Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The G-20 Meet the GLBTQ

As all Canadians know, Toronto thinks it is the centre of the Universe, and in late June it just might be. The G-20 Summit will be held in Toronto from June 26-27, bringing together leaders from all 19 countries and the European Union, involving incredible security measures, and essentially shutting down normal activity from June 20-29, all at a cost of billions of dollars.

Yet, as incredible as it may seem, while the leaders of the world are staving off global financial implosion, the 30th Annual Pride Week Toronto (June 25-July 4) will "celebrate the history, courage, diversity and future of Toronto's LGBTTIQQ2SA communities" [Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transsexual, Transgender, Intersex, Queer/Questioning, 2 Spirited, Allies*]. They will do so with a VIP Launch Party on June 25, followed by events June 26-28 including: Seniors’ Pride on the Island; Miss Queer HUELLAS; Among Friends: Refugee Pride; We Are Family; You Belong With God; Pride Prom 2010: A Space Odyssey; and The 519’s Older LGBT Pride Picnic.

This may give new meaning to the G-20 Summit's theme of “Recovery and New Beginnings”, especially as formal protest activities are being organized for the same days. Perhaps the protesters will show greater diversity too, as various sites are inviting people to combine Pride Week and G-20 Protest. Fortunately, the highest profile Pride events, the Transgender March, the Dyke March, and the Pride Parade will be held on the July 2-4 weekend.

Perhaps the G-20 and the GLBTQ will meet common cause over Pride Toronto's stated value to manage itself "with fiscal responsibility and foresight, ensuring the viability of the organization and the fulfillment of its mission."  Perhaps the "We're Here and We're Queer" crowd will be able to help the G-20 " further their discussions on ways to ensure transparency in the marketplace". Although I am not sure how the goal of the one, to celebrate "with provocative, racy, and outrageous events", facilitates the aim of the other, "to help reduce excessive risk taking and to encourage a culture of prudent behaviour focused on the long term", I'm sure Stephen will tell us.

However, there is high irony in Prime Minister Stephen Harper changing the venue of the G-20 summit to Toronto during Pride Week, as one of his first acts as Prime Minister was to flee to the Arctic to avoid opening the XVIth International AIDS Conference held in Toronto in August 2006. It was unprecedented--outside of Canada and Jean Chretien in 1996--for any national leader not to at least open this very high profile bi-annual international conference on AIDS research and treatment, and which affects all segments of society though not equally.

It was hard to find any excuse for the Prime Minister to not make the 1/2 hour flight from Ottawa to Toronto, give a 20 minute speech around 9 AM, take a few photos, and then head north for the suddenly urgent visit to Iqaluit, with a total delay of about 1.5-2 hours. Nor did Harper make an appearance at any other time in the 6 day conference. He was too busy in the Canadian Arctic highlighting potential sovereignty issues as circumpolar navigation becomes a real possibility with global climate change and the opening of previously frozen Arctic waters--some time in the future. It was especially hard given the others in attendance, including Bill Clinton, and Bill Gates.

President Bill Clinton speaking at the 2006 International AIDS Conference in Toronto

Mayor David Miller hosted the AIDS conference, without an appearance by newly elected PM Stephen Harper

Nevertheless, there is, of course, a very serious side to both events, the G-20 Summit most obviously, but also to Pride Week.While current laws in Canada are liberal about homosexuality, same-sex marriage, and same-sex rights are protected by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, it wasn't so long ago that things were quite different. Although then Justice Minister Pierre Trudeau (part of the Liberal Cabinet of PM Lester B Pearson) made the famous statement, "the state has no place in the bedrooms of the nation", as he de-criminalized homosexual behaviour in 1969, as late as 1981 Toronto police raided gay bathhouses and arrested 306 men, the largest Canadian mass arrest second to that of the 1970 FLQ crisis (under the War Measures Act). The men were publicly humiliated by being force out onto the street, in their bath towels only, and their were names publicized, which ruined the lives of many.  The response then was a demonstration by Toronto gays and their supporters, legal defense for the arrested, the formation of Gays and Lesbians Against the Right, and the incorporation of Lesbian and Gay Pride Day Toronto. Now Toronto is among the most gay friendly cities of a gay friendly country.

