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05_06

05_06

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GB RPCV NewsLetter - May 2006 
 NewsLetter 
 
In This Issue
Security for Gay PCV Writers
hatOMA Means for Over-seas Assignments
Gay Life in Benin?
iversity Training in Tanzania
mmigration: LGBT PCVs andTheir Host Country Partners
Gay Testimonial in New PCublication
ew Job for PC Director 
Security Issues for Authors of LGB RPCVNewsletterArticles
M
ay’s issue begins with an explanation of the security issues we consider hen publishing articles from current volunteers. This is followed byarticles from two current volunteers, one in Benin, one in Tanzania.Suzanne Marks describes the DOMA related problems facing same sex partners work-ing overseas.
A recent RPCV describes the long journey that he and his male hostcountry partner have taken to secure their relationship. The new PC RecruitingCatalog features a testimonial from a distinguished gay RPCV.
- Mike Learned, editor, RPCV Malawi
Anything that goes ona blog or an internet sitelike ours is everywhereand forever. We take thatseriously into account.
In this issue the authors of three of the four main articles are not identi-fied by name. Two are current volun-teers in Africa, one a lesbian, one agay man. A third article is written bya gay RPCV who is establishing animmigrant identity in Canada so thathe can live with the partner he metduring his Peace Corps service. Wehave authored articles anonymouslyin the past, but never so many in oneissue of the newsletter. So what’s up?What’s up is that LGBT volunteersare under greater pressure than ever toremain discrete in their host countries. Not so long ago, gay and other hu-man rights issues were little known inmuch of the developing world wherePeace Corps volunteers serve. Today,the scene has changed. People whoare “out” and gay activists are seenin many places as one more groupwho threaten the traditional and oftenoppressive status quo. There was atime when many gay Peace Corpsvolunteers could be somewhat “out”and “active” and nobody would muchknow what was going on. Times havechanged. Gay male volunteers seemto be more vulnerable than lesbians, ateast from the stories I’ve heard. Our newsletter and individual articles goon our web site, and other web sitesround the world often link to them.Google and other search enginescontinue to improve. The internets an extraordinary medium, but itcan expose Peace Corps volunteerswho are in a vulnerable place in their traditional (and very homophobic)communities.Many volunteers now have blogs.The nature of a blog is that it is oftenvery personal, irreverent, and meantfor a closed audience of friends andfamily. Some volunteers (gay andstraight) have found themselves inembarrassing situations when local people have found their blog ad-dresses, and read things not meantfor their eyes. Anything that goes ona blog or an internet site like ours iseverywhere and forever. We take thatseriously into account. Not all the news is discouraging.Read the article in this issue aboutthe volunteer led Peace Corps staff training in Tanzania. At least at the professional level some progress is being made.Our aim is to get as much informa-tion about the lives of LGBT volun-teers out there where people who areinterested can find it. If that meansshielding the identity of the volunteer while she or he is still serving, so beit. Our advice to current volunteers isto have us publish their articles un-identified by name. This is to protectthem from public exposure, rejection,scorn, intimidation, visits by local po-lice and violence. All of these thingshave happened. These security issuesare real!
 
