Sunday, 4 September 2022

A Guide to Boys Love: The Romantic Gay Stories of Asia

Borislav Gerasimov and Christian Boychevsky

(Originally published in Bulgarian on, 12 December 2021)

If you’re looking for something to warm your soul and sweeten your life in the cold and dark winter days, we recommend you try to latest trend engulfing Asia and the world. No, we’re not talking about a new type of tea with milk or tapioca bubbles. We’re talking about the Boys Love movies and series, which tell the love stories of young gay men.

Their popularity has been growing for years but the COVID-19 pandemic and its lockdowns, which glued us to our TVs and computers, made them even more popular. But what is the BL genre and the movies and series based on it?

BL or Boys Love (sometimes spelt as Boy Love or Boys’ Love) has its beginnings in the Japanese manga culture of the 1970s when women from the so-called Year 24 Group created the first shōnen-ai (boys love) manga, which later became also known as yaoi. Shōnen-ai was the result of women’s frustration with the manga created at the time, primarily by men, in which women were only represented in their socially acceptable roles in the patriarchal Japanese society. Shōnen-ai, which depicted love stories between two men, allowed for a broader and deeper development of the main characters – like what the women longed to see but could not find in the love stories between men and women. “They wanted to convey that gender is not something essential, even in a single person, both femininity and masculinity can coexist. They wanted to rebel against the binary understanding [of gender]”, says Suzuki Kazuko, a sociology professor at Texas A&M University to Nikkei Asia.

For many years, BL remained primarily as manga, anime, and novels. We don’t know when it first appeared on the TV screen, but the 2014 Thai series Love Sick is among the first. Romantic love between men had been shown in Thai cinema before but in Love Sick for the first time it was the main storyline. Since then, BL’s popularly in Thailand has exploded. Kanop Supamanop from LINE TV, a free streaming service that since 2016 has been showing BL, says to TimeOut that “Boys Love is no longer a sub-genre. It’s gone mainstream” and by mid-2020, the platform contained more than 33 BL series. Aam Anusorn, a Thai BL director, hopes that they will become “soft power” for the country.

Taiwan is another major producer of BL and, since recently, the Philippines too. South Korea, which is significantly more conservative towards LGBT people, also released two short series in 2020.

In China, due to the censorship of the Chinese Communist Party, danmei (boys love) series can only hint at, but not show, the love between the characters; fans call this forbidden romance “socialist brotherhood”.

For example, in The Untamed, the relationship between the main characters is disguised as “brotherly love” (which is far from the contents of the original material, the book The Grandmaster of Demonic Cultivation by Mo Xiang Tong Xiu). However, according to the countless fans of the series, the skilful depictions help to underscore the men’s deep relationship and tell the story of their unconditional love.

In Word of Honour there is a scene where one man’s sleeve catches fire and the other man cuts it. This is a reference to a popular ancient Chinese story about Emperor Ai whose beloved Dong Xiang once fell asleep on his sleeve. The Emperor had to get up but didn’t want to wake up his love so he cut his sleeve (you can read more about this story here). Since then, a cut sleeve in China is seen as a metaphor for gay love. This is just one of the hidden ways in which BL tries to depict gay relationships in China while evading the CCP censorship. Fans enjoy this ambiguity and play detective, trying to find clues for the characters’ love.

Most BL novels, films, and series are written by and for straight women. Aam tells Vice that straight women like BL because men there have a “sensitive side” – unlike the men in their environment. According to others, the genre is undeniably linked to Asia’s feminist awakening. “When I was small, I had a dream, what if I was born as a man? I could have more freedom and more opportunities. […] BL is our desire for transformation, our desire for change”, says Kazumi Nagaike, a cultural studies professor at Oita University to Nikkei Asia.

As BL continues its spreads, it is becoming popular among queer people too. For them, in Asia and beyond, BL is an opportunity to experience gay love without negative consequences. In a detailed material on Refinery29, K-Ci Williams points out that BL series are more progressive than Western LGBT shows because they depict gay characters’ intimate moments “without their entire existence revolving around being gay. Watch a BL episode and you might find a steamy sex scene followed by a run-of-the-mill visit to the grocery store for milk.”