Canada has become a country of refuge for gays and lesbians from countries which are markedly less liberal. One leader in facilitating life for gay Muslims and homosexuals seeking refugee status from MENA countries is Jordanian Canadian Al-Hussein. His compelling story was told in the Globe and Mail in 2004:
“I have lost everything, but I don’t regret coming here. Now I can walk down the street without having to watch my back, wondering if I will be killed.”
When he left Amman, he gave up a 20-year career as a set designer for Jordan Television, and signed over all his assets—a BMW and Suzuki Jeep, a home and interior design business and his inheritance—to his brother, the one who had tried to kill him.
“I don’t approve of what my brother did, but I understand why he did it. It was about preserving the family’s honour,” he says, pulling down his sock to reveal several white scars and tapping his false teeth.
Mr. Hussein’s life story is one of wealth and privilege, as well as secrecy and shame, as he struggled to fit into a traditional Arab culture that considers homosexuality the greatest sin.
The family moved in the same social and political circles as the royal family.
His father, who served both as deputy defence minister and as an adviser to the royal family, received special permission from the late King Hussein I for his son to have the same name.
Mr. Hussein was educated at the best private schools and grew up in a five-bedroom house, surrounded by servants. There were weekends at Dead Sea resorts, and summer vacations at five-star hotels in Paris.
While still a teenager, Mr. Hussein began a clandestine affair with a family “slave” named Amber, a gift to the family from King Hussein’s uncle. “Because of the strict segregation of genders in Arab culture, there is a lot of closeted homosexuality,” he says.
“Most men at some stage have sex with a man because they all have needs. Women are supposed to stay virgins until they marry.”
Rumours about his homosexuality began to spread, and his father forced him to marry in 1986 when he was 29. He told his fiancée the truth, but she accepted the match because of the Hussein family’s social cachet. The couple had three children through artificial insemination.
Mr. Hussein tried to conduct his gay affairs discreetly, but in 1996, he fell in love with the head of Jordan’s national judo team. He separated from his wife and built a house on the outskirts of Amman where the lovers could meet in secret.
One night, his brother caught the two men kissing, and, enraged, threw Mr. Hussein down the stairs, breaking his leg. He underwent surgery, and spent three months in the hospital recovering, with an armed bodyguard posted outside his room.
His brother later shot him in the hospital lobby after Mr. Hussein’s lover came to visit him. When he was released, it was not to his own home, but to a tiny servant’s room with bars on the window in his brother’s home. He had become his family’s prisoner.
A sympathetic aunt in Toronto persuaded his father that Canada could save him. And so Mr. Hussein gave up his pampered life and came to Toronto with $300 (U.S.).
He went on to form Salaam, a gay rights organization for Muslims, as well as Wattan, an organization that helps gay refugees.
Recently, he summoned the courage to tell his 15-year-old daughter in an e-mail why he left the country. “She wrote me back and said, ‘You’re still my father and I love you and accept you,’” he said.
Along with 4 other gay men,  Al-Hussein was featured in the documentary Gloriously Free, titled after the words in the Canadian national anthem, "God keep our land glorious and free!" [Canadian children tend to sing this as "...glorious and freeze"--rather aptly really, given the climate. It is a phonetic error similar to that of American children who commonly sing, "José! can you see by the dawn's early light..."]

Gloriously Free is the first documentary ever to explore the world of gay immigration and the desperate search of five young men to find welcoming arms outside their countries of birth, where persecution and hatred of alternative lifestyles may lead to discrimination, torture or death. What they find is Canada, a vast country that now leads the world as the safest haven for persecuted international gays and lesbians. In just three years, the country has issued over 3,000 immigration permits to international gays and lesbians seeking refugee status, more than any other market in the world. Their compelling stories have global reach as same-sex partnerships fuel international dialogue about why North America - and Canada in particular - has softened its political stance on same-sex preference and orientation. Excluded from the opportunity to live freely in their native countries, these five remarkable and resilient young men tell stories of blackmail and torture, of broken legs and facing the end of a gun barrel.
Languages: English, Arabic, Hindi, Mandarin, Polish, Russian, Spanish
I recently had a conversation with a 19-year-old Saudi student from Jeddah, who came to Canada to study English one year ago, and didn't want to return home after the year was up. His father cut him off financially, so he was working evenings and nights in a convenience store, and studying full time in the daytime. He was also asking for refugee status. I said, "Well I know many people who have made a false claim of...", but before I could finish with different examples, he said, "Yes, many say they are homosexuals, and they will be killed if they go back to their country. I know many Saudis who have done this." I didn't expect this claim, as it was the first I had heard of it; and I didn't ask what grounds he would be using.

