Living the gay life in Maldives
Posted By Hilath
One of my male straight Maldivian friends recently said that he became aware that homosexuals exist and began empathising with them due to the highly entertaining television sitcom F.R.I.E.N.D.S.… why?
It brought an interesting thought into my mind: there has always been heated debate about how media images and imagery help set the agenda for certain perceptions about certain things. For example, the existence of only straight imagery in Maldives’ mediascape (however, Dhiraagu has sometimes experimented with what could border on Lesbian imagery and that is quite daring and commendable in my view) is one of those blamed for people being unfamiliar, or worse, developing negative feelings toward gay rights and gay marriage.
At least in the civilized west, gay rights are difficult to obtain even there because people’s perceptions remain draconian. So they believe that media imagery is a must to educate and convince the masses of the fact that it has been proven that homosexuality exists by Nature and that even a few minority humans among them exist with this “condition” — same-sex orientation — although scientists have not been able to exactly pinpoint to any single cause.
Anyway, as I said in one of the blogposts, nothing exists in Nature if it doesn’t give space to it. Things people normally don’t “like” still exist (like evil, starvation, disease, etc) although there is no apparent “good” reason for them to exist. So I don’t care whether same sex doesn’t result in the production of more babies; the reality is that homosexuality is also a form of love and human bond, and therefore, to keep two homosexuals apart is like keeping Romeo and Juliet or Sheereen and Farhad apart. So it’s time Maldivians (and other humans) stop thinking that genitalia decides gender and human sexual orientation.
But just because we don’t know the cause, is no excuse to deny human beings from their natural inclinations, if those inclinations are harmless to them or to society. Science has already proven that homosexuality among consenting adults causes no health or psychological problems if carried out with precautions. Hence, there is no reason why, even if we are believers in religions, we should deny homosexuals their rights as human beings – the rights other heterosexual people take for granted like love, relationships and marriage — the psychological comforts we all humans need in order for happiness and peace of mind (paradise is a state of mind actually).
These things seem apparent and obvious to me, even from a commonsensical view, yet the fact that a large part of the world’s “religious” populations denying gay rights is dubious and I am constantly dumbfounded. I have tried to find a reason why people, even some Maldivians, are so narrow-minded, and I am sorry to say that, even if you label me a racist or begot, my experience with Maldivians have shown that most of them, even if they are intelligent inside, they act stupid on the outside. Why? God knows…
I could spend a whole lifetime trying to understand the Maldivian mind but my experiences have shown that it is a false perception that all Maldivians have a “collective” mind — although they may genetically feel a close affinity to other “brown-skinned” and culturally-close Maldivians, which I think works on a subconscious level. The “collective” mind that we talk of exists in the conscious but when I explore the conscious minds of most Maldivians I know, they sincerely demonstrate a character of tolerance, ready to accept doubt — yet almost always claim that they would rather not “come out” because they may be socially “alienated” and I can understand because nobody wants to be lonely.
But herein is the very reason why NGOs, societies, associations, clubs and lobbying groups form. Herein starts making sense the reason why a Rainbow Maldives organisation exists, naturally, and I remain deeply appreciative to Fandiyaaru Kakuni for his efforts at keeping the rainbow spirit alive (the “pink spirit” may be more of an appropriate term in a Maldives’ context). Such associations give a platform whereby you don’t need to feel alone just because you are gay.
All such associations, even non-formal and of the underground kind, exist. Even right now in the Maldives. Otherwise, how do you think I manage to survive in a confined space with a population that mostly belongs to a mental hospital? If you are on Facebook, you meet all sorts of Maldivians in underground groups with anonymous avatars. But all these people are all too real to be denied existence. And when you start hanging out and striking up chats, confidence is built, and I am glad that today I do not feel lonely at all because I am in the company of hundreds of free minds like atheist Maldivians, Christian Maldivians, Hindu Maldivians, Buddhist Maldivians, agnostic Maldivians, gay Maldivians, lesbian Maldivians, transgender Maldivians, and recovering addicts of various substance abuse, who are all too alienated from the conservative religious Kasauti “society” at large.
As I said you meet them anonymously on Facebook but once you build confidence and start hanging out, you don’t feel lonely at all. Which is what I am doing. Now I don’t give a damn whether a Kasauti man or woman stare at me on the street because I don’t need their company or approval — because I know that as soon as night shrouds the day, we all scramble to pursue our dark private — and sexual — evils in the safety of our bedrooms.
