Monday, October 13, 2014

The gay divide

Last week, the US supreme court declined to hear a few cases relating to gay marriage. That was amazingly good news for American gay rights activists, because at a stroke, the existing law that gay marriage is allowed in the corresponding states was upheld. One of the leader articles in The Economist magazine this week picks up on this, but the title of the article is "The gay divide". The article points out that, perhaps as a result of all the victories for gay rights in the Western world in recent years, there's been a backlash elsewhere. The previous post on this blog about the harsh reality of gay life in Turkey just serves to emphasise what that article points out.

There are also two briefing articles about gay rights in The Economist this week, one with the title Marriage equality in America, and another with the title Gay people’s rights. The latter article contains a fascinating image which shows what the situation is for basic gay rights worldwide, which is as follows:

Sources: Jingshu Zhu; IGLA; The Economist

The Economist is a worldwide publication, and although in total the contents are the same everywhere, the order is different depending on where you buy the magazine. In the UK this week, the main leader article that appeared on the front cover was this article about "The gay divide". I can't help wondering whether they also had the courage to put the same article on the cover in Africa.

Friday, October 10, 2014

The hurtful cycle: emails from a guy guy in Turkey

A couple of months ago, a reader who lives in Turkey sent me the following email:

I'm a 33 year old single guy living in a small city in Turkey. It's been roughly 10 years since I accepted myself as gay, and stopped completely hating myself. Since then, I've fooled around with more guys than I care to admit, but the fact that I never had any kind of serious relationship is sadder and more discomforting to me. I can explain this away by having worked in small and conservative cities, still having to stay with my family. Most of the gay guys my age are closeted and married etc, but it still doesn't feel right. Frankly, my work and family life is not all fun and games and there's little I can do to improve them, so I really crave that special intimacy that I somehow still believe I can find on the net.

So the thing I do is, I spend my whole time away from my job on IRC chat rooms (it is still the most popular platform here due to anonymity and being instantaneous) trying to communicate with all kinds of unpleasant people ranging from time killers/wasters to liars to paedophiles who all challenge my patience and sanity most of the time. Just like life itself, the net isn't always full of good, caring people and we all know that, but I don't seem to come across the good ones. The best-case scenario is that I exchange phone numbers or hang out briefly with someone from whom I never hear from again. I strongly feel that some dull, casual sex doesn't make up for the time and energy I invest in chat rooms, but I also can't stay away from logging in either, because I have no other way to socialize that I'm aware of.

And so, this weird, addiction-driven cycle goes on and on, making me even more depressed, desperate and frustrated by the day. I began to suspect that I might not be as mentally sound as I'd like myself to be anymore, and I would really like to see myself spending my time doing things that would make me happier without thinking about the imaginary guys I might have been missing on the net. I can't seem to figure out how to break this excruciating, mentally draining cycle and would love to hear some different perspective.

P.S. Consider this email a thank you for your amazing blog. I'm pretty sure that it helps people in certain situations who need different perspectives.

I often forget how hard it can be to be gay outside the increasingly homo-friendly Western countries. Although the reader was asking for different perspectives, since I live in the UK I had no idea what kind of advice I could offer to someone living in Turkey. So I decided that the best thing to do would be to publish the email in this "Reader's stories" category, and then perhaps other readers would be able to offer some alternative perspectives.

When the email first arrived I had been on holiday, so it was a couple of weeks before I sent the reader a reply telling him that I wanted to publish his email. In my reply, I apologised that it had taken me a long time to get back to him, and eventually after about another week he sent me the following:

Dear GB,

I can't say my reply was instant either, because I've just returned from a brief holiday. There, I hung out with a guy that I see literally once a year, but apparently and interestingly it's enough for both of us, and it was nice. Your reply has been both surprising and welcome to me, because it has been some time since I had sent my mail and I had re-read what I had written a couple of times and thought "What a loser". Indeed, even though heartfelt, what I wrote just sounded like dull words from a spineless, whining guy. Maybe true, maybe not, but I seldom like what I write anyway. So thank you, I really appreciate you caring for other people's problems and actually replying them.

Big cities like Istanbul are actually so much better, but being gay in a smaller city and dealing with closeted people is very difficult indeed. They generally shy away from any kind of relationship and intimacy because of the obvious reasons. Did you know that we use the word "active" for tops and "passive" for bottoms? To me, this in itself implies that bottoms are inferior. Most of the time "active" people tend to be married, closeted homophobes who just happen to love anal sex, or at least this is what they tell themselves. This is because being a fag and "taking it in the ass" is the most dreaded position a man can lower himself to. When you chat, they even have the nerve to call you a fag or a cocksucker if they get upset, even when they are on the giving end. A very recent chat of mine (actually yesterday):

X: Are you married?
Me: Yes. (I lied deliberately just to see where the conversation will lead me to)
X: How old is your wife?
Me: Sorry, I haven't gone low enough to serve my wife to some guy just to get laid.
X: Did you go low enough to be a fag and take it in the ass?

People ask you if you're married all the time either because they actually want to fuck your supposed wife or because they think that single man are not to be trusted. By the way, being a single male in Turkey more or less means you're a second-class citizen. You can't go to a bar and have fun with your male friends. You can't socialize with married couples. You go to a beach or a park or a restaurant and you may have a separate place reserved for singles (or families). People may think you are a vagrant, a liability, a hazard for the well-being of the happily married couples. Or even worse, they think you're gay. That's why most of the male population is married, the society demands them to do so. To reiterate, even gay people demand you to be married, otherwise they don't trust you. Then I retaliate: Who will trust you when you are constantly cheating on your wife? But I bet they don't even classify it as cheating.

Well, this is what it's like living in a closeted environment, but I have good friends that I chose to come out to, which is a blessing for me. We rarely talk about it, but it's good to know I that I have nothing to hide from the people I love.

Best Wishes

I found his suggestion that "… even gay people demand you to be married …" particularly disturbing.

I'll let the reader have the final word here, so I've posted the last email that I received from him below. If any other readers have any thoughts on his situation, then I'm sure the he'd be interested.

Let me add a thing or two. Not that I had a "chance" to jeopardize a potential love affair because of my polygamous behaviour, but I too like being with different guys every now and then. But when I do and really like the guy, I often feel a need to be closer to him which proves impossible most of the time. Really liking someone and saying goodbye right after having sex still breaks my heart, but time after time I guess I kind of got used to it. I wish I could be a 100% slutty guy, then I would have sex freely with whomever I please and would never look back. Maybe that would alleviate most of my problems concerning relationships. Now that I think of it, I realize that oftentimes I feel bad rather than good after having sex. If I acted on my impulses and I did it with a person who was in fact not really for me, I feel guilty and dirty afterwards. If it was a person who was just my type, then my heart gets heavy knowing that we'll probably never meet again. Sex is supposed to be fun and liberating, right? If you're not actually free, I guess not.