He was claiming refugee status as he didn't want just a student visa, but rather a visa  that would give him the right to work off-campus, which making a refugee claim does. Making a refugee claim also provides other benefits, as does being a refugee, which a student visa doesn't, like free health care. I still think he would do better with a student visa and a similar (minimum wage) job on campus, but I wasn't able to discuss that with him, given the casualness of our acquaintance. I'm not sure if he or the others recognize that later a false claim on those grounds could become problematic, in any instance where documentation was required about visas, citizenship status and how acquired. The same is true of military deferments on false medical grounds. It isn't the falseness, it is the grounds that may be a problem in some circumstances, for example that of a friend whose initial application for a visa to Canada was rejected because of the false medical claim he used for deferment of obligatory military service in his home country.

Apparently refugee claims of homosexuality and persecution by family and government are now so common that many claims are rejected for lack of proof, or evidence. Claimants are required to provide witnesses to their gay lifestyle, and documentation like love letters and photos (hard to fake given forensic detection of timing of the documents). Lawyers say that their clients may have spent a lifetime hiding signs that they were gay from their family, society, and repressive government and so have no evidence; or be too new to the community here (where they may be out for the first time) to have longer term evidence of relationships and friends willing to testify (not all homosexuals are out to their families, workplaces, heterosexual friends, clubs, etc, even in the major cities). Some lawyers introduce their clients into the gay community, and have them build social connections to support their refugee claim.

After the 2006 International AIDS conference in Toronto 160 participants refused to return to their homelands and sought asylum in Canada, claiming persecution as homosexuals in a number of countries. Some have been rejected, and others have had their claims accepted. However, this poses a problem in some senses. It does little to advance gay rights in their home countries, and it also accentuates and may exaggerate the intolerance for gays in those countries--in the eyes of Immigration Canada and the government generally, and in broader Canadian society, especially as this type of topic is prime fodder for journalists who have access to information about grounds for refugee claims, approval rates, etc.

Which brings us back to Toronto and the G-20/ GLBTQ interface: both funny and serious. Security measures will be serious. Clashes with protesters hopefully not too serious. Having a simultaneous influx of Pride Week celebrants and G-20 participants could be funny, though crowded. And...Toronto's gay "ghetto" and the financial district aren't that far apart--geographically!

Yes, indeed, while it may not be the centre of the Universe, for a few days in June, Toronto will be painting the G-20 meeting in the rainbow colours of GLBTQ Pride.

What do you think of  the G-20 and Pride Week being held together in the same city?
What is your impression of the choice of Toronto for the G-20 Summit, given the security questions, the economic compromises, the cost vs major city, prestigious event, central hub?
Would it have been better to hold it as originally planned in a smaller out of the way place, like a resort?
What positive functions, if any, do the G-20 summits serve?
What is your reaction to LGBTTIQQ2SA (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transsexual, Transgender, Intersex, Queer/Questioning, 2 Spirited, Allies)*?
Have you ever seen a Pride Parade? What was your impression?
How accepting, or not, is your country/ culture/ religion of non-heterosexuality? Formally or informally? In public or in private?
What is your impression of Al-Hussein's life experience and current life?
What would you have advised the Saudi student to do about staying, obtaining a visa, other?
What types of domestic problems in other countries should be considered for refugee status in a different country?
Is Canada too accepting of refugees?
Any other comments, thoughts, experiences?

*Transsexuals or Transgendered are those who are "in the wrong body" for their psychological gender, and usually seek sex-change therapy with hormones and surgical reconstruction; Intersex are those with ambiguous or a dual set of genitalia and sex characteristics ("hermaphrodites"); Queerness is more an attitude and style, one with socio-political connotations/ Questioning are those who question their own gender identity or sexual orientation; 2 Spirited is the Native North American concept of homosexuality/ bi-sexuality/ mixed gender roles; Allies are the supporters (often heterosexual) of the "not straight", "not hetero-normative". In medicine in Canada, where relevant, patients are asked to "self-identify" regarding gender identity and sexual orientation. Self-identification is the criterion for identification of gender and sexual-orientation used by society more broadly as well.

All posts on the G-20 Summit:
The G-20 Meet the GlBTQ
The G(irls) 20 Summit: Part I--Background
The G(irls) 20 Summit: Part II--The Delegates
G-20 Summit 2010 Toronto: Protesters vs Demonstrators vs Rioters; Another Brilliant Harper Idea
G-20 Summit 2010 Toronto: Saudi Arabia, King Abdullah, and Young Saudi Delegates
G-20 Summit Toronto 2010: Summarized--Part I Fake Lake and Fiscal Responsibility, Indeed
G-20 Summit Toronto 2010: Summarized--Part II Riots, Amnesty International, and an Unfinished Agenda


Wendy said...

