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04/19/2007


Pakistan: 'A Gay Man's Paradise'?

Gay couplePakistan may not seem like the most gay-friendly place on Earth. Not even close, since its anti-gay laws are technically more restrictive than Russia's (Russia's laws don't actually criminalize gay sex, Pakistan's do). However, with the advent of the internet, more and more members of Pakistan's underground gay community have managed to find each other and create an underground community. Thanks to a recent article released by BBC News Magazine, we now have a glimpse into that community. As it turns out, gay men in Pakistan are a lot more sexually active than some might expect. 

The article's title sums up the situation pretty succinctly: "Gay Pakistan: Where sex is available and relationships are difficult". Precisely how easy is gay sex to come by? Just ask "Danyaal", a businessman from the wealthy city of Karachi. He tells BBC that "if you want sex...it's a gay man's paradise." Danyaal is part of the city's underground gay party scene, where invite-only parties host sometimes hundreds of gay men in a private venue where they can be open about their sexuality. That doesn't mean that gay men in Karachi only get together in private setting, though. Ironically, one of the city's best gay cruising spots is one of its busiest shrines, the Abdullah Shah-Ghazi shrine:

"Every Thursday evening, as the sun sets, men from across the city gather there. A tightly packed circle is formed and those in the centre of the circle are groped by those on the periphery. To outsiders it looks like a writhing mass of men huddling around one another. Some even describe it as a 'mysterious religious ceremony'. For participants, it's anonymous group sex. This kind of behaviour is, of course, not condoned by Pakistan's religious authorities."

...Of course. Gay sex is also readily available via a malchi walah, or a "masseuse" who offers certain "extras" for a small additional fee (the equivalent of approximately $7.80 USD). These masseuses don't usually have to worry about local authorities, either, since many of them are loyal clients. "We get important people - police, army officers and ministers too," says one masseuse called "Ahmed". Ahmed even has two wives, who know about his unusual career choice and are fine with it.  "I know he has sex. No problem," said one wife. "If he doesn't work how will the kids eat? I get angry when people call them names. People are stuck in their ways."

Gay pakistanOne researcher, Qasim Iqbal, explained the possible origins of Pakistan's casual male-on-male sex culture:

"In Pakistan men are discouraged from having girlfriends and so often, their first sexual experiences will be with male friends or cousins. This is often seen as a part of growing up and it can be overlooked by families - it's the idea that 'boys will be boys'. Sex between men will be overlooked as long as no-one feels that tradition or religion are being challenged. At the end of it all, everyone gets married to a member of the opposite sex and nothing is spoken about."

Just like Iqbal says, while gay men in Pakistan have no trouble soliciting sex from other men, relationships are much harder to come by. More often than not, they will end up marrying a member of the opposite sex for convenience purposes while continuing to sleep with men on the side. Iqbal says that:

"Gay men [in Pakistan] will make every effort to stop any investment in a same-sex relationship because they know that one day they will have to get married to a woman."

Thus, in Pakistan's patriarchal society, long term man-on-man relationships are exceedingly rare. In the case of gay couple "Ali" and "Akbar", they were allowed to continue because Ali's family was run by a matriarch instead. Akbar told BBC:

"His grandmother was the head of the house so I knew that winning her over would mean everything else would fall into place. I took the time to talk to her and convince her that I was a good person. That was first and foremost. It wasn't about 'coming out' in a formal sense. It's more important to convince Ali's family that I'm a good human being.

"She once gave me a hand-embroidered decorative cloth that she had made as a teenager. She said she was giving it to me because she knew I 'take care of things'. It was a kind gesture and a very personal kind of acceptance."

GayMuslimsExist1-e1281529089994-360x270Unfortunately, it's much more difficult for lesbians, since any sort of outward expression of sexuality by women, gay or stright, is generally frowned upon. That's why lesbians "Beena" and "Fatima" have to keep their relationship rather discreet. Beena is still in the closet while Fatima contributes to an invite-only online support group for other gay Pakistanis online. Beena says that the two of them are looking to find a gay couple with which to enter into a marriage of convenience:

"I think we'll have a marriage of convenience. I know some gay guys and maybe we'll do a deal so we put in money together and they have one portion of the house and we'll have another portion. We may as well do that."

