Gay


Shaheryar Ali

 

Understanding the issue of Gay liberation in Islamic Republic is a theoretically difficult and problematic notion for a variety of reasons!  Whilst the level of historical development as with other post-colonial states, ensures incomplete modernization, the existing union with international capital, forces a post modern sensitivity through out urban centers of Islamic Republic. It is still theoretically problematic to assert the existence of either “Gay” community or Gay liberation in the country. The pattern of “Men Having Sex with Men” and their women counterparts remains largely “pre-Modern” in the sense which Foucault elaborates as an “aberration” rather than “specie” (as is the case in industrialized societies). The pattern which exists mostly in the Islamic Republic takes form of Man/boy, Senior/junior and Macho/effeminate polarities and enjoys a level of social acceptability in almost all parts of Islamic Republic especially outside major urban centers but it could be dominant pattern even in these. The practice does not seem to induce “gay label” on the participants, which is especially true for the dominant polarity (man/senior/Macho). A common binary opposition which has been defined in these contexts is the one based on “performance” (Active vs Passive) where the “active partner” appears to enjoy a level of societal approval as this role is understood to be enshrined in the “Masculine identity” in many parts of the country. This also seems to suggest the “gay” label is only extended to receiving partner. This is the argument that one listens most from the urban gay activists but have always been a problematic notion for me to understand. Urdu has no word for “Homosexual” or “gay” nor does any of the regional language. “gando” the word commonly referred to in this context denotes some thing else. It does not strictly or exclusively denotes a passive partner. In Pre modern pattern “bacha” and Londa” are more important in this context. One can argue the extant of specificity these terms have as londa in vernacular denotes simply a “lad”but has been used in sexual context as well. Mir the foremost Master of Urdu poetry said “ Mir bare saada hein jis sabab bimar hue! Ussi Attar ke “londe” se dawa lete hein! Moreover there are no words for “Top” in in Urdu as such apart from words coined by urban chatters. Which represent more of constructed jargon than language! Language has been understood as “house of being” so I am not very convinced about this binary opposition. The trap here is too fall for what West has taught us.  The discourse on these matters is heavily laden with orientalist connotations. What is very conveniently forgotten In this regard is the fact that the same sex relations historically were more socially acceptable in East than in West. The Baghdad which is frequently alluded too by our moslem romantics was not only rich in philosophy science and Jihad but also in hedonism. Mutawakil had herm of thousands of castrated Roman lads and one Caliph had to explain to a visiting Mufti who was astonished to see his highness surrounded by cute youth that “he has never untied his trouser cord for what has been forbidden”. The European travelers to Ottoman empire were horrified to observe the openness of same sex relation in baths of Consentinople. Europe of middle ages remembered the Arabs and muslims as “sodomites”. Literature is full of such episodes. One ironic example is that of a Austrian lad who went to a handsome Turk prisoner of war and was utterly disappointed on his refusal failing to understand how a Turk not be a sodomite! Kohat observed frequent same sex wedding in Raj. Photographs exist in private collections. The “modern gay scene” is limited to only a handful of people mostly exposed to European society and westernized or semi westernized families. They are not representative of most of the “People who have sex with Same Gender” (PSSG) in the Islamic Republic. In absence of gay community the efforts to “liberate gays” might reduce the “social immunity” which a wide number of PSSG seem to have in Islamic Republic.

The so called pride event in USA embassy has in my opinion exposed these people to risk of death, social alienation and torture. The behavior which is indigenous will now become “western disease” which needs to be eradicated. Any one who is properly integrated in Pakistani society (not the isolated modern or semi modern Islands in Islamabad Lahore and Karachi) knows that homoerotic behavior is a significant part of local discourse and is not noticed or bothered much unless it crosses over from its designated sphere ie It is not worn on ones face or pumped up as a pride event.  Rather is often a matter of laugh, taunt or dislike by friends and usually does not lead to much serious consequences. (Apart from few cases in recent past which are result of more Gay visibility and emergent homophobia). The strategy of modern gay liberation in a society where modern lifestyles have not been universally accepted can be counterproductive. The orientalist approach in this regard must be discarded. The movement must be integrated with movement to secularize the country. The queer activists need to integrate themselves to the wider political struggle in the country. They need to be part of the rank and file of the resistance movement.  Winning the respect and acceptance of their colleges and comrades they need to introduce the agenda of sexual liberation in the emerging political leadership of the country. Not only this, they need to become part of this leadership.

The example of 20th century has explained to us the limitations of the identity politics in general. Whilst African communists and ANC were able to end apartheid in South Africa at level of the bourgeois state, the segregation in the society has not been abolished. The overwhelming number of Africans still lives in abject poverty without any access to the social standards which a White South African enjoys. Xenophobia has emerged as a dangerous consequence of the discontent which the “liberated” Africans feel. Same could be said about USA where the historic civil rights movement apparently ended the legal segregation but failed miserably to achieve social integration. An African American has become president of USA but the socio-economic and health indicators of the most advance nation of the world demonstrate a divergence which is startling to say the least! The poverty and health indicators of parts of USA are comparable to African states. African Americans are still more likely to have no access to health care and are more likely to be in prisons than the white Americans.

