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Saturday, 24 April 2010

Pakistan: How gay is being ‘gay’ in city?

The skyline of KarachiImage via Wikipedia
Source: Daily Times

By Andaleeb Rizvi

As Karachi continues to resonate with sparring political parties, sanctimonious religious outfits and bloodcurdling acts of terrorism in the post-Zia Pakistan, there is only one place where those who are ‘different’ could really be their own selves and get some respite without being judged by all and sundry. This place is a private party for those who are attracted to their own sex, but the guests may attend by invitation only.

While most men and women from the gay community in the country are afraid to talk to even their close ones about their private lives, three brave souls were more than happy to converse with Daily Times about their feelings and activities. Imran, who is quite open about his sexual orientation among his close friends, said, “I go to a party almost every other weekend to relax and chill. It is the only opportunity for me to be myself. Otherwise, I have to pretend being straight to the extent where I start feeling like a hypocrite who is trying to act like a homophobic.”

With the growing segregation in our society, it is very easy for men and women to socialise with people belonging to their own sex than with the opposite since, according to the infamous Hudood Ordinance, it is not only questionable but even punishable in certain circumstances to be discovered mingling with the opposite gender.

“I can tell my parents that I am going to a male friend’s house and plan to spend the night there. I am never questioned on that. However, if I were to say I was going to a female friend’s house, there would be dozens of questions about that,” said Burhan who is also entirely comfortable with who he is. Unlike some parties that are strictly for homosexuals, most of them allow everyone irrespective of their sexual preference. Nevertheless, in order to protect their guests, one cannot attend these parties without an invitation. Saira, a teenager who prefers women, said people believe there are more homosexual men than women in our country, but they’re wrong since gay women do not get too many opportunities as the gay men do.

Imran said, “Straight parties, especially the ones thrown by notable icons, end up mostly in brawls because the ambience of these parties is filled with jealousy and covetousness. But you will always find the environment at our parties serene.” Responding to a question, he said straight men tend to come to the parties at times for the purposes of diversion or a change of atmosphere, and some even find being around men more comfortable than women. Burhan said, “People from all age groups and economic backgrounds having different sexual preferences attend these parties. Gays, lesbians, bisexuals, transsexuals, straight... everyone attends these parties.”

When asked if such parties take place in posh localities of the city, he refused to give a definite answer and said, “Such activities take place in many parts of the city, but I am not going to disclose any of the locations because miscreants could harm our community if anyone of them were to find out about any of the venues.”

Saira said straight men prefer to avoid homosexual men, which is why they are relatively safer; however, if these men discover about gay women gathering at a place, they would not think twice before crashing the party. When asked if she was aware of ‘swinging’, she said, “Of course, I am. It is very common at our parties. Sometimes, people come with their partners and ‘swing’ them without wrangling with anyone. Our parties are pretty peaceful as compared to parties thrown by and for ‘normal’ people.” When asked why she could not refer to herself as ‘normal’, Saira sheepishly replied that our society continues to make people like her feel embarrassed about their sexuality by portraying them as evil. “At least we’re better than the terrorists,” she added with a grin.

It is pertinent to mention here that a little over five months ago, an international broadcasting organisation had reported about a very small gay parade in the city. However, the event was overlooked by the local media.
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