Beyond gay

5 07 2010

Last Thursday evening we were all invited by the Deputy British High Commissioner to a reception hosted by him as part of Colombo Pride. Now for those of you who are wondering what Pride is, it’s a huge celebration of being gay/lesbian and everything in between – an event held in the months of June and July, all over the world.  The concept is new to Sri Lanka but many people at the event last week were quite aware of what Pride was all about.

In between the rush for the fried prawns and the downing of unlimited refills of red wine, we watched a film called  Beyond Gay; The Politics of Pride. This documentary takes a good look at the role of Pride events all over the world. The narrator – Ken Coolen from Vancouver takes us on a journey from Sao Paulo in Brazil, where 3 million people join the flamboyant parade, (most of them shirtless); to Warsaw in Poland, where the shirt wearing Catholics, nationalists and skinheads vastly outnumber the handful of courageous marchers. Things are far more exciting in Moscow where Russian activists risk their lives and eventually get arrested, but do it just to mount their 10-minute demonstration.

The highlight of the film for me and for many others was the coverage given to Colombo Pride. The biggest surprise was to see someone we were all acquainted with onscreen and a long section on Pride in Sri Lanka! I was so happy to see Mount Lavinia beach and a gang of familiar brown-skinned people flying kites by the sea…

The movie is somewhat grim in parts (the Sri Lanka bit was grim, grim, grim) but also jubilant in others. I left the room holding hands with my queer brother who had tears in his eyes! Oh these drama queens! But speaking of queens, it was great to see a large turnout of men in drag, some of them so beautiful they put the women present to shame.

It’s not surprising that many people don’t know about Pride or the events in Colombo, after all Pride events here are only advertised in the mainstream media, after they take place, in order to protect the identities of the participants. Also, Pride in Sri Lanka is obviously not conducted exactly as in the West. Here it is a closed affair, mostly patronized by city-based English speaking people who can afford to attend many of the events organized. But it is still a valid celebration of what and who we are. And the courage and passion of every participant is very real. We hope that this event will one day be more inclusive and reach a wider audience around the island as well.





I come from the hair belt!

5 06 2010

I have a love hate relationship with my hair.

I love the hair on my head. I wash it almost daily, shampoo it up to a big white lather, condition it and am constantly playing with it. I go through periods of wondering if it’s falling, trying to grow it out, cropping it short, coloring it, hiding the grey, loving the grey and buying hair shine products that hardly ever work.

The hair on my body is another story. I’m constantly trying to remove it or to discover a method to remove it forever. I haven’t succeeded. But not for want of trying – I think my hair is very stubborn… like the rest of me.

As a teenager I used to wax my legs. I remember my first wax. It was just before my uncle’s wedding. I was 16. My mum took me to an Indian lady’s house where I had to lay down under a slow-turning ceiling fan while she proceeded to rip my hair out using just one ball of wax. It was excruciatingly painful. She used the same ball of wax, pressing and stretching it out to cover one part of my leg, pulling out the hair, kneading it into a ball again, and stretching it out over the next bit of young flesh. In less than an hour, I was hair-free and clean.

But the problem with starting waxing is that you have to keep it up. Since then I have waxed religiously every month, sometimes every 6 weeks. The worst is when you are approaching a period, the pain is heightened and I scream out loud!

I have tried other less painful ways though. One involved lasers. My dermatologist told me this works best on fair-skinned people with thick, dark hair. I was a good candidate she said – not as perfect as some Arab women but perfect enough. I went to six sittings; the hair under attack was my moustache and the hair under my arms. After spending a shitload of money, I was still left with some hair, but it was scantier.

I have also tried an epilator. This appeals to me as it allows me to grow my leg-hair to resemble that of a grizzly. My niece named me hairy-beary! But epilating is messy and takes too much time and you can’t always get every hair you want. The back of my thighs was particularly challenging.

But my legs, moustache, chin and underarms are just the beginning. And no, I am not referring to my privates before you start thinking of that. I do have hair in other unwanted places. For example, I have a love trail. This is caused by the hair on my tummy leading down to my pleasure pot – hence the name love trail. My girlfriend thinks it’s cute but that’s because she is hairless – as smooth and soft as a baby’s bottom – and I envy every bit of her.

