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During the afternoon, traffic cops patrol outside girls’ schools as classes end, in part to keep boys away.But they exert little control over what goes on inside.But what seems more startling, at least from a Western perspective, is that some of the men having sex with other men don’t consider themselves gay.For many Saudis, the fact that a man has sex with another man has little to do with “gayness.” The act may fulfill a desire or a need, but it doesn’t constitute an identity.“If you go out with a girl, people will start to ask her questions.
When Yasser hit puberty, he grew attracted to his male cousins.
A few years ago, a Jeddah- based newspaper ran a story on lesbianism in high schools, reporting that girls were having sex in the bathrooms.
Yasmin, a 21-year-old student in Riyadh who’d had a brief sexual relationship with a girlfriend (and was the only Saudi woman who’d had a lesbian relationship who was willing to speak with me for this story), told me that one of the department buildings at her college is known as a lesbian enclave.
Yasser is homosexual, or so we would describe him in the West, and the barbershop we visited caters to gay men. Leaving the barbershop, we drove onto Tahlia Street, a broad avenue framed by palm trees, then went past a succession of sleek malls and slowed in front of a glass-and-steel shopping center. Whereas most such establishments have a family section, two of this area’s cafés allow only men; not surprisingly, they are popular among men who prefer one another’s company.
Yasser gestured to a parking lot across from the shopping center, explaining that after midnight it would be “full of men picking up men.” These days, he said, “you see gay people everywhere.” Yasser turned onto a side street, then braked suddenly. He wasn’t worried about the gay-themed nature of his tour—he didn’t want to be caught alone with a woman.