I admit I have the travel bug. Life and hard work have granted me the means to scratch that itch more than once. That said, there are certain countries I hesitate to visit because of gender issues. While my sexuality makes some countries uncomfortable or less desirable to visit, it’s the gender flag that makes me worry about being physically unsafe. I don’t necessarily mean my genderqueer status, either—I can pass as "female" and still worry about the security of my body.

A recent NY Times article reminds us that boys and men can be similarly vulnerable—and can face even more difficulty accusing their rapists in the face of both hegemonic masculinity and homophobia. Alex, a French adolescent studying at the American school in the United Arab Emirates, was threatened and chain-raped by three UAE natives: a 17 year old classmate, an 18 year old, and a 35 year old.

"The authorities not only discouraged Alex from pressing charges, he, his family and French diplomats say; they raised the possibility of charging him with criminal homosexual activity, and neglected for weeks to inform him or his parents that one of his attackers had tested H.I.V. positive while in prison four years earlier. … The doctor, an Egyptian, wrote in his legal report that he had found no evidence of forced penetration, which Alex's family says is a false assessment that could hurt the case against the assailants. … United Arab Emirates law does not recognize rape of males, only a crime called 'forced homosexuality.' "

I find the language of this article of some interest, particularly as it references nationalities and "former convicts" and the like. For now, however, we focus on its two central claims: 1) that UAE justice system does not treat its foreign residents as it treats its native residents. 2) that homophobia allows not only direct harassment of gays but influences the way the health system responds to HIV.
"At least 90 percent of the residents of Dubai are not Emirati citizens and many say that Alex's Kafkaesque legal journey brings into sharp relief questions about unequal treatment of foreigners here that have long been quietly raised among the expatriate majority. The case is getting coverage in the local press.

"It also highlights the taboos surrounding H.I.V. and homosexuality that Dubai residents say have allowed rampant harassment of gays and have encouraged the health system to treat H.I.V. virtually in secret. (Under Emirates law, foreigners with H.I.V., or those convicted of homosexual activity, are deported.)"

Reading this, however, I have to wonder whether an Emirate boy would have even tried to press charges. Sometimes the bindings of culture and religion are stronger than legal barriers. I remind you that I'm very ignorant: all I previously heard of Dubai was that it is a popular tourist spot, economically successful, and widely considered a safer, more progressive point in the middle east. According to the CIA World Factbook, UAE is "a destination country for [human trafficking of] men, women and children…for involuntary servitude and for sexual exploitation." It seems also that the cultural and legal environments provide no safe space for males who are victims of rape.

Curiously, UAE is the safe haven for the three child actors whose work in the film Kite Runner may have made them unsafe in Afghanistan. Two of the boys are involved in a rape scene (left mostly off camera in the final version of the film). Part of the problem is political, inflaming already unstable relations between Pashtun and Hazara ethnic groups.
"In January in Afghanistan, DVDs of "Kabul Express" — an Indian film in which a character hurls insults at Hazara — led to protests, government denunciations and calls for the execution of the offending actor, who fled the country."
Part of the problem is cultural, that of masculinity and homophobia:

"the Kite Runner actor who plays Hassan…told reporters at that time that he feared for his life because his fellow Hazara might feel humiliated by his rape scene."

Needless to say, the film will not be making its way into Afghanistan officially; the concern for the actors' safety rises from the inevitability of a pirated film release.

In closing, I want to shift from homophobia in the middle east and southern asia, the difficulty in getting legal and media attention for real concerns like male rape and HIV, and the censorship of film…to transphobia in the US lgb(t?) community, and the censorship of film. Catherine Crouch's 20 minute science fiction film, The Gendercator, expresses her concern that butch lesbians are being socially pressured into transition and gender assignment surgeries.

"The movie caused widespread outrage within the transgender community after it was screened in Chicago earlier this year. Objections were raised to the film's depiction of transgender people and activists successfully petitioned Frameline, producers of San Francisco's LGBT film festival, to remove the movie from its schedule.

"The unprecedented decision enraged lesbians upset at what they considered censorship and they demanded that the film be shown. The LGBT Community Center's women's program then stepped in to organize a screening and panel discussion with both sides of the debate." Please, read more.

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