Many aspects of BL series are related to Asian culture where people place significant emphasis on social harmony, respect for the elderly, and care for each other. Viewers will notice how characters often ask each other “how are you? Did you sleep well? Have you eaten?”, bring each other food and if one is sick or has hurt himself, the other one takes care of him or tends to his wounds. BL is full of such small gestures that we rarely see in European and American romantic stories – both gay and straight.

For the curious western viewer, BL is also an opportunity to learn more about a distant part of the world, its customs and traditions, while also enjoying queer love stories set against the background of the chaotic megapolises or tropical islands of Southeast and East Asia.

Most BL series follow certain common tropes. For example, the main characters start off as enemies but become lovers, for example, in I Told Sunset About You, Dark Blue Kiss, TharnType, SOTUS, HIStory 3: Make Our Days Count, HIStory 3: Trapped. This is probably the most common storyline. At the beginning of the story, the boys usually resent each other due to rivalry or something else. However, with time, their chemistry becomes undeniable and they profess their feelings for each other. In others, like The Untamed, Word of Honour or Color Rush, the two are presented as soulmates who were born to be together. For example, in Until We Meet Again, the main characters were together in a past life and were buried with a red thread around their wrists, which allows for their souls to reconnect in death and find a way towards each other again after reincarnation. In other storylines, the main characters start off as friends and then become lovers. We follow their story as it unfolds and remain in suspense about whether they would admit their feelings for each other and get together and if that would ruin their friendship. Of course, these types of stories happen between straight people too but as all LGBT people know, they’re more complicated for us.

BL has problematic sides too. In many stories, the main characters are stereotyped as seme and uke, words from the Japanese LGBT slang for “top” and “bottom”. Seme is usually tall, strong, and “masculine” and chases uke, who is “feminine”, short, and shy. Although in recent years we see more diverse characters, this heteronormative stereotype creates harmful impressions about queer people and relationships. Seme is also sometimes presented as straight, saying things like “I don’t like guys, I only like you”, which seems like an attempt to soften the “gay vibe” of the series and make it more acceptable for wider audiences.

Another problematic aspect is the depiction of scenes of non-consensual sex acts where usually seme takes advantage of a drunk or asleep uke. Such scenes are glossed over and often used in the storyline to demonstrate that uke is unaware of his feelings towards seme and this event helps him realise his love.

Women’s representation is another weak point. In most BL, there are no significant female characters or they are the main character’s jealous and confrontational ex-girlfriend who is constantly scheming to separate him from his true love. Another typical role for women is of fujoshi (fan girls) who basically have no other goal in life but to bring the two guys together – they are constantly chasing the guys, screaming, taking photos, creating websites…

For these reasons, in Thailand, for example, some LGBT organisations distance themselves from BL culture because they think it doesn’t reflect LGBT people’s real life and the problems we deal with, such as inequality or HIV. Aam says that “[People in Thailand] don’t really accept LGBTQ+ people. [Some of] the fans do not support same sex marriage. They don’t even care about the rights of LGBTQ+ people, they just care about the couple on TV, and that’s it.”

Still, BL has undoubtedly had a positive impact and contributed to the normalisation of gay love and relationships, especially in more conservative societies. Fujimoto Yukari, a professor in Meiji University in Japan, writes in Nippon that BL is the “missing link” between TV dramas and real gay people. She says that if more people watch TV stories where the main characters are a regular gay couple, this will lead to more social acceptance. She adds that BL can also change traditional conceptions of masculinity and points to the Japanese series Kinō nani tabeta? (What did you eat last night?) where the lawyer Shirō prepares meals at home every day. In the US, BL fans Ashley, Alex and Bianca tell Vice that BL has helped them discover themselves and feel accepted.

In the end, BL is a form of entertainment that helps us to relax after a long day at work or school and for a moment find ourselves in a different, romantic world. It reminds us that we all deserve love and that love and happy endings are not just for straight people but also for us.

