Two worlds, three women

25 06 2011

1.
When I was younger I was married for around six or seven years. I remember this as being one of the happiest times of my life, for three reasons. One was because the man concerned was an unusual one -talented, confident and quite comfortable with himself -a rare characteristic as far as Sri Lankan men go. The second thing was that for the first time in my life upto then, I was comfortable with myself. And finally the fact that for the first time in my life upto then, other people were comfortable with me.
Life as a queer woman in Sri Lanka, I find is a completely different experience. I am very used to feeling like the weird person in the room since childhood, since that is how I have always been. But being queer in Sri Lanka is a whole different level of weird. So many doors are closed to you, so many things you don’t say to so many people, (often the ones you’re closest to), and so many, many, many things you just don’t DO.
There are places one avoids, conversations one edits, dreams that one abandons, all because you know that for so many people, knowing exactly what and who you are would be just too much to handle. These are the two worlds that many of us inhabit – straight and queer. And still for its difficulties and trials, I know where I belong.

2.
I had girl friends before and after I had boyfriends. Boy friends were uncomplicated. So uncomplicated that I managed two at a time. I was doubly spoilt, taken out to nice restaurants, shown off and generally proudly paraded to friends and family.
With girl friends it’s always been hidden. Never met the parents, never taken home, never invited to dinner with family and rarely taken out.
Yet if you ask me now why I choose secrecy over acceptance I would say “to be myself”. With women I am me, not pretending to be someone I am not, just to please him or his family or just to save face. With women I can be that dark and dirty secret that lives in a closet – but that closet is my own and dark and dirty can be exciting!

3.
In school, for a long time, I was one of a handful of girls in the class who didn’t have a boyfriend. I would either be surrounded by discussions of how some adolescent male looked, touched, gave letters or arranged a secret meeting on the way to tuition classes with my classmates. Or I would have to listen to prim and snooty comments of ‘we’ were much better than ‘those girls’ who had boyfriends. I didn’t want to be in either group. Then in my early twenties, I had an intensely boring and terribly depressing relationship with a man for too long.
Life was much easier, though. It didn’t even occur to me that there would be a time when I would look wide-eyed at how joyfully people around me would greet news of upcoming weddings. Or that I wouldn’t be able to hold hands in a restaurant with the person I love. Or edit certain parts of my life when talking about myself. Or that half the family – the half that had tedious marriages and lackluster lifestyles – would be talking about me in horrified tones. When you are straight, you take these things for granted. I only had one complaint.
Men just didn’t work for me. Nothing to do with lesbian tendencies in denial. The men I was with blamed it on a home with ‘too much’ independence and an education that was ‘too feminist’. With women, my world fits together nicely.





Amina has been kidnapped!

7 06 2011

     

This is outrageous.

Syrian blogger Amina Abdallah kidnapped by armed men.

Author of A Gay Girl in Damascus had shot to prominence for her frank views on Syrian uprising, politics and being a lesbian…

Note: there is now discussion on the identity of Amina and whether the blog is fictional. See the Guardian and New York Times articles on this.





The Dish Campaign

25 02 2011

Dear Owner of the Elliptical Reflector Dish,

Congratulations. You must be feeling quite smug now!

I am writing to ask if you can tell us where to buy this Dish? It seems such a good idea!

I am not sure, of course, that we can use it regularly here in Sri Lanka. Our problem is a little different to yours. Most women who have sex with other women can’t make any noise, leave alone a gasp and a screech. Either they are living with their family, in which case, sex is really silent. Or they are boarded in someone else’s house, which is not very different from living at home at the end of the day. Which leaves a few lucky women with their own space who still have to be mindful of the neighbours. And believe me, those neighbours will dislike the screaming for an entirely different reason than you did.

So you can see now why I am asking for information about this Dish. How wonderful it would be to use Elliptical Reflector Dishes, at some pre-arranged time with all the other women who can’t sigh, gasp and scream loudly during sex. We could just flood, flood the country with the noise of women having sex with each other. Sigh.