Chiara, I love this post! I will answer some of your questions.
Yes, I've seen a Pride Parade in Vancouver. Great fun!
I was very saddened by Al-Hussein's story and am happy he is now in Canada.
I am happy that Canada allows gays to come in because of their persecution. I can't stand they hypocracy in countries like KSA where I watch men who can 'out swish' they gayest of gay men in Canada walking with their boyfriends and it is accepted only until a person declares himself gay. The things that happen in male/female segregated societies such as Afghanistan boggles my mind.
I have gay friends in KSA and I'd dearly like to be able to help them get out. Two are getting to the age where they will be forced to marry and this is so sad both for them and their wives-to-be.
In KSA my husband and I have been questioned privately about our thoughts of gay people and life in Canada for them. Those questioning us were surprised (and excited) to learn that we had a gay couple stand up for us at our wedding.
I would also like to see refugees accepted in Canada who are suffering domestic violence, who want to escape FGM for themselves or their daughters, or have other sorts of human rights violations heaped upon them.
I would rather see Canada too accepting rather than not but at the same time I would like Canada to be firm with our existing laws and not change them for refugees.

Anonymous said...

The lack of LGBT rights is one area that is virtually untouched by liberal activists in the Middle East. When it's brought up in the west, it's usually as a means of Arab-bashing. I don't see the situation getting any better any time soon, which is why I hope, the Canadian authorities give refugees the benefit of the doubt.

The situation in the UK is similar, where people falsely claim to be gay in order to gain refugee status - but do we really want to risk being wrong about this?

The story about Al-Hussein is telling - he lived in what was meant to be the liberal stratum of society, in a country that is relatively more liberal that her neighbours, and he was saved by a family member who lived outside the country.

Susanne said...

Colorful post! :-) I didn't realize people were using homosexuality as a reason to claim refugee status. How interesting!

I remember the first time I talked to one of my Syrian friends (NOT the one you "know") by IM about homosexuality. I don't even remember how and why it came up now...maybe he was asking about my views on certain issues. I can't recall. Anyway, I was shocked at how negatively he thought of it and what he said should happen to gay men. This is an otherwise fairly moderate Muslim guy so I was stunned. But since then I've read blogs and books and gotten a better understanding of how he's been influenced. Your post reminded me of that since you shared about Mr. Hussein.

“Most men at some stage have sex with a man because they all have needs. Women are supposed to stay virgins until they marry.”

I can't tell you how irritating this attitude/excuse is to me some days. :)

Wendy said...

I can assure you, Susanne, that women have their lesbian relationships and affairs as well.

Anonymous said...

Wait, I thought women AND men were supposed to stay virgins until they marry. You're telling my abstinence for the past x years has been a total waste? :p

oby said...


I always have wondered if men get so over the top crazy about gays and homosexuality is if they simply find it to be a threat direct or indirect threat to their masculinity. Hmmmm

Chiara said...

Wendy--I'm glad you love it, and thank you for your thoughtful comments and replies. I think it is wonderful you have shared your family and friend experiences. No doubt for those who are in cultures which are not tolerant of open homosexuality this is a very difficult life. Most countries in fact aren't so tolerant, and even most parts of Canada aren't as tolerant as major cities like Toronto, Montreal, and of course Vancouver. Gay students have told me of their difficulties even in liberal arts faculties on major campuses in medium sized cities.

I think that Canada should be open to refugees making genuine claims, but I have to say that my thoughts on this have altered some what because of what foreign students tell me in psychotherapy and that other information supports. Immigration lawyers or counsellors are very adept at finding ways to keep their clients in the queue and at changing the reason for the claim to take advantage of new laws or new "best chance of success" evidence. One of my student patients was in this situation of having applied multiple times for refugee status after multiple failed immigration applications. These repeat claims buy time for the person to build a Canadian dossier as she did. She was working in her professional field for $65,000 a year (starting salary with all benefits). Her latest claim was for domestic violence from an abuse husband "back home". However, she had long been divorced from him, and she was living in a large city as a professional. Her own family wasn't overly conservative and supported her educational objectives (including PhD). I of course support her psychologically, but I found it hard to imagine she would be living in fear of domestic violence in her home city in her home country. It also was just one of a long line of claims, so had less validity for me.

