Are there any “real men” who prefer to have sex with “real men”?
To those of us who live in the gay sphere the answer is obvious and the question makes the questioner the one who is queer. We know men who are male in every way who love someone who is physically, psychologically and emotionally male. We probably also know men who are sexually active with males exclusively.
But in Thailand I believe the majority of people have trouble with this. Everywhere we turn we hear the refrain, “He’s a real man” in answer to the question, “Is he gay?” “Real men” and “gay men” are mutually exclusive categories – one cannot be both.
If the “he” has some effeminate characteristics and is a target of doubt as to his sexual preferences, he will be thought of as a katoey (commonly understood to be a female born in a male body) no matter what he says. If he is not effeminate in the least he will probably try to keep from disclosing his preference for sex with males.
Contrary to considered opinion I have heard, I do not believe that this is simply because of unfamiliarity or discomfort with the term “gay”. I think, rather, there is just no category for men who want to have sex with men. A guy who wants to have sex with men (especially if he prefers the passive role, or even if he is just willing to accede to it) must be a katoey. He may admit it or not; actions speak louder than words. He is stigmatized if he is a katoey, ridiculed if he denies it, and twice damned if he admits it.
Now we have a handle on the reason why Thai guys are reluctant to be labeled as gay. Sexual preference is an aspect of sexual performance and it is a private matter. There is no need to disclose who we have sex with, much less who we would simply like to.
The trouble is that the unclarity about who is gay leads to confusion, and confusion leads to unfounded conclusions and irrational behavior. I am especially worried about younger brothers who hear that only katoeys have sex with males, and since they aren’t katoeys and don’t want to be included in that group, the young guys don’t know who they are or where they belong. Other young guys buy into the idea that being gay is deviant, which is a short step from agreeing that it is punishable. Injustice and discrimination grow from that fertile slime.
Rev. Dr. Kenneth Dobson posts his weekly reflections on this blog.