Sincerely,

Vak





Naming and shaming

29 01 2011

Are we instigating murder?

You may recall, the Sri Lankan media, under the directive of the Police Crimes Division, published photos of men and women who they claimed appeared in porn movies.  Subsequently, these people’s lives have been completely ruined. Some have been expelled from their homes and can never show their faces in society again.

In Uganda, a prominent gay rights activist was murdered in his own home, following a newspaper article that published pictures of several Ugandan homosexuals. The headline that appeared in October 2010, read “100 Pictures of Uganda’s Top Homos” and showed photographs of some of them. David Kato was among them. By the end of January 2011 he was murdered.

In the months in between, David had sued the Rolling Stone newspaper that carried his photograph for defamation. In the meantime The Supreme Court of Uganda ruled that people must stop inciting violence against homosexuals and must respect the right to privacy and human dignity. However, it seemed like no one really paid any attention to Kato’s action of suing, nor to the Supreme Court directive.

This is a lesson for all of us and a lesson for Sri Lanka too. By trying to name and shame people  who are different, either because they sell sex, appear in porn movies or have sex with people of the same sex, we create stigma and discrimination against them and also instigate violence.  In some cases, even death.

Do we want to sleep with blood on our hands?





Feeling Queerly this New Year?

2 01 2011

Never do I feel more resentful about heterosexual privileges than on Significant Days. Birthdays, New Year’s Eve, Aluth Avurudu are all designed to make me feel conflicted and low. It is family time and I love spending time with my family. But what enrages me is how difficult this time would be if I want to spend it with a partner – of the same-sex.

All around me, straight cousins and friends spend Significant Days with their spouses or with family, or both. If they don’t turn up at the family event on this Day, they are not asked why. If they do turn up, they are not expected to leave their spouses behind. If you are a straight married female, or even engaged, these are Days when you say ‘I am spending it with him’ and Society smiles fondly.

For those of us in this country who love women, such a scenario is a luxury. Unless you don’t have much to do with your family anymore (all too common in our community) or your family has accepted you just the way you are (I am happy for you. Really.) the day seems far away when we can choose to spend a birthday or Christmas with the woman we love without having to find excuses or feel guilty.

Happy New Year everyone, and here’s hoping you can spend the next New Year queerly!





Kingdom of Women

22 12 2010

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Italian photographer Luca Locatelli documents the lives of the Mosuo tribe, often described as one of the last matriarchal societies in the world.

Women from the Mosuo tribe do not marry, take as many lovers as they wish and have no word for “father” or “husband”.

The Mosuo people’s ancient history is identified with Lugu Lake and they are famous for their matriarchal traditions and “walking marriages,” where marriage is not sacrosanct as women exercise the right to choose and change their husbands at will. There are around 90,000 Mosuos, mostly concentrated around Lugu Lake. Azu marriage is the way of living of the Mosuo people, and Azu in the local Mosuo language (which does not have its own script) means “intimate sweet heart”. It is a convenient arrangement in which the partners come and go as they like. Three types of Azu marriages have been mentioned namely, the “travelling marriage,” which is marriage without cohabitation; and the second type is the marriage with cohabitation that have developed into deep feelings after living under “travelling marriage” practice; they then live together and raise children as a family.

The third type of marriage, which is linked to the history of Mongolian people occupying Lugu Lake who inculcated the practice of monogamous marriage among the Mosuo people, is called “One on one marriage.” However, in all the three types of marriages, women have the rightful ownership of land, houses and full rights to the children born to them. The children carry their mother’s family name and pay greatest respect to their mothers who in turn enjoy high social status. The male companions are known as “axias” and they work for the women.

Lugu Lake is located in the North West Yunnan plateau in China. The middle of the lake forms the border between the Ninglang County of Yunnan Province and the Yanqing County of Sichuan province. It is an alpine lake at an elevation of 2,685 metres (8,809 ft) and is the highest lake in the Yunnan Province, surrounded by mountains and it has five islands, four peninsulas, fourteen bays and seventeen beaches.

