I am so MEGA EXCITED to introduce this new feature on my blog: That Gay Guy. Instead of focusing on my own travels and gay experiences, I am going to open things up and interview gay guys from all different parts of the world. I’ve already felt enlightened and educated by a couple of the interviews I’ve done, and I hope that you get something from them too. I am hoping to add an interview every one or two weeks, so there should be plenty of gay goodness to explore in the coming weeks and months.
The very first in this series is an interview with M.A.H (not his real name, to protect his identity), who was born and raised in Lahore, Pakistan and still lives there today.
What was it like to grow up as a gay kid in Lahore, Pakistan?
Childhood is a fun period, gay or straight I believe, for most of us. Children mostly don’t know what their sexuality is until late. I was kind of a late boomer in that sense. I noticed that I’m gay after my 10th grade and had my first kiss with a cousin of mine (we mostly experiment with our cousins in this part of the world) after my 16th birthday. It was an okay time period. I did go through a rough patch then, trying to figure out my ownself and juggle up a respectable position in the soceity; at the same time living in a fear that somebody would find out that I’m gay. As we all know, people here are not really acceptable of gay folks. All in all, it was a great period of my life which I cherish a lot.
What do you think is the general attitude towards gay people in Lahore and Pakistan?
The general attitude is quite negative towards gay people in Pakistan. Here people think that all gay people are either pedophiles or bottoms who only like to be fucked. I, very recently, was talking to a straight friend of mine and I just generally told him that I would masturbate when I get home. He got a little confused and said something like, ‘I thought gay guys don’t touch their penises and/or like to cum’. I laughed and tried to clear his misconception.
The attitude of people towards gay people is mostly to do with our religion. Islam, along with other religions, condenms homosexuality and thus, is frowned upon in our society. It’s a great risk to show affection towards same sex partner in the public. It is noteworthy here that walking hands in hands with a guy or hugging them in public is not considered gay here. It is very much acceptable here so if I hug my lover or a straight friend does not make any difference.
I personally worked with gay asylum seekers from Pakistan when I lived in London and it was clear that they faced many challenges in Pakistan. What are the major challenges you face as a gay man in your country? Have you experienced any open hostility or violence from being gay in Pakistan?
When someone says I face a lot of challenges in Pakistan as a gay person, I think he/she needs to elaborate it a little. We have all heard this phrase, ‘When in Rome, do as the Romans do’. I know I live in Pakistan and it’s an Islamic country. I’ve lived here almost all my life so I know how things work here and I have made my peace with it. I have learnt to live my life around them and yet, not be caught. I know it sounds bleak but actually it’s not very bad actually. I know the do’s and don’ts here I’m careful. I won’t go to any stranger with a Rainbow sticker on my forehead because I know this will rasie a few brows.
The challenges I have faced are mostly within our own gay community. It is very very easy to find sex here, and that too bad sex, but very very difficult to find someone to share a few good laughs or sorrows.
No, I have never ever faced any open or hidden hostility or voilence in Pakistan from any straight person. I have been buggered by gay guys for sure but that’s another story.
We meet mostly through apps like Grindr and Scruff and websites like Gaydar and Manjam. I know guys who meet guys at public places too but I personally could never do that. I just never seem to muster up the courage to do that even if the guy is openly flirting with me at a public place. I’m generally a shy person.
Are you openly gay with your family and friends? If so, could you describe your coming out experience. Do people accept you?
I’m very fortunate to have a circle of friends who know that I’m gay and have no problem with that and are very accepting. My coming out experience was good, never faced any hostility or anything like that. They were all like you’re still the same person for us.
My immediate family knows that I’m gay which includes my brothers and sister. It’s more like a Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy at home. My uncles, aunts and cousins are not aware of my sexuality and their reaction wouldn’t be very favourable if they come to know. Personally, I don’t believe in ‘Coming out of the closet’ term. It should be a very self enlightening process and needs to be done at one’s own pace.
Personally I think that being a person, I would like to be identified as Myself than a gay. Gay is who I am, not what I am. There’s a lot more to me than just being gay.
If you had one piece of advice for a gay traveller visiting Pakistan, what would it be?
Just be respectful to the norms here and preferably know/make friends with a local here before coming and I don’t see why can’t you have a great time here.
What is your favourite thing about living in Lahore?
Lahore is where home is and home is where heart is. . I know Pakistan has a lot of short comings but it still is the best place in the whole wide world.
What future would you like to see for gay people in Pakistan?
There will not be any positive future for gay people in Pakistan if, first of all, we don’t kill our internal homophobia. There is no sense of a community within gay people in this country. Due to our soceity pressure and religious expectations, people don’t really accept who they are. I don’t mean to come out of the closet and annouce to the whole world but coming out to oneself is the first and foremost step which people don’t take here.
Have you travelled at all yourself? If so, which is your favourite destination for gay travel and why?
I have studied in England for almost 5 years in my early 20’s and it was a wonderful experience. I met someone there and we were together for 5 years. I don’t identify my travels as ‘gay’ travel. I think traveling should be above my sexuality. I would like to do backpacking in the Europe though someday.
And finally, could you sum up Gay Pakistan in three words?
2. Worth exploring
3. Tad bit bitchy!
A huuuge thank you to M.A.H for sharing his stories with me. Are you surprised by anything that M.A.H has to say about gay Pakistan? Let me know – I’m really interested to hear your thoughts on this one…