Such hypocrites we Maldivians are…
I say I feel all the better not to be a part of the barbie society anymore. These people will never understand us Liberals. As I remember reading from a foreign column, there is no reason to hope that the elder generations can be made to undergo a complete change in their mindset and the best thing may be to enlighten them on purely tolerance.
But we as citizens can even right now try saving the younger generations by making them educated about how Nature really works and why you don’t have to be afraid, while in adolescence, you start noticing that there are things “different” about you, like homosexuality, which makes you freak out so much for the rest of your life that it becomes a lifelong depression and the end result is a mentally challenged person suffering from various mental illnesses such as bipolar disorder and even schizophrenia. In fact, I suspect that schizophrenia exists at its least worst level among almost all Maldivians due to the fact that there is no anonymity and your every move, expression and verb are scrutinized by every Kasauti Maldivian who constantly tries to “examine” you — whether there is something “wrong” or “different” about you, and if suspecting that there is, subjecting you to pressure to “change” your orientations and “act” deceptively in order to conform to the religious conservative norms of the Kasauti society at large.
I suppose that my own mood swings have much to do with this perceived psychological pressure from 300,000 Maldivians which constantly kept me on edge, ever since 13, when I started to discover that just as I am attracted to females, I was also equally attracted to males, which freaked me out, and with no internet in Maldives at the time, I thought I was the only freak in this society.
Sadly, I was effeminate even in preschool and therefore, I had no defense at all. However much I denied I was gay (I was telling the truth because obviously I wasn’t aware sex of any kind existed because of my tender age), all my classmates refused to believe that, saying that my “anhendhulhaakan” gave me away!
I used to think that guys who look masculine and manly are lucky, if they happen to be gay, because they can keep their secret for their lifetime but now I am not of that view anymore. I don’t believe in living a lie all my life. And I think if Maldivians are to be totally comfortable around me, they should know the truth about me, so that they can at least keep a safe distance from me. I assure that I am never a person who hits on another person first. I only respond when I am approached. I never take the initiative and therefore never approach anyone on my own, however much I am attracted to them, because it is dangerous in a closeted society where you never know the real truth about any person.
And also because I know the dangers of falling in love with a repressed gay…
And so, I stopped giving any straight answers because I knew the minute that a male was born effeminate, he was immediately condemned by the society at large. Now you know one of the reasons why Maldivian young men and teen males are pressured to “perform” masculinity by acting macho and “manly.” So then who do you blame when they form gangs and start acting the alpha male because isn’t that exactly what our Kasauti society pressures them to be? So as I said in an earlier blogpost, when people call for capital punishment, I find it silly, ironic and even downright NAZI because why breed uncontrollable monsters unless you have a subconscious desire for violence? So are “intelligent” Maldivians really intelligent at all, may I ask?
And the other pressure is that when you are assumed to be gay, it kind of puts a lot of men and women on edge. With some women, you feel that they disapprove of you because after all you are a “man stealer” and as a man yourself, a “top predator” in human circles because your sexual overbearing is on other men, those who are “leaders” in our patriarchal society. So a male who is also a male hunter is the most dangerous of all and therefore the most to be cautious and wary of.
It is also not easy to strike a friendship with a straight man because you fear that he may fear that you may be sexually attracted to him.
But it is worse when in a society like Maldives, if you happen to strike up a friendship with a repressed gay: your friendship or relationship will remain eternally conflicted because you never understand the reasons why he chose to befriend you even though you can see all the signs and vibes there. You will experience both “forthcomingness” and “withdrawal” from him. For instance, today morning he may be physically leaning on your shoulder during conversation but later in the evening, his “mind may have inexplicably changed” and he may start acting physically distant and cold towards you and when you confront him, he will lie that the physical proximity he had with you in the morning was “harmless” and “unintentional” and would implore you not to take any sexual meanings of the incident.
So never propose love to a person of this kind. The repressed kind. Let them come out of their denial in their time. It may take years. You can’t waste your life on them. Probably they will die in their closet, and it is all the more sad and tragic because you would feel regret for the rest of your life — for being helpless to save another gay “compatriot.” I have been in two relationships of this kind and not a day even now passes when I don’t spend around half an hour grieving for them, sometimes silently and loudly crying to myself within the confines of my room, knowing that I will eternally be unable to help them because ultimately they have to help themselves.
That’s why I can never stop my campaign to educate — because I hope that enlightening society perhaps may one day give confidence to all repressed compatriots of mine to be comfortable about their selves and live an open, honest and therefore, satisfactory life. So gay rights and freedom of religion are personal issue for me.