Here are our 22 favourite BL dramas: 

  1. The Untamed (see in IMDb, watch on Netflix)
  2. Cherry Magic (see in IMDb)
  3. I Told Sunset About You (see in IMDb)
  4. Word Of Honor (see in IMDb, watch on Youtube)
  5. A Tale of Thousand Stars (see in IMDb, watch on Youtube)
  6. HIStory 3: Make Our Days Count (see in IMDb, watch on Youtube)
  7. Manner Of Death (see in IMDb, watch on WeTV/Youtube)
  8. Together With Me (see in IMDb)
  9. HIStory 3: Trapped (see in IMDb, watch on Youtube)
  10. I Promised You The Moon, ITSAY - Season 2 (see in IMDb)
  11. HIStory4: Close to You (see in IMDb, watch on Dramacool)
  12. A Man Who Defies the World of BL (see in IMDb, watch on Dailymotion)
  13. Together with Me: The Next Chapter (see in IMDb, watch on Dramacool)
  14. Tonhon Chonlatee (see in IMDb, watch on Youtube)
  15. Like In the Movies (see in IMDb, watch on Youtube)
  16. Kieta Hatsukoi (see in IMDb, watch on DailyMotion)
  17. 2gether (see in IMDb, watch on Netflix, watch on Youtube)
  18. SOTUS (see in IMDb, watch on Youtube)
  19. Fish Upon The Sky (see in IMDb, watch on Youtube)
  20. My Engineer: The Series (see in IMDb, watch on Youtube)
  21. Your Name Engraved Herein (see in IMDb, watch on Netflix)
  22. Gameboys (see in IMDb, watch on Netflix)


See more LGBTI+ films and series from Asia and beyond on GagaOOLala, GMMTV, LineTV, WeTV.


Saturday, 6 August 2022

Unwanted and Unwelcome? Bulgarian LGBTI+ migrants speak

(Originally published in Bulgarian on on 5 November 2021)

At the end of July, we began publishing the series Unwanted and Unwelcome[1] whose aim was to provide a space for LGBTI+ Bulgarians who live abroad to speak about their experiences with migration. The series remains open and we would love to continue publishing your stories (if you’re interested in contributing, see more here). However, after publishing 19 stories, I decided to write this article, in which I share my impressions and conclusions of the series as a guest editor.

The idea for the series was born out of several discussions I witnessed in LGBTI+ groups on Facebook. I don’t remember the specific comments but they were familiar to many Bulgarians: “I can’t stand it here anymore”, “I’m thinking about leaving”, “I’m tired of this country”, “the only way out is Terminal 1 or Terminal 2 [of Sofia airport]” and so on. The reasons for these comments are also familiar to everyone: the shamefully low salaries and pensions, the drained social and healthcare systems, the ubiquitous corruption, and the many problems with democracy and rule of law. For people in the LGBTI+ groups, however, there was another, just as important, reason: the lack of social acceptance and legal protections for LGBTI+ people, the constant insults hurled at us in the media and public space, the violence or threats of violence, and the deafening silence by political and social figures.

I’m interested in the topic of migration both personally and professionally: I’ve been living abroad for twelve years and I work in the field of migration and human rights. I’ve noticed that migration is highly visible and on the minds of many people in Bulgaria – not only through comments like the ones above. In villages and small towns, houses that are bigger and prettier than most are often built with money remitted by migrants; while rundown houses and weeded yards probably belong to people who live abroad and don’t return anymore. Strangers or distant acquaintances you meet on the street spontaneously say things lie “there’s nobody left here” and “everyone went away” or ask you “where do you live now?” and go on to tell you where and how their children and relatives live. Practically everyone has stories of migration – their own or of their friends, family members, or neighbours.

At the same time, migration rarely features in public discourse – at least to the extent that I follow Bulgarian media. Occasionally, we hear about “Bulgarians abroad” (the most common way migrants are referred to) – how we are the largest source of direct foreign investment and how there should be a strategy to attract us back to the country. Rarely does anyone ask who we are, why we go abroad, how we live there and if or why we would return.

Therefore, the aim of Unwanted and Unwelcome was to touch upon these issues from the perspective of LGBTI+ people. We published a call for contributions where we invited LGBTI+ Bulgarians who live abroad to tell us about their new lives. We proposed concrete questions like why they migrated, how they live there, whether they miss Bulgaria, and whether homophobia played any part in their decisions and if yes, what, and whether they consider returning one day.

We wanted to provide a space for LGBTI+ people to tell their stories. This is important in itself: in the Bulgarian context, where we are constantly attacked and insulted, there’s a tendency for us to speak in defence – to explain that we’re not sick or crazy, that we don’t want to corrupt anyone’s children or destroy their families, that we need pride and legal protections, and so on. It’s not often that we have the opportunity to speak about our problems and successes the way we want to – regardless of whether they are related to our sexuality or gender identity or not. Besides, I strongly believe that there must be space in public discourse for the stories, views, and analyses of “regular” people – not just politicians, celebrities, or social media “influencers”.