The lake’s shores are inhabited by many minority ethnic groups, such as the Mosuo, Norzu, Yi, Pumi and Tibetan. The most numerous of them all are the Mosuo people, with an ancient family structure considered “a live fossil for researching the marital development history of Human beings” and “the last quaint Realm of Matriarchy.” The matriarchal and matrilineal society of the Mosuos is also termed the “Women’s World.”

(excerpts from Wikipedia)





porn today – gone tomorrow!!

6 11 2010

The Daily Mirror reported that the Colombo Fort Magistrate has ordered police headquarters to publish in the newspaper photos of local men and women appearing in Web based porn sites. According to the Magistrate, they want to track these people and identify and punish them!

Bull shit!

What will the lives of these people be like once they are identified? The court punishment is one thing, but what about the ostracism they will receive from the wider community? Can they ever safely live in Sri Lanka again? What will their livelihoods be? How will the consequences for women be greater than those for men?

Furthermore, have they no realization that doing such a thing is not going to deter the making of porn, the demand for porn or from other people entering porn films? This is all assuming that those who are featured in the newspapers are willing participants in the movies. But we all know that there are many young people who are forced into such things, black mailed, and coerced. Some are even trafficked into the sex trade. And many are underage. Some are filmed without their knowledge. So basically what we are doing here is re-victimizing the victims. Is this the best way to address the problem? The government’s approach will only make it more difficult to help those who were coerced into the porn industry. A more productive policy would seek to reduce stigma to assure that those who are willing participants have proper access to medical care and those who were forced to participate could access resources that would help them reintegrate into their communities and rebuild their lives.

In Uganda, some 100 photos of gay men were published in a newspaper – apparently to shame them – so we are going the Uganda way or what?





The art of letting go

10 10 2010

I have never known the art of letting go. The art of losing, yes. But not of letting go, of people and spaces that I have greatly loved.

It is hard to know if this is the moment to let go of someone or some space, walk away from things you believe in, things you like to do, the spaces you embraced. It is difficult for me to judge if I should let go right now or if I should stay till tomorrow. How do I know if my staying in that space will make things better and if I will regret walking away? Am I not letting go because I truly see the worth of being in that space or because of my fears and needs? Or because I want to stay addicted to the love and the laughter, the adrenaline and the driving energy?

And so, it has always been hard for me to see that moment when you have to let go and walk away. If I were Lyra’s Will I might not have seen that little patch of air which is the entrance to another world. But sometimes, suddenly there is a moment when I feel detached, when I can step away from it all, see the snag in the air and slip in.





Shit happens to women everyday

30 09 2010

Everyday it happens.

The leering, the staring, the whistling. The jostling, the poking, the showing. The rubbing. Comments, suggestions, requests, assessments. The blaming, shaming, and naming. Four letter words and three letter words.

Some times you hear a woman talking back and writing back. Once in a while, a man agrees with the woman who talks back and writes back. And all around them the debate goes on. Like comments on the virginity test story.

Women should dress appropriately. No, we can dress any way we like. No, they should not dress revealingly, asking for trouble. And what if our elbows cause desire in a man? Don’t be silly, it is natural for men to be aroused so women should just not provoke the men. But, what if a man gets off on my finger nails? Or tries to masturbate next to me in the bus? Or in the car park turned towards me? You can just tell him off no? And what if the man starts shouting at me in all the words he knows and everyone around is looking at me accusingly or weirdly? What to do no, you have to face these things as a woman if you want your rights.

And if we are in a rage at the things that happen to all of us women at any time of the day or night? What is the appropriate response, you think? Write about it and shout about it? Keep on writing and shouting about it? Talk to the few women and men who think and act differently?

And keep laughing, I think. Loudly.





The Association for the Freedom of Femme Women

26 09 2010

Article I

Name

The name of this association is the Association for the Freedom of Femme Women (AFFW) which is designated an unincorporated nonprofit association created under the laws of the Worldwide Commonwealth of Homosexual Women.