And as for the progress of LGBT rights in their home country? Beena has noticed a correlation between LGBT and women's rights in other nations. Unfortunately, that likely means that full equality will not come during their lifetime should they choose to stay in Pakistan:

"Gay rights in America came after women had basic rights. You don't see that in Pakistan. You are not allowed a difference of opinion here. My father is a gentleman but I wouldn't put it past him to put a bullet through my head. I'm all for being 'true to myself' but I don't want to die young. I think it's selfish for me to come out and campaign for gay rights now. It's selfish to the women in my family who are fighting for education and the right to marry the man of their dreams, or not to marry at all."


U.S. Soldiers Using Craigslist To Solicit Sexual Encounters, Prompting Investigation

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American troops in Afghanistan are reportedly using Craigslist to solicit and arrange casual and discreet sexual encounters, according to the Army Times...

"Sexual activities in a war zone are as old as wars themselves, but with the advent of Internet personal ads and social media sites, arranging a sexual encounter can become brazen, public and risky. Warnings from commanders, standard guidance for any unit headed to the war zone, appear to have fallen on deaf ears in many cases."

As a result, the Naval Criminal Investigative Service in Afghanistan is now having agents monitor such sites, and investigating any potential sexual encounters as violations of conduct. The Times told the story of one soldier:

"One Marine lance corporal...posted an advertisement on Craigslist for a sexual rendezvous. The guy he met at Camp Leatherneck, whom he thought was also looking to hook up, turned out to be an undercover agent with the NCIS."

The report then went on to explain:

"Online sex solicitation is technically not a crime under the UCMJ. However, commanders have the right to enact regulations that make it a punishable offense."

How so? While it may not be against any regulations to post a personal ad, "posting pornographic images on a public web or social media site is a chargeable offense," explained Erin Stattel, a press officer for International Security Assistance Force. "Adultery, pandering, and prostitution" are also on the list of violations. Commanders can also punish soldiers on a case-by-case basis under an article that bans conduct “to the prejudice of good order and discipline in the armed forces.” Take the above-mentioned lance corporal for example. Commanders charged him with three violations: "attempting to commit an offense in violation of the UCMJ; failing to obey an order or regulation, and pandering and prostitution." The soldier accepted the punishment gracefully, but did express some resentment to the Army Times:

"It was against the rules set forth by the base general, ... so they were doing their job, but what I don’t agree with is how they were pretty much searching for people to arrest." 

Army-craigslistAs the report indicates, a majority of the Craigslist ads investigated by the NCIS are by men seeking other men. That does not necessarily mean that the agency is targeting gay soldiers. Retired Col. Dr. Elspeth Cameron “Cam” Ritchie, Army psychiatrist and chief clinical officer for the District of Columbia’s Department of Mental Health in Washington, offered a different explanation. She told the Army Times:

“When detached from home, without the ability to openly exercise relationships in a combat environment and with a fatalistic attitude, military members would be inclined to embrace risk-taking. These young men have high testosterone and, with the inability to quietly have a relationship, it is not surprising that they are willing to put themselves into that situation.”

UK's Daily Mail took it upon themselves to peruse many of the Craigslist pages in question, posting many racy screencaps on their site. The images depicted standard fare for any casual-sex-soliciting social network pages...disembodied torsos, genitals, and an overabundance of words such as "looking" and "discreet". Naturally, upon discovering news of these casual sexual encounters, conservative activists did not approve


Has The Gay Rights Movement Forgotten Its 'Gritty, Dirty' Sexual Past?

Gay-sex-in-the-70s-006Acceptance of gay people and support for their rights has reached an all-time high in this country. For the first time in history, a majority of Americans support same-sex couples' right to marry. We even have the expressed support of the first sitting president. Yet, as LGBT people delve deeper into the American mainstream, some argue that gays in America have abandoned some of the more seedy, sexual aspects of their past. 

Such is the subject of Robert A. Schanke's book Queer Theatre and the Legacy of Cal Yeomans, as well as his recent HuffPostGay piece "The Gay Sexual Explosion That Has Been Nearly Forgotten". In his piece, Schanke chronicles some of his earlier exploits in New York City during the mid-1970's, specifically touching on such old haunts as The Anvil, The Spike, The Mineshaft, and the previously-abandoned warehouse district near the Hudson River. Much to his dismay, none of the places he describes in his piece are characteristic of their former selves. He opines...

"Today, in part because of AIDS, very few of those popular gay cruising sites still exist. In our current desire to acquire civil rights equal to the straight community, we have chosen to assimilate and to clean up our act. When I recently explored some of my old haunts, I was amused. The Anvil is now a gentrified, chic restaurant, complete with white linen tablecloths and candles. The waterfront along the Hudson River has become the lovely, serene High Line public park."

