Gay in the Third World

by SCOTT HANDLEMAN

Dangerous Living is the moving new documentary about the joys and sorrows of life as a gay man or lesbian in the Third World. It has just been released on DVD. Dangerous Living was directed by John Scagliotti, the award-winning maker of Before Stonewall and After Stonewall (and, I should add, a friend).

The sweep of the Dangerous Living is vast, as it explores universal themes in the homosexual experience. In the span of an hour, it transports the viewer to the Middle East, Latin America, sub-Saharan Africa, Southeast Asia and the Indian subcontinent.
The film’s counterpoint is the explosive growth of an open gay culture and identity in the West during the last century. Scagliotti contrast this with the relative invisibility of gay culture in the countries of the developing world, at least judged by western standards, up until the 1990s.

Foreign films and above all the internet brought gay culture to the developing world. In the 1990s, this catalyzed an explosion of public gay culture in cities like Cairo, manifested in cafes, discos, theatrical productions and indigenous films. Gays and lesbians had pride marches in such countries as Honduras and Namibia, all captured by the camera’s eye.

But the explosion of gay culture triggered a backlash from preachers and politicians. A major theme of the film is the persecution that gays and lesbians have suffered for their sexuality. The film is framed by the saga of the Cairo 52, thrown in prison for two years for the crime of attending a gay dance party. Dilcia Molina, a Honduran woman who dared to attend the Honduran pride march with face uncovered, told of having her home invaded by armed thugs. They cut her six-year-old son’s face and promised to come back and “take the lesbian out of her.” Both Molina and Ashraf Zanati, a Cairo 52 defendant interviewed for the film, emigrated to North America.

Another theme of the film is the thrill of clandestine sexuality, followed by the excitement of coming out. A Muslim man described the erotic spark when he grazed a neighbor’s finger during prostration at a mosque. Dilcia Molina intimated the pleasurable surprise of arriving at a lesbian dance party in her native Honduras. For Ging Cristobel, the principal pleasure of attending a lesbian film was being immersed in an audience of lesbians.

The film is fast-paced and visually appealing. It captures the colorful quality of gay culture—dancing drag queens, rainbow flags, a transsexual Thai kickboxer.

Because it covers so much ground geographically, the film leaves intriguing threads unwoven—especially, the welcoming of homosexuality in certain traditional cultures. I wish the film had spent more time with Vaasili, a tribal chief in Fiji who looked and sounded completely trans-gendered.

The film gives voice to voices seldom heard. For this reason alone, it is well worth watching.


 

Like What You’ve Read? Support CounterPunch
July 29, 2015
Mike Whitney
The Politics of Betrayal: Obama Backstabs Kurds to Appease Turkey
Conn Hallinan
Ukraine: Close to the Edge
Joshua Frank
The Wheels Fell Off the Bernie Sanders Bandwagon
Rob Wallace
Neoliberal Ebola: the Agroeconomic Origins of the Ebola Outbreak
Stephen Lendman
The Show Trial of Saif Qaddafi: a Manufactured Death Sentence
Dmitry Kolesnik
The ‘Ichkerization’ Crime Wave in Ukraine
Joyce Nelson
Scott Walker & Stephen Harper: A New Bromance
Bill Blunden
The Red Herring of Digital Backdoors and Key Escrow Encryption
Thomas Mountain
The Sheepdog Politics of Barack Obama
Farzana Versey
A President and a Yogi: Abdul Kalam’s Symbolism
Norman Pollack
America’s Decline: Internal Structural-Cultural Subversion
Foday Darboe
How Obama Failed Africa
Cesar Chelala
Russia’s Insidious Epidemic
Tom H. Hastings
Defending Democracy
David Macaray
Why Union Contracts are Good for the Country
Virginia Arthur
The High and Dry Sierras
July 28, 2015
Mark Schuller
Humanitarian Occupation of Haiti: 100 Years and Counting
Lawrence Ware
Why the “Black Church” Doesn’t Exist–and Never Has
Peter Makhlouf
Israel and Gaza: the BDS Movement One Year After “Protective Edge”
Eric Draitser
China’s NGO Law: Countering Western Soft Power and Subversion
Paul Craig Roberts - Dave Kranzler
Supply and Demand in the Gold and Silver Futures Markets
Carl Finamore
Landlords Behaving Badly: San Francisco Too Valuable for Poor People*
Michael P. Bradley
Educating About Islam: Problems of Selectivity and Imbalance
Binoy Kampmark
Ransacking Malaysia: the Najib Corruption Dossier
Michael Avender - Medea Benjamin
El Salvador’s Draconian Abortion Laws: a Miscarriage of Justice
Jesse Jackson
Sandra Bland’s Only Crime Was Driving While Black
Cesar Chelala
Effect of Greece’s Economic Crisis on Public Health
Mel Gurtov
Netanyahu: An Enemy of Peace
Joseph G. Ramsey
The Limits of Optimism: E.L. Doctorow and the American Left
George Wuerthner
Bark Beetles and Forest Fires: Another Myth Goes Up in Smoke
Harvey Wasserman
Will Ohio Gov. Kasich’s Anti-Green Resume Kill His Presidential Hopes?
Jon Langford
Mekons Tour Diary, Episode 4, a Bowery Ballroom Blitz
July 27, 2015
Susan Babbitt
Thawing Relations: Cuba’s Deeper (More Challenging) Significance
Howard Lisnoff
Bernie Sanders: Savior or Seducer of the Anti-War Left?
Martha Rosenberg
Big Pharma’s Profiteers: You Want Us to Pay What for These Meds?
John Halle
On Berniebots and Hillary Hacks, Dean Screams, Swiftboating and Smears
Stephen Lendman
Cleveland Police Attack Black Activists
Joshua Sperber
What is a President? The CEO of Capitalism
Patrick Cockburn
Only Iraq’s Clerics Can Defeat ISIS
Ralph Nader
Sending a ‘Citizens Summons’ to Members of Congress
Clancy Sigal
Scratch That Itch: Hillary and The Donald
Colin Todhunter
Working Class War Fodder
Gareth Porter
Obama’s Version of Iran Nuke Deal: a Second False Narrative
Zoe Konstantopoulou
The Politics of Coercion in Greece
Vacy Vlanza
Without BDS, Palestine is Alone