Wednesday, 3 June 2009

Three Colours- Blue

(Just borrowing the colour trilogy from Kieślowski, but mixing in my own colours)

What do you think of when you hear the word blue? A clear sky on a summer day? Or a newborn baby boy?

In ex-Soviet republics, when we say blue, we mean gay.

OK I have to warn you, guys this posting is not your everyday English small talk over a cup of coffee. I have already lost one dedicated reader due to my unorthodox choice of topics. So if you are somewhat faint-hearted or very square please come back another day. Don’t leave me! I will write about something else next time.

But for today, the colour is blue.

I work in a very accepting and accommodating environment. Somehow, the whole educational sector in the UK seems to be very tolerant of anyone who is different. We have people who I would put money on to be hanging out at nights at Camden town tube station, sporting vampire outfits and chains through their noses. And of course, we have a very high percentage of gay people working for us. I have no idea why, we just do. Working somewhere like that, I forget that homosexuality is still a controversial thing in this world. I mean, I heard people boo Heith Ledger on the red carpet for his role in Brokeback Mountain.

So come on, what can you expect from Azerbaijan?

I dare to suggest that for some reason, Azeries find homosexuality funny. There is a village in Azerbaijan that is notorious for its blue-ness so to speak. The origins of this myth is not documented, and whether it really is so blue, or just very unfortunate to have accidentally got that reputation is not clear. There are hundreds of national jokes about the poor villagers, and if you were to travel there, you would probably be advised not to drop anything- so you would not have to bend down to pick it up.

And even though Azeries had to borrow a lot of words from other languages to describe other aspects of everyday life, there definitely is no shortage of the authentically Azeri expressions when it comes to the subject of blue love.

There also is a lot of gossip, again of a humorous character. A long, long time ago, in Soviet times, a famous Russian singer Valeriy Leontyev came to Baku on a tour. According to urban legend, he had to be escorted back to the airport surrounded by special security forces. Allegedly, masses of passionate Azeri males were too excited about his tight leopard leggings and muscular buttocks.

But that is not why I brought the whole subject up.

What I personally find bizarre is the fact that there are some so-called straight men in Azerbaijan that can (by chance?) get involved in a homosexual act, and honestly think that does not make them gay.

One very gay British expat I knew socially, coming to work in Baku as a manager for a couple of years, had not expected his assignment to turn out to be that exciting.
He was a handsome young Englishman, blond and in shiny tight PVC pants (which he only wore outside working hours, of course) As many expats do, he hung out in clubs and bars till the early hours, drinking cheap alcohol and enjoying expat lifestyle.

You might remember from my previous posting that local police liked stopping taxis to catch some “prostitutes”- just for some pocket money, you know.

That night, however those three watchmen of local morality got a bit more than they had bargained for. Planning to pocket some extra cash, they stopped S. on his way from the nightclub. S was drunk and had no documents, of course: Nothing like that would fit in his tight PVC pants. He assured the policemen that he had everything they could possibly need back at his apartment. Including some vodka. Policemen followed him back to his flat. One of them, an older guy, eventually retired, after having had a few shots. However, the other two stayed. According to S. both policemen were:

a) straight
b) married with children
c) kept their guns on

S was shaking with excitement, his voice high pitched as he proceeded to tell everyone the next day about the seduction and the guns.

So what is this? Were those two policemen gay? Or were they just… you know, greedy?

For S, I am sure, the incident meant an act of skillful seduction on his part. He probably saw himself as a sleek hunting machine of the night, a gay predator who managed to seduce some straight married guys. Whereas, the policemen probably thought they took advantage of one very drunk expat, and used him. And because they were, (forgive me, my square readers) givers not takers, they probably believed they remained straight Azeri machos.

I guess you could only compare this approach to prison. Using sex as humiliation. As punishment. And as a tool to establish who is in charge.

That is the kind of homosexual act I personally think all those guys (who put themselves in charge to protect the morals of the country) should be trying to eliminate. And not spending their time shouting abuse at the Azeri writer who dared to write about Armenian-Azeri gay love story. But who am I to know? I am just a suburban mama in a country where it is OK to be gay.


  1. wow.

    well this is interesting, to say the least. my country never fails to surprise me.

    i created a whole account to comment on this article, and it turns out that i don't have much to say...

    reading things like this sure makes me proud to be azeri :)

    and i love your use of "very gay". haha

  2. I am sorry. I know it is not a very pleasant reading, and I actually found it difficult to word what I wanted to say properly- and that does not happen to me often!

  3. I once read a fascinating article--I think it was in the Atlantic Monthly--about men in Saudi Arabia and how it was more common than not for older men to have young boys as lovers. Part of the reason, the author argued, was the unavailability of women.

    And you were only considered gay if you were the "taker."

  4. Wow! What a story...
    SA, here my post with the translation I asked you permission for:
    I hope you like seeing yourself in an unknown language!
    Saludos desde Lima.

  5. Hm-m-m, none of the guys in the drawing resemble an azeri policeman... It must be an illustration to "Artush and Zaur", then. Just kidding :-)

    The simple answer to Scary's question is this: sexual deprivation, which is a huge problem in the country (for men, anyway), can force a guy to have sex with another guy. Just to get some action, so to speak. Since he doesn't experience natural attraction to males, he - rightly - doesn't consider himself a homosexual. You didn't bring it up, but zoophilia is also widespread in rural areas, and for the same reason.

    That is not to say there are no true gays in Azerbaijan, of course. In fact, my former classmate "came out" shortly after going to college in Moscow.

  6. good post. This is totally hearsay, but I was talking with an American girl who said she was talking with an Azeri guy at a club in Baku and the guy pointed over to someone else and said "That guy is gay." When she asked him how he knew, he just said "Because I slept with him last weekend."

  7. Jessica: Yep, I have definitely heard that about Arabic cultures.

    I think Riyad is right, and it probably comes from lack of availability in the female department.

    Riyad: Do you think I should offer my drawing to the author of A&Z?

  8. nwj: So funny. I bet it is true, you know.

  9. Scary: You should totally offer your drawing to Ali Akbar. However, looks like someone has already donated his photo for the book cover:

  10. You’re on to something here. This topic is not well studied as far as I know and probably won’t be studied anytime soon since officially there are no gays or bi’s in the Land of Fire. Interesting to know what makes male bi-sexuality acceptable in super-conservative cultures such as this one.

  11. I can always count on you to write about something a bit different. Quite an education, visiting here. ;)

  12. No no, you worded it as perfectly as the situation allows. I loved reading it, despite the subject matter. It's not the typical thing you would read about what happens in Azerbaijan, and I don't think I would know about it from anywhere else, so thanks for blogging this.

    I'm a fan, ma'am :D

  13. I am fascinated by this article. A few years ago I went to Baku and was intrigued by gay gatherings around Russian Embassy after dark :) Would you please tell us what is the name of the “gay” village. I have never heard about that?

  14. Hmm...I deliberately did not say, as I felt it was unfair towards the villagers! :))) Sorry! :) If you ask anyone in Baku they will, surely tell you. Russian embassy, eh? interesting! LOL

  15. ah macho men-as gay as they come!

  16. İ am a Canadıan . marrıed to an Azeri. İ have spent 18yrs ın Baku . İ have my own overseas busıness so İ do not work ın Baku , Recently they amended the law so you have to speak Azerı to get a 5 yr resıdence vısa so now İ have only a one year vısa .Most recently they gave me 6 Months !! İ have buılt a house and a dacha here but İ cannot own the land even joıntly. İ ıntend to take my case to the ECHR court ın Europe and publıcıze just what ıs goıng on ın thıs 'democracy'!!