My friend K and I had a discussion once about how leg hair removal is a manifestation of one’s social class. For example, in Sri Lanka, women from privileged backgrounds almost always wax, shave, epilate, use electrolysis, or laser away unwanted hair.  But all this costs money and needs to be done frequently. So not everyone can afford it.

Some lesbians I know choose to keep their body hair as a political statement. I don’t mind hair on other women, but on myself it bothers me endlessly. I just have to tweeze that millimeter of hair on my chin or else I won’t be able to sleep at night!

So I have resigned myself to it. I come from the hair belt! It’s kind of like a volcanic belt or a forest belt and it is definitely geographical. Being hairy is in my genes. I know some men of my ethnicity who are like gorillas – with hair that extends from one end of their bodies to the other. (Wall to wall carpeting, I call it.) But this isn’t cool or acceptable on a woman!

How is it that men can get away with being so hairy and women can’t? When will it be cool to be hairy? I want to be cool and hairy. But for now, I have to stop writing this post because I feel a follicle erupting in my chin and I have to rush to find one of my four tweezers… Good night!





39 reasons not to be a lesbian.

17 05 2010

(especially in Sri Lanka)

  1. You can dress how you like (well, more or less).
  2. You can have a cool haircut without everyone having a breakdown.
  3. Your brothers don’t laugh at your shoes.
  4. Your sister doesn’t say ‘its so gay!’ around you.
  5. Your mother doesn’t send you bible quotations on email.
  6. No one minds you holding hands with your girlfriend.
  7. No one minds you having loads of girlfriends.
  8. You can surround yourself with beefy men – so useful for mending the roof, driving you places and carrying heavy boxes up the stairs.
  9. You get to walk into rooms full of men with your boyfriend.. so no funny stuff.
  10. You can hold hands with your lover in public.
  11. You can flirt with your lover in public.
  12. You can kiss your lover in public (Well…you could try).
  13. You can walk into any really straight environment and no one looks twice.
  14. You can have pictures of your partner and children on your screensaver.
  15. You get to wear a wedding ring without anyone asking questions.
  16. You don’t have to hide your books when the kids come over.
  17. You don’t have to hide your DVD’s when the kids come over.
  18. You can sleep-over at your girlfriend’s place without raising eyebrows.
  19. You don’t have to lie when someone asks who your friend is…. that one who’s always hanging around…
  20. You don’t mind wearing a sari to work.
  21. You can use the women’s washroom without other women looking at you funny.
  22. You don’t have to explain why you live with a woman.
  23. You don’t have to explain why you don’t have a boyfriend.
  24. You don’t have to feel like the freak in every gathering (At least until you realize there are other women like you).
  25. You don’t have to know your parents are worrying themselves sick over something you couldn’t change even if you wanted to.
  26. You don’t have to unlearn virtually everything they told you.
  27. You don’t have to spend years of your life feeling guilty about loving someone.
  28. As a little kid you don’t have to spend a lot of time wondering what’s wrong with you.
  29. You don’t have to be the spokeswoman for your entire community.
  30. People don’t define you by your sexual choices.
  31. You’re not obliged to defend/hide your sexual choices.
  32. You can take out a loan with your partner.
  33. You can marry whomever you love.
  34. Your parents love your partner.
  35. You can plan your wedding.
  36. You can tell everyone you’re getting married and they will be thrilled.
  37. Once you’re married you can tell everyone you’re having a baby and they will be even more thrilled.
  38. You can adopt a child.
  39. You can name your partner as your beneficiary.




Guilt by association

10 03 2010

Recently I met a young woman who was questioning her sexuality. (Read: ‘extremely closeted’). We met through a mutual friend who felt it would be good if the three of us got together so her friend could talk to another queer person in friendly company. I suggested meeting in a cafe in Colombo but was told it was too public. So then I suggested a more obscure, quieter place that I knew would be deserted on a Saturday afternoon. And so we met and chatted and actually had a lovely time. I was really pleased to have met her. She reminded me of myself in some ways.. a younger me. I tried to reach out to her and reassure her that it was perfectly normal to be going through the feelings and experiences she was but I am not sure I made any sense at all.

