Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Baptist Ban on Kilts.

Via Technorati one comes across a stupendous post in Aye!, one of those things about which one's never sure whether to laugh at endlessly or take for real and wonder where this world is heading to. Baptists for Brownback have blogged an hilarious rant about that Scottish traditonal and proud garment, the Kilt.

Allegedly, such garment for men would allow homosexuals for a much quicker "fornication" method. One can't be completely sure that the whole blog is not a sattire; some of the comments are asking that question of course, but in the "About" section it reads that "We believe that God has chosen Sam Brownback to take the baton from George W. Bush in 2008 and continue the fight against sin and immorality right here in this country as well as abroad."

Anyway, not only the post "The Sissification of Seatle" is hilarious, but the posterior apology that "Some kilt-wearing men may be heterosexual after all" though in great risk of sinning.

And that's what's going on with such puritan, bigot, narrow minded Christians: they're so busy watching out for their inner devils on everything that they probably lose contact with the Real World®

Update: check out the Landover Baptist Church, and more specially the "What We (and God) Believe" page for loads of laughs. And then relax and think again - How many people you know that can really act that way?

Lube against HIV?

Starpharma has announced last week on the International AIDS Society conference in Sydney, Australia, that their sex lubricant called VivaGel allegedly blocks both HIV and HSV-2 genital herpes virus. Trials in humans are being conducted right now in Australia, Kenya and the United States.
Apparently the lube has not been tested with gay males, on the company's site there can be obtained a PDF report on some test conducted with 36 males. Though the lube microbiocidal lube seems to have caused minor dermatological problems on some of the participants, if proven to block from 75% to 100% of viral transmission that's going to be great news. Let's take it with a pinch of salt, however. Read the complete story here.

The Kingdom in the Closet

Sodomy is punishable by death in Saudi Arabia, but gay life flourishes there. Why it is “easier to be gay than straight” in a society where everyone, homosexual and otherwise, lives in the closet

by Nadya Labi

Yasser, a 26-year-old artist, was taking me on an impromptu tour of his hometown of Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, on a sweltering September afternoon. The air conditioner of his dusty Honda battled the heat, prayer beads dangled from the rearview mirror, and the smell of the cigarette he’d just smoked wafted toward me as he stopped to show me a barbershop that his friends frequent. Officially, men in Saudi Arabia aren’t allowed to wear their hair long or to display jewelry—such vanities are usually deemed to violate an Islamic instruction that the sexes must not be too similar in appearance. But Yasser wears a silver necklace, a silver bracelet, and a sparkly red stud in his left ear, and his hair is shaggy. Yasser is homosexual, or so we would describe him in the West, and the barbershop we visited caters to gay men. Business is brisk.
Leaving the barbershop, we drove onto Tahlia Street, a broad avenue framed by palm trees, then went past a succession of sleek malls and slowed in front of a glass-and-steel shopping center. Men congregated outside and in nearby cafés. Whereas most such establishments have a family section, two of this area’s cafés allow only men; not surprisingly, they are popular among men who prefer one another’s company. Yasser gestured to a parking lot across from the shopping center, explaining that after midnight it would be “full of men picking up men.” These days, he said, “you see gay people everywhere.”
Yasser turned onto a side street, then braked suddenly. “Oh shit, it’s a checkpoint,” he said, inclining his head toward some traffic cops in brown uniforms. “Do you have your ID?” he asked me. He wasn’t worried about the gay-themed nature of his tour—he didn’t want to be caught alone with a woman. I rummaged through my purse, realizing that I’d left my passport in the hotel for safekeeping. Yasser looked behind him to see if he could reverse the car, but had no choice except to proceed. To his relief, the cops nodded us through. “God, they freaked me out,” Yasser said. As he resumed his narration, I recalled something he had told me earlier. “It’s a lot easier to be gay than straight here,” he had said. “If you go out with a girl, people will start to ask her questions. But if I have a date upstairs and my family is downstairs, they won’t even come up.”
Notorious for its adherence to Wahhabism, a puritanical strain of Islam, and as the birthplace of most of the 9/11 hijackers, Saudi Arabia is the only Arab country that claims sharia, or Islamic law, as its sole legal code. The list of prohibitions is long: It’s haram—forbidden—to smoke, drink, go to discos, or mix with an unrelated person of the opposite gender. The rules are enforced by the mutawwa’in, religious authorities employed by the government’s Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice.
The kingdom is dominated by mosques and malls, which the mutawwa’in patrol in leather sandals and shortened versions of the thawb, the traditional ankle-length white robe that many Saudis wear. Some mutawwa’in even bear marks of their devotion on their faces; they bow to God so adamantly that pressing their foreheads against the ground leaves a visible dent. The mutawwa’in prod shoppers to say their devotions when the shops close for prayer, several times daily. If they catch a boy and a girl on a date, they might haul the couple to the police station. They make sure that single men steer clear of the malls, which are family-only zones for the most part, unless they are with a female relative. Though the power of the mutawwa’in has been curtailed recently, their presence still inspires fear.
In Saudi Arabia, sodomy is punishable by death. Though that penalty is seldom applied, just this February a man in the Mecca region was executed for having sex with a boy, among other crimes. (For this reason, the names of most people in this story have been changed.) Ask many Saudis about homosexuality, and they’ll wince with repugnance. “I disapprove,” Rania, a 32-year-old human-resources manager, told me firmly. “Women weren’t meant to be with women, and men aren’t supposed to be with men.”
This legal and public condemnation notwithstanding, the kingdom leaves considerable space for homosexual behavior. As long as gays and lesbians maintain a public front of obeisance to Wahhabist norms, they are left to do what they want in private. Vibrant communities of men who enjoy sex with other men can be found in cosmopolitan cities like Jeddah and Riyadh. They meet in schools, in cafés, in the streets, and on the Internet. “You can be cruised anywhere in Saudi Arabia, any time of the day,” said Radwan, a 42-year-old gay Saudi American who grew up in various Western cities and now lives in Jeddah. “They’re quite shameless about it.” Talal, a Syrian who moved to Riyadh in 2000, calls the Saudi capital a “gay heaven.”
This is surprising enough. But what seems more startling, at least from a Western perspective, is that some of the men having sex with other men don’t consider themselves gay. For many Saudis, the fact that a man has sex with another man has little to do with “gayness.” The act may fulfill a desire or a need, but it doesn’t constitute an identity. Nor does it strip a man of his masculinity, as long as he is in the “top,” or active, role. This attitude gives Saudi men who engage in homosexual behavior a degree of freedom. But as a more Westernized notion of gayness—a notion that stresses orientation over acts—takes hold in the country, will this delicate balance survive?

‘They will seduce you’