A secondary aim of the series was to see if and to what extent homophobia in Bulgaria contributes to “brain drain” and prevents LGBTI+ emigrants from returning. And to travel a little – to get a brief idea of life in other countries from the perspective of fellow LGBTI+ Bulgarians.

I proposed Unwanted and Unwelcome as the series title because the phrase is well-known and catchy, and the eponymous novel by Ivan Vazov tells the story of Bulgarian émigrés. In a more literal sense, I was thinking how LGBTI+ Bulgarians may feel “unwanted and unwelcome” in our home village, city or country because of our sexual orientation or gender identity, and this may be one of the reasons to emigrate. In a new place, however, and especially in a new country, we may face other difficulties, like discrimination or suspicion, finding a job or community, learning a language and, in more extreme (but not rare) cases, isolation and exploitation. In other words, LGBTI+ Bulgarians may feel “unwanted and unwelcome” in our home country as LGBTI and abroad – as immigrants.

We published the stories of 19 people. They live in a total of eleven other countries – New Zealand, a country in East Asia, Thailand, a country in the EU, Germany, Denmark, The Netherlands, France, Spain, UK, and the US; one person who lives in Bulgaria now after studying in the Netherlands and Singapore; and one couple of a Bulgarian guy and a French guy who live in Bulgaria. Eleven contributors were men, six were women, and two were gender non-conforming. Seven sent us short stories and I interviewed twelve.

I hope that everyone who can do so will read all 19 stories. In this article, I won’t detail the main themes that came out in the stories but just share some of my conclusions. They are not new or surprising but I think it’s important to highlight them.

Most of the people who shared their stories love Bulgaria! Boyan said it explicitly and in other stories it became clear from things people talked about. Several said that they miss Bulgarian food, nature, the relaxed way of life, and the way people communicate and relate with each other. For example, Vicky said that in Bulgaria it’s much easier than in the US to make an appointment with friends (something I had experienced in the Netherlands). Everyone still has friends and relatives in Bulgaria, they think about the country, they follow the news and participate in the social and political life as much as possible. Tzetzo, Doro, Ivan, Darina and I are engaged with various organisations or projects. Those who have children are making sure that their children remain connected to Bulgaria: for example, both of Nick’s children have Bulgarian names, Vicky and Darina talk to their children in Bulgarian, which is also what Lilly intends to do when she has children someday. Clément seemed to know more about Bulgarian folklore dances than the average Bulgarian and together with his partner Nick, they constantly discover new pieces of Bulgarian nature, language, history, and cuisine.

I think it’s important to emphasise this because so-called “patriots”, “nationalists” or “keepers of traditional values” often imply that LGBTI+ people don’t love Bulgaria but only “the west”. This is not true. We love Bulgaria too but we want our society to accept us as its own citizens. In most of the stories, I didn’t feel resentment or hatred of Bulgaria but a mix of sadness and frustration from the lack of adequate legal protections or support from political parties or public figures, and the constant hatred and disinformation about us in the media and public discourse.

Most people had not emigrated specifically to escape homophobia and the lack of legal protections and social acceptance in Bulgaria but for several this was a significant reason. A.D., Vladi, Mitko, and Jasmina had witnessed or experienced violence and homophobia, Nick had wanted to avoid them, while Lilly, Vicky, and Darina just wanted to live in a country where their family would be recognised by the law. The lack of legal protections and social acceptance, however, were among the reasons why people did not want to return. For S.T., Boyan, and others who have, or hope to have, partners and children, returning to Bulgaria seemed unlikely.

Another, but related, reason for going or remaining abroad was the more general feeling that Bulgaria is “small” – that there is a lack of diversity of people and opinions, and most Bulgarians are narrow-minded. Peter, Lilly, Nick, and I noted that we live in multicultural cities or countries where there are people from all races, ethnicities, cultures, and nationalities and this enriches us and the countries where we live. This wasn’t just about the size of a country or city – yes, New York, London, or Bangkok have populations larger than Bulgaria’s. However, New Zealand and Denmark are smaller but Nick and Maya appreciated the diversity of people, religions, and views there. Additionally, A.D., Nick and I have Asian partners and were worried about returning to Bulgaria with them because our society is conservative towards people from other races. Others, like Stoyan and Danny, said that abroad they feel free to wear whatever clothes they like while in Bulgaria they have to put up with judgmental looks and comments.