Though Gay rights have been granted in Europe and USA, Homophobia in the society effectively nullifies these gains. Homosexuals still face discrimination, exclusion and violence in USA and Europe. The most problematic aspect of this is the fact that these legal reforms tend to discriminate on a class basis. Where more socially advantaged classes seem to get benefit from these reforms but those from under privileged classes suffer exclusion. From the perspective of a social activist who is interested in emancipation it presents itself as an existential dilemma , where one tends to stand at the same point where he started before the “victory”. The criticism we are offering to the “liberal” model here is frequently misunderstood and sometimes described deliberately by our liberal friends as “deference” of the Question of Rights! This essentially is not the case!  This is essentially is a criticism of the political approach which deferred the question of “Human emancipation” indefinitely in favor of certain legal protections which practically have favored a small minority of oppressed communities thus resulting in actual increase in discrimination and social segregation. This is a criticism of the fragmentation of progressive movement which plays one oppressed community against another! Jews vs Blacks Vs Hispanics in USA.  Women vs Gays etc and favors the dominant sections of society to effectively remain in control. This is the criticism of the approach which sees “reforms’ as the endpoint of the struggle rather than emancipation. Reforms are certainly desirable and should be encouraged but only in a context of a holistic political agenda which seeks to unite people in struggle for socio economic emancipation or we will keep having “victories” without effect and ‘changes” without change!

“Invisibility” and “Silence” are the hallmark of  fascist societies. A national stereotype is built and than implemented through ideological and coercive apparatuses  of the state. Gender is an important battle ground in these “nation-building” projects. A section of Pakistan’s founding fathers was already obsessed with “Super-man”, it was recycled as “Merd-e-Momin” of Iqbal during times of General Zia-ul-Haq when Pakistan and United States were creating stunned merd-e-momins to fight the infidel Russia. Destroying a staunchly modern  republic of Afghanistan, and purging all liberal-secular thought from Pakistan [where it existed as “Reds”], were only side effects of this policy. The creation of a hyper-masculine gender stereotype of “Merd” Momin” and “Mujahid” as being the stranded criteria for being a “Pakistani” was the main ideological catastrophe of his time. It was a time of systematic gendericide which was done with approval of “liberal” western democracies like UK and USA who supported Zia-ul-Haq and his ruthless islamization. It was also the time of one of the most glorious Leftist-feminist resistance against Imperialism and Islamic fascism. Feminist-leftist poets like Fehmida Riaz and Kishwer Naheed were put on trial for high treason and had to escape from the country. The feminist discourse took a sharp radical turn but its impact of general Pakistani society cant be felt even today because of the state’s selective gender policies. With these policies , women, transgendered , homosexuals and even str8 men who didnt subscribe to “Tripple M” formula, the Merd, Mujahid and Momin slowly became invisible from society. What does it mean to be “different” in terms of gender and sexuality in Islamic Republic of Pakistan is very important to understand.  These people have a very vibrant but invisible existence in Pakistan. They are all around us, but we dont see. Invisibility has given them security to live a life otherwise impossible in the Islamic Republic, to make websites and to throw parties . The cost is to become a non-being, to wear a giant cloak of invisibility of dont-ask-dont-tell. The result on society as a whole is disastrous, its becoming more monolithic than ever. Recent Supreme Court’s decisions has declared transgendered people “disabled”. The silence and invisibility paved the roads to Auschwitz. Those who were gassed were not only Jews and commies but also gays and “disabled”

Shaheryar Ali

Nuwas Manto gives a touching personal account on what it means to be gay in a deeply religious and conservative country like Pakistan, where homosexuality is considered a sin and male effeminacy scoffed upon.The article was published in The Pink Pages , India’s fist Gay magazine. Mr Manto hails from Lahore, the self designated cultural hub of  Islamic Republic of Pakistan. He is a young student who defines himself as a “secular-humanist” and he blogs at A Pakistani-Humanist Blog.

Being Gay in Pakistan

Nuwas Manto

In Pakistan the word ‘gay’ is synonymous with the word ‘eunuch’. It doesn’t really matter whether you have a penis or not. One of my friends quite sincerely, in order to identify my sexual orientation, asked me if I get erected and if I ejaculate. Upon receiving a positive response he thereby concluded there is no way that I can be gay. Of course, it doesn’t matter if one gets erected while watching gay porn or straight porn. That has nothing to do with his sexuality. Poor Kinsey. Such an easy and traditional method to identify sexuality and he spent years on research!

But this unscientific approach towards human sexuality is not limited only to my friend, but to a majority of Pakistanis, who view Islam and homosexuality as being mutually incompatible. It’s none of their business what the heck science has to say when it comes to diversity in sexual orientation. What matters is the word of Allah, the Supreme Being. I am not trying to be anti-religion, but anti-Irrationalism. Twenty years ago, it was a rare sight to see a woman driving on the roads of Lahore. Today it’s impossible not to see one, or else you are not in Pakistan. But even today if a woman gets divorced, or worse, if she demands a divorce she is considered to be a shame, in the former case, or a slut, in the latter. According to a family friend of mine, those women who can’t be good housewives can’t be good women at all. So, I guess those men who can’t be good husbands can’t be good men too. Hey wait! World, we are out of good men in Pakistan!

But of course, men are men. You see, there is no harm if straight men penetrate into the backs of these filthy gay men. After all, they are the ones penetrating, not being penetrated into. In Pakistan there is no concept of diversity in homosexuality: ‘Top’, ‘bottom’, ‘versatile’. Every gay man is a bottom. I myself, seemed to believe this till I met some who really were not. Due to lack of knowledge concerning the field of human sexuality, there is a belief that homosexuality is based upon lust, not love. That is the information that heterosexist minds are fed upon. In my country, as I explained before, there is no difference between a eunuch (hijra) and a homosexual man (not gay woman). Therefore if you get into a fight with a gay man there is always the best way to insult him. This most astonishing word that the founders of the Urdu language ever created: Khusra! I have become used to hearing it. During school, because of my effeminacy was made fun of. My family has always been, and I guess will always go on to till I don’t change myself, tell me how I should become more manly. How I should talk, walk, speak, eat, hold the glass, and the list goes on. I am told that I can’t be open about my sexual orientation because that would bring shame to my family. After coming out and writing openly on facebook about my sexual orientation and my non-religiosity, my brother sent me a furious message from the UK telling me to better mend my ways before he kills me for defaming the name of my father .Of course many homosexuals take their own life! When your family is not supportive, when some of your friends hold on to you (but still view homosexuality as a disease they must tolerate), when many people who are in a process of becoming good friends of yours stop talking to you the very next day after you told you’re gay, there seems to be no other way out but to kill yourself.