When Yasser hit puberty, he grew attracted to his male cousins. Like many gay and lesbian teenagers everywhere, he felt isolated. “I used to have the feeling that I was the queerest in the country,” he recalled. “But then I went to high school and discovered there are others like me. Then I find out, it’s a whole society.”
This society thrives just below the surface. During the afternoon, traffic cops patrol outside girls’ schools as classes end, in part to keep boys away. But they exert little control over what goes on inside. A few years ago, a Jeddah- based newspaper ran a story on lesbianism in high schools, reporting that girls were having sex in the bathrooms. Yasmin, a 21-year-old student in Riyadh who’d had a brief sexual relationship with a girlfriend (and was the only Saudi woman who’d had a lesbian relationship who was willing to speak with me for this story), told me that one of the department buildings at her college is known as a lesbian enclave. The building has large bathroom stalls, which provide privacy, and walls covered with graffiti offering romantic and religious advice; tips include “she doesn’t really love you no matter what she tells you” and “before you engage in anything with [her] remember: God is watching you.” In Saudi Arabia, “It’s easier to be a lesbian [than a heterosexual]. There’s an overwhelming number of people who turn to lesbianism,” Yasmin said, adding that the number of men in the kingdom who turn to gay sex is even greater. “They’re not really homosexual,” she said. “They’re like cell mates in prison.”
This analogy came up again and again during my conversations. As Radwan, the Saudi American, put it, “Some Saudi [men] can’t have sex with women, so they have sex with guys. When the sexes are so strictly segregated”—men are allowed little contact with women outside their families, in order to protect women’s purity—“how do they have a chance to have sex with a woman and not get into trouble?” Tariq, a 24-year-old in the travel industry, explains that many “tops” are simply hard up for sex, looking to break their abstinence in whatever way they can. Francis, a 34-year-old beauty queen from the Philippines (in 2003 he won a gay beauty pageant held in a private house in Jeddah by a group of Filipinos), reported that he’s had sex with Saudi men whose wives were pregnant or menstruating; when those circumstances changed, most of the men stopped calling. “If they can’t use their wives,” Francis said, “they have this option with gays.”
Gay courting in the kingdom is often overt—in fact, the preferred mode is cruising. “When I was new here, I was worried when six or seven cars would follow me as I walked down the street,” Jamie, a 31-year-old Filipino florist living in Jeddah, told me. “Especially if you’re pretty like me, they won’t stop chasing you.” John Bradley, the author of Saudi Arabia Exposed: Inside a Kingdom in Crisis (2005), says that most male Western expatriates here, gay or not, have been propositioned by Saudi men driving by “at any time of the day or night, quite openly and usually very, very persistently.”
Many gay expatriates say they feel more at home in the kingdom than in their native lands. Jason, a South African educator who has lived in Jeddah since 2002, notes that although South Africa allows gay marriage, “it’s as though there are more gays here.” For Talal, Riyadh became an escape. When he was 17 and living in Da­mas­cus, his father walked in on him having sex with a male friend. He hit Talal and grounded him for two months, letting him out of the house only after he swore he was no longer attracted to men. Talal’s pale face flushed crimson as he recalled his shame at disappointing his family. Eager to escape the weight of their expectations, he took a job in Riyadh. When he announced that he would be moving, his father responded, “You know all Saudis like boys, and you are white. Take care.” Talal was pleased to find a measure of truth in his father’s warning—his fair skin made him a hit among the locals.
Marcos, a 41-year-old from the Philippines, was arrested in 1996 for attending a party featuring a drag show. He spent nine months in prison, where he got 200 lashes, before being deported. Still, he opted to return; he loves his work in fashion, which pays decently, and the social opportunities are an added bonus. “Guys romp around and parade in front of you,” he told me. “They will seduce you. It’s up to you how many you want, every day.”
One evening in Jeddah after a sandstorm, I sat in the glass rotunda of a café on Tahlia Street. I’d spent many nights there, interviewing men who were too nervous about being caught with a woman to invite me to their apartments. In a country with no cinemas or clubs or bars, the family sections of cafés and restaurants are popular dating haunts, and during my time in Saudi Arabia, I saw many heterosexual couples talking quietly together, while the girl’s cover—her girlfriends—sat nearby.
On this occasion, I was accompanied by Misfir, 34, who was showing me how to navigate Paltalk, a Web site similar to the one where he met his boyfriend three and a half years ago. Misfir told me that “bottoms”—men willing to be penetrated—are in short supply, and he advised me that if I wanted to generate responses to my postings, I should come up with a screen name that hinted at such willingness. We settled on “jedbut,” and I logged on to the “Gulf Arab Love” chat room, introducing myself as a bottom.
Within minutes, I had more admirers than I could handle. They dispensed with small talk, asking for my “ASL”—age, size, and location—without preamble. “Jeddah_bythesea” cited his private dimensions and sent electronic “nudges” when I was slow to respond. “Jedbuilt” pressed me to continue the conversation by phone, but I was distracted by the flirty attentions of jed-to-heart.” However, jed-to-heart’s tone changed when I revealed I was a journalist:

  • JED-TO-HEART: I lie
  • jedbut: who do you lie to?
  • JED-TO-HEART: I lie in my work
  • JED-TO-HEART: with my family
  • JED-TO-HEART: but I’m gay
  • JED-TO-HEART: I can’t say I’m gay
  • jedbut: is that hard? to lie? do you tell people you like women?
  • JED-TO-HEART: that why I lie
  • jedbut: what do you think your family will do if they find out?
  • JED-TO-HEART: yes
  • jedbut: are you married?
  • JED-TO-HEART: ohhhhhhhhhhhhh I think I will kill myselif

He went on to write that he kept his sexual preference a secret from just about everyone, including his wife of five years.
Back in Gulf Arab Love the next day, I encountered “Anajedtop,” who said he liked both men and women; he too was married. I told him I was a journalist, and we chatted for a bit. I asked him if we could meet. He was hesitant, but he seemed curious to find out whether I was for real. We arranged to get together that evening at the Starbucks on Tahlia Street. I waited for him in the family section, which opens out onto the mall and is surrounded by a screen of plants. A mall guard patrolled just outside. At first, Anajedtop avoided my eyes, directing his comments to my male interpreter. “I went in [the chat room] to get an idea of the bad people in those rooms so that God will keep me away from those kinds of things,” he said, his leg jiggling nervously. He abandoned this weak cover story as our conversation progressed.
He claimed to prefer women, though he admitted that few women frequent the Gulf Arab Love chat room. In the absence of women, he said, he’d “go with” a guy. “I go in and put up an offer,” he said. “I set the tone. I’m in control.” To be in control, for Anajedtop, meant to be on top. “It’s not in my nature to be a bottom,” he said. I asked him whether he was gay, and he responded, “No! A gay is against the norm. Anybody can be a top, but only a gay can be a bottom.” He added, “The worst thing is to be a bottom.”
The call to prayer sounded over a loudspeaker, and his leg began shaking more insistently; he put a hand on his knee in a futile attempt to still it. The guard hovered. “I’m worried the mutawwa’in might come,” Anajedtop said, and rushed off to catch the evening prayer.

What is ‘gay’?

In The History of Sexuality, a multivolume work published in the 1970s and ’80s, Michel Foucault proposed his famous thesis that Western academic, medical, and political discourse of the 18th and 19th centuries had produced the idea of the homosexual as a deviant type: In Western society, homosexuality changed from being a behavior (what you do) to an identity (who you are).
In the Middle East, however, homosexual behavior remained just that—an act, not an orientation. That is not to say that Middle Eastern men who had sex with other men were freely tolerated. But they were not automatically labeled deviant. The taxonomy revolved around the roles of top and bottom, with little stigma attaching to the top. “‘Sexuality’ is distinguished not between ‘homosexual’ and ‘heterosexual’ but between taking pleasure and submitting to someone (being used for pleasure),” the sociologist Stephen O. Murray explains in the 1997 compilation Islamic Homosexualities: Culture, History, and Literature. Being a bottom was shameful because it meant playing a woman’s role. A bottom was not locked into his inferior status, however; he could, and was expected to, leave the role behind as he grew older. “There may be a man, and he likes boys. The Saudis just look at this as, ‘He doesn’t like football,’” Dave, a gay American teacher who first moved to Saudi Arabia in 1978, told me. “It’s assumed that he is, as it were, the dominant partner, playing the man’s role, and there is no shame attached to it.” Nor is the dominant partner considered gay.
However much this may seem like sophistry, it is in keeping with a long-standing Muslim tradition of accommodating homosexual impulses, if not homosexual identity. In 19th-century Iran, a young beardless adolescent was considered an object of beauty—desired by men—who would grow naturally into an older bearded man who desired youthful males. There, as in much of the Islamic world, sexual practices were “not considered fixed into lifelong patterns of sexual orientation,” as Afsaneh Najmabadi demonstrates in her 2005 book, Women With Mustaches and Men Without Beards: Gender and Sexual Anxieties of Iranian Modernity. A man was expected to marry, and as long as he fulfilled his procreative obligations, the community didn’t probe his extracurricular activities.
A magazine editor in Jeddah told me that many boys in Mecca, where he grew up, have sexual relations with men, but they don’t see themselves as gay. Abubaker Bagader, a human-rights activist based in Jeddah, explained that homosexuality can be viewed as a phase. “Homosexuality is considered something one might pass by,” he said. “It’s to be understood as a stage of life, particularly at youth.” This view of sexual behavior, in combination with the strict segregation of the sexes, serves to foster homosexual acts, shifting the stigma onto bottoms and allowing older men to excuse their younger behavior—their time as bottoms—as mere youthful transgressions.
In Islamic Homosexualities, the anthropologist Will Roscoe shows that this “status-differentiated pattern”— whereby it’s OK to be a top but not a bottom—has its roots in Greco-Roman culture, and he emphasizes that the top-bottom power dynamic is commonly expressed in relations between older men and younger boys. Yasmin, the student who told me about the lesbian enclave at her college, said that her 16-year-old brother, along with many boys his age, has been targeted by his male elders as a sexual object. “It’s the land of sand and sodomites,” she said. “The older men take advantage of the little boys.” Dave, the American educator, puts it this way: “Let’s say there’s a group of men sitting around in a café. If a smooth-faced boy walks by, they all stop and make approving comments. They’re just noting, ‘That’s a hot little number.’”

