“Guys talk about girls all the time and are frustrated because society says no sex before marriage.I’m not allowed to talk about guys but I can have all the sex I want before marriage.At no point in our talk did he express any disturbing emotions or trauma from his early sexual encounters.
It is not easy to label the ‘scene’ here because it is not organized, not open, not admitted, yet it’s cruisy, sexy, internet-connected and quite populous. During my visit I chatted with two very different gay men, one a young student at a local university and the other a retired Italian resident of Tunis now self-employed. Ari, a university student studying architecture, and I met at tea time and had creamy thick hot chocolate at a trendy modern coffee shop and later went for pizza across the street.
Ari is a gregarious gay youth of 20 maturing out of his twink years.
How funny life is so twisted.” Indeed, it’s a well-known secret within Muslim societies that young straight men are not virgins by the time they get married, having practiced on each other as teenagers.
Ari has encountered more than one of these eager learners in his youthful past.
Part of his ‘curse’ is being gay and privileged in a ‘third-world’ conservative Muslim country.
Despite the early hopes of the Tunisian political revolution of 2011 subsequent elections brought an Islamist party to majority power due mostly to the secularists splintering into separate parties and unable to unite. More than one gay person believes the former authoritarian government was at least more tolerant of LGBT citizens than the present one.In his later teens he experienced the complexities of love and hurt as he dated some unreliable and deceptive boyfriends, most of whom were foreigners.Seeking a reliable stable relationship with a foreigner is always a risky affair for any native LGBT Tunisian since the expat is very likely to leave after a period of time; most are on professional assignments to Tunisia (from Europe) and must return when they are reassigned or become homesick or lose their job.Ari does not know any older gay men, who are hard to find since they are very discrete.Discovering one’s gay self in Tunisia is an uneven and unclear path especially when living singly without a community or tolerant society.One said the ousted president Ben Ali was privately tolerant of LGBT people as long as they didn’t get involved in politics.