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Muslim Gay Pride,London

But then that sort of humiliation is not limited to your enemies only, but also extends to your family. Whenever there is a fight between me and my sisters, they have one word to shut me up. Yes! You guessed it right: Gay. Why am I telling you my story while my task was to inform my Indian friends about the gay subculture in Pakistan? Well, my story speaks for many. However I am still lucky. I know what gay rights are. I know what I must demand from this world. I know it’s okay to be gay, and although I am an Atheist now, I also know that it’s okay to be gay and Muslim at the same time. I have done research on Islam and homosexuality to some extent and so I believe that homosexuals can live peacefully in the Islamic world only if the interpretations of the story of Lot are done in a way that is devoid of bigotry and hatred.

But many homosexuals don’t know that. They are happy to be gay and perform namaz five times a day as long as there is no mention of homosexuality and the name of Islam together, whether in a homophobic tone, or in that of advocacy. If that happens they are torn between sexuality and religion, both of which are equally important in a man’s life. You must not be surprised when I tell you that when I talked about re-interpretation of the Quran in order to reconcile homosexuality and Islam, there is no way they can digest such an idea. How can all the Ulema be wrong? And more importantly, there seems to be such a crystal clear mention of homosexuality as a sin in the Quran. Guess what, there is no word for homosexuality in the book! The words used to describe it are anything but ‘homosexuality’. The closest that it comes to is the incident where Lot asks the people whether they would give up the woman that God had given them, for men (his guests, who were Angels in reality subsequently came to inform him of his near destruction). Now there can be various interpretations of that. But even when you ask you anti-gay or confused homosexual friends to quote where in the Quran there is a direct reference to homosexuality, and when they are unable to do so, they find it hard to absorb the information. Okay, I understand. Twenty years of radical anti-gay brainwashing isn’t going away in a day or two. But what really piques me is the fact that in order to defend their religion orientated homophobia, my people would even go on to defy scientific evidence.

But not all is bad. More and more people now believe that gays should have rights to a proper life too, although not in a large numbers. Again, as long as homosexuality and religion are not brought face to face, people won’t be ready to tolerate homosexuality. Now when homosexuality is discussed in relation to Islam, there is an obvious defensive behaviour. What is really funny is that these same people forget their Allah’s divine anti-gay verses when they are offered a blowjob! I have tested at least two guys who went to lengths to explain to me why Allah hates homosexuals. But when I offered to have sex with them , they didn’t lose a second to accept it. (Of course I didn’t have sex with them. I have some self-respect you know!)

The female homosexual scene is almost non-existent. Lesbians seem to not exist at all. Therefore they can be saved from the general wrath of society when they dress like boys and act like one. There is no concept of tomboyish girls being lesbians, although there is a strong notion that all effeminate men are gays and all gays are effeminate (something that I must admit even I used to believe at one point of time). But returning to the discussion of Pakistani gay woman, I seldom hear about a lesbian, and have never heard about an out and proud one. But my poor sisters suffer from two kinds of discrimination: based upon both gender and sexual orientation.

My Indian friends must have noted that Pakistani Gay sub-culture is not much different from that of the Indian one, nor are our fears, hopes and everyday toils. Therefore, we must erase the international borderlines with love and respect towards one another, and work towards helping our brothers and sisters live a life of bliss regardless of their nationality, sexuality, religion, or ethnicity.

KJ

By Michael T. Luongo
April 29 – May 5, 2004
Gay City News
New York, New York

With thanks: Global Gayz.Com

Many travel writers concentrate on beaches, pools, and colored cocktails in sunset lounges.I have done all of that for sure, but last fall I found myself in Afghanistan, a nation at the center of the upheaval and change roiling the world.

I’ve had a curiosity about Afghanistan since childhood that began with the 1979 Soviet invasion. Breshnev-era images of tanks rolling over mountains and the brave Afghans defending their homeland on horseback have stayed with me my whole life.Yet, I also live in New York, whose history is now forever linked with Afghanistan.

A few days after September 11, I was on a Ground Zero bucket brigade clean-up crew. Our task was clearing debris from a fire truck on what had been the West Side Highway. It was only for one day, and I only had the opportunity to be there because my brother-in-law is a police officer and got me access.Surrounded by the acres of rubble that were once the Twin Towers, I thought about my intense interest in Afghanistan and resolved to travel there in the hopes of better understanding what had happened here.

Most Americans have shunned international travel since 9/11, but for me the tragedy instilled a sense of camaraderie with war-torn areas. I felt that New York had become a war-torn city myself, so visiting another didn’t seem daunting to me. In the two years between 9/11 and my visit to Afghanistan, my curiosity about the country’s gay life was also piqued. I frequently ran across articles hinting at widespread traditional Afghan acceptance of homosexuality. The New York Times mentioned boys covered in make-up who greeted U.S. soldiers.

peopleDetails magazine discussed the homosocial standards of much of Islamic culture, based on separation of the genders, and reviewed Trolley Press’ 2003 book “Taliban,” in which photographer Thomas Dworzak presented images of effeminate Taliban warriors that he unearthed.