The People of Lot

Yet a paradox exists at the heart of Saudi conceptions of gay sex and sexual identity: Despite their seemingly flexible view of sexuality, most of the Saudis I interviewed, including those men who identify themselves as gay, consider sodomy a grave sin. During Ramadan, my Jeddah tour guide, Yasser, abstains from sex. His sense of propriety is widely shared: Few gay parties occur in the country during the holy month. Faith is a “huge confusion” for gay Muslims, Yasser and others told me. “My religion says it’s forbidden, and to practice this kind of activity, you’ll end up in hell,” he explains. But Yasser places hope in God’s merciful nature. “God forgives you if, from the inside, you are very pure,” he said. “If you have guilt all the time while you’re doing this stuff, maybe God might forgive you. If you practice something forbidden and keep it quiet, God might forgive you.” Zahar, a 41-year-old Saudi who has traveled widely throughout the world, urged me not to write about Islam and homosexuality; to do so, he said, is to cut off debate, because “it’s always the religion that holds people back.” He added, “The original points of Islam can never be changed.” Years ago, Zahar went to the library to ascertain just what those points are. What he found surprised him. “Strange enough, there is no certain condemnation for that [homosexual] act in Islam. On the other hand, to have illegal sex between a man and a woman, there are very clear rules and sub-rules.”
Indeed, the Koran does not contain rules about homosexuality, says Everett K. Rowson, a professor at New York University who is working on a book about homosexuality in medieval Islamic society. “The only passages that deal with the subject unambiguously appear in the passages dealing with Lot.”
The story of Lot is rendered in the Koran much as it is in the Old Testament. The men of Lot’s town lust after male angels under his protection, and he begs them to have sex with his virgin daughters instead:

Do ye commit lewdness / such as no people / in creation (ever) committed / before you? For ye practice your lusts / on men in preference / to women: ye are indeed / a people transgressing beyond / bounds.

The men refuse to heed him and are punished by a shower of brimstone. Their defiance survives linguistically: In Arabic, the “top” sodomite is luti, meaning “of [the people of] Lot.”
This surely suggests that sodomy is considered sinful, but the Koran’s treatment of the practice contrasts with its discussions of zina—sexual relations between a man and a woman who are not married to each other. Zina is explicitly condemned:

Nor come nigh to adultery: / for it is a shameful (deed) / and an evil, opening to the road / (to other evils).

The punishment for it is later spelled out: 100 lashes for each party. The Koran does not offer such direct guidance on what to do about sodomy. Many Islamic scholars analogize the act to zina to determine a punishment, and some go so far as to say the two sins are the same.
Two other key verses deal with sexual transgression. The first instructs:

If any of your women / are guilty of lewdness, / take the evidence of four / (reliable) witnesses from amongst / you/ against them; and if they testify, / confine [the women] to houses until / death do claim them, / or God ordain them / some (other) way.

But what is this “lewdness”? Is it zina or lesbianism? It is hard to say. The second verse is also ambiguous:

If two men among you / are guilty of lewdness, / punish them both. / If they repent and amend, / leave them alone …

In Arabic, the masculine “dual pronoun” can refer to two men or to a man and a woman. So again—sodomy, or zina?
For many centuries, Rowson says, these verses were widely thought to pertain to zina, but since the early 20th century, they have been largely assumed to proscribe homosexual behavior. He and most other scholars in the field believe that at about that time, Middle Eastern attitudes toward homosexuality fundamentally shifted. Though same-sex practices were considered taboo, and shameful for the bottom, same-sex desire had long been understood as a natural inclination. For example, Abu Nuwas—a famous eighth-century poet from Baghdad—and his literary successors devoted much ink to the charms of attractive boys. At the turn of the century, Islamic society began to express revulsion at the concept of homosexuality, even if it was confined only to lustful thoughts, and this distaste became more pronounced with the influx of Western media. “Many attitudes with regard to sexual morality that are thought to be identical to Islam owe a lot more to Queen Victoria” than to the Koran, Rowson told me. “People don’t know—or they try to keep it under the carpet—that 200 years ago, highly respected religious scholars in the Middle East were writing poems about beautiful boys.”
Even Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab—the 18th- century religious scholar who founded Wahhabism—seems to draw a distinction between homosexual desires and homosexual acts, according to Natana DeLong-Bas, the author of Wahhabi Islam: From Revival and Reform to Global Jihad (2004). The closest Abd al-Wahhab came to touching upon the topic of homosexuality was in a description of an effeminate man who is interested in other men at a wedding banquet. His tone here is tolerant rather than condemnatory; as long as the man controls his urges, no one in the community has the right to police him.
Religious scholars have turned to the hadith—the sayings and doings of the Prophet Muhammad—to supplement the Koran’s scant teachings about sodomy and decide on a punishment. There are six canonical collections of hadith, the earliest recorded two centuries after Muhammad’s death. The two most authoritative collections, Rowson says, don’t mention sodomy. In the remaining four, the most important citation reads: “Those whom you find performing the act of the people of Lot, kill both the active and the passive partner.” Though some legal schools reject this hadith as unreliable, most scholars of Hanbalism, the school of legal thought that underpins the official law of the Saudi kingdom, accept it. It may have provided the authority for the execution this February. (Judges will go out of their way to avoid finding that an act of sodomy has occurred, however.)

‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’

The gay men I interviewed in Jeddah and Riyadh laughed when I asked them if they worried about being executed. Although they do fear the mutawwa’in to some degree, they believe the House of Saud isn’t interested in a widespread hunt of homosexuals. For one thing, such an effort might expose members of the royal family to awkward scrutiny. “If they wanted to arrest all the gay people in Saudi Arabia,” Misfir, my chat-room guide, told me—repeating what he says was a police officer’s comment—“they’d have to put a fence around the whole country.”
In addition, the power of the mutawwa’in is limited by the Koran, which frowns upon those who intrude on the privacy of others in order to catch them in sinful acts. The mandate of the Committee on the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice is specifically to regulate behavior in the public realm. What occurs behind closed doors is between a believer and God.
This seems to be the way of the kingdom: essentially, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Private misbehavior is fine, as long as public decorum is observed. Cinemas are forbidden, but people watch pirated DVDs. Drinking is illegal, but alcohol flows at parties. Women wrap their bodies and faces in layers of black, but pornography flourishes. Gay men thrive in this atmosphere. “We really have a very comfortable life,” said Zahar, the Saudi who asked me not to write about homosexuality and Islam. “The only thing is the outward showing. I can be flamboyant in my house, but not outside.”
This strikes many Saudis as a reasonable accommodation. Court records in Saudi Arabia are generally closed, but anecdotal evidence suggests that the mutawwa’in are most likely to punish men who are overtly effeminate— those whose public behavior advertises a gayness that others keep private.
Filipinos, who have little influence and less familiarity with the demands of a double life, seem to be especially vulnerable. When I asked Jamie, the Filipino who says he gets followed down the street by Saudi men, whether he was gay, he answered, with a high giggle, “Obviously!” But he has paid a price for his flamboyant manner. He used to wear his thick black hair down to his shoulders, concealing it with a baseball cap in public, until recently, when he ran into a man in a shortened thawb at a coffee shop. The mutawwa asked for his work permit. Even though he produced one, Jamie was shoved into an SUV and driven to a police station.
“Are you gay?” a police officer asked after pulling off Jamie’s cap and seeing his long hair. “Of course not,” Jamie said. He challenged the cop to find a violation, and the officer confirmed the mutawwa’s report that Jamie was wearing makeup, dressing like a woman, and flirting. After spending a night in jail, Jamie was taken to mutawwa’in headquarters in Jeddah, and a mutawwa interrogated him again. When he tried to defend himself, the mutawwa asked him to walk, and Jamie strode across the room in what he considered a manly fashion. He was eventually allowed to call his boss, who secured his release. Jamie cut his hair—not out of fear, he says, but because he didn’t want to bother his boss a second time.
Jamie laughed as he told me of his attempts at dissimulation; though the stakes can be high, efforts to stamp out homosexuality here often do seem farcical. The mutawwa’in get to play the heavies, the government goes through the motions, and the perps play innocent—Me? Gay? Few people in the kingdom, other than the mutawwa’in, seem to take the process seriously. When the mutawwa’in busted the party that led to Marcos’s deportation, they separated the “showgirls” wearing drag from the rest of the partygoers, and then asked everyone but the drag queens to line up against the wall for the dawn prayer. At the first of the three ensuing trials, Marcos and the 23 other Filipinos who’d been detained were confronted with the evidence from the party: plastic bags full of makeup, shoes, wigs, and pictures of the defendants dressed like women. When the Filipinos were returned to their cells, they began arguing about who had looked the hottest in the photos. And even after his punishment and deportation, Marcos was unfazed; when he returned to Jeddah, it was under the same name.
The threat of a crackdown always looms, however. In March 2005, the police crashed what they identified as a “gay wedding” in a rented hall near Jeddah; according to some sources, the gathering was only a birthday party. (Similar busts have occurred in Riyadh.) Most of the party­goers were reportedly released without having to do jail time, but the arrests rattled the gay community; at the time of my visit, party organizers were sticking to more-intimate gatherings and monitoring guest lists closely.