Ahmed and Mohamed (not their real names), I hope one day you guys will see the light, and I hope that you two read this and draw inspiration on how I am currently surviving despite all the pressure. Ahmed and Mohamed, these two Maldivian men had a brief relationship with me but after a few months left me altogether, peacefully of course, saying that “they can’t take family and social pressure if their ‘gayness’ is found out, although they want to spend the rest of their lives with me and will forever feel sad that they can’t be with me”… I can understand. There’s nothing to forgive because I can understand exactly what you are going through. I just hope and pray that, at least, you two will be happy till the end of your time, wherever you guys are right now… :(
Anyway, as I said, never make the mistake of making it known, from your side initially at least, that you are in love, to a repressed person, expecting that he has an attraction for you, and I have to warn you, despite however strongly you feel that he is not daring to come out until you propose to him first, it’s actually nothing like that. Believe me, my own experiences made me convinced that, at least in Maldives, the fear of being denied family and social love is far more stronger than giving into romantic or spiritual love for a sexual partner.
The “forthcomingness” and “withdrawals” you see in alternate loops are just symptoms of a conflicted mind and tortured soul — on the one hand, he is forthcoming at times because his natural animal instincts take over. But when his conscious mind again “reminds” him that “God and society hate you because you are a fag”, he immediately “withdraws” from you, feeling guilty all inside because he feels he has “sinned”.
This loop can go on for as long as months because the next morning, when he’s naturally feeling lonely again, he will call or meet you and the cycle begins. You have to be very brave and very patient in order to “divorce” yourself away from a character like this. The safe thing will be of course prevention before cure: never have hope or expectations or fall in love with a suspected repressed gay. You only have a chance with closeted gays.
I have been in two relationships of this kind with two Maldivian repressed gays over the past 6-year-period. And believe me, it was the worst moment of my life. My depression grew worse.
Ever since, I have made sure I keep a safe distance from repressed gays especially — because at least with closeted gays, they may share their “dark” secret with you although they may not necessarily be in love with you and that at least is tolerable because at least they will be honest with you.
Imagine what kind of pressure that is to bear on a young mind and to date, I still wonder why my family cannot understand this simple thing, and continue to keep me ostracized from them. I feel like a total orphan. They keep going to the councellors at Journey NGO to seek answers for the reasons why my “character” is why it is, and I hope that this suffices for an answer.
So it was when I went to Malaysia and got exposed to globalization that I realized that the well called Maldives I had lived all my life as a frog was not as rosy as it was said to be. I saw that other human beings belonged to different religions or no religion at all and had various sexualities and yet they were so normal and not psychotic like us Maldivians. I guess I am forever grateful to transport, communication and especially the Internet, for assuring me that there was nothing wrong with me naturally or otherwise.
Therefore I started accepting myself, came out of denial, and gave the finger to the whole world. My point was, since all these human beings were also pockets of “energy” and “atoms” why should I be so concerned about what they think about me since they also have a very short life like me and will one day become dust themselves and return to earth? Anyway, don’t they have genitalia, too, and have sex, no?
And I also drew comfort from the knowledge that the “collective” Maldivian mind was a false myth promoted for political, religious and capitalist purposes. Firsthand I came across many Maldivian men and women, young and old, who said they did not belong to any religion, that they would rather trust the little science we know because at least the theories can be independently verified rather than coming from suspect “sheikhs” or “priests” and that they tolerated alternate sexualities and lifestyles.
Perhaps my life-changing moment came when I was 13 — relating to an incident that happened in my ancestral home in the capital Male’:
One day there were construction workers in my house who were working on a room of one of my uncles. Me and a rural dude of my age, who was being accommodated at our home to study, had become soulmates and like other cute boys I found him beautiful but at the time it never occurred to my young mind that, even though two males can be fond friends, they could ever experience such things as love or sex. So I was curious when one of the male construction workers happened to mention the words “firihen kulhi” which literally means “male game” and I asked him innocently and naively what “firihen kulhi” was.
There was one elderly female relative near us at the time and she stood smiling and watching as the male worker replied to my question: “Hilath, it’s a thing you do with only boys. Why don’t you take your friend here and go into the gifili (open air toilet generally in old and rural homes)?” Women, before Maumoon came to power, were more tolerant, liberal and progressive and I blame Maumoon for making the above-35 current generation intolerant and conservative.
