Moondance 2

30 01 2010

Photographed in 2006. (Panasonic Lumix, 12x Leica lens).

Moondance 1

29 01 2010

…its a wonderful night for a moondance!

(Photographed tonight around 10pm using a 85mm lens on a Canon 50D)

Breaking up

28 01 2010

Breaking up

Does breaking up always involve breaking down?
Throw away your ego as you watch her go
Beg her to stay; knowing it only chases her further away.
Why does breaking up involve breaking down?

Replay everything she said in your head
We were unhappy together but no happier apart
In my hands I hold little pieces of my heart.
Why does breaking up involve breaking down?

Wake up alone. Stare at the phone.
Spend the hot days and cool nights on your own.
Think of how far apart you have grown.
Why does breaking up involve breaking down?

It’s so gay!

23 01 2010

This is such a handy phrase – short, cutting, perfectly capturing the strong emotions it evokes while subtly implying that the speaker possesses infinitely superior judgement, sophistication and style than her unfortunate victim. (‘Her’ victim because “It’s so gay!” is so often the property of sophisticated teenaged or young women. No one else can quite achieve that tone of crushing disdain and the scornful delivery required by this, the ultimate put-down).

The phrase is popular though not new, and has traveled to this region along with the clothes, music, technology, accessories and everything else important in the pursuit of being cool. The interesting thing is however, that most of the It’s so gay! fraternity if reprimanded would indignantly chorus: “But I’m not homophobic! I have lots of gay friends…!”

Or: “It’s just a thing that we say. What you getting all worked up about?”


Anyone who doesn’t spend much time around young people and who has not yet experienced this phenomenon could visit one of Colombo’s high-end clothing stores, where a few moments of cruising around the men’s section (at the risk of being accused of being a pervert and/or gay), will almost certainly yield results. First you will hear a male voice ask hopefully: “Sonali, what d’you think of this shirt/shoe/tie/belt/sarong?

The reply will arrive after a moment of deliberation or in really dire instances – instantly: “Oh no, Ravi, – you can’t possibly wear that pink colour! It’s so gay!

After which Ravi will meekly retire to try his luck again with a more conventional colour/style/design of shirt/shoe/tie/belt/sarong. It’s as if in the great Sri Lankan drive towards universal conformity and general homophobia,“It’s so gay!” is now the official battlecry.

The identical conversation could also take place in the women’s section between Sonali and her best friend Kanthi, when they go shopping together. Each will successfully use the same phrase in order to dissuade the other from buying any item of clothing, jewellery or footwear that doesn’t meet with approval because “It’s so gay!” means it’s uncool, weird, cheesy, effeminate, kitschy or just plain Bad Taste.

Poor Kanthi. She will never get to buy that mad yellow floral tshirt she liked so much because it was too gay. And poor, poor Ravi. Long may he wish to stand out in the crowd wearing wild pinks, cool greens and fabulous flowers across his shirts and sarongs. Sonali will make sure this never happens, certain in the knowledge that pink will ensure the end of her boyfriend’s position as one of the most eligible bachelors around town, while making him vulnerable to the constant danger of appearing thus clad in one of Colombo’s society magazines. Because then, god forbid – everyone will think he’s gay.

One big tropical zoo.

18 01 2010

One big tropical zoo. This is what Sri Lanka has been called in the recent New York Times article titled “31 places to go in 2010”. Sri Lanka is number one on that list – no mean feat for such a small country I am proud to say. But a zoo it is, not so much for the elephants that roam freely (well, not exactly freely – electric fences have been helpful!) but more for the people who seem to have lost all sense of purpose and direction because of the upcoming elections. Lives are being lost through election related violence and it is virtually accepted and expected…a man is attacked, a 19 year old killed… its all part of living in the zoo.

But going back to the story of Sri Lanka being 2010’s number one travel destination. I’m joyful and I’m excited for all those folks who want to visit this lovely island. But it’s also bad news for us locals. We won’t be able to afford to stay in any halfway decent hotel, one where you don’t have to repeat your order five times before the waiter gets it right! If we’re to benefit from our new status as number one, we first need to change our tune of ‘Na’ and ‘Ba’.

Na’ and ‘Ba’ – (or ‘no’ and ‘can’t’). These two words seem to be the standard refrain for many who work in the Sri Lankan service industry.

“Can I have a mango juice?” I would ask. (And I’m ordering from a menu.) And the answer is: “Not available today, miss.” Or I arrive at a restaurant at 10pm and the waiter says “We’re closed.”

If we want to start serving the multitude of tourists that the New York Times recommendation will surely bring to our shores, we will need to learn a thing or two about proper service. At the moment, the one thing we do well is smile. But what’s the use of a smile when we rarely get the order right or the food served hot and on time?

Today, all our hotels are full and the world seems to have landed on our doorstep. But if we want to sustain this trend and keep them coming, we need to examine our service standards and then we need to change.

Are we ready for that?

The strategies of sex

15 01 2010

Some time back we ran a post by Vak, titled ‘Words of wisdom on sex’ which posed some interesting questions about the problems associated with sustaining sexual interest in a monogamous relationship. We know that generally accepted evolutionary theory shows that the reasons for and levels of interest in sex with the same person over a long period of time are very different for men and women:

“Because reproduction is the key to survival of the human species, men appear to have developed a short-term sexual strategy, as men who pursue multiple partners are more likely to out-reproduce men with one partner. Therefore, men’s mating strategies includes a desire for sexual variety making the chances higher that if reproduction is not successful with one female, it will be with another.