My primary concern is those who are genuinely in fear, don't know how to game the system, or don't conform to what a panel might expect--eg they don't cry enough, or they cry too much, or they are too angry, or too soft spoken...whatever it is that is supposed to fit the profile of "abused".

The point you raise about forced marriage and how bad this can be for the other partner is well taken. It used to be that almost all here married too, in order to cover their sexual orientation, or in the hopes of a "cure", or to succeed socially. Often the wives (usually) were totally neurotic and depressed not understanding why they were unattractive to their husbands. I also had a patient who was a lesbian, whose husband was either unsuspecting or choosing to be oblivious, but who had made major life decisions to marry her and change countries. She married to please her Hispano-American family. It is just sad, which is one of the reasons I think it is better that there be increased acceptance, and if not that there be arranged marriages by mutual consent of lesbians and gays, which also used to happen a lot and still does to a certain extent, eg for immigration purposes (ie to get someone in the country).

Thanks again for your inspiring comment!

Chiara said...

Shafiq--thanks for sharing your perspective here!

I agree that one would prefer to err on the side of caution than to send someone back who was genuinely at risk as Al-Hussein was (and is). I have seen him interviewed, and I found it so very clever of his aunt to convince his father to send him to Canada to be straightened out. It relieved the pressure of having him in Jordan for the family as well as giving him an opportunity to live freely his own identity. I think it is admirable that he is using his experience to help spare others some of the psychological pain and social repercussions that he has gone through.

You are quite right that even in supposedly more accepting or tolerant segments of society within a culture there are boundaries that cannot be crossed, and Al-Hussein seems to have had trouble after he became more open, or at least less cautious, about his orientation. This doesn't justify what was done to him, but rather explains the sequence of events. Also, it is part of middle age to reflect and wish to live the rest of one's life differently, which may be why he began taking more risks.

One of my psychiatry professors came out in middle age--probably to himself too, but definitely to his wife and 3 sons, as well as his colleagues etc. I think it was a very painful (though safe) process for all. He is now happily involved with a younger man, who is of a generation and culture (American) not to have had such issues.

As to your second comment--yes men are supposed to remain virgins (according to Islam, Catholicism, Protestantism, and Judaism that I know of--and of course, according to their MOTHERS!!!) so your celibacy is not in vain. ;)

It is probably just as unfair to men to portray them as a bundle of urges as it is to deny women's sexual desires and frustrations.

It is rather hilarious though to read, in medieval poetry for example, the same portrayals of men trying to convince women to have pre-marital relations with all the same rationales: LOVE, I will marry you later, we are engaged anyway, time is fleeting, tomorrow I could die in a war, men have urges, and repeat... :) It makes one wonder whether life is conditioning art or vice versa!

Thanks again for your comments!

Chiara said...

Susanne--thank you, I'm glad you enjoyed the pics!

You have raised a number of good points. I certainly have met men of different ethnic and religious backgrounds, including Muslim from a variety of countries, who had a live and let live (as long as they don't bother me) attitude and others who were more vehement about being against homosexuality, or more specifically its practice (Islam condemns the behaviour more than the orientation, whereas Christianity condemns the orientation itself) or making it public. Irshad Manji is reviled by some as much for being openly lesbian as being openly critical of Islam.

Men from other cultures like Hispano-american are also more open about being against homosexuality. It is only recently that homosexuality has been decriminalized in a number of countries.

An Eastern European anthropologist told me that in his own country most gay men were married with children because of that. It is only the younger generation who are not following that model. Both he and his cousin are gay and their mothers recently had a huge fight with each sister accusing the other of having a gay son, and denying that there own was. For career reasons his cousin has married--but he says his cousin would doing anything to move up in society, including marrying an elderly prominent woman as he did, and which the anthropologist saw announced in the society pages of his home city newspaper!

Ah yes the "men have urges [and women don't]" does make one wince, doesn't it? :)

Thanks again for your comment!

Chiara said...

Wendy-- good point about equal gender opportunity on this.

As you (and Susanne and others) probably know, international studies with reliable statistics show that about 3% of the population is gay, about 3% lesbian, and about 3% bi-sexual. So, despite the protestations of some like Ahmadinejad, about 10% of the population of any country is not strictly hetero-sexual. There may be higher percentages when you look at specific groups, eg. those frequenting gay bars, or attending the Pride Parade, but these percentages generally hold, and the number of homosexuals in certain sports or pursuits isn't much different despite popular belief.