The male construction worker of course did not elaborate what “firihen kulhi” (gay sex) was and me and my friend just kept on looking stupidly at him. As the female relative kept on smiling too I thought it was just a nasty joke they all adults conspired together to play on us two unsuspecting little boys. But later she met me separately and told me: “Hilath, when you become an adult, believe whatever religion you want, and have sex with whoever you want, and it doesn’t matter whether he is a man or a woman.”
You can imagine what kind of effect this would have on my tender young mind – for the first time in my life, I was assured and didn’t feel like I was a freak.But also I realized that not everyone was like her, and most people were bigoted. So we became kind of “confederate” friends and when she died, I felt like an orphan. It was the only human bond I had ever to date (bless her soul) and I am forever grateful to her and tragically to date I have never felt a bond develop between me and another human, which is the reason why I guess I only have friends with benefits. This is also the reason why I feel that something maybe psychologically wrong with me but my friends assure me I am perfectly alright and that, one day when the “right” person comes, I will naturally open up and develop a human bond, for the second time in my long life I guess.
So I kept on being brainwashed by saucy Hindi romances. It was only when I started doing Mass Communication” for my “media” first degree at Limkokwing university — the most Liberal, tolerant and progressive university in Malaysia which even employs transgender lecturers who are allowed to have meaningful relationships even with consenting adult students — that I was enlightened (in fact “woke up” I would rather say) to the fact that, scientifically speaking, constant bombardment of media images can “brainwash” the human mind even without knowing it.
So I realized that that was why I didn’t find it odd when Darmendra and Zeenat held hands in Dharamveer but found it disgusting when the late River Phonenix (bless his soul) held hands with Keanu Reeves in gay director Gus Van Sant’s sublime and subtle My Own Private Idaho.
That’s why today I openly express my support for all Maldivian blogs which dare to openly discuss sex and sexualities whether in verbal, visual or audio forms. It is very important that all Maldivians now be bombarded with “alternate” images saw that they will know that there are other frogs living in other wells too but wells that are tolerant and progressive even in their microcosms, evidence for which is the fact that at least one native Indian tribe is found to honor and regard homosexuality to almost a divine quality where they perceive that male and female are combined in Unity.
Hence, I feel that as Maldivians with a conscience and humanity, each of us need to do our part so that the minorities among us don’t feel enslaved because as they long as they keep feeling that way, this will never be a real democracy where everyone is equal regardless of differences in thought (religions, belief systems, ideologies, etc) and action (lifestyles and ethics).
Therefore, I don’t see any reason why I should hide the fact that, like any other man, I also appreciate visually beautiful things, whether it is landscapes or the human nude form. And since I am attracted to both men and women I guess it doesn’t make a difference whether the photographs or art depict male or female nudity and sexuality, I don’t see any reason why I should discriminate — something I had been doing since I set up this blog, because normally I only dare to link to photo galleries that depict only the beauty of Maldivian (but clothed) women, like Millzero Nishan’s blog. I hope he doesn’t take offense because I mean it as a compliment really :) Millzero Nishan, a photojournalist, is one of the most interesting Maldivian photographers around, and I like his conceptual photography, especially the rousing sensations delivered from the way he brings out the character in food or the stunning visually delightful pleasures from the way his photographic eye probes and explores the female form — non-nude of course!
So, due to all the reasons above, I thought I should engage not only in debating and discussing gay issues but also take upon the critically important task of disseminating of LGBT imagery to a Maldives audience, through this blog if need be… I thought, like Ubaid and Azazel, I should also not be hypocritical about my being human because deep down I know that we all know that we are all humans and we all secretly enjoy these so-called disgusting things, and I think at this point in history (and “timeline” that we happen to live in this particular multiverse), it is time that we all become adult enough and openly acknowledge that through evolutionary processes, we all as human beings, like any other animal, have a naturally insatiable sex drive, and that if we don’t give a vent to it, we will go wacko and soon go into fundamentalism and extremism.
A little sex in liberal measure will go a long way in cementing cross-sexual bonds among our society and our disgruntled, desperate and hopeless youth will soon find themselves a reason to live, rather than blow themselves up in Afghanistan, when they actually start really feeling that our society, even the Kasauti society at large, at least accepts them as they naturally are and that they are free to live in a legally and socially protected society.
One of my friends on Facebook group Ban the Adhaalath, who calls himself “Rasuul Mode” recently said this and I am happy to quote with his permission:
Gay rights: The final frontier that a society must pass to take its place in the community of nations.
I couldn’t agree more.
And here’s a nice photo from Azey’s “Heavenly” gallery before I sign off for tonight… Good night. And sweet wet dreams.