I also want to reflect briefly on the process of preparing the series. Participants shared their stories with excitement, joy, and enthusiasm. Tzetzo said that he found the interview therapeutic; others shared stories that they had not shared before, at least not in front of a large audience. The series also helped create new connections – some participants discovered that they live in the same city or state and made plans to meet; others discovered that, even though on different continents, they share common experiences and connected to express support; still others found long-lost acquaintances or made new friends.

I think the series was also interesting for the LGBTI+ community in Bulgaria. The materials were among the most read ones on On social media, people commented, raised questions, and empathised with the stories. I joked that Unwanted and Unwelcome became like a TV show that some people eagerly await and discuss (we published new materials every Wednesday and Saturday, which contributed to my sense of it being like a TV show). But more seriously, my assumption that the community would be interested in reading the stories of “regular” LGBTI+ Bulgarians proved correct.

Based on these conclusions, I make two recommendations. First, this series provided concrete evidence that the lack of social acceptance and adequate legal protections forces some LGBTI+ Bulgarians to leave the country and stops others from returning. It is well-known that homophobia has negative impact on economic growth and this argument can no longer be dismissed as unrelated to Bulgaria; we now have real people whose stories confirmed this. The series can serve as a tool for LGBTI+ advocacy groups to use as another piece of evidence for the need to combat discrimination and homophobia in Bulgaria. It can also serve as an inspiration for organisations or researchers to conduct a larger, quantitative study on the reasons why LGBTI+ people leave the country or how homophobia affects Bulgarian economy and demographics.

And second, LGBTI+ organisations and media can continue with similar initiatives that provide space to LGBTI+ people to tell their stories. Storytelling is an established method for empowerment of marginalised groups and can contribute to community-building and to broader acceptance of LGBTI+ people in society. Stories help us see others as people just like us and recognise that there is more that unites us than divides us. As Nigerian feminist author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie said during a lecture in the University of Cape Town, “How we relate to people who are different from us, people who we might never get to see, who we might never have a personal interaction with, is very much shaped by the stories we consume of those people, how they are portrayed in media, and it seems to me that because we are unfamiliar with the stories of one another, we are then unfamiliar with one another.”

Such initiatives can focus on intersecting identities, for example, people who are LGBTI and Roma, Muslim, immigrants, or with special needs. This may help foster alliances between social movements for rights and justice and lead to greater acceptance of LGBTI people in society. These undertakings should not simply be an invitation to send an essay because not everyone has a computer or the time and capacity to write. Interviews are time-consuming but as our series showed, rewarding.

I conclude with two more quotes from the above-mentioned lecture by Ngozi Adichie: “we need more stories because they have the power to change the world” and “here’s to a world in which not only do we tell more human stories but that we’re more open to hearing – actually hearing those human stories”.


[1] This is my own loose translation of Немили-недраги (Nemili-nedragi), the title of a nineteenth-century novel by Ivan Vazov that tells the story of Bulgarian revolutionaries exiled in Romania.

Saturday, 2 June 2018

"Faggots and Hoes" or why gay men should stand up for sex workers

People sometimes ask me why I care so much about sex workers' rights. One of the reasons is because gay men and sex workers have way too similar experiences with stigma, discrimination and harassment, and our struggles for rights and acceptance have a lot in common. For me, the question is, rather, why don't more gay men stand up for sex workers? [This post will focus mostly on gay men since I'm not very familiar with the experiences of lesbians, trans* people and other non-hetero, non-binary or non-cis people]

In the conservative small town in a communist and post-communist country where I grew up, the phrase "faggots and hoes" ("hoes" being sometimes "whores" and sometimes "prostitutes") would just naturally roll out of people's mouths. I would often hear, from my family, neighbours or random people on the street, how faggots and hoes were sick, dirty, immoral and diseased, and had to be locked up, reformed, killed, or at least invisible. No particular arguments were necessary for these qualifications - they were supposedly self-evident and no one questioned them. I only questioned them in my head because it was pretty clear that this hatred of faggots and hoes was not based on any rational reasons or bad personal experience, but on moral objections against the wrong kind of sex (anal, oral and A LOT of it). 

