As much as I (as many anthropologists do) distrust rapid capitalist development and expansion, one of the best aspects of development in a country is the increasing openness. This is a generalization and definitely not true everywhere (gay marriage is still not legal according to American federal law), but generally the more developed a country becomes, the more exposure people get to alternative living-styles, countercultures, and sexual orientations.
Five years ago, when we first came to Mongolia, the topic of alternative sexuality was extremely tabu. And in fact, most people, except for those directly affected, never even considered or thought that marriage or sexuality was not always between a man and a woman. Repression was extreme and gay Mongolia met at secret parties that were thrown in secluded, hidden and different locations each time. You had to be in the phone list to get the text (or sms) with the location, time and password.
Now, five years later, I am back in Mongolia and headed to my first Mongolian gay party last night! Last week was hilarious when I had my first exposure to the young female activists in the city, who threw a party after their showing of the Vagina Monologues, replete with lots of screaming, female enthusiasm, riot grrrl attitudes and topped off with a male stripper, who danced on half the girls in the room. Yesterday, I got to dance with half the gay men in the city and it was HILARIOUS! It’s great to see these countercultures and young movements thriving, and I felt so happy and lucky to see it all.
Unfortunately, my night ended with me wanting to catch a cab home, and me being semi-pressured/semi-threatened into paying 300 % the amount I should have paid, which still only amounted to about 3 euros, but is still not a nice feeling. and unfortunately again, I am heading to a candlelight vigil tonight for two gay men in another city in Mongolia who were murdered for their sexual orientation two days ago. So, I guess there is still a lot to do.