Thursday, January 14, 2010

Email from a young gay guy in Serbia

A couple of days ago, a reader sent me the following email:

Dear GB,

I'm seventeen and I'm coming from Serbia. I have a problem.

I'm gay, and as you may know, it is very hard to meet people such as ourselves here, in Serbia, because anyone who COMES OUT gets thrown out of the house, or actually killed. I know some people who were actually killed because they were gay :(.

I have doubts about three people, but I'm not really sure if they are gay. I've been reading your posts lately and I really need a more precise way of recognizing gay men. What should I do? I know I can't talk about that in front of them, and my girl friends couldn't help me too. I don't know if you can guess someone is gay or not just by looking in a picture. I heard that some experienced gay men can do that. If you can help me, please answer. I will send you pictures if you decide to help me.

Thank you in advance,

I had no idea that life in Serbia was so hard for gay people. It's terrible to hear about people being killed for being gay :-(. Serbia recently applied for EU membership, but if it's culturally so backward that homophobia can regularly involve murdering gay guys, then I doubt that the application will succeed.

In terms of working out whether a guy is gay or not by looking at him, I did a post on that subject back in 2008 called How do gay guys recognise each other? As soon as I received the email from this reader, I sent him a link to that post.

I think it is true that some guys look more gay than other guys, but that's a very unreliable way of working out whether someone is gay or not. Also, straight guys who live in big cosmopolitan cities like London and perhaps Belgrade can often acquire metrosexual habits, and that makes it even harder to tell.

On this subject, after myself and boyfriend T went to visit my gorgeous Japanese masseur B and his business partner N for massage, the next time I saw B he told me that he thought that it was possible to guess that boyfriend T was gay. A few days later I told Boyfriend T what B had said, and boyfriend T was horrified because he's still very closeted, and doesn't like the idea that people can work out his sexuality. He insisted that I find out from B what his reasons were for making that statement. The answer that B gave was basically that boyfriend T was very fashionable, with a neat and smart appearance, and way past the age when his family would expect to see him married!

Returning to the problem of this Serbian reader, he obviously wondering whether a few guys that he knows are gay, because he's offering to send me some photographs to look at. However, as I said above, I think that's a very unreliable way of identifying a gay person. A person's cultural background also affects their appearance, so it would be much harder for a non-Serbian person to have a view on a Serb's sexuality. On top of that, even if someone is gay and looks gay, if they're as young as this Serbian reader is then they may not have acknowledged it to themselves yet. And even if they have realised that they're gay, they may not want to do anything about it at the moment.

However, perhaps the most important piece of advice for this young reader is "Don't fall in love with any of your straight friends". There's a danger that these guys that he's wondering about could be in this category. Somewhere in Serbia I'm sure that they'll be lots of nice gay guys that he can fall in love with, so it would be a mistake to ruin any of his friendships, hoping that the friend is gay.

Even though gay life is hard in Serbia, I'm sure that there are still places where gay people meet, especially in Belgrade. I have no idea if it's accurate or not, but a quick google search found a web site called Belgarde and Serbia gay guide. So my suggestion would be that instead of trying to work out whether people that he knows are gay, instead he should try going to such places where perhaps he can make new gay friends :-).

Do anyone else have any thoughts for this young Serbian reader?


Volodya/Vlad said...

I happen to know several Serbian gay guys (who live in Belgrade), and while it is true that it's difficult over there for a guy who wants to be openly camp, apart from that the situation appears to be much more mild than it might seem from your reader's letter. Not that I have doubts in his sincerity, I just think that at the age of 17 one might slightly exaggerate the situation, and understanding that he won't be able to approach guys he likes as easily as his friends approach girls can be a bit draining (which I know for myself very well, coming originally from a much more homophobic country). My advice, based on my personal experience, is hard to follow, but quite rewarding as time passes - while he is still in his teen years, he has a wonderful opportunity to learn new things that will help him career-wise, including a possibility to move to a better country where he will find a job and a partner. For that it makes sense to invest in something else than searching for either love or sex. In teen years, sexuality exploration is way too distracting :-) However, if there is something he really likes to do apart from thinking of guys, devoting all his time to become a skilled professional is the best investment he can possibly make now.

Shawn LI said...

Just wondering can he use gay social network to meet up and make friends with the REAL gays instead of speculating about his friends

Ok, I just did a quick search on GayRomeo (which is quite popular in Europe)for him, there are 5505 gay users under 32 (which is not too old for the reader) in Siberia!
Here you go girl!

A Gay Mormon Boy said...

I just stumbled upon your blog and must say I wasn't expecting such a well-constructed response building upon some very relevant personal experiences.

Coming from a very conservative culture, I didn't realize how many guys in a closeted position do form attachments to their straight friends. Branching out, opening up, and utilizing the internet definitely helped me figure out that aspect of my life.

Alex said...

Serbia, not Siberia! I hope that was a joke ;-)

silverrrcloud said...

I travel to Belgrade for business frequently, and I agree that being gay in Belgrade is not nearly as easy as being gay in Amsterdam, Paris, Madrid or London. I also think that the reader is a overdoing his 'fear factor'quite a bit. Violence against gay (and other) people is sadly not a phenomenon limited to Serbia alone.

Being gay in Serbia, Bulgaria, Romania, and to some extent in Greece, too, is really NOT about being OUT and OPEN about it. People around you really do not care whom you sleep with, and how you live your life. They however, do not want to have your homosexuality thrown into their faces. This is an utmost 'no do' in their conservative, patriarchal, macho-minded culture which wrongly equals homosexuality with the lack of masculinity in men.

If you gently scratch under the surface however, there is a huge network of gay gays both on gaydar and gayromeo, looking forward to meeting other gay men both in Belgrade and throughout the country. I have used Gayromeo, and it worked like a charm... It is difficult to imagine that the reader made it to your blog but remained blissfully unaware of the major gay dating portals with thousands of gay guys on them. Even Gayserbia offers hundreds of gay profiles in Belgrade alone...

The reader seems to be obssessing about his two friends, and frankly, seems to be far more interested in discovering, if they are gay or not, than in running his own (gay)life...


Shawn LI said...

Oops...I meant Serbia, lol my bad

Rich said...


Great advice! Too many young men focus far too much on the wrong things at an early age - most of us are guilty of that, I'm afraid. Although not as young anymore (46), I find that I still need to work on some areas of my life that have gone lacking.

GB, love your blog, too! Keep up the great work!

Volodya/Vlad said...

@Rich: thanks for your kind words. Way too many gay guys whom I know tend to regret the wild lives they lived in their late teen years under the pressure of stereotypes!

Anonymous said...

i guess he cant use the "i take it up the arse sweetheart, deal with it" line

Anonymous said...

Hi, I am comming from Serbia and I am gay. In the fact, being gay in Serbia is not difficult. On the contrary, I am living with my boyfriend, we are together 10 years and no problems.
But, I understand this 17 years old Serbian gay. He is at the begging, it all looks very dramatic... But, it is very easy to find gay places in Belgrade. Two discos "Apartman" and "Pleasure" are full of young gay guys every Friday and Saturday. There are several clubs and bars in the city centre. Plus, there are couple of great web sites where whe can find interesting people ( and many more).
So, every begging is difficult but very soon he will realise it is not dramatic at all ;)