But of course faggots and hoes have a lot more in common than the disapproval of small-minded rednecks in Eastern Europe.

Today, 2 June, is International Sex Workers Day. It commemorates the day in 1975 when 100 French sex workers occupied the St Nizier church in Lyon to demand an end to the constant fines, arrests, prison sentences, harassment and extortion by the police and the mafia. Their bold action quickly became the centre of local and national media attention and was followed by similar actions in other French cities. The occupation lasted for eight days until the police forcibly evicted the women. Although sex workers had organised to demand recognition and resist oppression throughout the ages and throughout the world, this event is often regarded as the beginning of the organised sex worker rights movement. 

A black and white photograph showing the backs of three uniformed police officers and a man with short-cropped hair in a suit pushing back a crowd of young men with longer hair dressed in jeans and contemporary clothing for the late 1960s, arguing and defying the police; other people in the background on a stoop are watching
By Source, Fair useLink
Also in June, six years earlier, some of the most marginalised members of the LGBT community - homeless youth, sex workers, trans women, effeminate gays and butch lesbians - rioted in the Stonewall Inn in New York City in response to the frequent raids, arrests and harassment of the community by the police and the mafia. Word of their defiance quickly spread around and soon hundreds of other LGBT people joined them, leading to four days of riots. This event, too, is often regarded as the beginning of the organised LGBT rights movement in the US and internationally. 

Almost five decades later, both the sex worker rights and the LGBT movement have grown in numbers, visibility and influence, and have won important victories. Nevertheless, homosexuality, or aspects of it, remains criminalised in many countries, and in some, is punishable by death. Sex work, or aspects of it, are criminalised in almost all countries. 

Stigma and shame 
Even in countries where homosexuality and sex work are not criminalised, faggots and hoes are highly stigmatised and can be subjected to violence and harassment by the police and society in general, and denied access to social and healthcare services. 

Gay men who became sexually active before the advent of the internet had very similar experiences to sex workers. We [usual disclaimers apply - I don't speak for everyone, blah blah] had to cruise for sex in parks, public toilets, parking lots, backstreet alleys and bathhouses where we risked being robbed, raped or beaten, either by the police or by homophobes pretending to be gay. If we were robbed, raped or beaten, we wouldn't report it to the police out of shame and mistrust in the authorities. If we did report, we risked being beaten or raped, ridiculed, dismissed or exposed. We had to hide who we are from family, friends and colleagues who too could threaten us with outing or ostracise us. We learnt to rely for support on ourselves, our gay friends and perhaps the few NGOs that care about us. When we fought for our rights, our rights were framed as Western propaganda by the powerful gay lobby paid for by George Soros. 

Like us, sex workers, whether working in brothels, on the streets, or as escorts, risk being robbed, raped or beaten in the course of their work but avoid reporting these crimes to the police because of shame, stigma and mistrust in the authorities. If they do report them, they risk being beaten or raped, ridiculed, dismissed and exposed, or "rescued" and "rehabilitated". They hide their occupation from family and friends who can threaten them with outing and ostracise them. Like us, sex workers have learnt to rely on themselves and their colleagues and perhaps the few NGOs that care about them. When they fight for their rights, their rights are framed as propaganda by the powerful pimp lobby paid for by George Soros...

Faggots and hoes are among those most affected by HIV worldwide, which can be attributed to a large extent to stigma and criminalisation. During raids on gay bars and brothels alike the police confiscate condoms and use them as evidence of "promotion of homosexuality/prostitution". As a result, such establishments may refuse to keep condoms on their premises and faggots and hoes may avoid carrying condoms. In the 1980s thousands of gay men had died before the Reagan administration took the issue seriously. PEPFAR (US President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief), a programme that provides testing and anti-retroviral therapy to HIV-positive people, including sex workers, requires organisations to sign a pledge that they oppose prostitution, effectively de-funding sex worker rights organisations and undermining HIV prevention efforts

Academics, activists, UN agencies and health organisations have long called for the decriminalisation of both homosexuality and sex work as the only way to drastically reduce the number of new HIV infections globally. 

Faggots and hoes
In general, sex work is not particularly stigmatised by the gay community. Many faggots sell or buy sexual services either regularly or occasionally. We are friends with women who are, or are perceived to be, hoes. 

