Or Lust In The Dust
I have been so pleased recently to find out about your newspaper and CHE that I have been tempted to write to you to say so. I do not live in England and hope that I shall be able to arrange for the newspaper to reach me. I live in Arabia in a society which could hardly be more different from Christian Western society and have spent some time this summer in Britain attempting to appreciate the current attitudes, legal and social, of the homosexual society vis-a-vis the rest of the community. Despite what I have been told about ‘queer-bashing’ and degrading police methods of ‘detection’ work I am sure that the situation is hopeful and certainly a great improvement on the days when I knew London best, the late 50’s. I do have my personal feelings about some of the less discreet goings-on of Gay Lib, as I have about those who continue to say ‘Let’s keep quiet and they won’t notice us’. It is wonderful that minority groups of all kinds are forming and acting in this age when we see more and more the disintegration of the old formalised patterns of society; the family, the street, the village and so on. The more we are concentrated into a high-rise society, numbered, depersonalised, and state registered into anonymity the more acute become the problems of the lonely, the depressed, the anxious and the person who doesn’t fit. It is wonderful to see humanity assert itself. Those of us who have found a haven, a means of identifying or an escape route must try even harder to understand and to forgive those confused few who attack us. We must learn to tolerate, to educate and to love from a position of self-confidence. Even our poor old parents, who must be as confused as anyone.
The Arab world is homosexual if by that I mean it is a male-orientated society. Policemen walk hand in hand and a boy’s best friend is another boy. All will eventually marry and have children. This is economic, necessary and good. Love is a highly romanticised ideal and hardly ever achieved except in the platonic relationships between men. However the majority of men have active homosexual friendships usually with boys between the ages of thirteen and eighteen who respond and actively seek such friendships. Some will say that this is only because the girls are kept strictly apart and obviously if they were not there would be boy/girl sexual friendships, but as this is impossible it is beside the point.
Amongst the Europeans who live here there are many who are gay or bisexual and have formed close friendships with Arab boys and men. Some are shy at first, because in small communities everything is noticed, but they do visit us. They are curious too. They find great difficulty sometimes in understanding our attitudes and once they have become sincere friends they tend to find it more difficult to have a sexual relationship as well. As they say, “You don’t fuck your friend”, but they are interested in the idea and I have seen some happy and full friendships develop. An Arab boy is proud of his body, he longs to love, he is promiscuous but he is also in his own way very loyal. He will give you his last possession and expect the same in return.
You do not enter into such a relationship unless you are prepared to give. I do not mean payment. Probably some readers of this will have spent a holiday in Morocco or Beirut and paid for their pleasures and certainly they need not feel any guilt about this. But I would say that in a society where it is not ‘queer’ or unusual to feel desire for a beautiful boy it is possible to be ‘gay’ and remain ‘normal’. I have used the quotation marks because, paradoxically, there is hardly such a thing as a gay Arab in Arabia.
Leaving aside the differences in our societies there are many ways in which East can meet and help West. English people in our expatriate community which is small and who are not gay themselves have mixed socially with us on equal terms, inviting couples to tea, coming to parties with their children, joining in picnics and so on. If they can do it here, far removed from the prejudices of British society they can do it also in Britain. It is for us to open our doors to them, to understand their difficulties and help them to feel unembarrassed with us.
To close may I say that we should welcome any letters or news from Britain or anywhere else – it is nice to keep in touch if anyone is interested in our rather more than usually cut off bit of the world.
If any reader wishes to contact the writer of the above, Gay News will happily pass on any letters.