Lesbianism is often both better hidden and better accepted socially--mostly because women aren't supposed to be having urges so who cares if they are sleeping together! LOL :)

Chiara said...

Oby--I hope Susanne clarifies her comments and responds to your query. My understanding is that the response is partly nature (Y chromosome--really would "rather fight than switch"); partly nurture (most cultures are not gay friendly, and most highly patriarchal societies or male-dominated sectors of a society are less so); and partly defense mechanism--not against homosexual urges they may feel but against being labelled homosexual by others.

As my male patients inform me, calling someone a faggot as a putdown is rather standard high school male behaviour, which continues into more sophisticated adult forms of the same thing. Duly indoctrinated the hour before by the campus GLBTQ seminar to psychiatrists on appropriately sensitive language, I once said to a new patient who told me his brother was called faggot in high school, "Oh, and is he gay?". The patient gave me that 18 year old, my parents raised me right look of benevolence and said "No, that's what guys call each other in high school to put each other down". I just nodded a kind of "thank you for the information", even though I have seen the analogous attitudes among male colleagues.

I think that is part of why heterosexual men respond as they do to being hit on by another man. It is partly conditioning and partly genuine dismay that they may have been mistaken for gay, and even "unpleasant" physical responses to the idea of homosexual relations. On the other hand having been forced to watch lesbian sex acts as part of a sexology course, I can say that as a heterosexual woman the whole idea is similarly "unappealing".

I certainly have spent time professionally and personally reassuring heterosexual men about why they were hit on. Often it has to do with cultural behaviours they are unaware of. I told one friend who was furious his wife mentioned it in front of me "Tall, slim, attractive, and well-dressed, here that means gay. I know where you come from it means nothing of the sort, but look at the other guys here--you are in a well-dressed minority, only some of whom are heterosexual like yourself, hint hint".

Last evening I had a big laugh with the guys at the Middle East take out about all the normal behaviours between men "back home" that they don't do here. I told them about the Moroccan psychiatrist who gave a presentation at an international sexology conference warning Westerners not to mistake standard Arab social patterns among men for homosexuality, or latent homosexuality, or repressed homosexuality, etc. ie not homosexual--unless their private behaviours clearly are.

It started because I was wearing a hot pink sweater and for some reason we got on to the topic of men wearing pink in the West--ie mostly not a good idea. They explained a light pink shirt would be okay on a man in Jordan, for example, but not the hot pink I was wearing. They were surprised when I told them about African men in pastel pink eyelet. We all agreed--hot pink for girls only! :)

After so many words, comments, and palm trees, I do hope others will comment or re-comment on topics in the post or in this discussion in the comments!

oby said...

Your comments remind me of a few things:

first, as an oncologist my husband deals with a LOT of stressed out, scared and literally crying people. everyone hears the big "C" and automatically assumes that they are done for. Part of his job is to be compassionate while at the same time dispassionate. After 7 years or so of this he has started to show the stress that is placed on him. I suggested that I could give him a massage package to a local therapy place to release some of the tension...his shoulders are like rocks. His response? "I couldn't have a strange man's hands on me". But they are professionals and aren't thinking like that I retort. Remember, this is a man who looks at women's breasts for malformations due to cancer and as I said is dispassionate about it so he understands the concept of "It's his job". OK...then how about a woman? Nope that won't work either. He can't have a strange womans hands on him. Well, I guess we have run out of options. I can do it but I would only do a superficial job I am afraid. So the point is even with someone who is all about "it's my job" even in a delicate area, he has a phobia about it.

When he and his buddies came from India to USA to do their residencies they had a tendency to walk down the halls holding hands. All of them were blithely unaware that they were drawing curious stares until a nurse told them that "you can't do that sort of stuff here. Guys don't hold hands unless they are gay." they changed their behavior as they didn't want to appear gay. I felt kind of sad about that because it was such a natural thing between men and when I was in India it was widely done and it means nothing other than friendship or affection (non sexual).

When my nephew was born I was absolutely scandalized (LOL!) when his mother and father dressed him up in a pink outfit head to foot with lambs on it. I expressed that to my husband who assured me that in India there was no pink for girls, blue for boys thing going on. Maybe now, but 11 years ago there wasn't evidently.

coolred38 said...

Chiara...people arent as bothered by lesbianism simply because a woman cant get pregnant by another even if she is having her 'bit on the side" fear of to speak. A blind eye is turned.

Susanne said...