The Closeted Kingdom

To be gay in Saudi Arabia is to live a contradiction—to have license without rights, and to enjoy broad tolerance without the most minimal acceptance. The closet is not a choice; it is a rule of survival.
When I asked Tariq, the 24-year-old in the travel industry, whether his parents suspected he was gay, he responded, “Maybe they feel it, but they have not come up to me and asked me. They don’t want to open the door.” Stephen Murray, the sociologist, has called this sort of denial “the will not to know”—a phrase that perfectly captures Saudi society’s defiant resolve to look the other way. Acknowledging homosexuality would harden a potentially mutable behavior into an identity that contradicts the teachings of Islam, to the extent that Islam deals with the subject. A policy of official denial but tacit acceptance leaves space for change, the possibility that gay men will abandon their sinful ways. Amjad, a gay Palestinian I met in Riyadh, holds out hope that he’ll be “cured” of homosexuality, that when his wife receives her papers to join him in Saudi Arabia, he’ll be able to break off his relationship with his boyfriend. “God knows what I have in my heart,” he said. “I’m trying to do the best I can, obeying the religion. I’m fasting, I’m praying, I’m giving zakat [charity]. All the things that God has asked us to do, if I have the ability, I will do it.”
Amjad cited a parable about two men living in the same house. The upstairs man was devout and had spent his life praying to God. The downstairs man went to parties, drank, and committed zina. One night, the upstairs man had the urge to try what the downstairs man was doing. At the same moment, the downstairs man decided to see what his neighbor was up to. “They died at the stairs,” Amjad said. “The one going down went to hell. The one going up went to heaven.” For Amjad to accept a fixed identity as a gay man would be to forgo the possibility of ever going upstairs.
But as the Western conception of sexual identity has filtered into the kingdom via television and the Internet, it has begun to blur the Saudi view of sexual behavior as distinct from sexual identity. For example, although Yasser is open to the possibility that he will in time grow attracted to women, he considers himself gay. He says that his countrymen are starting to see homosexual behavior as a marker of identity: “Now that people watch TV all the time, they know what gay people look like and what they do,” he explains. “They know if your favorite artist is Madonna and you listen to a lot of music, that means you are gay.” The Jeddah-based magazine editor sees a similar trend. “The whole issue used to be whether that guy was a [top] or a bottom,” he told me. “Now people are getting more into the concept of homosexual and straight.”
But new recognition of this distinction has not brought with it acceptance of homosexuality: Saudis may be tuning in to Oprah, but her tell-all ethic has yet to catch on. Radwan, the Saudi American, came out to his parents only after spending time in the United States—and the experience was so bad that he’s gone back into the closet. His father, a Saudi, threatened to kill himself, then decided that he couldn’t (because suicide is haram), then contemplated killing Radwan instead. “In the end,” Radwan told me, “I said, ‘I’m not gay anymore. I’m straight.’” Most of his gay peers choose to remain silent within their families. Yasser says that if his mother ever found out he’s gay, she would treat him as if he were sick and take him to psychologists to try to find a cure.
Zahar, at 41, has managed the unusual feat of staving off marriage without revealing himself to be gay. Marriage would devastate him, he says, and exposure of his homosexuality would devastate his family. So Zahar has employed an elaborate series of stratagems: a fake girlfriend, a fake engagement to a sympathetic cousin, the breaking off of the engagement. As he put it, “I schemed, and I planned. I don’t like to con people, but I had to do that for my family.”
In the West, we would expect such subterfuge to exact a high psychological cost. But a closet doesn’t feel as lonely when so many others, gay and straight, are in it, too. A double life is the essence of life in the kingdom—everyone has to keep private any deviance from official norms. The expectation that Zahar would maintain a public front at odds with his private self is no greater than the expectations facing his straight peers. Dave, the gay American I met, recalled his surprise when his boyfriend of five years got married, and then asked him to go to the newlyweds’ apartment to “make the bed up the way you make it up,” for the benefit of the bride. “Saudis will get stressed about things that wouldn’t cause us to blink,” Dave said. “But having to live a double life, that’s just a normal thing.”
Most of the gay men I interviewed said that gay rights are beside the point. They view the downsides of life in Saudi Arabia—having to cut your hair, or hide your jewelry, or even spend time in prison for going to a party—as minor aggravations. “When I see a gay parade [in trips to the West], it’s too much of a masquerade for attention,” Zahar said. “You don’t need that. Women’s rights, gay rights—why? Get your rights without being too loud.”
Embracing gay identity, generally viewed in the West as the path to fuller rights, could backfire in Saudi Arabia. The idea of being gay, as opposed to simply acting on sexual urges, may bring with it a deeper sense of shame. “When I first came here, people didn’t seem to have guilt. They were sort of ‘I’ll worry about that on Judgment Day,’” Dave said. “Now, with the Internet and Arabia TV, they have some guilt.” The magazine editor in Jeddah says that when he visits his neighbors these days, they look back at their past sexual encounters with other men regretfully, thinking, “What the hell were we doing? It’s disgusting.”
When Radwan arrived in Jeddah, in 1987, after seeing the gay-rights movement in the United States firsthand, he wanted more than the tacit right to quietly do what he chose. “Invisibility gives you the cover to be gay,” he said. “But the bad part of invisibility is that it’s hard to build a public identity and get people to admit there is such a community and then to give you some rights.” He tried to rally the community and encourage basic rights—like the right not to be imprisoned. But the locals took him aside and warned him to keep his mouth shut. They told him, “You’ve got everything a gay person could ever want.”

[This article reposted from al-Fatiha news Yahoo group, which took it from The Atlantic Online, © 2007 by The Atlantic Montly Group, all rights reserved]

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Some bwoy will go a jail fi murda tun badman chi chi man!!!

Back in the early 80s, when I was in High School, I found out that there was some different kind of music called Reggae. At first I didn't like it much. It was 1981 and I sticked to the Queen album "The Game" instead of listening to Bob Marley. It was much later that I started to listen to some of the lyrics that described the struggle for freedom, and I started to like reggae. It wasn't until two years ago that I noticed, after a more in depth approach to the patois lyrics, all the homophobia underlying in many of those texts. This blog is partly a consequence of such discovery. It's been a while that I wanted to say something about the thing, and today it looks a very good day for that matter.

But in spite of saying it in my own words, I'll just voice other people's words. People who know much better than I could ever know. People who lived the issue, and who are struggling to change the facts. Why today? Because it seems that Beenie Man, the same guy who allegedly signed in 2005 the Reggae Compassionate Act, has lately denied such agreement.