The overall individual support and the sporadic institutional support, though, is not enough. There is a sense among many in the hoes movement that Western faggots nowadays are so obsessed with conformity and their right to white picket fences and wedding cakes, that they've forgotten about all those in our community who can't - or won't - conform to the "right kind of sex". 

We are family...

The aim of this short and somewhat shallow post was just to give some food for thought to my fellow faggots who don't think about hoes' rights. 

The thing is, as a social group that is oppressed and stigmatised for the wrong kind of sex it has, faggots need to be more sensitive to the needs of hoes who are oppressed and stigmatised for pretty much the same reason. 

If you're outraged about the treatment of our gay brothers in Chechnya, Indonesia, Egypt, or Uganda, then you should also be outraged by the treatment of our sex working sisters in Russia, South Africa, Brazil, India, the UK and so on.

Bobby at a protest of sex workers in Amsterdam, 10 April 2015
(the guy with the bald head in front of the tree)
So how can you support hoes? Perhaps the best you can do is inform yourself, read relevant reputable literature or reports by international organisations (for example, Amnesty International) and contact a local sex worker organisation and ask them how you can support them. If that's not your priority, there are other ways that won't require a lot of time or effort. You can at least like the Facebook page of your local sex worker organisation, or of global ones, like the Global Network of Sex Work Projects or Red Umbrella Fund, like and share their posts, etc. - these things matter to small organisations. You can take part in a protest of sex workers in your city, if you hear about one. Protests are sometimes organised on 3 March (Intl Sex Worker Rights Day), 1 May (Workers Day), 2 June (Sex Workers Day) or 17 December (Day to end violence against sex workers). 

Don't buy into the "fake news" that most sex workers are trafficked or that legalised sex work leads to an increase of trafficking - there is no evidence to support such claims. But also, think of the persistent ways in which homosexuality and paedophilia are being clubbed together to deny rights and recognition to faggots. Like, decriminalisation of homosexuality, or the holding of a pride parade, or the recognition of same-sex marriage, will lead to an increase in paedophilia or bestiality...

Don't buy into the bullshit that sex workers who openly speak up about their experiences, and sex worker rights organisations are "a few privileged white western women" who are part of the "pimp lobby" funded by George Soros. There are literally hundreds of thousands of sex workers campaigning for their rights and recognition in countries like India, Thailand, South Africa, Brazil or Argentina. But also, just think of the myth of the "gay mafia/gay lobby/LGBT lobby" and how it's funded by the same man

Most of all though, if you happen to interact with sex workers, treat them with kindness and respect - not disgust and pity! Think of how you want to be treated by people who know you're a faggot. 


* I did a fair amount of reading or grey and not so grey literature but I know that not all claims made here are supported by proper references. If necessary, we can discuss these in the comments section. 

Monday, 12 June 2017

FLOB-bing on Sofia Gay Pride

So, Sofia Pride took place this last weekend and it was great! I watched the live stream from Bangkok. If you don't remember what a small-scale pride with 3000-people (that's a lot for Bulgaria, the biggest so far!) and not yet appropriated by corporations looks like, check out the latest videos on the Sofia Pride Facebook page. And this despite the announced neo-Nazi event to 'clean up Sofia streets of garbage' planned for the same place and same time as the Pride, which Sofia Municipality had allowed. 

See, friends, Sofia Pride is not really supported, or even acknowledged as a thing, by politicians in Bulgaria. Not by the mayor or city council. In fact, both the right-wing parties and the socialist party (which means something different in Bulgaria) actively opposed it. Several foreign ambassadors and the vice-mayor of Amsterdam were there. 

But that's not the what this post is about. It's about the musings of FLOB - defined by the Oxford Dictionaries as 'a piece of spittle and mucus that has been spat out' but used here as First Lady of Bulgaria or, in other words, the wife of Bulgarian President Rumen Radev - about the Pride. Apparently she shared these on her Facebook page and they were picked up by the media (for example, here) a couple of days later. I don't even want to comment on those musings, so I'll just offer a translation of her post here for you to judge her and the general level of political and social 'thought' in Bulgaria...