Later, I wondered – why was she so afraid to be seen with me in public? What was it? What if people saw us together? Would they wonder how we knew each other? Would they think – how come we were friends? Or was she afraid that people would see her with me – someone who is very publicly out as a lesbian, and start thinking – Oh, so maybe she’s a lesbian too?

Was this feeling of ‘guilt by association’ so strong that she had to hide? Should I feel offended that she was ashamed or guilty to be seen with me in public? Do I look that dykey? (No, I was not wearing my “I love my girlfriend” t-shirt) or should I just try to be understanding and remember how it was for me all those years ago, when I was coming out?





Priceless responses by open-minded, liberal-thinking women

26 02 2010
  1. “Leave her for a few days at a time.” On breaking up with pull-all-stops partner.
  2. “Meet and talk to her.” Aka – Don’t worry about your feelings, just think of her demands.
  3. “It’s easy for her because she was the one who left.”  Walking out of home and living out of a suitcase is good training for nirvana.
  4. “You told too many people.” On confiding in mutual friends after partner told all and sundry.
  5. “You must also take responsibility.” For a violent end to a long-term relationship.
  6. “No proper handing over of duties.” On stopping volunteer work under no-way-can-you-go-there circumstances.
  7. “You chose to leave, so it’s not your house anymore.” On leaving home after a violent incident with no option of going back.
  8. “She can’t advise you because she is straight”. So she doesn’t know what happens when people are in relationships?
  9. “People will talk if you’re seen around with X.” Two months after the end of the relationship.

And of course, the best:

10. “Prove you’re not committing adultery”. To  reassure suspicious partner who sneak-peeks into text and mail.





So what do you do in bed?

17 12 2009

Why are straight men so curious about what lesbians do in bed?

We’ve been researching this phenomenon and comparing personal experiences and for a start let’s be very clear – this is no myth. Most straight men are intensely curious about and turned on by the idea of two women having sex. We’re not sure about the definition of ‘lesbian’ being of any importance whatsoever in this situation, because male  interest in lesbian sex has nothing to do with love or any emotional engagement the women may have with each other. It’s purely about the sex. The women could be perfectly straight and acting out a fantasydesigned for men, (which seems to be the usual case in the porn magazines and movies anyway), it would make no difference to a male audience. They just like the idea of non- threatening action.

One of the theories we read about was that men believe that lesbian women are simply bi-sexual. So they always have a chance to get in there too and this sustains their interest. There is also the belief that women cannot satisfy each other and therefore will always need a man in order to have an orgasm anyway.

What women do together in bed is not something that is discussed in public much (whereas straight sex is incessantly discussed in offices, bars, parties and – well everywhere and all the time…). So it has become a secret, thrilling but unimaginable activity. Very few people in the straight world have any idea what it is, because most of their information comes from porn movies which are just bad acting anyway.

And finally simply that it is a secret or ‘forbidden’ act in many societies and even in a liberated environment, it is still not the norm. So there is a thrill in that fact as well….that it is ‘unnatural’. And that’s always fascinating.

In the end one might actually conclude that most men don’t really ‘believe’ in lesbian sex as real, or at any rate something that could stand comparison in every way with the male-female sex act. It is always something to be mocked, forbidden, tolerated, peered at or indulged. It is not really real.

In the case of straight women and how this phenomenon effects their activities, it does seem to have become ‘cool’ to appear to be the sort of woman who is so liberated she can occasionally experiment with another woman or women. But that does not – god forbid, make them in any way ‘lesbian’ – a definition that remains unacceptable at any level to most.

Dabbling in lesbian sex is also attractive to otherwise straight women because their men often love the idea that their girlfriends are liberated enough to go for same-sex experiments, especially as they often get in on the action at some point anyway. In these cases it’s not an act kept secret from men, it is shared. Such situations are simply about people having sex for the sake of it. Lesbian politics and personal choices do not enter into the discussion at all, which is why many women who define as lesbian find it all somewhat infuriating.

And finally, a thought: do straight women find the idea of two men in bed together sexy and attractive too?

We believe not. But why not? Why is the perception of homosexuality and the sex act between men so different to women?

Is it just that women have been sex objects forever and this is just another example of that sad situation…?