I also read “An Unexpected Light,” by British adventurer Jason Elliot, which discussed war-weary Afghan men who expressed delight about his soft skin when he visited during the Russian invasion.All these works, and others, however, were compiled by straights who wavered between curiosity and repulsion at the phenomena they discussed.

To the best of my knowledge, no gay Westerner had infiltrated gay Afghan life. I decided I would be the one to do this. But every Afghan American I knew was worried about the prospect of my traveling to their country on such a mission, especially the members of the Afghan-American Peace Corps, formed by members of the Afghan Diaspora living in New York who wanted to aid their homeland in the wake of 9/11.

As I planned my trip in consultation with AAPC members, they backed out of their mission to bring cows they would purchase in Pakistan to widows in rural Afghan regions for safety reasons. In the end somewhat reluctantly I traveled alone, relying on contacts given me by friends.My fears, and those of my Afghan American friends, proved unfounded.

By the fall of 2003, Kabul was relatively safe. I often wandered the streets alone, even after nightfall. Most Kabulites were happy to meet foreigners, especially Americans. The city was rapidly rebuilding with new shops sprouting next to piles of rubble. There was even a tourist district along Chicken Street where souvenir and rug vendors sought the attention of soldiers, foreign workers, diplomats, and the odd backpacker.

To be sure, all of this vitality was mixed with children begging, legless mine victims on crutches, and women who remained true to the tradition of wearing burqas. But, Kabul was undoubtedly undergoing a revolution of investment and modernization, post-Taliban. I also found that homosexuality easily came up in conversation, even with some government officials. An Afghan national who worked in a Western embassy but only wanted to be identified by his first name, Mohammed, gave me historical background on the topic. Certain Afghan tribes, he explained, especially the Uzbeks and Pashtuns, were known for male sexual behavior.

The city with the greatest reputation for active homosexuality was Kandahar, the headquarters of the Taliban. According to Mohammed, male couples “were even holding wedding ceremonies after the Taliban arrived.” The Taliban tried to control it, he explained, but “it was so common in Kandahar, they were able to embrace it.”

Apparently, traditions of homoerotic behavior have come down from ancient times in Afghanistan. These customs carry on to this day, according to Mohammed, at rural weddings where dancer-boys entertain male crowds, wearing anklets that make music as they move. people

Sometimes, he explained, they “dress him like a woman.” Many of the boys are available for sex.“It has two parts––the dancing part and the sexual part,” Mohammed said. “The sexual part, no one will confess.”These relationships seem to be widely known, even acknowledged implicitly, but they are far less often discussed openly and they are illegal.“

The sexual part, it’s a problem,” Mohammed said. “The man and the boy can go to jail.” I wanted to go to Kandahar because its homosexual reputation seemed most pronounced, and Mohammed’s stories about the city involved relationships between grown men, rather than a man with a youth, as seemed more common elsewhere. Kandahar’s reputation for homosexuality also came up in discussions with some young men I photographed in Kabul’s Babur Gardens pool.

The comfort Afghan men have with their bodies surprised me. Some willingly posed semi-nude in front of a foreigner’s camera. The fall of the Taliban appears to have unleashed a cult of working out. Some of these men proudly asked me to photograph them at their pools, saunas, and gyms. Several of the gyms sported pictures of Arnold Schwarzenegger, still more famous there for his muscles than his politics. At the pool, when I questioned the swimmers through my translator about the Taliban’s notions about body image, several made a joke of the question, claiming that the old regime was made up of gay men––Kandahar “playboys” as they called them––who loved to see naked men.Yet, even as Afghan men joked about the Taliban being gay, they did not seem terribly put off by the subject of homosexuality.

In front of a mosque, I came across a group of construction workers on break, one in traditional clothing, which made for an ideal picture. His friends joined in as I photographed and one very handsome worker essentially took over the shoot. In any Western country, he’d have been a model. Perhaps 20 men in all gathered and quickly realized I was gay, based on my interest in the handsomest man. It proved to be no problem at all; some of the older men pushed us together, asking, “You like homosex?” They were so open, I was the one who was shocked. As I spoke to Mohammed about my hopes to visit Kandahar, he warned me that a foreigner faced the risk of assault for prying into local life there. people

Add to that the choice between the $900 cost of the 30-minute flight from Kabul––more than my freelance budget allowed––or a bus ride along a road where workers were killed just before my visit, and I reluctantly decided to forgo the trip.

My most interesting peek into gay life happened much the way that it would in the West. On the street, a handsome young man held my stare, throwing glances back as he passed. He was a 21-year-old English teacher who I will call Munir, to protect his privacy. Half an hour flew by as we conversed, with men in uniform and women in burqas parading by. Munir wore a neat, though dusty black suit.

In spite of its post-war ruin, Kabul is a cosmopolitan city and Munir tried hard to maintain decorum, even a sense of style. Sex had really not been on my mind when I embarked for Afghanistan, but I was attracted to Munir. His response to my interest struck me as very sophisticated. “I knew what you wanted when you told me I was attractive. I am from Kabul, I know these things,” he said, before adding that at 35 I was too old for him, Afghanistan being a society where few men live through their 40s. He suggested that I meet his 26-year-old friend, who I’ll call Syed, who already had a 35-year-old boyfriend.“This is Kabul,” Munir said in an urbane manner. “Anything can be arranged.”

