Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Homophobia in Pakistan

My name is Ajlaan Raza and I am GAY. *Smile* I am kidding. Looking at the shocked expressions on your faces some of which were turning into disgust… I can easily gauge your opinions about homosexuality. And I thought I could talk to you about homophobia. Homophobia is defined as an irrational fear of, aversion to, or discrimination against homosexuals. Every friend gathering you sit in, you realize that gay guys are the objects of ridicule. Everything and anything you don’t like is oh-so-Gay.

Unfortunately, the term “gay” and everything associated with it has developed a very negative connotation in our society. If we were to find out someone is gay, for example, Abid Ali Shahid, we would make our best effort to make his life completely miserable. We would call him names, we would ostracize him and leave him as an outcast. Many homosexuals who have openly declared themselves as being gay become victims of hate crimes, where they are bashed by a single person or a group of people for no apparent reason except for being just a little different than what is "considered normal". Even family and friends, upon finding out someone is gay, break all ties with that same person who was until the previous moment considered a son, a brother, a friend. The person and all his good qualities are forgotten, and all that matters now is his sexuality.

In many countries, homosexuality is punishable by law. Iran holds a record of executing over 4000 homosexuals. These people are treated this way because the majority considers homosexual behavior as wrong. They are treated as completely different beings. Someone with no rights. Not even the right to live. People need to realize that just because someone is gay does *emphasis* in no way mean that he is any different from you. Gay people have the exact same anatomy, feelings and emotions as anyone else. It is just that they are a little different when it comes to rules of attraction.

Many would call it a defect. But then if it is a defect, it is not in the hands of the defected, is it? There are many scientific theories floating around pertaining to what is the cause of homosexuality depending on the personal views of their authors. But… none of them suggest that sexuality is determined by choice. Ask a gay man and he’ll tell you that he’s not gay by choice. It is just the way things have always been. All his life he has never been attracted to a woman. Just as a person cannot help being black, female or Asian or even left handed, one cannot help being homosexual. If he were given the choice of being gay or straight, he would want to be straight. After all, who in their right mind would choose to be discriminated against in society?

And then, there are some really stupid people who argue that homosexuality is a mental disorder. If you are one of them, its time you woke up because since 1973, homosexuality has been removed from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. This indicates that people with this condition are not suitable for therapy and there happens to be NO cure for homosexuality.

Just the other day, I was talking to some friends of mine and I was surprised to hear one of them say that homosexuality is a western phenomenon and emphasizing that it does not exist in our part of the world. Maybe they feel that it’s a product of the freedom that exists in that society… that allows people to cross all sorts of boundaries. And maybe that is why they feel it is okay to make fun of people who might be or act gay. Allow me to make a clarification at this point. There are gay people everywhere and in no way is their existence a recent phenomenon. It would be wrong to suggest that the number of homosexuals in Pakistan is lesser than that in America. The percentage remains more or less the same. It is just that here they don’t come out of the closet. Instead, their interaction takes place through social networks. The internet has made it easier for homosexuals to increase their social networks. You all know Orkut and Facebook. I am sure a few of the guys must have had some guy scrapping you to *hand gesture: inverted commas* make friendship with you. There are a lot of other online social networks specifically targeted towards the GBLT (Gay, Bi, Lesbian & Transsexual) community. There you’ll find thousands of active gay members from Pakistan, and million others from non-gay countries like India and the Middle East as well as almost every other country in the world. And these will just be statistics of urban cities. You don’t know them because they don’t go around telling people about their sexuality because they are too afraid of being exiled from their communities and being abandoned by their families or worse… being hanged or stoned to death. Hence most people either repress their homosexuality or end up getting married mostly due to family pressure and continue living secret double lives.

The biggest barrier for homosexuals in openly expressing themselves is perhaps religion. Whenever the subject is brought up, a Quranic verse regarding the “qaum of Hazrat Lut (AS)” is thrown in and the matter is closed without any question. I would like to read out the translation of the verse by Yousuf Ali.

We also (sent) Lut: He said to his people: "Do ye commit lewdness such as no people in creation (ever) committed before you? For ye practise your lusts on men in preference to women : ye are indeed a people transgressing beyond bounds." And his people gave no answer but this: they said, "Drive them out of your city: these are indeed men who want to be clean and pure!" But we saved him and his family, except his wife: she was of those who lagged behind. And we rained down on them a shower (of brimstone): Then see what was the end of those who indulged in sin and crime!”[7:80–84 (Translated by Yusuf Ali)]

The Quran is subject to interpretation and people tend to interpret verses according to their already held beliefs. Yes the storm did come and the people were destroyed. But if you read the complete story, you’ll get to know that the people of Hazrat Lut (AS) already had wives, yet they used to go around having sex with young boys, mostly raping them. Rape under no law is acceptable. In addition, every translation I read used the word “lust” instead of “love” to describe the actions of people of Hazrat Lut (AS). So it is possible… and i'm not saying that it is… all I’m saying is that it is possible that homosexuality is not the only reason the storm came.

However my argument is not whether homosexuality is right or wrong. All I’m asking here is to recognize their existence. They are here among us and are part of our society. They don’t tell us because they are scared that if they do, our attitudes towards them will change even though there is no reason for it to. Why should we be affected by something that doesn’t even concern us? By not recognizing them, we take away their right to be honest. We force them to lie about who they really are.

And in that same discussion with my friends that I talked about earlier regarding the matter, another point that was… if homosexuality was declared legal, it would mean that we are preaching it. My friend felt that it will cause more people to become gay and the world would start coming to an end. True. All the people who are living a lie just might start declaring themselves as homosexuals. But frankly speaking, I consider the idea to be quite absurd. You don’t become gay just because people around you are gay. You won’t, because you are simply not attracted to members of the same sex. Like I said, it is completely legal to be left handed… and I don’t see many people claiming to be left handed even if they are, in fact, right handed. :)

Quite recently, a live telephone caller asked Mr. Ghamdi, a well known Islamic scholar on his TV program what Islam has against homosexuals and why their behavior is not permissible as long as it does not hurt anyone? Mr. Gamdhi’s only reply was that homosexuality would break the foundation of family structure. He said that a child cannot be brought up nicely without the love and affection of both male and female parents. Well, my response to his statement is, “Are single parents incapable of rearing good human beings? And if they are capable, then what is the problem with homosexual couples where there are two people willing to give a child all their care and devotion. As long as two people are able to fulfill their parental duties, why should it matter if they are of the same sex?

In conclusion, all I am going to say is that there are many same sex couples who have lived together monogamously for their entire lives, cared for each other, shared each others joys and sorrows and stood by each other in sickness and in health like any other straight couple. Yet we fail to recognize their union and refuse to call their love for each other, love simply because it does not fit into our set beliefs as to how love should be. Who are we to decide? Who are we to judge? Let’s just accept them as part of our society for the kind of people they are and leave the judging part up to God, shall we?

Thank you.

1 comment:

  1. Kudos. A very mature, open-minded take on the subject without making the subject scandalous or intentionally sensational.

    As to how much I agree, I would say that almost with all of it. I, personally, can see how homosexuality could be a test and I'm what one would call bisexual (even though I despise labels and would never want to resort to packaging myself one way or the other). My preferences are pretty unique even amongst the homos and bis. But I have nothing but tolerance and absence of judgment for people coming from varying lifestyles. Live and let live, as the age old saying goes.

    Here is my blog that chronicles me violating the taboos in Islamabad. It's my sex journal. Sans intercourse. As I said, my preferences are really unique.