According to The Jamaica Observer, "He denied signing any such deal, which Outrage last month announced as the Reggae Compassionate Act, but at the same time said that violence against gays was wrong." He went on further to declare "We don't need to kill dem. We just need fi tell the people dem the right ting because I not supporting a gay lifestyle because it's not wholesome to me."

So, did he sign it yes or no? My opinion is that the guy signs the agreement whenever he needs to have it signed to perform overseas. Three months ago in Barcelona it was either him or some other Dancehall artist who risked to have a concert suspended precisely because of his homophobia. By that time, Spanish LGBT rights groups were calmed and promised he had signed the Act.

But enough of my speech, let me leave you with the guys who best know about the thing. With all due respect and admiration, this people at Murder Inna Dancehall they have a lot of links, analysis and material on the reggae/dancehall homophobia. And I have to agree completely with this view:

Every time I hear a song by an artist who had an homophobic message, I stop dancing. I invite all dancehall and reggae lovers to stop dancing when you hear disrespectful songs in a bar. Furthermore, if you feel confortable, tell the DJ that you don't appreciate such songs. If you hear a homophobic song on the radio, try and get the station's email address and the people in charge of the show where the songs was played. Let them know how you feel or simply send them the link to this website. No more murder music! Play Roots Rock Reggae.

Therefore, go immediately and visit the site. Learn more and more about the situation and how things can be changed. Click on their links. Write. Do your part.

Friday, July 27, 2007

A Story in First Person: Gamal Speaks from Egypt

Time to give the posting space to someone (of course, Gamal is not his real name) who's got a lot to say. This narration I received on the email, and I'm publishing as is, with only some orthographic editing. So, let's give voice to the once voiceless, and you all say with me: "You are not alone".

This might be as a biography of a simple person who came to this world and did nothing wrong in this life but finding himself the way he is. Since puberty I discovered myself attracted to the same sex. I was raised up in Saudi Arabia but got nothing to talk about sex there. I was always touching myself imagining that one of my teachers was doing it. Anyhow I considered my self weird and this feeling needs to be buried because no one is similar to me. Then I came back to my country when I was 17 years old with those feelings tearing me apart, knowing that there is nothing like this in this life. Till I finished college then a friend of mine gave me a chatting program on the computer. It was shocking to discover that there are millions like me all over the world. I started meeting people at the age of 23. I am straight looking and acting, which is really something I like about myself because this may be homosexuality but it’s still men seeking men. Anyhow, the tragedy began when a member of my family saw some pictures and movies on my computer.

I ended up telling my parents about it. I said to myself I have to be honest to every one including myself, so I told them that I’m not attracted to women, only to men, and this was the start of my nightmare, including the way they looked at me, the way they dealt with me . One of my family members whom I really adore more than myself even threatened me about never looking at me again, and my family said they would cut me off from every penny. I was silent as I had nothing to do because I know that this issue is against every religion, but I kept wondering if God made me like this or if I am sick being gay, and why should I suffer of something I got nothing to do with it?!

I’d wish things were stable on this limit, but what happened is that they decided to get me cured, and this was the start of the torture for every one: for them cause they thought there is a healing, and for me because that’s what u will figure out all after reading the story of torture I have been through.

When they asked me to go to a doctor I said this belongs to a shrink so I chose shrink through a friend. This shrink was really open-minded and up-to-date in every thing. When I told him the story he said you got nothing wrong with yourself you can go and live abroad as you can’t live here. We tell people here that homosexuality is a disease so they won’t kill homosexual people. I told my family this result and they didn't get convinced. They sent me next time to an acupuncture Doctor with needles. I don’t know what’s homosexuality got to do with such a thing, but I said yes cause every time I refuse they threatened me of kicking me out of the family house, cut me of money, as my salary cant afford me a good living or even a fair one, so I went with them to the acupuncture guy. he assumed that he is a doctor but believe me he doesn’t even look like a vet. The way he dealt with other people’s diseases was really awful. Imagine a person dealing with serious problems like cancer with acupuncture devoting people that this will help.

This guy was putting me through sessions of inserting long needles into my groin area and other areas in my arms and legs then connect them with electricity at minor voltage which was really so painful that actually pain doesn’t even describe the feeling I got when he inserted his needles inside me. Imagine what after connecting them to the micro voltage electricity. At the time I stepped out of the office I had an accident. Every time I go I keep crying as a babe and keep asking god why me?!

Then I told my family that I was not getting any progress with this guy, so they sent me to another venereal doctor who was specialized in treating sexual impotence. When he saw me he started asking me do u believe in God; and he started talking to me as if am a devil’s advocate. I said to him I do believe in God and I believe in prophets. Then he said those things are repairable by surgery. What surgery I didn’t know, but I told my family this guy is crazy I swear he is crazy. but they didn’t believe me, only till he kept delaying my appointments, then family said he has no experience in this field; so he sent me to another shrink who did the same by delaying my appointments, and then I stopped going to him, till my family said there is a sex therapist who studied in the USA and is able to cure you. She is so famous in this country. A veiled woman talking about sex and she treats married normal couples. I went to her, then she started to criticize every thing in me; kept asking even my straight friends, my relatives, to check on things she said, like the way I talk, the way I walk… none of them mentioned any thing. I felt that she was trying to destroy my self-confidence, and that affected my work as I started to not be able to talk fluently; I started babbling, you know this disease.

So I decided to stop seeing her. Now my family they think I am cured.

Imagine every time I go to any doctor how do I feel?

Each doctor kept taking about money in spite of knowing that there is no treatment.

I understand why my family did so because they wanted me to be a normal son and to see my sons.

And I don’t know if God made me like this, why people make me suffer?

I figured out that the solution will be immigrating to another country, but without giving any shame to my family, because I still adore them, so you can feel the agony I feel every day when you love someone and he doesn’t understand you.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Don't Ask, Don't Tell, Don't Play in Porn Flicks

The story so far: last year several (7) members of the 82nd Airborne based in Ft. Bragg were fired for appeariing in a gay porn site in the internet (activeduty.com). It seems a constant for servicemembers worldwide; not long ago a Spanish Navy servicewoman got discharged on grounds of a homemade porn video unadvertedly made public on the Internet too. I haven't heard of much more cases among Armed Forces here or there, but Fort Bragg seems a constant source of meat. These days, another guy got booted from the Army for exactly the same reasons.

But (as Queerty points out) that's not the Matt Sanchez case. I never pay much attention to ultraconservatives except when they pose a risk to my physical integrity, and that's not usually occurring, but let's take a brief look at Mr. Sanchez. Breaking all rules myself I'll indulge in this post from GayLeftBorg about the guy's blogging from his Tour of Duty in the Eastern Theatre, of course. I'm a leftist, and you better be warned that everything speaking against ultraconservatives is something I Want To Believe (call me Fox Mulder, not Fox News).

It's still unclear to me whether Mr. Sanchez did play in any gay porn flick (it seems he did; well maybe he's an ex-gay), but the Military guidelines for porn cameos, gay or not, are similar, so if the guy played porn he should be kicked out, no? Well, no. He did it to Feel Superior. Great. And if it was gay porn why would he do such? Of course, read my mind: because he thinks "Fuck the Faggots!"

Anyway, given that I know some people there in Fort Bragg, here's some free advice for them (Scott, prick up your ears!!):

  • Whenever you want to exhibit your own assets, don't choose Activeduty.com: there must be someone activewatching it for pics of serviceguys.
  • If you're caught red handed in pornography actions, praise the UltraChristians, hold the Bible and declare that you did it to show the superiority of ultraconservatives over those communist liberals
  • Whenever you be deployed to either Iraq or Afghanistan, make sure you can keep blogging, bashing gays and flaming those exposing your pictures or films. That's probably the best way to keep alive.

[With all due respect to the rest of servicemembers worldwide]

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Gay – Acceptance of your sexual orientation (Haiti)

Definition (Sexual orientation)
More than often, people can hear the expression “sexual orientation” but takes it for granted as if they really understood the true meaning. Wikipedia offers the following explanation that is clear and concise:

Sexual orientation refers to the direction of an individual's sexuality, usually conceived of as classifiable according to the sex or gender of the persons that the individual finds sexually attractive. The most commonly used categories of sexual orientation are heterosexuality (being sexually attracted to members of the opposite sex), homosexuality (being sexually attracted to members of the same sex) and bisexuality (being sexually attracted to members of either sex). (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sexual_orientation)

From such explanation, we, the readers of the present article, have the possibility to classify ourselves as homosexual, bisexual, or heterosexual. Here again, there is a concept that proves that life is not black and white, but there is shade between the poles. Even further, homosexual people define another type of categorization which includes active, passive, or versatile individuals. This type of categorization reveals the position of the partner during sex intercourse. However, other people take it to a psychological level, also believing that it depends on which person has more influence in the relationship.