Gay sex in the 70s 7According to him, "for over a decade after Stonewall, a gay man could have sex in New York almost anywhere, anytime, 24/7." As to whether or not that is still the case could certainly be the subject of debate. While gay cruising and hookup culture has almost certainly changed over the years, just because it is different doesn't necessarily mean that it doesn't exist. One quick sweep of smartphone apps such as Grindr, Scruff, and GuySpy (just to name a few), or sites like Adam4Adam, Gay.net, or even Craigslist (again, just to name a few), and one could certainly find plenty of willing sexual partners at any time of day, in virtually any city in the country. Thus, perhaps the contemporary gay movement hasn't done away with its sexual nature entirely. Instead, technology has allowed for cruisers to browse potential partners in the comfort of their own home. 

Then again, minority groups have always had to endure a bit of watering down when entering into the American mainstream. Malcolm X continues to be a difficult subject to teach in schools, due to some of his more radical teachings. Very often, those teaching about Helen Keller will conveniently gloss over her Socialist past. Such "cleaning up" is, to a certain extent, necessary when grade school teachers have to start teaching their students about the LGBT rights movement (something that this native FLoridian never got the chance to learn about until college). Thus, it will be the duty of scholars like Schanke to keep the more sexual aspects of the gay rights legacy alive. 


NEWS: Funny Money, Odd Hats, And Dubious Advice (VIDEO)

Cash4Rights

Towleroad-roadicon Have civil liberties you're not using? Turn 'em into cash, AFTER THE JUMP ...

Towleroad-roadicon Brian Moylan, late of Gawker, teaches Guardian readers how to be gay:

Everyone used to know to glance over your shoulder after three steps if you were interested in that sexy stranger on the sidewalk. There was a complex network of looks and signals that men used to use to attract each other, something that made gay men much more attuned to body language and perceptive than our straight counterparts. Learn how to do that. Not only will it improve your gay experience, but the way you interact with everyone. Street cruising is mostly dead – no, it can't be done on Grindr – but a trip to a bath house will teach you all you ever need to know.

Towleroad-roadicon The AP recaps the volleys of recrimination following the FRC shooting.

Towleroad-roadicon Moscow Pride deferred for a century.

Towleroad-roadicon In Britain, Tory support for marriage equality may cost them at the polls:

Almost six out of 10 people who attend [church] services regularly say they are less likely to vote Conservative at the next election because of the plans to redefine marriage.

More than a third of those polled said it had no effect on whether they would support the Conservatives but most of them would never vote for the party anyway.

Support among churchgoers for Labour and the Liberal Democrats was also damaged by their stance on the marriage question but the biggest impact by far was on the Conservatives.

... Gary Streeter, the Tory MP for Devon South West and a committed Christian, said: “Whatever the merits or demerits of the policy it is not smart politics.”

Towleroad-roadicon Russian clerics forgive Pussy Riot: Anna-piaggi-hat

"We did forgive them from the very start. But such actions should be cut short by society and authorities." Archpriest Maxim Kozlov expressed similar sentiments on state television, but insisted that the church hopes the women and their supporters see the errors in their ways.

The words from the two top clerics came after the church reiterated its criticism of the women but called “on the state authorities to show mercy to the people convicted within the framework of the law, in the hope that they will refrain from repeating blasphemous actions." The remarks were widely seen as an indication that the powerful church would not object if the government moved to pardon the women or reduced their two-year sentences, points out Reuters.

Towleroad-roadicon Octomom is now a musician.

Towleroad-roadicon Craving something nasty? Read some of these epic takedowns, courtesy of Longform.org. My favorite's the Peter Bart story.

Towleroad-roadicon As many as 15,000 people marched at Prague Pride. Earlier fears that the event would cause God to level the city a la Sodom proved unfounded.

Towleroad-roadicon Bill Cunningham says farewell to Anna Piaggi.


Denmark Gay Bar: No Straight Kisses Allowed

NeverMindA minor brouhaha is fomenting over the ejection of equality activist Jobbe Joller and several friends from the gay bar Never Mind, in Copenhagen. Here's what happened, from Homotropolis:

Jobbe states that ... himself and his gay friend Martin ... were going out with two straight female friends and their boyfriends. They arrived at Never Mind and entered the bar without any problems. At one point when Jobbe came back in to the bar after talking on the phone outside, he meets one of his friends who was on her way out of the bar to speak to the bouncer who, a few minutes earlier, had informed her that it is not allowed for her, as a straight person, to kiss her boyfriend in Never Mind.

