(Part One can be found here by the way: Interview with An English Gentleman)
Photo: There are just as many Bi-Women and Lesbians in Oman as anywhere else. No matter what many people might want to believe.
Personally, I've always found it to be a tribute to the incredible power of hormones that there any women at all who are actually interested in men. Shallow and stereotypical it may be on my part, but I've always figured that if I had been born a woman, I would definitely prefer to have been also born a lesbian. Women are, in my experience, generally harder working, more balanced, more loving, more generous, smarter and (it seems almost too obvious to say), tend to look much better naked.
Scudder agreed to share with us her observations, experiences and advice on being bisexual in the Sultanate of Oman. Note, "Finn" is her male (and queer) co-blogger at Community Queer.
Muscat Confidential: Thank you for speaking to us Scudder. First of all, how big is the gay scene in Oman? Is it just in Muscat, or is there an active scene in say, Nizwa or Salalah?
Scudder: That's the thing. There is definitely a gay scene in Muscat, and undoubtedly in Salalah and Nizwah as well, but it is so hush-hush between those involved that you cannot determine the exact numbers. There are small gatherings here and there, and certain places here in Muscat are popularly known for their once-a-week 'gay' gatherings. It's mostly word of mouth stuff… Finn and I have each other, but entrenched in conservative society, it's almost impossible for a true community to form. We started our blog hoping to create a way of truly connecting with Omani gay youth.
MC: How do you get dates? Given the attitude to homosexuality in Oman, it must be pretty tense trying to figure out if the person you're keen on is amenable to a proposition!
Scudder: Haha, dates. That's a sad topic. As the female half of Community Queer, I can say with some certainty that it's easier for me to get dates with women than it is for Finn to get dates with men. There are many girls I've met, Arab and well-educated, who have been more open about their 'unconventional' desires. At the same time, in terms of getting a date, it's no where near as easy as heterosexual dating probably is. Being as closeted as we are, our feelings for others are often in the closet with us, things we cannot openly share with those we want to connect with. Honestly, there are a lot of women around here confused about their sexuality, especially among teenagers. Sexual experimentation is not a myth in that respect …I think it just takes honesty with yourself and your closest friends. Tell people (but make sure they aren't CID and/or narrow-minded). Muscat is small and a friend (granted a tolerant, accepting one) could be connected to someone else who is gay or bi or lesbian. And they could know others…
MC: Do you know of anyone who has come out to their family in Oman? If so, how did it work out? Would you ever consider coming out?
Scudder: No. Things like that are really not spoken of around here. I could never come out to my family. My mother might understand, but the rest of my family would probably have me stoned to death.
MC: What is the attitude of the ROP? Are they 'actively' seeking out homosexual activity, or ignoring it, or even consciously turning a blind eye? Is it easier for lesbians and bi-females than for male gays?
Scudder: Homosexuality is illegal in Oman. I have heard stories about police seeking out popular places where gays gather and jailing them, but I'm unsure of the real truth behind these stories. I know if any activity is caught in public, even behind tinted car windows, that's definite jail time. As much as possible, I think the ROP is making efforts to seek out homosexual activity, especially if it were flamboyantly displayed. They probably don't care too much about foreign homosexuals, but if they knew Omanis were gay...
MC: Have you ever been subjected to harassment for your sexual orientation, or subjected to threats? In Iran and Iraq (and unfortunately many other places) we read of vigilante gangs murdering homosexuals. Is this a problem in Oman?
Scudder: Just the typical ignoramuses with ugly words at the tip of their tongue, the sort of people who make assumptions based on your clothing choices. It's surprising how many shallow, thoughtless people are around. Since no one is openly gay, many are saved from such murders as in Iran and Iraq.
MC: Do you think that homosexuality will ever be decriminalised in Oman?
Scudder: Not in this kind of ignorance-fuelled lifetime. We can do what we can with the words we have in the hopes that people can find empathy and understanding in their hearts. But in a country that stands on religious foundations, it is unlikely that it will be decriminalized any time soon. All I hope for is a change of mentality from complete denial/disgust to at least tolerance… I think I have enough faith in Oman for at least that.
MC: There are a lot of 'body building' mags on sale in Oman. Are body building and gyms a common cover for homosexuality? Specifically, are the Rock Bottom bouncers gay? (I probably won't be able to publish the answer to that one, but still curious...)
Scudder: Hahaha. Honestly, I've never thought about the Rock Bottom bouncers being gay. They are HUGE, but they get paid for their girth. Sorry. Dirty pun haha. I guess there is the stereotype that those who pay more attention to their looks are probably gay, but in this case I really have no idea.
MC: I guess Finn would be better at handling that question! OK. Where is the region's most gay friendly city?
Scudder: I'm not sure. I think Lebanon is the only country in the region with official gay bars. I remember an aunt of mine saying that homosexuality is most prevalent here in Oman which brought it to the rest of the Middle East (in a disdainful tone of voice). Obviously, we don't know the exact numbers. Homosexuality in Oman, from what you hear, is not pretty. There are many married men who reject the idea of being a 'homosexual', yet participate in 'homosexual activity', because somehow that doesn't make them 'homosexual'. That's why taxi drivers think it's okay to stick their hand down passenger's pants. You're only homosexual when you have romantic feelings for your sex object which is a sickening perpetuation of denial and ignorance.
MC: What would be your advice to a young person in Oman who thinks they're gay, or bi? What should they do? I would imagine - as in the west - growing up gay in a small village must be very lonely and worrying.
Scudder: Be honest with yourself, though I know from experience that it seems like the easiest thing to do is stifle who you are inside. No one around you needs to know, but YOU need to know YOURSELF. It feels like you're alone, like what you're going through is the worst thing. But, cliché aside, you have to embrace the beauty of who you are. Read, listen to music, marvel at art – realize that some of the greatest artists and thinkers have been homosexual. Embrace that.
MC: How do you avoid getting set up in a straight marriage? It's commonly gossiped that many gay guys (and girls I guess) just get married to get it over with.
Scudder: Get good grades and flee the country. Study for as long as you can. Come visit once in a while, but make your home elsewhere. If it's marriage you are escaping, you have to be far, far away. As a female, I will never reach the age where my family will stop pestering me to marry a man, which is a possibility, though an unlikely one. Hence, my life devoted to academia. It is expected, no, required, of men and women to marry and have children. Marriage is the priority. Love is often a bonus… you hear all these stories about gay men and women marrying to shut their families up, then searching for alternative outlets for their sexual desire… It's incredible, the kind of underground drama going on behind the veil of the 'Perfect Arab Family.'
MC: Again, thanks for sharing with Muscat Confidential and my readers. And good luck with the blog, especially now you've been through the blocked/unblocked drama!
Anyone - straight, gay or bi - having sex is strongly advised to read about protecting yourself and your partner(s) from harm, sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy. See Wikipedia - Safer Sex.
And anyone looking for 'straight' answers about real sex and sexuality from a fantastic gay Agony Aunt can do no better than columnist Dan Savage. Recommended reading if you're over 18. Note, this week's column is an absolute classic.