Oby, I loved your comment about your husband and the norms of India (guys holding hands; baby boy dressed in pink). I noticed Syrian men walking arm in arm and told my Arab friends that in America men would not do this unless they were gay. (Even most women I know don't walk hand in hand though it's a bit more acceptable/normal than guys doing it.) It's interesting how cultures are so different, huh? :)

I think my husband would be similar to yours in not getting massaged by a man. He'd find it weird having some strange guys hands all over him. Then again maybe he would be fine with it. If he were here, I'd ask. :) On the other hand, my friend had her husband go to a therapeutic massage LADY whom she knew and trusted, but Randy said he could NOT relax having a woman's hands all over him. Ha, ha. Men! :-P

As for this comment:

“Most men at some stage have sex with a man because they all have needs. Women are supposed to stay virgins until they marry.”

I just hate the double standards. Men have *needs* so they can "break the rules," but God forbid a woman actually not be a virgin when she marries. She'll have hell to pay for that. I just detest the "men have needs" excuse as if that clears them from wrong. Sorry, Buddy, you may have needs, but that's just how "God made you" and He didn't put any escape clause in there about since you have needs, you can go visit the prostitute down the road or have sex with a guy 'til you can marry a girl.

I just hate the double standards and the convenient excuse for men. :)

Anthrogeek10 said...

Suzanne said:

“Most men at some stage have sex with a man because they all have needs. Women are supposed to stay virgins until they marry.”

I can't tell you how irritating this attitude/excuse is to me some days. :)

I am asking: why is it "irritating"? You added a smiley which confused me.

I do not know what to say. I would rather not put my opinions about this out in blogland for all to see but I will share a bit of my thoughts.
Religion, in my mind, is meant to control the behavior of a population and homosexuality is one of the issues that is against most major religions (if not all). So then, it is not suprising that countries in the periphery practicing a traditional way of life would still be against the lifestyle of homosexuality. These opinions are deeply embedded into the culture so it is difficult to be judgemental about the lack of tolerance gays face in their home countries. I do not think it is right that people are discriminated against due to this and I think they have a right to acquire asylum.

My ex Paki husband told me about the men in KSA how they get women to have anal sex with them so she still "stays" a virgin and he gets what he wants. Although a separate issue, gay's exist all over the world and I think it intensifies in societies where gender segregation exists. However, i have no proof or academic journals to back up that claim.


Susanne said...


"I am asking: why is it "irritating"? You added a smiley which confused me. "

I was trying to stay positive despite how I felt. :) I suppose I should have written it like

I can't tell you how irritating this attitude/excuse is to me some days!!! >>>:-[

Sorry for the confusion!

I explained my irritation in the comment just above yours. Hope that helps. :)

Wendy said...

I do agree that many men get upset about gay men because they perceive it as a threat OR they have had those thoughts and it scares them.
Certainly not all religions are against homosexuality. There are even gay men and women ministers/priests in the Anglican Church. We won't talk about the Catholic Church that is so against homosexuality but .....

There are many First Nations tribes in Canada (and probably the USA) who call gay people 'Two Spirited'. These people were/are allowed to live their lives as they wished and were often used as marital and other counsellors because of their 'feminine' side. I don't know how else to put it and it is somewhat stereotyping because not all gay men exhibit that softer side. I do know that having a gay man as my best friend is just wonderful because there is no competition or sexual tension and my friend can give me opinions and information on issues in ways I might not have seen.

Usman said...

oops sorry!
I came to wrong page.

Usman said...

Oh no...
This is the same blog I used to come....but what happened within a week of my absence?....I mean what nonsense is being run over this page?

I have a very wonderful theory supported by statistics over this Sodomy issue....Sodomy...I mean the thing you call "homosexuality" what I was saying that I have a theory. But I always end up being kicked out of blogs whenever I post it. It sheds light on sodomy thorough a socio-racial point of view. But anyway....leave it.

BTW, It is a request that to give me your opinion on sodomy in a couple of line so that I can decide to come or not to come at this blog in future.
Take care

Chiara said...

Oby--thanks for your great examples. My husband had a massage by a woman in Hong Kong at the urging of friends--for stress reduction. He found it relaxing and arousing, and thought better not to have anymore. He also thought that it was a prelude to a "Full Service" "treatment" even though the place was highly reputable (in a good way, not a Wan Chai way) and recommended. He told me after I arrived, and I didn't encourage him to return.

Men in sports often are treated with massage and other techniques by physios, trainers, etc. Seems like in that context it is well tolerated.