I returned to my hotel, the Mustafa, full of journalists and odd characters, to prepare for a visit to Munir’s home. The owner Wais, an Afghan American from New Jersey now back in his homeland, knew I was investigating Kabul’s gay side, but I was not out to his staff. I told them simply that I was doing interviews. Abadullah, the protective assistant manager, always insisted on knowing my whereabouts and expressed fears I would run across Al-Qaeda insurgents. When it was time for me to head to Munir’s, Abadullah told me my trip was not a good idea, but then gave instructions to a cabdriver. Abdullah’s warnings rang louder in my head the further the driver went.

Munir said he was only five minutes from my hotel, but the ride seemed to last forever. We were slipping from the Kabul I recognized into places where electricity no longer worked. The crowded streets of Kabul gave way to suburbia, then patches of nothing interspersed with little low-rise communities. I called Munir on my rented mobile, but he sounded drunk, and I could hear people laughing in the background. He’d invited friends to meet me, which made me wary. When we arrived, Munir was on the street with a few friends, including Syed, who was bearded and traditionally clothed. Munir led us up the street to what he called his “special room for men.”

peopleA red light shone from the house’s second floor window. Had I happened on a gay brothel? There were eight men, most in their 20s and 30s, sprawled on cushions. Self consciously, I sat under a large window. Through a wall, I could hear women in the house, but I never saw them. I felt on display with so many men around me. Soon, more entered. If I were here to meet Syed, who were they?

The conversation was stilted, and perhaps they needed to be put at ease as much as I did. Munir at times translated as I asked about life under the Taliban. This broke the tension, and several men brought out photo albums.The men who had gathered together were a masculine bunch. Munir’s brother, who I’ll call Abdul, was a military martial arts teacher, Syed an auto mechanic, and several were bodybuilders. Virtually all of them had fought against the Taliban.

They proudly showed me photos from the army, including one showing Abdul parachuting out of a helicopter. Each man waited expectantly as they showed me pictures, searching intensely for my reaction. It was as if each wanted to prove his bravery, and with each photo, I felt as if I were being wooed. Courage against the Taliban seemed to be their erotic calling card.

They were also clearly interested in talking about sex. One young man asked about English slang words, and offered the tip that the Afghan word “milk” also means masturbation. He then talked about prostitutes, mentioning a Chinese restaurant that fronts for a brothel, clueing me in to the open secret that Kabul is rampant with prostitution, tailored to the needs of foreign workers. This man was 20, married with children.

genericI asked him how in a traditionally Islamic country he knew such things. He responded by challenging me to tell him about my wife or girlfriend. Finally, the young man said, “When we meet a man who does not have a wife, and does not have a girlfriend, we call him a sissy. What is another word for that in English?” One of the men, I’ll call Ali, a brutally handsome man with wildly wavy hair, then put his arm around me and nudged closer. He played with the muscles on my arms, comparing them to his own, his other hand rubbing his crotch.That was when the 20-year-old man simply blurted out, “Munir said you like to do homosexual things.” I refused to answer.

I felt vulnerable, even if the mood was jovial. I asked once again how they could be open about such things in Afghanistan when it seemed so conservative, at least to outsiders. One young man chimed in, “Not under the Taliban, but Afghanistan is a democracy now, we can talk about anything we want.” I couldn’t figure out where all this talking was leading, and worried that maybe my curiosity, a travel writer’s virtue, had finally gotten the best of me. We danced around topics until I understood that nobody meant me any harm.

Several men insisted I sleep there, Munir’s brother being the most persistent, letting me know how happy he would be if I lay beside him. “If you stay here, you are sure to have a ball,” he said. Still, I decided I should go. Munir and Abdul drove me back into town.

As we proceeded through the darkness, Abdul said his brother was an Al-Qaeda member. Afghans commonly say this as a joke, but alone with the two men, I worried until central Kabul came into view. Two days later, confident that my doubts during my first visit were merely the jitters, I returned to Munir’s house to a smaller gathering––just him, his brother Abdul, Ali, Syed, and a fifth man.

The men had planned a massage party, with Ali and Abdul vying for me. Munir continually dared me to kiss his brother, but each time Abdul pulled away at the last minute, laughing. To make me look Afghan, they put a wrap on my head and we all danced. They wanted us to dance with their guns, but in spite of what interesting photos that would have produced, I declined.The neighborhood was full of parties that day, so we wandered music-filled streets, and I was welcomed by several families they introduced me to.

genericAs the night progressed, I was comfortable enough to stay over, and Ali and I slept in each other’s arms, after caressing each other for hours. I don’t think I’ll forget those nights in Munir’s house, but it provided I think only a hint at what homosocial and homosexual behavior means in Afghanistan. Afghan men have lived through hardship, killed for their country to free it from the Taliban, and treat guns like fashion accessories, but strict Islamic rule means they’ve probably never seen a woman naked.

Homosexual behavior might simply be a replacement for physical intimacy they can not get otherwise in their lives––a workaround. Still, I seemed to have encountered a society that accepts affection between men as a wonderful thing. I am eager for my return to the country, and my chance to experience Kandahar too. I can only wonder for now what I’ll find.


IftiNasDr Ifti Nasim is a famous poet of Urdu. He belongs to Pakistan and is based in United States. He is a great gay icon for the emerging gay liberation in muslim societies.

I have written about him before as well.  A cultural Hero: Ifti Nasim. Dr Nasim is a progressive man involved in social activism. He has send me his new poem. The poem is simply beautiful. A love poem it speaks about the tender emotions of adolescence and the conflict of  sexual identity

A Boy Taught me How to Kiss a Girl

Playing Cricket was praying

Five times at once.3011447462

Every evening after

We all gather in the school ground

Like a different sets of animals

Around the watering hole

In Serengeti.