Using the term “sexual orientation” although it sounds neutral can bring other connotations. In Haiti, it is common that people get offended if you ask them about their sexual orientation. For these people, it flows very natural and logic that men and women are heterosexual. Hence, they believe that the requestor is implying some kind of accusation that they are homosexual. For you, the open-minded reader, such behavior may sound very funny and stupid at the same time. However, such attitude reveals that many people do not accept their sexual orientation when it is not “heterosexual.” Do you accept yours?

Homosexual behavior variations
In Haiti, like in many other countries, on a general basis, men are supposed to display a virile style. Most of the time, such thinking leads the beholder to even demonstrate a certain level of machismo, degrading women which they “use.” As a matter of fact, many of those men, who are homosexual, try their best to display their machismo too. In public, there is no one more virile than they are and they would even curse another man who would try to approach them or even to display good manners toward them. Are you one of those men?
In minority, other men display a feminized style. Many share the common definition of the category of those men as the “queen style.” A grand majority of these individuals seem to better assume their sexual orientation; their feminized style is stronger than their will, so there is no need to struggle with the inside. Are you one of those men?

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Spain - Judge in Murcia strips lesbian mother of daughters' custody

So we thought that after achieving gay marriage here we were going to be in paradise? Nay, here we go again with the anti-homosexual attitudes of some given sectors of the Spanish society, be it the Catholic hierarchy, the conservative parties (and the nazi parties too) or some others. The guy is remarkably an ultraconservative, and the sentence of his court's been already appealed on higher courts, for sure, because the grounds for such a sentence were that

"the children have the right to one father and one mother, not two fathers or two mothers, and such is the prescription made by the most prestigious psychology scholars."

Ok, those are the funny parts of the text. So you judge the kids have the right to one father and one mother, and you strip them their mother to give them to their father? Nonsense, the same nonsense we find in many other situations.

This judge (who's in the process of suffer a disciplinary proceeding by the Murcia Supreme Court, here in Spain don't let them judges judge so independently, of course) has a long record of such nonsense, it seems. Back in the 80s ordered two women sunbathing in top-less in Cadiz to be arrested, and not long ago he tried to block the adoption of a girl by her mother's lesbian spouse.

But at last something's working in Spain. For more indepth news on this issue you can take a look at it in Spanish here in El Pais, and here, in English, from Reuters.

The name of this "person" is Fernando Ferrín Calamita, thus his behavior is not really weird, since Calamita is the latin equivalent of Calamity, and that's exactly what he's becoming for the GLBT community in Murcia.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

God's Wrath falling upon the UK - Again

It was a matter of time that some ultra-religious people (aka. senior Church of England bishops) blamed on the "immorality and greed of modern society", including "laws that have undermined marriage, including the introduction of pro-gay legislation", following the path marked by their USA colleagues on 9/11 and Katrina, for the late June UK floods.
Now that the UK got flooded again, I assume that those same voices could perhaps start claiming for Inquisitorial procedures to get the society rid of such evils, thus protecting the UK from terrible weather (and from climate change at the same time) in saecula saeculorum.
Meanwhile, Madrid's Archbishop, Cardinal Antonio Rouco Varela, must be still waiting for the gates of Hell to open nearby Madrid's downtown after same-sex marriage was legalized in Spain. But he might not wait too long, since the statue of the Fallen Angel has been for decades placed in the park of Retiro.

What's the current weight of the UK in the Commonwealth?

Last Tuesday, Pink News had a number of questions (reader submitted) thrown at PM Gordon Brown of the United Kingdom. The full interview can be read here. Anyway I'd remark one of the answers given by Brown, in regards to him having

announced an international strategy to promote (LGBT) rights overseas, which includes Britain's commitment to the universal decriminalization of homosexuality...

I'm not much informed on how the Commonwealth works, though I believe that such community includes former colonial territories of the British Empire, including Canada and Australia. The logical approach for a British government willing to deal with homophobia decriminalization of homosexuality in areas such as the West Indies and West and East Africa, India and Sri Lanka (anyone knows which countries in the Commonwealth, apart of the former three, have not laws against homosexuality?) would probably imply joining Canada and Australia into a lobbying politics. But to which extent would all three, or merely a single one of those countries (and in Australia there continues to happen some differences from state to state in terms of lgbt rights) could influence the rest of nations inside the Commonwealth?

The UK couldn't do much about challenging Akinola and the rest of Nigerian power players on the bill (full text here) they were to pass (which calls for a five-year imprisonment of people who engage "performs, witnesses, aids, or abets" a same-sex marriage, also of anyone involved in advocacy for gay and lesbian rights.

So what could be expectable from PM Gordon Brown? I honestly hope that it's something more than wishful thinking.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Word Usage in Ex-gay Conversions.

While browsing for more information on ex-gays I've found a web site which includes a detailed analysis on reparative therapy, also called conversion therapy. The whole analysis can be found here, but I just wanted to include in this post their comparison on terminology. Very interesting.

Common Conservative Christian Usage
Common usage by other groups
  • Homosexuality is a behavior
  • Homosexuality is an orientation
  • Homosexuality is what one does
  • Homosexuality is what one is
  • Sexual preference
  • Sexual orientation
  • "I am cured from homosexuality" OR "I am an ex-gay"
  • "I was a sexually active homosexual. I am now a homosexual who has chosen celibate"
  • "I was once in the homosexual lifestyle, but I am a heterosexual now"
  • "I was a bisexual who engaged in same-sex relationships. My orientation is still bisexual, but, I now choose to have only relationships with the opposite gender."
  • A person involved in the homosexual lifestyle
  • A person with a bisexual or homosexual orientation who is sexually active with members of the same gender.
It would be worth checking how much money is involved in such called conversion therapies if the groups advocating those (which are most commonly conservative Christians) really try that hard to make therapies appear successful.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Inside Iran's Secret Gay World

Part one of the documentary is this

And these are the second and third parts of the video.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Mixed bag - Around the world newslinks.

Today's review of what's been happening in the world of GLBT issues must start with a favorite of mine: Michael Moore, who, in an interview with The Advocate, dropped the idea of his next documentary could deal with the issue of homophobia and the anti-gay movement. The way Moore puts things on the screen, I'm already drooling on the possbie results. And you don't miss his Sicko movie, it's demolishing - of course if you're not George W. Bush. In the meantime, some leaders of anti-gay programs (I'll be writing on such things next week for those of you who are not familiar with that thing) apologized to GLBT people by late June, while asking other leaders to do the same. Still in the US of A, homosexuals in the military will receive Ron Paul's statement of rejecting the Don't Ask Don't Tell rule if elected president. It's a long way for Paul to arrive to the White House, but recent studies say that the argument for Unit cohesion is futile, as servicepeople from Ft. Bragg, NC speak in a The Fayetteville Observer article.
Leaving the USA we find that Swedes may soon welcome the whole ecclesial apparatus of marriage with organ, religious chants and whatever it takes, while the Vatican and the Orthodox church strenghten their position (sadly, not unique) on anti-gay grounds. Catholic Ireland will guarantee full equality for same sex couples (though not marriage), while a lesbian couple is taking court action against Gibraltar government, and in Zagreb, Croatia, one man has been charged with a hate crime after the attacks on a Pride march.
In Africa, Nigerian archbishop Akinola's anti-gay rhetoric is analysed in an article on The Advocate, and the rest of the world witness how Singapore forum on decriminalization of homosexual acts is attended by hundreds, while Hong Kong rejects a gay sodomy ban, Australian government is considering the increase in rights for homosexuals, Lebanese homosexual youth is flourishing again in Beirut, and in Jamaica three dancehall musicians made public their signature of some sort of deal called Reggae Compassionate Act by which they compromise to not include gay bashing, homophobic and hate-crime sparkling lyrics in their songs. Sam could write a full essay on the issue, let's hope he'll have time to do so. The worst part of news is that Iran may keep executing more gay people, and in Nepal, four transgendered young people have been beaten by police officers in Katmandu, allegedly for carrying condoms for their own use.

