16.6 million kids whose parents have died of AIDS and are surrounded by stigma and a lack of love?
Equality comes in many other ways too. Being born gay in Northern Europe means that you are accepted, by your parents, the people at the bus stop you see everyday, by your neighbours, school friends, work colleagues and society as a whole. You can fall in love and not have to hide it, be heartbroken, marry, adopt and divorce. Basic rights that most people take for granted. You can lead a fulfilled life and contribute to society fully.
But what about that poor boy that’s born into a family in a strict household in the middle east? Is he to pretend and get married to a woman, whose life is also plunged into misery and resentment simply because he was born in the wrong place? No.
Women’s rights, freedom of speech, access to education, the list goes on.
We, and I mean everyone and not just in those in the west, have an intellectual responsibility. A responsibility to educate, support organisations that alleviate these issues and give up time/money/our voice to support equality in its many forms.
It is time for us all to wake up, unite and support equality. It is time for us all to be free and be accepted.