“I told the bouncer that it had to be discrimination against heterosexuals to say that they were not allowed to kiss,” Jobbe says, when we ask him to explain his version of the story.

“The bouncer replied that it was unacceptable to conduct in that kind of behaviour at a gay place and that Never Mind receives a lot of emails from its gay guests concerning the high number of straight guests that visit the bar. I asked him if it was not the same as saying that black people are not allowed to kiss in Never Mind, but he disagreed and told me that the owner of Never Mind may decide who can kiss and who can’t kiss in the bar,” says Jobbe, who also admits that he did not let the discussion stop there, but stuck to his argument on the alleged discrimination against heterosexuals.

“I repeated my claim that it corresponded to banning black people from kissing each other, and he asked me whether I was aware of § 3, 4 and 5 of the Penal Code, which I was not. When I replied that I would love to hear more about them, he could not explain what they actually state. At the same time my other friend and her boyfriend came back after a trip to 7-eleven, and they were then told that they couldn’t enter Never Mind again, probably because they had walked hand in hand showing that they were straight ... "

An argument ensued between Jobbe and several Never Mind staffers, and eventually Jobbe was told that he, too, was now banned from Never Mind, despite his sterling gay bona fides. Jobbe later sent an email to Never Mind, to which owner Christian Carlsen replied:

there are not many gay places left in Copenhagen, and that Never Mind is one of the places remaining and it is important to the gay community that Never Mind is kept as a gay place. So it is therefore not allowed for heterosexuals to kiss and so on in Never Mind ...

In a further email to Homotropolis, Carlsen wrote:

It is quite clear that gay bars in Copenhagen attract many straight people and that in itself is also okay, but when you come with 3, 4, or 5 straight friends you no longer fit into a gay bar ...

... Problems often arise when the girls, late at night, call their straight male friends and think it’s a good idea that they come by and join the party. They are often quite intoxicated, and most straight guys unfortunately have it a bit difficult with gay men. This often results in a serious situation which our security people than have to handle ...

... In Never Mind we don’t want heterosexual guests to dance, strip, kiss or behave inappropriately. There are plenty of places in Copenhagen that are reserved for heterosexuals, but there are only a few gay bars left, and it is probably fair enough that gays and lesbians have bars where they can meet other homosexual people without having to consider whether it is a straight or gay person they are addressing...

I wonder how many bars remain in Copenhagen where straight people can be absolutely sure they're addressing other hets. 

The Never Mind story is getting picked up all over -- perhaps most fruitfully by the Edge, which has assembled quotes from a plurality of viewpoints on the matter. Opinions are divided. Gawker's Brian Moylan, for instance, blames faghags for the present difficulties of gay bars. Straight girls, he says, ought to stay away.


John Barrowman Gets Cheeky with OK Magazine

Barrowmanbutt

OK Magazine trailed John Barrowman on the day of his civil partnership to Scott Gill. The couple wed in late December in Cardiff, Wales.

JohnbarrowmanBarrowman wore a kilt to the ceremony and was captured flashing his Torchwood castmate Eve Myles. Said Barrowman: "We wanted to be ourselves, and so I flashed Eve. And like a true Scot, I had nothing on underneath."

He also told the magazine about how he met his partner of 13 years: "I was doing a play in Chichester and Scott was brought down to see the play by a mutual friend of ours. He told Scott: 'You've got to see the guy in the play, he's naked for the first seven minutes!' So Scott certainly knew what he was getting!"

On relationships: "Relationships are work. We've had clashes but what I have learned from my parents is never go to bed angry...We are a couple who will get through any humps or bumps in the road. But we are not in an open relationship...If we ever split, we're rational. We'll talk about it. But I don't have as much money as Paul McCartney and I'm not married to a gold-digger."

On George Michael and open relationships: "People cruise and I don't have a problem with George Michael doing it, because it is part of the culture. The press see it as salacious, but straight people cruise too, they have sex in public. But it's not a big news story because it's heterosexual. But I want people to see that there are other aspects to a gay life. It's important for gay relationships to be recognised. Then men won't have to cruise parks for sex or be bludgeoned to death on Clapham Common by gay haters for cruising in dark places because they are scared to be seen being intimate with each other."

On kids: "I would love kids. I have a particular celebrity friend who says she will have a child with me. But there's nothing in the works just yet! We would adopt a child too, probably a young child or teenager. I'm a big kid myself. I'm a big kid in a man's body."

And don't miss...
John Barrowman Burns up Screen with Torchwood Kiss [tr]
Guide to the Tube: Torchwood Declassified [tr]


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