Some playing Hockey

Some Football

Some doing nothing, reading, watching

Some predators.

We both were sweating rather drenching.

We jump in the swimming pool.

My fear of water and drowning came over me.

He knew.

He held my arm and waist and made me swim.

Coming back home at dusk

He looked around.

Under a mango tree

He held my face in his palms

And put his lips on mine.

Fragrance of freshly dropped rain on hot earth

Surged in my palate

I was tasting cloud.

“ That’s how you kiss a girl.”

He whispered in my ear.

Ifti Nasim

Chicago

5/13/09

desperate_housewives_gay

There has been a lot of hype few days back in media and in the blogosphere about the radical pro-people Supreme Court. Some of these “radical” decisions include orders to destroy poultry feed which contained Pork , probably Pakistan’s public enemy number one and “granting of rights to the Hijra community,  the traditional indo/pak  transgendered community. Yet other “pro-people” decisions included the populist racket to lower the petroleum prices which was beyond its mandate and was reversed by the executive  in few hours with no reaction from the SC  and which drew angry responses from serious commentators like Ayaz Amir and Dr Ayesha Siddiqa. The action on NEPRA was a similar story where SC after getting  headlines in Right Wing press allowed government to increase the electricity prices as planned with some cosmetic changes.  All these show a paradigm shift in the character of SC ,  from judicial activism its moving towards Judicial populism and in the longer run trying to take the position which Pakistan Army enjoys in relation to the weak political dispensation. Whilst the English speaking elites have hailed the decision about the Hijras as some great civil right victory, freethinker elaborates what does it means for the LGBT community of Pakistan, for it means nothing. It has only increased dangers for us. A genuine civil rights  decision is what Indian High Court has taken. Whats happening in Pakistan is “rotten radicalism” which exists only in minds and it changes nothing and only helps establish reaction.
SA
Cross Posted At : Bazm-e-Rindaan

Through the last month, Pakistani media celebrated the recognition of the citizenship rights of the hijra community by a Supreme Court ruling which declared them entitled to ‘protection guaranteed under Article four (rights of individuals to be dealt with in accordance of law) and Article nine (security of person) of the Constitution’. The ruling has been hailed as an important step toward the integration of ‘the Third sex’ into the Pakistani society, who are now going to be registered and surveyed (with ‘Third Sex’ designating their gender on the ID cards and forms) so as to enable them to access the services of state social welfare departments and financial support programs. What does it mean – recognition of citizenship rights? It means enfranchisement, access to avenues of power and justice, along with better opportunities for education and health-care. But those lofty goals of modernity that always excluded the hijra are still going to remain out of their reach – the future of economic empowerment for anyone on the margins of Pakistani economy is bleak, the road to justice is not particularly favorable to the poor and the illiterate, and the hijra as yet do not enjoy any special ‘minority’ rights that are needed for political mobilization and combating discrimination in a liberal democracy. Yes, modernity in Pakistan does not seem likely to empower our social outcasts.

hijras_getting_dressed_copyThere has been little serious discussion of this SC ruling online or in the print media: no speculation whatsoever over the meaning of gender in Pakistan, or whether this ruling is right in creating a hijra subject for the purposes of bureaucracy. What is going to constitute ‘the Third sex’? And what happens to those who do not qualify for this category? What about those ‘gender-confused’ people who do not want to be identified as ‘Third sex’, preferring instead to be identified as ‘male’ or ‘female’?. According to the article quoted above, the hijra are ‘left by the society to live by begging, dancing and prostitution’, to be exploited by the ‘self-styled guru’ – does it mean that after this ‘social uplift’ program, they will be made to give up their lifetyle? What if they can’t? Does discrimination go away after formal barriers to progress have been removed, or does it merely become invisible and more difficult to fight? With the avenus of empowerment formally open to them, wouldn’t the society find it easier to blame them if their ‘begging and dancing and prostitution’ continues? Will they be persecuted or will we realize that a ‘respectable’ life is just not possible for the hijra without a radical change in the society, its institutions and maybe our ideas of ‘respectable’?

These questions do not surface because of the complete exclusion of a view from the transgender standpoint in our media. This not only means that the interests of the transgendered go largely unarticulated in our media, but also that the experiences of hijra remain shrouded in mystery. With a bourgeois mentality that is reluctant to recognize gender deviance (‘inverted’ gender identification, same-sex desire, transvestism, and other inappropriate behavior, all of which, it can be argued, find a measure of acceptance among the more traditionally minded who allow their sons and daughters to join the hijra), the hijra are comfortably assigned a ‘Third sex’, . Online, a few articles can illustrate this: it is thought that the hijra are ‘almost invariably hermaphrodites’, when in fact they are not, consisting in a large number of ‘biological’ males who would be described in the West as ‘transgendered’ and ‘transsexual’. Because of that, you find people talking about ‘the true hijra‘ and ‘the cross-dresser’ who only tries to pass off as a hijra. The castration ritual evokes feelings of fascination and horror; it is something that goes against the ‘rational’ sensibilities of most Pakistani moderns. Of course most of us are conditioned to react with feelings of revulsion and pity for their lifestyle, associated with shameless beggary, singing bawdy songs, dancing in the streets, prostitution and even theft and kidnapping. But these feelings also show under the ruse of rationality in articles like this and this. Such write-ups also show the hijra as the enigmatic, untamed Other of the Pakistani society. This is why it is easy to link the hijra with the rise of prostitution, the spread of HIV and other ‘evils’, especially for those who do not want to criticize the system of relationships that produce these problems. It seems as if we do not want any understanding of the hijra; we have alwayswanted to fina a way to deal with them.

