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Queer Pakistan - 'Less inhibited than West!'

riotqueer | 20.08.2007 22:50 | Free Spaces | Gender | Social Struggles | World

As the socio-psychological concept of being queer in our times furbished another relinquish of anti-racist cacophony for persons in their count-ability to re stable life behavior!

Throughout South Asia, homosexuality has been a taboo subject. But there are signs in some areas that gay people are now becoming more open in their behaviour. In this column a gay man in Pakistan talks about the advantages of being gay there compared to the West. He prefers to remain anonymous.
It is all too common to hear examples of the repression of sexuality and oppression of sexual minorities in South Asia.

But the problem with sweeping generalisations about sexuality, or anything else for that matter, is the exceptions.

I am one such exception - a gay man who grew up in Pakistan, became aware of his sexuality while studying in the US, had most of his early experiences of love and sex there, and yet decided to come back home to Pakistan.
It will surprise many when I say that I actually feel more comfortable about myself while living here than I was in the West.
It was not always so of course. Before my return, I felt quite aggrieved when my straight brother downplayed my apprehensions about being gay in Pakistan.

I cannot remember a single occasion in almost 10 years that I have felt threatened with regards to my sexuality in Pakistan
It really was not a problem, he suggested. How insensitive and naive of him, I thought.
My brother has won the point since though. While I maintain discretion in many respects, I have come out to most of my family, with their loving support. I have also come out to all my friends, and rarely meet anyone aggressively hostile to gay individuals.

I have lived with a lover independently without anyone raising an eyebrow.
I have attended gay parties more uninhibited than any I have seen in the West.
'Differently configured'
In fact, I cannot remember a single occasion in almost 10 years that I have felt threatened with regards to my sexuality in Pakistan.
An entirely unrepresentative experience to be sure, as far as the experience of a majority of Pakistanis is concerned.
But there is no representative sample that I can think of.
Sexuality itself is so much more differently configured in Pakistan than in the West - which is where the language of the sexuality debate comes from.
This is especially true in terms of people's perceptions of their identity and behaviour, in terms of class, with regards to family and religious obligations.
I would not for a moment suggest that it is easy being gay in Pakistan.
Homosexual acts are illegal, and conservative religious and cultural attitudes mean many gay people are afraid to openly acknowledge their sexuality.
They face ostracism by their families if they do. But in a sense the American military's approach of "don't ask, don't tell" is applied throughout this society.
'Taboo matter'
True, there is a fine line between discretion and suffocating silence. But being straight is not that much easier, and is in fact sometimes more difficult when it comes to physical relationships.
What is perhaps closer to the truth is that overt expression of sexuality itself - both gay and straight - is a taboo matter in Pakistani society.
But whereas heterosexual courting and coupling is all too obvious, gay socialising can take place without attracting as much attention - with brazen abandon in a society where many forms of overt physical and emotional intimacy between members of the same gender are tolerated and even admired.
The opposite holds true for such public expression between members of the opposite sex.
Just as everywhere else, however, things are changing, driven by the exposure to information via technology.
The internet, satellite television and films all combine to give a new generation of gay men and women context to their emotions, a sense of identity, an outlet for expression and perhaps most importantly, the ability to communicate with each other.

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