GB RPCV NewsLetter - May 2006 
2
Is There Gay Life in Benin?
a Current PC Volunteer 
homosexuality wassuch a non-entity inBenin—something thatexists in Europe andAmerica...
Arriving in Africa, I was certainthat I would be signing a two year vow of celibacy and a contract for anon-gay existence. I knew that thiswould be difficult. Although I am notthe type of guy who only shops in gaymarkets and eats in gay restaurants, Ido enjoy hanging out with other likeminded guys and dabbling in the gaysocial scene. After a few months of ‘stage’ in Benin, my role as a PCVchanged drastically, as my
villageois
ifestyle as a TEFL volunteer meltedway, and I took on an HIV/AIDS prevention project for Beninese youthwith a large American NGO in Coto-nou, the largest city in Benin. With a population of 700,000 people, a largeexpatriate community, a smatteringof foreign restaurants, and a host of ctivities to keep me busy, I knew thatmy Peace Corps experience would bevery different from that of my fellowPCVs. I also knew that this was mychance, if any, to glimpse a trace of the homosexual community in Benin.I was, after all, the only out gay vol-unteer, so I had to look elsewhere for my gay brethren.Keeping in mind that homosexual-ty is illegal in Benin and that anynvolvement with such issues couldendanger my place as a volunteer, Iset out to find a sign of its existence.Over the course of my first six monthst post, I deftly posed non incriminat-ng questions to my colleagues and tothe people I met… ‘What is the urbanview of homosexuality?’ ‘How does itdiffer from that of the village view?’‘Does HIV/AIDS prevention materialddress homosexuality?’ ‘What’s theword for homosexuality in Fon?’ ‘Doyou know any homosexuals?’ Themajority of responses were rather va- pid and noncommittal, quick shrugs.For them, homosexuality was such anon-entity in Benin—something thatexists in Europe and America but hadnot ‘infected’ Africa. Some responsesndicated beliefs that homosexualitywas a gene only found in white peo- ple. Although men walked hand inhand down the street, this union wasentirely nonsexual; locals were quick to identify this as completely normal,entirely replete of any homosexualundertones. I was not quite so sure.Sometimes I felt that the inquisitivelooks that I received while walkingdown the street from Beninese menwere more than a slight curiosity—the particular ‘I know about you’ gleamwas in their eye, albeit fleeting and in-conclusive. Still, I kept on my path of discovery. Even though I had no hard proof and everyone seemed to denythe existence of homosexuality—noone spoke against it either.I continued to lie about my so-called ‘girlfriend’ in France—never mind the fact that she was a he; ithelped to explain why I was not mar-ried or even interested in the plethoraof available women. I kept telling my-self that there must be a gay commu-nity in Cotonou—convincing myself that any city of relative size was sureto have an active homosexual pres-ence, no matter how hidden. At thesame time, I must admit, I was begin-ning to lose faith in finding any evi-dence, and I began to resolve myself to the belief that whatever communitythere was would continue to evademe. Then, when I least expected it,I found it. Or rather, I found a traceof it, with promises that there weremore. While at a housewarming partyfor a fellow American, I met a Beni-nese guy and his, ‘shhh’ boyfriend.I was elated. Finally, a glimpse.Unfortunately, that was all that was to be provided to me. I learned that their secret was so hidden, that not evenheir closest friends knew. They bothaintained a separate public life andonly indulged in the presence of eachother behind closed and locked doors.ow sad…my initial reaction madee feel pity for their situation. But,n this society, where such behavior s not ‘common’ and completelyunacceptable and worthy of imprison-ent or even death (not legal death, but traditional
illageois
‘death by burning’)…at least their highly secre-ive life affords them some amountof existence as the gay men they are.They can be with each other in privatend lie to others in public. I imaginedother private love affairs scatteredhroughout the city and country: souch for Africans being immune tohe gay gene.To this day, not two months after his initial contact, I have yet to haveny gay friends. The couple thatI met remains elusive to me, andhough I have heard that others existnd even socialize together, I haveyet to be privy to such information.non-gay friend mentioned hear-ng about a gay bar—though with noame and no address, I was rather SOL in finding this rare jewel. Fromime to time, my questions yieldnswers, though not always positiveesponses. For example, I learned thatone expatriate was put in jail and hado flee the country due to rumors thate practiced homosexual sex; I willave to remain careful, especially inight of recent events in Cameroon. Iill continue to wait, and I will con-inue to observe. I have learned thatife in Benin is full of mystery andsurprises…so I shall remain patientnd see what materializes. So muchn life happens when you least expectt, and often the answer is closer thane think. Who knows, maybe myeighbors are gay?
ou can contact the author at 
slywhit@gmail.com
 