Article II

Intent and Purpose

It is the intent of the AFFW to achieve Total Freedom as defined by our membership, which definition may be subject to change according to additional requirements and needs raised by membership from time to time.

The primary purpose of the AFFW shall be to secure full and total freedom as defined by our membership, (specifics of which are set out below), chief of which is to free ourselves in every way from, and cease to be subject to, the general supervision and control of men, butch women, and other authoritarian individuals and organizations that may seek to prevent us from exploring and expressing our thoughts, our emotions, our will and most of all our sexuality, in any way we see fit.

The AFFW shall consist of Femme Women joined by mutual consent for the common, nonprofit purposes of educating and rendering assistance to fellow Femme Women and providing an accessible source of information pertaining to Femme Women and the public whenever possible.

While the AFFW does not discriminate against others on the basis of race, color, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, religious affiliation, ableness, national origin or other personal factors, membership shall be open only to those women identifying as ‘femme’, who are of the opinion that we are an unseen and oppressed minority whose needs are not being addressed and whose rights and freedoms are gravely compromised today.

Article III

The Definitions of Total Freedom

1. We shall be free to walk anywhere at any time without being subject to comments, jeers and other offensive remarks about our hair, clothing, breast size or any other personal characteristic from any man or woman.

2. We shall not be made to feel guilty in public or in private for our choices of sexual partners, by any man or woman.

3. We shall not be expected or obliged to be consistent about our choices of male and/or female sexual partners. It shall be understood that an FW shall enjoy perfect freedom to choose and discard partners as she thinks fit and shall not be mentally or physically penalized or punished for such actions by anyone.

4. We shall not be expected or obliged to regularly cook for our partners and/or families unless we voluntarily choose to perform such activity.

5. We shall not be expected or obliged to indulge in any domestic activity including all general housework, child care, pet care, car care, garden maintenance, marketing or any other household activity, unless we voluntarily choose to perform such tasks.

6. We shall not be expected to desire children or to bear children unless we voluntarily choose to do so.

7. We shall not be expected or obliged to manage household accounts, bill payments, bank matters or the organizing of fund-raising or other events or any other secretarial activity unless we voluntarily choose to perform such tasks.

8. We shall not be expected or obliged to host social gatherings, dinner/lunch parties or any other activities unless we voluntarily choose to perform such tasks.

9. We shall have the right to refuse to perform any such voluntarily undertaken tasks at any time we wish.

10. We shall have the right to dress as we choose at all times. This clause shall include all related matters pertaining to length of hair, length of hemline, showing of skin and all fashion choices regarding dress, shoes and accessories.

11. We shall reserve the right to colour and maintain our hair as short or as long as we wish, at any time.

12. We shall have the right to go to work or not, as we wish. We shall have absolute freedom in our choice of profession. We shall not be expected or obliged to share finances unless we choose to do so.

13. We shall have the right to absolute privacy including our mail, email, mobile phone and all other personal communications.

14. We shall enjoy the right to maintain as many friendships as we wish. This shall include anyone we choose, regardless of race, color, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, religious affiliation, ableness or national origin.

15. We shall not be interrogated or subjected to bullying or mental or physical harassment of any sort whatsoever, by anyone, including our partner/s.

16. We shall not be expected or obliged for any reason to stay in any relationship that we have chosen to abandon.

17. We shall have the right to demand sex as often as we require it.

18. We shall not be expected or obliged to offer sex unless we wish to.

19. We shall not be judged for any choices we make. Instead we shall at all times expect the love and support of all those around us that we deem our friends and family, this organisation included.

20. These articles shall be subject to change as and when the membership sees fit.


IN WITNESS WHEREOF, the undersigned have executed these Articles of Association

on this__________ day of ______________, 20__.

______________________________

President (or alternate title)

ATTEST:

______________________________

Secretary-Treasurer (or alternate title)