Will and Right: Religion, Politics and Gay Marriage

Gay Pride Pictures

No, we're not going to publish here our own pictures taken at none of the many Pride parades on the world, maybe next year we'll be doing so. Instead, here you are a couple of links to pictures people took.
Pictures of Pride: LGBT Celebrations around the World is a collection of pictures along the years hosted by Human Rights Watch. Thank you
Messiah Divine on the 2007 Europride Madrid (starts on picture 3) Rafa Castellano and Goldorbator are also showing the Madrid Pride in Flickr, and keeping inside Flickr here's a wonderful set of albums by SeemingLeeNYC for the New York 2007 Gay Pride. CharlesFred shows us the Bangkok Pride and Kevin posts his pictures of the Toronto Pride week 2007. Of course, Africa is also represented in the gallery of the Cape Town Gay Pride 2007 by Ispy.
But hey, we promised to not be posting pornography and eroticism, and you're already drooling at all those pictures, that's not fair.

Oh, and I must welcome our new blog members Sam and Fulani, as well as express my warm thanks to Kefa for his interesting post on Haiti.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Gay Rights, Haiti

If homosexuality is getting more and more acceptance in many countries in the world, in Haiti, the question is still controversial. The subject has been and continues to be a hot point in Haitian people’s conversations where, it is rare that a Haitian man openly declares his gay-oriented sexual preferences. Such hesitance can be explained and justified by many reasons as stated in the following items.

Law protecting gay people
So far, laws protecting the right of the homosexual population are inexistent. If that population is protected by texts of law, they are only those that ordinarily watch the rights of all Haitian citizens, without specifically targeting gay rights. In addition, the homosexual population of Haiti is covered by the Human Rights as defined by the United Nations. As a matter of fact, if there is any legal issued where a person’s sexual orientation is at stake, those laws mentioned formerly are the only ones on which advocacy will be based to defend the victim’s rights.

Common believes around the cause of homosexuality
On a broad approach, Haitian people’s belief about the root of homosexuality is shared. Many individuals in Haiti strongly have in mind that someone’s sexual orientation is guided and influenced by ancestors’ spirits. It is important to highlight that Haiti’s culture is deeply based on Voodoo which, although Christian religions has gained more and more in popularity, continues to shape the population’s attitude and behavior. As a matter of fact, it is believed that adepts of spirits like “Erzulie Freda”, “Dantor”, and other female spirits will automatically have a homosexual behavior. Even when some gay people are followers of other religions, their homosexual behavior is often associated to their ancestor’s spirits that claim them.
Many Haitian people believe that homosexuality is genetic. Often, people tend to trace the root cause of someone’s sexual orientation in his or her parents or grand-parents. If they cannot find any proof in immediate family members, they look for the tendency in cousins or grand-cousins. It is obvious that in Haiti, there is always a cause for gay-oriented people.

In Haiti, like in many other countries, homosexuality is not accepted and strongly banished by the Christian religions. Since, those religions have the majority of the religious adepts, the civil society is strongly influenced by their code of conducts and follow their trends. Voodoo seems to be the only religion that demonstrates tolerance toward gay people. Such attitude is explained above, as followers believe that the person’s behavior is guided by a spirit – a loa.
However, the professional sector seems to be very careful about pronouncing on the matter. Many people in high position have and discretely lead a bisexual life. Hence, one has to be very careful in his or her opinion in organizations as this may be the indirect cause for someone to get fired or to never receive any promotion during years of career. In sum, the Haitian society in whole is very hypocritical about the subject. The only sector that does not really hide the homosexual trend is the cultural and artistic one. Many Haitian artists are known to have a bisexual life. They do not publicly claim their sexual preferences, but they do not make a big deal with it either. As such, nowadays, it is getting more known that people organize gay parties; they even have special places where gay people can meet and have fun, like “hotel Ollofson”.

News Around The World

  • Bid to silence Turkish Gay Group - Lambda Istanbul has been ordered to appear before a judge next week to face charges it is violating Turkish law by stating it represents gays, lesbians, and transsexuals.
  • South African Lesbians Tortured, Murdered - LGBT civil rights activists in South Africa are calling on the government to do more to end the growing number of attacks on lesbians in the Black townships following the brutal murders on the weekend of two women.
  • Majority in Israel Support Gay Couple Rights - A new poll shows that despite a vocal opposition to gays by orthodox religious groups the majority of Israeli's believe same-sex couples should have rights similar to those of married couples.
  • American Psychologists To Review Stance on Gays - The American Psychological Association is embarking on the first review of its 10-year-old policy on counseling gays and lesbians, a step that gay-rights activists hope will end with a denunciation of any attempt by therapists to change sexual orientation.
  • Gay South African Prisoners To Be Allowed To Marry - Gay and lesbian convicts will be allowed to marry in South African prisons.

YouTube - Gay Marriage: End of the world for some Christians

Sunday links

Even before adding some of the links in this text to a more permanent status in this humble weblog bookmarks, these sites are worth to take a look

Of course, if any of you wants to suggest a useful site, one that focus in your own area, we'll be glad to hear from it.
We want to hear from you - send us feedback, email, comment.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Sodomy: a brief comment.

Some friend emailed me privately to congratulate for this blog (this is autopromotion, I know), and expressed that:

"finally, a gay blog that's not based on pornography and eroticism. It's saddening, however, to learn that there a people being killed for being who they are. And yet some lesbians go through it unjudged."

Well, as a reference to yesterday's post about the GLBT rights worldwide, such idea that lesbians get the best part of it must be, under my standpoint, clarified.
The fact is that most of the laws forbidding or punishing same sex relations are based in old law codes. It's not strange then that countries so separated as Antigua, Kenya, Nigeria and Kiribati state as a maximum penalty 14 years of prison. I haven't checked up the sources and extents of such ruling, but I believe that it may be rooted in colonization laws. I'm right now taking a look at the wikipedia entry about Sodomy Law which includes a comprehensive definition and story, so that any intelligent mind can guess why such actions have been (and sadly are) enforced mostly against "sex between men, particularly anal sex". Sex between women seldom includes anal penetration (but I'm not a lesbian woman and little I know about the issue). And where did such Sodomy Laws come from? Well, that requires a deeper research but I bet it's got something to do with religious beliefs. I promise to write a small series of posts dealing with religious positions in regards to homosexuality. By now I recommend to click on the Wikipedia link and read the whole entry, as well as the related ones.
And to end with a strange curiosity, the entry mentions that until the United States of America Supreme Court decided on the Lawrence v. Texas trial in 2003, the following US states had laws against sodomy (or whatever they wanted to call that).
  • Alabama (1 year or $2,000)
  • Florida (60 days or $500)
  • Idaho (5 years to life)
  • Kansas (6 months or $1,000)
  • Louisiana (5 years or $2,000)
  • Mississippi (10 years)
  • Missouri (1 year or $1,000)
  • North Carolina (10 years to discretionary time)
  • South Carolina (5 years or $500)
  • Texas ($500)
  • Virginia (1 year and 6 months)

Yes, strange that the USA kept these penalties for homosexuality only 4 years ago, eh? Well, don't forget that the pilgrims of the Mayflower were puritans fleeing their European region for morality reasons. In fact they were escaping a land of depravation and inmorality... but that's only my opinion.

Friday, July 13, 2007

World Map for Gay rights (from Wikipedia)

Gay Rights and Wrongs in the World

The following lists depict a panorama certainly sad for same-gender loving people worldwide. Let's start with the good news, and mention the countries that allow gay people to serve openly in their Armed Forces. I'd call this the

Hall of Fame
  • Austria
  • Bahamas
  • Belgium
  • Colombia
  • Croatia
  • Denmark
  • Estonia
  • Finland
  • France
  • Germany (but can't be officers)
  • Hungary
  • Israel
  • Luxemburg
  • Netherlands
  • New Zealand
  • Norway
  • Peru
  • Poland
  • Portugal
  • Russia
  • Slovenia
  • South Africa
  • Spain
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland
  • Taiwan

Now comes the sad part. There are laws against homosexuality, sodomy and gay sex in all these countries. We're noting the maximum prison sentence on each country, if known.

