Calum McSwiggan

Mincing in Morocco

In Eat, Gay on June 5, 2012 at 8:25 am

Mincing in Morocco

‘A lot of people like to downgrade Morocco and Africa like it’s all jungles and lions and shit. The actual truth is a lot of stuff is going on out there’

– French Montana

For the first time in my twenty two years of living, I stepped outside of the safe haven of Europe. I left behind the countries where gay men are protected by the law, and aimed straight for Morocco, a country where homosexual conduct can result in three years in prison.

As I took my first steps into Africa, I was more than slightly apprehensive about what to expect. I’d heard about a group of men who were sentenced to ten months in jail just for attending a gay wedding, and about a gay porn company that were shut down and given a combined sentence of thirty years imprisonment- it goes without saying that I left my gay pride flag behind.

Military vehicles and scores of army militia patrolled the streets, every time they passed me I felt like I had to adjust my walk, not wanting to give away my sexuality by mincing around, terrified that they might seize me and bang me up in some god awful Moroccan jail. To make matters worse, some of the army men kept jogging around with their tops off, wearing nothing but teeny tiny commando shorts-  it was near impossible to keep averting my gaze.

After a few hours, though, I began to recognize that something was amiss. The place wasn’t anywhere near as homophobic as I’d imagined- a man with blonde highlights was mincing around with a Chihuahua, another pair of men were giving out high pitched giggles and slapping each other playfully, even the army men who had previously intimidated me seemed a bit overly handsy with one another.

It was only whilst tucking into some pinchitos that the ball really dropped. I had been watching a group of hot male sunbathers, they kept making jokes and then playfully touching each other, wrestling and getting extremely cosy beneathe their parasol. Then one lay on his friend’s chest and the other began stroking his arm- they may as well have been tossing each other off. I wasn’t in homophobic Africa, I was in sodding San Francisco. The more I looked around, the more I noticed it, I was right in the middle of a raving gay hullapalooza, and at this point I wouldn’t have been surprised if an entourage of rainbow flags and drag queens paraded down the street.

The law may state that homosexuality is illegal in Morocco but from what I’ve witnessed the opinion of the state does not match that of the people. Assuming that the homophobia must be rooted in the poverty stricken areas in the south, I did some quick research and, to my surprise, discovered that all of Morocco is seen as a gay hot-spot by the majority of North Africa.

The gay underground culture is thriving, gay nightclubs are immerging in Marrakesh, hammams are commonly used as hot-spots for gay orgies, and they even operate under a series of gay codes and language.

The hugely positive thing about this is that it brings in an enormous amount of money for the Moroccan economy, and even though the government are strongly opposed to it, they are forced to turn a blind eye. Furthermore, the huge congregations of gay people mean that gay rights groups are beginning to band together and the government are under a lot of pressure to buckle to equal rights.

I feel privileged to have had my eyes opened to this, what I’ve witnessed truly gives me hope for the progression of the gay rights movement in other deeply religious countries of the world. In light of everything I’ve seen, I now have an even stronger belief that world-wide equality can be, and will be, some day achieved.

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