An understanding of the hijra begins with an understanding of the society. Ours is a society where, in traditional spaces, you find life strictly segregated on the basis of gender, and where it’s not segregated, there is blatant male privilege. The (patriarchal) family reigns supreme as an institution that organizes much of life, based on appropriate gender role socialization, a preference for sons over daughters, early marriages marked by ceremonies that are a public spectacle, and an exclusive system for the care of the young and the old. Transgendered children have an awkward presence in this life –  they cannot take the responsibilities of a son, nor can they be married off. And who will take care of them when they grow old? All this makes the marginalization of all ‘gender-confused’ a necessary condition of our social organization. And the ‘unfortunate condition’ of the hijra as a community becomes even more understandable when you think about the effects of urbanization and modern life itself, which has taken away their traditional place in the society and exposed them to sexual exploitation

And so, I do not find this Supreme Court ruling very heartening. There’s nothing radical about it: by proposing that ‘the hijra problem’ can be solved by ‘registering and surveying’ them, it locates the problem in a few particular conditions of the hijra life, and not in the society. And of course no real change will be achieved: the program will suffer from the usual pitfalls of an inefficient bureaucracy. Moreover, the cause of the hijra is in danger of getting co-opted, who do not need to worry now that the State is doing all it can to save them. Gender injustice is a site of revolutionary potential, and that can be lost with the State apparatus formally committed to the ‘social uplift’ of the hijra. But, like I said before, there will be no real ‘social uplift’ because the focus is on saving them from this unfortunate situation, rather than working to change the deeply embedded norms of our society

But perhaps the greatest danger, to which I’ve only alluded so far, is further entrenchment of the gendered order. The hijra have traditionally aroused feelings of awe in the rest of the society, because they defied gender as taken for granted by everyone else. Increasingly, people’s attitudes toward them is changing, as people rid themselves of ‘silly superstition’ and see the hijra as part of the lumpen masses. And I can see this official recognition as ‘the Third sex’ taking the demystification of the hijra further along. When they are seen as another sex category, the gendered body politic of the society comes to regulate and control them as well, their bodies becoming ‘sexed’ and providing the basis of a sex role, a body ideal, and a clothing distinction that applies to their sex. Much more likely is a medicalized view that ‘pathologizes’ their condition as defective maleness or femaleness (‘intersex’ as the medical classification goes), like it did in late 19th century Europe and became a part of the notorious eugenics movement. The concept of ‘intersex’ is heavily criticized by transgender activists in the US. In Iran, an adherence to this concept has led to a State-funded program of SRS operations which has both religious and scientific backing. The rationale behind these potentially life-threatening operations is the ‘integration’ of their ‘hijra’ into the society, but that does not necessarily mean a better life (from the documentary ‘Transsexuals in Iran’) for the gender-ambiguous of Iran.

At this point, we cannot project anything about the future of the hijra of Pakistan. But what is clear is that there are good reasons to be skeptical about this Supreme Court ruling. Perhaps then, the wise thing to do is to see this decision as inevitable in the given political context (as Basim Usmani reflects toward the end of his article), and not to endorse it as a positive step toward the liberation of the gender-ambiguous from an oppressive social structure.

Free Sajjda still awaits Freedom!!

Free Sajjda still awaits Freedom!!

The landmark decision by Delhi High Court which has declared that clause “unconstitutional” which criminalizes homosexuality has opened up a new gate of Freedom not only for India but also for this whole region. Section 377 of Indian Penal Code which criminalizes homosexuality was a dirty legacy of British Imperialism. Justice Murlidharan, has not received any “Harvard Medal of Freedom” unlike our honourable  Chief Justice, but his decision is truly revolutionary.  Our great chief justice despite having received “Harvard Medal of Freedom” has not written a single decision which could bring freedom to Pakistani Ahmedis, homosexuals, Dalits [Musalli of Punjab] or Balochs. All his decisions have empowered military dictators. The situation is not peculiar to Justice Iftikhar and Justice Murlidharn, the comparison goes beyond that when “secular” Muslim League created a communal state. While writing this decision Justice Murlidharn quoted Jawaherlal Nehru’s vision of equality and secularism which he put forward in “objective resolution” of 1946. One “objective resolution” was passed in Pakistan too by Muhammed Ali Jinnah’s prime minister “Nawabzada” Liaqat Ali Khan, in which state of Pakistan was for ever declared subservient to Quran and Sunnah. Our secular clowns spend all their time in proving secular credentials of Jinnah and PML but they never look at the reality. Nehru’s vision made India a constitutional democratic state no matter how much “Hindu” he was in his heart [as these thugs say] , Jinnah made a muslim nation state and his PM made it Islamic no matter if both of them drank wine . Nehru’s Objectives Resolution is quoted by a judge to bring freedom and end bigotry and Jinnah’s PM’s Objectives Resolution is quoted by Mullahs and Taliban to justify their insurgencies. This is the verdict of history. Below is the excerpt from the landmark decision. I am thankful to my dear friend Vijay Sai for sending me the decision. Today i say from the core of my heart “Joy Hind!”

Shaheryar Ali

jawaharlal_nehru“CONCLUSION 129. The notion of equality in the Indian Constitution flows from the ‘Objective Resolution’ moved by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru on December 13, 1946. Nehru, in his speech, moving this Resolution wished that the House should consider the Resolution not in a spirit of narrow legal wording, but rather look at the spirit behind that Resolution.

Nehru said, ‘Words are magic things often enough, but even the magic of words sometimes cannot convey the magic of the human spirit and of a Nation’s passion…….. (The Resolution) seeks very feebly to tell the world of what we have thought or dreamt of so long, and what we now hope to achieve in the near future.”

