Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Dancing boys of Afghanistan - The Guardian

It is always a pleasure to read articles in mainstream media when they report about the "exotic others". You know the sensationalism, the smell of the underworld as its door slowly opens, the forbidden pleasures... Where else can you find it all?

Today's article is from and it's titled: The dancing boys of Afghanistan. And of course, the author goes into details about the rooms infested with Hashish (not that he actually saw any hash ingestion, but y'know, the smell is very unique), then the lords and their slaves, the unbelievable story of the poor third world country children, raped, ostracized, ill-treated etc.

But I can't really say the article was that bad, I am not informed of how it is in Afghanistan, so I can't prove him wrong. But there was one passage that I found to be particularly interesting:
"People accuse us of being homosexuals and transsexuals, but we are not," he said firmly. "We are not trying to be women, we are just dancers.

I don't know of how the person interviewed views homosexuality or informed he is of the meaning of the term "homosexual", but homosexuals are not individuals that seek to become women. I do understand that heteronormative societies tend to make unjust assumptions about homosexuals, and if let's say Habib has come across the term "homosexual" then it was probably through a heteronormative filter, that explains homosexuals as "abnormal fuckers" first and "women envious" second.

My disappointment is not in Habib himself, it is in the reporter. If he is going to quote Habib saying a certain term wouldn't he want to check what Habib meant, or understood, when he said "homosexual"? I mean this is supposed to be investigative journalism for crying out loud.

The danger of these practices is that, with time, it eradicates local concepts, clearly Habib and some dancing boys have something interesting and non-conforming in their lifestyles and identity. Wouldn't it be more interesting to ask about it, to investigate, what they feel, how they identify etc. Instead of just sticking the label of "homosexual" that they did not create for themselves and do not feel comfortable with.

With time and sensationalist coverage, these foreign terms will impose American/European terms and identity to people and gradually we'll see what we have witnessed in Lebanon: non-conformists slowly conforming to Western non-conformists. Struggling to fit into a category that is maybe irrelevant to their experience and certainly to their culture, just because when they say they are boys that dance, then they are lumped into the Gay category...

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