I must say I am "racist" about men holding hands. If they look non-North American I make no assumptions, if they look North American I assume gayness, because it is such a not done behaviour here. I'm surprised your husband and his friends hadn't been forewarned in some sort of cultural orientation, but then again, it might be a difficult topic to broach.

The scandalous baby apparel is funny! I actually prefer the pink/blue distinction for babies, and baby hair bows and ear piercings for girls, because, well, they are all beautiful/ handsome and unique to their moms and dads, but the rest of us have trouble knowing gender if they are diapered and not colour coded. :)

Thanks again for the examples!

Chiara said...

Susanne--thanks for sharing your examples too, and for explaining further your comment above.

I think in reading about Al-Hussain it is important to remember that part of his story is verifiable fact and part is his interpretation. He may be exaggerating that aspect (though it is a commonplace)in a direction most favourable to his case.
Analogously, those coming to terms with their homosexuality often go through a phase of "every is", right after "I'm the only one suffering" and before they settle out to a more accurate "I am not alone but we are a minority".

However, I agree, all double standards are irritating, some to a greater degree than others! :)

Thanks again for elaborating twice more about your comment! :)

Chiara said...

Coolred--Hmmm. I'm sure the lack of evidence and the non-issues about offspring, naming, inheritence etc contribute, but that is also true of male homosexual behaviour. It does seem that in most cultures women have a greater latitude in expressing affection for each other. Thanks for your comment!

Anthrogeek--thanks for sharing your thoughts. It raises the question which came first the social taboo or the religious revelation. As a minority practice that doesn't serve to expand the population I wonder about that. It is true that virginity is valued and evidence is sort of available for women (another topic), and definitely more available than for men, but the (Abrahamic) religious injunction is against anal penetration no matter the gender or orientation of the partners. The whole topic of what is acceptable sexual practices fills theses and books, as you know! LOL :)

Generally where there is strict segregation eg jail, the army, there is a certain percentage of the population who will engage in homosexuality as a temporary solution. I haven't seen good statistics on this for other forms of segregation though, eg boarding schools, highly segregated societies.

Thanks again for sharing your thoughts!

Chiara said...

Wendy--thanks for the follow up, and good points. The Anglican Church is rather unique in this and is splintering over it, with some favouring reconciliation with Roman Catholicism (Henry VIII is aghast!). The Roman Catholic Church is against homosexuality as a practice, but the problem with certain is not homosexuality but pedophilia and sexual exploitation of children and young teens. The betrayal of trust is all the greater for the priest being supposedly more trustworthy. Good statistics show only 2-3% of the priesthood has transgressed in this way, but that of course is too many, and as each pedophile usually has multiple victims the problem is broader than that percentage.

True the 2 spirited is a pan-North American Native belief and the 2 spirited were often heralded as leaders and had special powers because of their dual male-female nature. The concept is important now in Gay Studies, Gender Studies, and the Humanities in general.

I have gay colleagues and friends who are wonderful, and then there are the others--just like everyone else I guess. However I do think the combination of male privilege and feminine wiles is a bad one, where ever it exists. Which reminds me of a professor now friend who didn't get her initial uni contract renewed because she ran afoul of the male Chair's boyfriend, never dreaming that there was such an issue. And she had been so careful with all the ethnic and Anglo-French Canadian politicking!! :)

Chiara said...

Usman--LOL :) Seems like we were typing at the same time! After you got over your shock and awe that is!

See what happens if you are absent too long! :P :)

Thank you for raising the topics you did.

I was using homosexuality in the latinate sense of same gender sex (leaving aside transgendered issues).

Sodomy has a number of meanings depending on the language, and the cultural and religious references, but I assume you are referring to anal penetration, especially between men or "liwat" after Sodom and Gomorrha as told in the Quran. Please correct me if I am wrong.

Generally in the West sodomy refers to sex other than vaginal penetration of a woman by a man, and to the legal definitions, laws, and penalties for that. Over time non-vaginal and non-heterosexual sex have been decriminalized, except between non-consenting adults, or between minors, or an adult with a minor.

Ages of consent for sex differ by the type of sex, and usually the age of consent for anal sex is higher than that for oral or vaginal sex. In some countries, including Muslim ones, anal sex remains illegal for anyone, or for everyone except consenting heterosexual married couples.

Wikipedia covers the topic of sodomy well, and also international sodomy laws and links to good maps and specifications of legalities by country and by state.

Email me your info, and I will email you my 2 lines!

Meanwhile continue commenting on my blog, or who knows what will show up in a post! :)

Thanks for your comment(s)! :)


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