130. If there is one constitutional tenet that can be said to be underlying theme of the Indian Constitution, it is that of ‘inclusiveness’. This Court believes that Indian Constitution reflects this value deeply ingrained in Indian society, nurtured over several generations. The inclusiveness that Indian society traditionally displayed, literally in every aspect of life, is manifest in recognising a role in society for everyone. Those perceived by the majority as “deviants’ or ‘different’ are not on that score excluded or ostracised. 131. Where society can display inclusiveness and understanding, such persons can be assured of a life of dignity and nondiscrimination. This was the ’spirit behind the Resolution’ of which Nehru spoke so passionately. In our view, Indian Constitutional law does not permit the statutory criminal law to be held captive by the popular misconceptions of who the LGBTs are. It cannot be forgotten that discrimination is antithesis of equality and that it is the recognition of equality which will foster the dignity of every individual.

132. We declare that Section 377 IPC, insofar it criminalises consensual sexual acts of adults in private, is violative of Articles 21, 14 and 15 of the Constitution. The provisions of Section 377 IPC will continue to govern non-consensual penile non-vaginal sex and penile non-vaginal sex involving minors. By ‘adult’ we mean everyone who is 18 years of age and above. A person below 18 would be presumed not to be able to consent to a sexual act. This clarification will hold till, of course, Parliament chooses to amend the law to effectuate the recommendation of the Law Commission of India in its 172nd Report which we believe removes a great deal of confusion. Secondly, we clarify that our judgment will not result in the re-opening of criminal cases involving Section 377 IPC that have already attained finality. We allow the writ petition in the above terms.”

Ah, the magic lurking in the dry legalese:

We declare that Section 377 IPC, insofar as it criminalises consensual sexual acts of adults in private, is violative of Articles 21, 14 and 15 of the Constitution.

Shining India. Joy Hind

Shining India. Joy Hind

If the country had not been torn apart by British stooges today, Pakistani homosexuals would have been nearer to freedom. Indian courts once again have acted independently . While our courts are releasing monsters like Hafiz Saeed Indian courts are making India more secular and democratic. SA

From BBC:

Activists welcome India gay ruling

Gay rights activists in India say a ruling by the Delhi High Court decriminalising homosexuality in the country is a landmark. The judgement overturns a 148-year-old colonial law which described a same-sex relationship as an “unnatural offence”.

VIKRAM DOCTOR, WRITER AND GAY RIGHTS ACTIVIST

The ruling is a huge step forward. It is fantastic. I hope the government of India accepts the Delhi High Court decision. It has been an eight-year battle and I am glad it came through.

In one way it changes nothing – there are many gay couples in India anyway. In another way, it changes everything.

Till now we were considered to be criminals. If a gay couple wanted to buy a house together, it was not possible. No financial institute would even consider them.

Participants in a gay march in India

Rights groups have long campaigned for a repeal of the law

I am not saying they can do this now but now we can start fighting.

There are gangs who target gays as they would not go to a police station for the fear of being booked themselves. Even some policemen are part of these gangs.

In Lucknow there has been an incident where even social activists working with MSMs (Men having Sex with Men) for HIV prevention have been detained by the police. And these incidents happen everywhere.

NITIN KARANI, GAY RIGHTS ACTIVIST

For me, most importantly people who are afraid to come forward will be able to do so. It is very difficult to reach out to HIV-positive people.

Also families who use this section to scare their children and get them married forcibly won’t be able to do so.

This ruling will contribute in making society’s attitude more positive. Cases of police harassment may reduce. I have seen people driven to suicide. I hope this decision gives more confidence to gay people to come out, be less afraid.

ADITYA BANDYOPADHYAY, LAWYER AND GAY RIGHTS ACTIVIST

We are elated. It’s a path-breaking judgement. It’s a historic judgement, it’s India’s Stonewall.

I think what now happens is that a lot of our fundamental rights and civic rights which were denied to us can now be reclaimed by us.

The government has so far been pandering to narrow parochial groups, religious groups but the court order shows that India is ruled by constitutional laws and not by vote-bank politics.

It’s a fabulously written judgement, and it restores our faith in judiciary.

ANJALI GOPALAN, NAZ FOUNDATION WORKING ON HIV PREVENTION

We have finally entered the 21st Century. The government can’t ignore this.

GAUTAM BHAN, GAY RIGHTS ACTIVIST

This is a long-awaited and incredible judgement.

The judges in their verdict spoke about inclusivity, equality and dignity. They spoke about a vision of India as an open, tolerant society and to hear all this from the Delhi High Court was amazing.

SCOTT LONG, TRANSGENDER RIGHTS PROGRAM, HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH

This legal remnant of British colonialism has been used to deprive people of their basic rights for too long.

This long-awaited decision testifies to the reach of democracy and rights in India.

British colonisers introduced Section 377 to India in 1860. It became a model for similar sodomy laws imposed on other British colonies, and comparable provisions survive today from Singapore to Uganda.

Most of the world’s sodomy laws are relics of colonialism. As the world’s largest democracy, India has shown the way for other countries to rid themselves of these repressive burdens.

CELINA JAITLEY, BOLLYWOOD ACTRESS

I’m overwhelmed. It’s great not to be criminalised for being a human being and what you do in your bedroom.

WENDELL RODRICKS, FASHION DESIGNER

It is a historic moment for all of India. It has been a long fight. Now, one is not a criminal when anyway one was not in the first place.

It is a move in the right direction and I would go further to say that India is not a religion-run state and this decision is restoring dignity to a community that has been fighting for a long time

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