.On Saturday evening, Miroslav and I went out to the city centre. As we were walking by a park, someone called his name. I looked up and saw a group of men; some were sitting
and standing around theon benches, and the rest were standing around them, laughing and chatting cheerfully. “Who are these men?” I asked him and he answered, “My gay friends. Let’s greet them.”
Homosexuality was a taboo in my homeland. The communists taught the masses that it was the product of the perverted Western mind. It was impossible to imagine a gay communist; how would it sound to call someone gay comrade?
gay?If the government had not had enough problems with dissidents, who filled the prisons and gulags in their thousands, they would have certainly imprisoned homosexuals also. Instead, they had havedecided to tolerate them as long as they did not practicewere not overt about their sexuality. openly.Homosexuals were physicallysocially invisible, but they were present in endless numbers of jokes, which were told in workplaces, schools and homes. As a group, they were marginalised and ignored, and nobody cared about their feelings. Now I stood in front of them, wondering what kind of people they were. I tried to find a sign on their faces and clothes which would give away their sexual preferences, but I could not find anything extraordinary. Only one person appeared to be odd. I shook hands with her, and she told me her name was Irena. She was a woman in her thirties, with large breasts, long blond hair and dangling earrings. But her features were masculine, what with her chiselled jaw, broad shoulders, strong arms, and large feet. “I am in love with your friend,” she turned towards Miroslav, and spoke in a deep masculine voice.
I was embarrassed and felt blood rushing to my face. I did not know if she was serious or joking. I did not have a girlfriend, knew nothing about love between man and woman apart from what I read in books, saw on TV or heard from my schoolmates. I could never have imagined that one day I was going to meet someone with both male and female features, who was going express her feelings for me. I did not know anything about transsexualism. It was never mentioned in my biology books, nor did I hear people talking about it. Later, when Miroslav and I were alone, he described for me what transsexualism is, and the medical procedures to change gender.
treatments which changed sex.This was another piece of information reminding me of my ignorance. Irena went on to say how handsome I was, and ogled me and bat her long eyelashes until a bald man with moustache sitting beside her burst out, “How can you do this to me, when you know how much I love you?” Irena turned towards him, took his hand in hers and said, “So you are jealous, Hans. Don’t worry. I won’t leave you, silly boy.” She giggled as if she were a teenage girl teasing men. Her words seemed to have calmed him and he sat back feeling reassured. reclined.The others wanted to know where I came from and why I applied for asylum. When they heard I was from Yugoslavia, they all cheered. They had almost all been into my homeland on holidays, and some had even brief flings with local men. A middle-aged man asked Miroslav if he could take me home for a more intimate evening, and he answered, “We Slavs do not copulate with Germans.” “Since when?” the man asked. “Since 1939,” Miroslav answered and we guffawed. We spent about half an hour bantering with them, before resuming our walk.
Without telling me where we were going, Miroslav guided me into a dark, narrow street. My eyes fell upon a shop window and a figure seated on a barstool. I thought she was a mannequin displaying a skimpy swimming suit, but the figure uncrossed her legs and ruffled her bleached long hair. She pouted her bright red lips and batted her long lashes.
“Who is this woman,” I asked my companion?
“A prostitute,” he answered.
“What do you mean?”
“She is selling her body.”
“And she does that openly?
“Of course, man. What do you think? It is her job.”
The word prostitute had a very negative connotation in my homeland. It was always associated with an immoral, promiscuous woman who cared only about her sexual drive. When my parents divorced, my mother’s best friend took my father to court because during a quarrel in the street, he called her a prostitute. Luckily for my father, the judge dismissed the case, because the main witness was an alcoholic who could remember neither the right place nor time when he heard the word. For the communists, men and women were equal--brothers in arms fighting for a new society, and they would never have dreamed about making prostitution legal. Those women comrades, who practised it despite its illegality,
despite the prohibition practised it,did it in secret and in large cities where they could remain anonymous.
TO BE CONTINUED
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