Hall of Shame
  • Algeria (3 years)
  • Angola (undefined)
  • Antigua & Barbuda (14 years)
  • Bahrain (10 years)
  • Bangladesh (10 years to life)
  • Barbados (undefined)
  • Benin (undefined)
  • Botswana (7 years)
  • Brunei (10 years)
  • Burma/Myanmar (undefined)
  • Cameroon (6 months to 5 years)
  • Cook Islands (5 to 7 years)
  • Djibouti (undefined)
  • Egypt (5 years, not under homosexuality but under inmorality laws)
  • Ethiopia (10 years)
  • Ghana (only punishable under charges of rape when one of both males files a police complaint)
  • Grenada (undefined)
  • Guinea (6 months to 3 years)
  • Guyana (life)
  • India (life)
  • Jamaica (10 years, prison or hard labor)
  • Kenya (14 years)
  • Kiribati (14 years)
  • Kuwait (7 years)
  • Lebanon (1 year)
  • Liberia (undefined)
  • Libya (3 to 5 years)
  • Malawi (punishable under "unnatural offences" and "public decency" laws, undefined term)
  • Malaysia (20 year + lashings)
  • Maldives (life)
  • Marshall Islands (10 years)
  • Mauritius (5 years)
  • Mongolia (undefined)
  • Morocco (6 months to 3 years)
  • Mozambique (3 years)
  • Namibia (undefined, only male sex is punishable)
  • Nauru (undefined)
  • Nepal (life)
  • Nicaragua (4 years)
  • Nigeria (14 years; in the northern states which may apply Islamic law, up to death)
  • Niue (10 years)
  • Oman (3 years)
  • Pakistan (life + 100 lashes, under Islamic law 100 lashes + death)
  • Papua New Guinea (5 to 14 years)
  • Qatar (5 years)
  • St. Lucia (undefined)
  • Samoa (5 to 7 years)
  • Senegal (1 to 3 years)
  • Seychelles (undefined)
  • Sierra Leone (undefined)
  • Singapore (life, but lesbian sex in private is legal)
  • Solomon Islands (14 years)
  • Somalia (3 months to 3 years)
  • Sri Lanka (10 years, but no law against lesbian sex)
  • Swaziland (undefined)
  • Syria (3 years)
  • Tokelau (10 years)
  • Tonga (10 years)
  • Tanzania (14 years, up to 25 if in Zanzibar)
  • Togo (3 years)
  • Trinidad & Tobago (10 to 20 years)
  • Tunisia (3 years)
  • Turkmenistan (2 years)
  • Tuvalu (14 years)
  • Uganda (7 years)
  • United Arab Emirates (10 to 14 years)
  • Uzbekistan (3 years for anal sex, oral sex is legal, and lesbians not mentioned in the law)
  • Zaire (5 years)
  • Zambia (14 years)
  • Zimbabwe (10 years)

And finally, the countries that punish homosexuality with death penalty:

  • Afghanistan
  • Iran
  • Iraq
  • Mauritania
  • Nigeria (in the northern states only)
  • Saudi Arabia
  • Sudan
  • Yemen

The above information has been collected from the page Homosexual Rights Around the World, where you can find much more detailed information, as well as read the whole detailed list of countries.

Gay activists try their hand at blogging

From Washington Blade National News.

Late to the trend, groups seek unfiltered access to supporters

Friday, July 06, 2007

The nation’s leading gay rights activist groups are beginning to embrace blogging as a means of disseminating their messages in an unfiltered way. So far, their online efforts are garnering mixed reviews.

The Human Rights Campaign launched its blog, HRC Back Story, just last month.

“HRC can weigh in and comment on news that we might not necessarily issue a press release on but is just as important,” blogger Chris Johnson said.

HRC joins several other prominent gay groups in the blogosphere, including Immigration Equality, the Victory Fund, the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force and the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network.

HRCbackstory.org offers the organization’s real-time perspective on gay-related news. Instead of waiting for HRC to issue a press release, Johnson can offer a quick summary of the organization’s stance on an issue.

Pam Spaulding, who operates the popular Pam’s House Blend site, says these organizations are slow to realize the power of blogging.

“That they know they need to [start blogs] may have something to do with controlling messaging,” she said. “It’s hard to do that when you have free agents out there shaping opinion and stirring the pot.”

One of those pot-stirrers is Mike Rogers, the gay blogger behind blogACTIVE.com, a site known for outing anti-gay politicians. Rogers said the HRC blog is a good thing.

“HRC Back Story links to things outside and puts information out there in a really positive way,” Rogers said. “Then, of course, they’re moving their message.”

Rogers said that HRC is getting news out as quickly as it can by taking advantage of the medium’s immediate delivery.

“They really want this information out there,” Rogers said.

But not all bloggers have been so kind to HRC. Earlier this year, commentator Andrew Sullivan, activist Michael Petrelis and former Washington Blade editor Chris Crain slammed HRC on its blogs over a range of issues, including failing to secure passage of federal gay rights legislation and inflating membership numbers. HRC’s response to the criticism only exacerbated the situation.

Johnson said HRC’s new blog will enable the organization to have a more immediate voice in such online debates.

“We really kind of looked at the blog as a way for us to weigh in on some of the conversations that people were having about issues that affect the GLBT community,” Johnson said.

HRC Back Story’s design is clean and simple. The blog posts run down the center of the main page and are organized into categories, such as “coming out” and “military.”

Johnson has been at HRC for six months and was hired as its director of public affairs and interactive communications. He was brought on board, he said, to oversee outreach to grassroots sources and to form relationships with gay political bloggers.

Engaging bloggers like Rogers with tailored messaging instead of press releases is one of Johnson’s duties.

When an organization like HRC launches a blog, there are certain things to be mindful of, Johnson said.

“We’re involved with pending legislation and things happening in state houses,” he said. “You encounter a greater amount of risks that comes from constantly putting information out there with a blog.”

Another advantage of having a blog, Johnson said, is the ability to “tell about another side of the organization that people may not immediately know about.”

Spaulding says gay organizations’ blogs are going to play a different role than the citizen activist sites.

“For obvious reasons, they aren’t going to be candid or inflammatory,” she said.

The organizations will be held accountable for everything written on the blogs, while independent voices who aren’t blogging under the banner of a big name have more freedom to state provocative opinions.

“One of the advantages that these blogs have is more access,” Spaulding said. “Also, people are being paid to do them.”

Rogers has joined Spaulding and about 25 other gay political activist bloggers to form gaypoliticsblogads.com, a site that encourages partnerships between organizations and bloggers.

When an organization launches an issue-oriented campaign, the gay politics blog ads community will be sent a notification from Rogers in case they want to blog about the topic at hand.

“Building this network to work closely with organizations helps bring blogs closer to them by helping to promote information,” he said.

Rogers said that a regular reader will then, instead of seeing an ad or a press release, see a blog post in conjunction with an ad.

When blogging backfires

Immigration Equality’s blog, at www.immigrationequality.org/blog, like HRC Back Story, divides its posts into categories.

Blogging provides an outlet for instant and unedited news, which can sometimes backfire.

Immigration Equality caused a stir on June 8 when blogger and policy coordinator Adam Francoeur posted that Sen. Hillary Clinton’s campaign had agreed to meet with the organization “at the end of this month” to discuss her position on the Uniting American Families Act. It turned out that a formal policy meeting had not been set.

The Servicemembers Legal Defense Network’s blog, Frontlines, focuses entirely on the repeal of the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. Like the Immigration Equality blog, Frontlines allows user comments, which adds to a sense of community found within the activist blogs.

Other gay organizations, such as the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force (www.thetaskforce.org/activist_center/outspoken) offer blogs with news and commentary that are updated less frequently than many web users have come to expect.

The Victory Fund’s new blog, at www.gaypolitics.com, offers a handful of news updates during the day. Denis Dison, the organization’s vice president of communications, said the blog remains a “growing priority.”

Once the Victory Fund expands the blog, it will “focus on what LGBT leaders are doing, whether in politics, the movement or the media,” Dison said.