GB RPCV NewsLetter - May 2006 
Impact of DOMA on US Government Workers
- Suzanne Marks, RPCV Togo
Peace Corps explicitly prohibits the placementof Peace Corps volun-teers as couples unlessthey are a man and awoman who are mar-ried.
Jan accepted an overseas assign-ment to do disease surveillance work for the federal government in Africathree years ago. Both Jan and Judy,her partner of fifteen years, knewahead of time which expenses wouldnot be covered for Judy. Judy hadto pay her own travel expenses andinsurance coverage to join Jan. Judyalso had to reapply for a visa everysix months to enable her to stay in thecountry as a foreign visitor. After twoyears, Judy became tired of this andflew to the US one year before Janwas scheduled to return.Tom is an expert in communica-tion. He and his partner, Tim, have been together for 20 years. He haswanted to take an overseas assign-ment for quite some time, but decidedagainst it because he would not beable to bring Tim with him.Sarah is an expert in substanceabuse treatment and infectious disease prevention. She and her partner, Su-san, have two young children. Sarah,like Tom, has decided against takingan overseas assignment because therewould be no support or services for her family.These three real scenarios (withthe names changed) may or may not be representative of GLBT couples’overseas experiences, but were thecontext for which I researched thefederal government policies and procedures that follow. The scenariosreveal some of the impact of theefense of Marriage Act (DOMA)on GLBT federal employees who arecoupled or who have children and ontheir opportunities to perform criti-cally needed work overseas.DOMA was passed by Congress in1996 and signed into law by Presidentill Clinton. DOMA formally definedmarriage” as a legal union only between one man and one woman andspouse” as an opposite-sex married partner. Thus, unmarried partners,same-sex or otherwise, cannot beconsidered as married or spousesunder US law. DOMA affects theopportunities for and issues faced byGBT federal government employeesn international job placements.Typically for international place-ments, the federal government will pay for travel expenses, diplomatic passports, evacuation expenses,medical vaccinations, and familymiscellaneous transfer allowancesfor married heterosexual spouses andtheir minor children. Spouses arelso given preference for local-hire jobs at embassies, allowed access toembassy medical units, and permitteduse of the diplomatic pouch for postalservices.The US Department of StateForeign Affairs Manual Volume 33 FAM 1212) states that personnel programs for civil service and foreignservice employees of the foreignaffairs agencies (US Department of State, the US Agency for InternationalDevelopment--USAID, US Depart-ment of Commerce, the ForeignService Corps of the US Departmentof Agriculture, and the BroadcastingBoard of Governors) shall be admin-istered without discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. As of theend of 2000 (and formalized in 2003),the State Department instituted a new policy (3 FAM 4180) for members of households (MOHs) of Foreign Ser-vice Employees of the State Depart-ment, USAID, and the Commerce De- partment that provides some benefitsto accommodate same-sex partners,unmarried opposite-sex partners, andother family members at the discre-tion of individual ambassadors. These benefits are often limited to those thatdo not have a significant financialimpact, such as providing access toembassy services/activities and assist-ing visa applications; they expresslydo not allow inclusion of MOHs ontravel orders or in emergency evacu-ation plans. On the other hand, travelexpenses for pets, deemed necessaryfor employee morale, are covered.Peace Corps explicitly prohibits the placement of Peace Corps volunteersas couples unless they are a man anda woman who are married. Staff,however, can and do live with samesex domestic partners overseas. Thereare Country Directors, APCDs, andother staff who live openly with their same sex partners. State Department policies do not specifically apply toPeace Corps employees or volunteers.However, once oversees, 3 FAM 4180allows for unmarried partners to beincluded in the embassy community,which may allow access to some ben-efits. In some cases, the partners of continued on page 7
..
Editor Mike LearnedLayout Kevn H. Souza 
he LGB RPCV Newsletter ispuse quartery y te esan,Gay, Bisexual RPCV Organization,an affiliate of the National PeaceCorps Association. We promotePeace Corps ideals and the legal,political and social rights of LGBTpeople throughout the world. Weencourage te sumsson o artcesor potograps or te newsetter.e rgt to use or et materasremans wt te etor. opyrgtremains with the author. Sendsumssons or nqures to te aovepostal or e-mail address.

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