Out in The City
If you have gained sufficient years to recall those innocent days, watching ‘Gunsmoke’, ‘Champion the Wonder Horse’ or ‘My Favourite Martian’, you will remember a television world that was all in black and white. Even when that innocence was corrupted as JFK was blown away, there was no colour. Actually, there was very little pure black or white, the monochrome was really a selection in shades of varying greys. Just like the real world. The true attractions of the opposites are the areas in between.
The area in between a male and female couple that has a huge affect on their mutual attraction is a mystery that sustains the interest. He can never really know how it feels to be she and vice-versa. That enigma provides a lifetime of exploration that can never be completed. A fascination that can never be sated or understated exists between them. It is a yin and yang rule of the universe, which keeps the fabric of heterosexual human relationships, tightly stitched together or rips them apart, if violated.
The empathy that reigns in a same sex couple does not rule out the mystery of attraction if the partners are from different cultures. It explains the allure of cross-cultural gay bonding. There are no westerners who can claim to know what it is to be Thai and the converse is also true. As is the case with the heterosexual model, if both partners are committed to recognising and respecting their differences rather than insisting that lovers conform to their own strictures, the relationship stands a great chance of success.
It is true that many gay relationships between Thais and westerners are fraught with difficulties but most of those problems are caused by the resentments born of the power struggles that are rooted in inequality. With a shrewd (and honest eye) it is easy to spot westerners who demand compliance because they hold the purse strings. Economic power is an illusion – true love cannot be purchased. Moneybags mistakenly feel that they do not need to adapt or understand the culture of their partner; he who pays the piper calls the tune.
The great news is that things are changing. It is clear that, especially in Chiang Mai with an abundance of students, there is a new generation of well-educated gay Thais. They speak great English. They are exploring the outside world with the internet at their fingertips. They have progressive views and are not shy of claiming their independence. These are the professionals of tomorrow’s Thailand. These are the guys who will enter cross cultural gay love with true equality. The wise westerner will embrace this opportunity to celebrate the rainbow in black and white.
James Barnes is editor-in-chief of OUT in Thailand Magazine.