According to the journal article Sex Differences in Sexual Psychology Produce Sex-Similar Preferences for a Short-Term Mate: Men desire nearly five times as many sexual partners than do women over a lifetime. Men’s sexual fantasies also reveal a psychology attuned to sexual variety. Men’s sexual fantasies more than women’s sexual fantasies include multiple and unfamiliar partners.

This modern day psychology of the human male is no doubt an offshoot from his male ancestors who were physiologically prompted to over-reproduce to insure survival of the species.

Women, on the other hand, do not appear to have such a physiological need to procreate with multiple males, as women do not compete with other females in terms of reproduction during sexual encounters. Therefore, short-term sexual partners for women may function only to evaluate possible long-term mates, and serve more of a social function whether than a sexual or reproductive one.”

So women are not so much interested in quantity as in quality. While men seek to mate with the maximum number of partners, women seek to locate the best possible partner – one who will father strong, healthy children and also stick around to help look after them.

When it comes to homosexuality, the above equation must change a lot. Since this type of sexual encounter does not result in offspring, natural selection cannot operate as usual. So I guess gay men and lesbians are more likely to be more interested in sex for the sake of pleasure!

Interestingly, in his book, Straight Science? Homosexuality, Evolution and Adaptation, Jim McKnight writes, “Homosexuality is a major puzzle for evolutionary theory, for if evolution has a purpose it is reproductive fitness, the passing of genes to our children.” Natural selection should weed out the less fit of the species and those who carry genes for a certain genetic anomaly breed less and diminish their genetic representation in the population.” McKnight indicates this should gradually flush out the “gay” gene since over several generations, homosexual men would produce less offspring and their genes would eventually fade from the gene pool. Biologically, this would mean that homosexuality has some function in nature, since well-adapted genes adapt and survive, and clearly, the genetic predisposition for homosexuality has done so… (See above link for more.)

We can draw our own conclusions from all this. Either way, the issues surrounding long term sexual relationships in a contemporary context do seem to be more complex than one would think!

Obsessively queer?

7 01 2010

This is an ongoing conversation between the three of us over a period of time, which is why it is somewhat rambling and disjointed. But we felt it raised some interesting issues and differing viewpoints that may open up more debate as a post…so any interesting comments are welcome, as always.

The conversation started as a debate around this:

>> I say we are compulsive and obsessive about our queerness. By obsessive I mean we – all of us who identify as gay/lesbian/queer…we obsess about ourselves… our lives, the politics, our partners, the breakups, the freedoms we lack, the fight for rights, the sex, the books, the movies, our friends…it goes on and on. This is also tied into the way we define our entire lives and selves by the fact we are queer. We end up not having much in life that’s not connected to our sexual preferences in some way and I suspect that’s weird too.

I think it’s all too disconnected from the world we actually live in, whether we like it or not and that troubles me even in my own life. I want to feel I’m part of the whole world or at least know what’s going on in all of the liberal world. And that includes the politics, the music, the literature, the art, the sports, the news, the science and technology, the environment and human nature in general. All of it.

And this attitude of all encompassing general interest in the world around us is what we risk when we find true love and get ‘married’. One gets driven (or willingly leaps) into that isolated space of queerness when one is actually partnered. I always see this in my own life… when I am single I am more involved and interested in more general issues and life around me, including the things of the male world. The male world is a huge one – in fact whether we like it or not, it is the world and it drives the space we live in too after all, wherever we are.

But at the same time, I support our difference too.

>> I don’t know if this is necessarily a bad thing. I think it happens constantly with small marginalised communities that face huge stresses and pressures such as ours. But at the same time, it is good to have a foot in the world external to our community. And I am not sure why you feel you wouldn’t be part of the whole wide world if you were obsessing about the queer world? Wouldn’t you still be listening to different kinds of music or watching diverse films?

>> Oh but we don’t listen to different kinds of music or watch diverse films. Not really. We just seem to give up on the larger media/art/literature world. (Or maybe we were not that interested in the first place.) Haven’t you noticed our fixation with the L-Word, Sarah Waters, KD, Melissa, Heather and Ellen and on and on?

I believe it’s only the fact that there isn’t a greater volume of lesbian themed movies, lesbian authors and lesbian music available that keeps us from confining ourselves totally to those categories for life. Really, we are practically fundamentalists when it comes to accepting anything that’s not within our safe zone. We become very selective about what we can bear to see and hear, which means we continuously reinforce what we already believe, while shutting off so much valuable information about so much else that’s going on. (I know there are exceptions. I am speaking of a general trend.)

But I also feel it is so hard to debate these things or even critique our community, as it is one that is struggling on so many fronts – being queer, being poor, being third world disadvantaged, being less privileged even in the circles we move around in, being women in such a horribly chauvinistic society, being discriminated against and put down as a matter of course…all the social and class issues we face. There is so much to battle against.

It is very hard, because we are not like a group of liberated dykes in the first world having an intellectual discussion about the finer points of the rights we already have. It is so much more basic and painful than that.

>> But we should continue to debate these things. We are not here representing the LGBT world. We are just three independent, very different women. Whatever we write is part of and representative of the gay community because we are writing it. We are not outside of it, in the same way that Shakespeare was not outside his social group when he wrote his plays. He was still a part of that era and his work reflects the ideologies at the time, and in the same way, our writing is not outside of our world, our community or society. Whether in support of or against, it is still affected by our involvement with the time and place we exist in.

A Feminist or a Womanist

2 01 2010

Staceyann Chin is a Jamaican Chinese American spoken word poet,
performing artist and LGBT rights political activist.