Original Articles

A Pakistan you never knew! Being gay in the Islamic Republic – by Shaheryar Ali and Nuwas Manto

First published at Sherryx’s Weblog

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

Shaheryar Ali

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

Being Gay in Pakistan

Nuwas Manto

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

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

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

181403112_12162f0a21Muslim Gay Pride, London

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

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

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

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

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

KJ

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Abdul Nishapuri

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  • and although I am an Atheist now [Nuwas]
    ========================

    No offence but there is no need to be an Atheist for the sake of Sexual Orientation and in my humble opinion there is no need to seek Reinterpretation of Scripture just for the sake of justifying Sexual Orientation.

  • Can we learn something from Nepal in being more tolerant towards ‘others’.

    Pink Everest: Nepal appeals for gay tourists

    Monday, 15 Mar, 2010

    A transgender peer educators meeting at a rooftop of a drop-in center for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people in Katmandu, Nepal. The conservative Hindu nation wants to host the world’s highest same-sex wedding at Everest base camp, to attract the multibillion dollar gay tourist market to help pull it our of its wrenching poverty. —Photo by AP
    KATMANDU: Nepal wants to paint Mount Everest pink.

    It wants gay honeymooners trekking through the Himalayas.

    It wants to host the world’s highest same-sex wedding at Everest base camp.

    But mainly, the conservative Hindu nation wants a chunk of the multibillion dollar gay tourist market to help pull it out of poverty.

    That quest — brushing aside historical biases in pursuit of economic opportunity — is symbolic of one of the gay rights movement’s most stunning successes.

    Just five years ago, police were beating gays and transsexuals in the streets.
    Now, the issue of gay rights is almost passe here.

    Nepal has an openly gay parliamentarian, it is issuing ”third gender” identity cards and it appears set to enshrine gay rights — and possibly even same-sex marriage — in a new constitution.

    ”(It) is not an issue anymore, for anybody,” said Vishnu Adhikari, a 21-year-old lesbian, speaking to AP. ”Society has basically accepted us.”

    That acceptance has become a major marketing opportunity for a country cursed by desperate poverty, but blessed with majestic beauty.

    Tourism is one of the main drivers of Nepal’s economy, worth about $350 million last year, and government officials are determined to double tourism to 1 million visitors next year.

    They hope gay tourists will be far more lucrative than the backpackers who stay in cheap hotels here and travel on shoestring budgets.

    ”They do have a lot of income … they are high-spending consumers,” said Aditya Baral, spokesman for the Nepal Tourism Board. ”If they behave well, if they have money, we don’t discriminate.”

    The driving force is Sunil Pant, a member of parliament, the nation’s most prominent gay activist and founder of the new Pink Mountain tour company.

    The nation’s mountains, food and culture are a natural tourist magnet, he told AP.

    Additionally, gay tourists could get married at Everest base camp and honeymoon on an elephant safari — though since Nepal doesn’t marry foreigners, such weddings would have no legal status, he said.

    ”With that, money will come here and jobs will be created,” he said.

    A growing segment of the gay tourism market — worth $63 billion in the US alone — craves adventure travel and exotic locations, especially if they are seen as hospitable to gay travelers, said John Tanzella, president of the International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association.

    As for an Everest wedding, ”I think there would certainly be a niche within our community that would be very excited for this type of memorable experience,” he said.

    Pant says Nepal also has a huge advantage in appealing to this niche because its neighbors in South Asia — some of them with laws outlawing homosexual sex — are not seen as gay-friendly destinations.

    ”There is virtually no competition,” he added.

    Nepal’s own journey into gay acceptance has been a near-revolution, born out of chaos and conflict that decimated the nation’s traditional political and social systems.

    A few years ago, the kingdom was torn by a civil war between the government and Maoist insurgents, and fighters on both sides preyed on marginalized communities and outcasts.

    Transgender men, known as metis or eunuchs, were often robbed, beaten and sometimes raped at Maoist checkpoints, and again at government checkpoints, said Pant, head of the Blue Diamond Society, a gay rights group.

    Other than the metis, homosexuality was almost never discussed in the rural areas, where tradition pushed people into arranged marriages at a young age, he said.

    Then, in 2006, the government signed a peace accord with the Maoists. Street protests forced the king to end his brief grab for absolute power and the centuries old monarchy was abolished.

    In 2007, the Supreme Court ordered the government to draw up new laws to protect gay rights.

    Now, the gay community stands to win big as the country writes a new constitution aimed at remaking the entire government, turning the nation into a republic and cementing peace.

    The government has issued a handful of third gender identity cards. The next census is expected to allow respondents to choose between male, female or third gender.
    Parliament is working on a same-sex marriage law even as the constitution drafters are incorporating gay rights into the document expected to be ratified later this year, said Pant.

    ”It’s a land of minorities and we support each other,” Pant told AP. ”We all have been marginalized so long and it makes sense that we extend solidarity to each other’s rights and issues.”

    In a sign of how much the nation of 30 million has changed, the gay community faces no real opposition in its fight for expanded rights, said Ameet Dhakal, editor in chief of the Republica daily.

    The major parties, battling for votes, see no benefit to alienating a community that Pant says numbers at least 200,000, and religious leaders here generally stay out of politics.

    Dev Gurung, a senior Maoist party leader who was once viewed as a strong opponent of gay rights, now publicly supports legal protections for the community.

    “People, including lawmakers and government officials, were not aware that people like them even existed in the past,” he said.

    Homosexuality has now entered the cultural lexicon. There is a weekly TV show called “Third Gender” and writers and filmmakers have begun exploring society’s treatment of homosexuals.

    Poet Usha Sherchan published a short story last year in a literary magazine about a closeted gay man struggling with the pressure to get married. She thought broaching the subject was a risky move.

    Instead, she was inundated with praise.

    “I was shocked,” she said.

    Despite the rapid gains, Pant recognizes the nation’s sensitivities, and wants to ensure that an influx of gay tourists doesn’t turn Nepal into a sex tourism destination.

    “They should come for the trekking, mountaineering, the culture, food … and for weddings, of course,” he said.

    http://www.dawn.com/wps/wcm/connect/dawn-content-library/dawn/news/culture/30-pink-everest-nepal-appeals-for-gay-tourists-so-03

  • Actually no one can deny attraction towards both men and women, yet extra-marital relations are not accepted by almost all religions. It is therefore homosexuality, fornication, rape and anal sex are stated to be taboo according to almost all religions of the world. Perhaps suppression of feelings and control of emotions is the matter that has been stressed by the religions. Since no one can surrender from his religious beliefs, so we have to control ourselves from getting involved into same-sex love.