I took our six-year-old cat Charlie to the vet - just a routine check-up for flees and ticks. And just like that, out of nowhere, the vet asked if I wanted him checked for feline AIDS. I was shocked! I never even thought this disease affects cats. I asked him, and if the result is positive, what do we do then? He replied, nothing, you'll just know. There's no cure. I asked, is it infectious for people, for dogs? No, said the nice doctor, it's transmitted only through sex, among cats. 

Somehow by association I thought about the Pride and I hoped that the participants remember, just like that, among other things, to conduct an information and prevention campaign about HIV/AIDS, even if only with leaflets. Just because the statistics for 2016 show that 39% of new infections happened via heterosexual contact, 49% of new infections via homosexual contact and 12% via intravenous drug use. 

And the pride will be seen by many adolescent men and women and young children. 

And speaking of young children, I remembered that joke about Holmes and Watson: 
- What's that noise on the street, John? 
- Gay pride, sir. 
- What do they want? 
- Same-sex love, sir. 
- But who forbids them from having it, John?
- Nobody, sir!
- Then why are they shouting? 

You know the answer. Imagine if this conversation takes place between a mother and her child... Actually, to me, the Pride means to show that these people want to express their courage and even pride that they are different. This is worthy of respect! Brave, breaking the stereotypes, colourful and happy, all of them in one way or another gone under the rainbow. I have many such friends and we have very good relationships and a lot of respect for each other. Everyone is entitled to their choices. As long as they don't hurt anyone. 

I have nothing against homosexuals, bisexuals, transgenders and their derivatives. I'm against their pretension for difference. 

Dear Pride-goers, please don't forget the fact that we are all different. Regardless of whether we have hetero or homo orientation. DNA is the same only in the case of identical twins and even then not always. In all our veins runs a code different from that of our neighbour.

I respect you but please don't overdo it! Nobody has forbidden you anything! You are just as discriminated against as Bulgarian pensioners, for example. As mothers with multiple children. As hetero-oriented people, even. (Why don't we organise a Pride of heterosexuals, eh?)

If you really want to be more useful in society, next time, apart from the pink pompoms on your drums, organise some leaflets about HIV/AIDS prevention, risk groups and the statistics in the country and the world. I'm just giving you an idea, so that it becomes more meaningful for all of us.

Yes, life is too short to be taken seriously. But new generations come after us that we need to educate, inform, so that they can make the right choices.
P.S. Actually, I'm wondering if you, who are calling for tolerance and recognition, realised even for a moment that the day of your Pride was supposed to be a day of mourning, of humility and repentance. Because a military man died in times of peace. And became one with the rainbow (your professed symbol). This was a tragedy that filled our hearts with sadness and a lot of anger. Now is the time, I think, to be more Bulgarian than open-minded cosmopolitans. Nothing personal. 

Saturday, 31 October 2015

14 fun and easy ways to #EndSlavery

About the problem

There are more than 36 gazillion slaves in the world today – more than at any other time in the 6000-year history of the Earth! And this is just the tip of the iceberg!!1!1

You may think slavery was abolished over 100 years ago but it actually still exists in every country and every region of the world, even in your own backyard!

It is the largest criminal enterprise in the world, second only to drug trafficking and arms trafficking, generating 150 billion US dollars annually – more than the GDP of Hungary!

Slavery has many forms and shapes – human trafficking, child trafficking, sex trafficking, labour trafficking, organ trafficking, begging trafficking, forced, early and sham marriage, domestic servitude, child labour, surrogacy, etc. etc. etc. - but only one size – XXXXXXXXL!

Modern slaves are everywhere around us – invisible, hidden in plain sight! Practically every aspect of our lives is affected by slavery!

Obviously this is outrageous and we MUST DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT! It is time to #EndSlavery! NOW!

Now you might be tempted to think that to #EndSlavery governments around the world should work to end inequality, injustice and corruption, ensure access to education, social protection and employment for all their citizens, enforce labour laws and relax migration regimes.

But this sounds like a mindboggling task for boring people. Ending slavery should be something that we can all do together, share with friends and family and have fun in the process! And what better way than to chase it away with selfies and hashtags on social media!

What is being done about it?

And for those of us who are not athletic and don't like exercising but still want to F*CKING DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT and #EndSlavery, we can take a selfie with a hands-shaped heart and share it on social media with the hashtag #igivehope – to give victims of slavery what they have lost – hope! Or we can make a paper airplane, pledge to DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT and share it on social media with the hashtag #FlyToFreedom.

But can we really #EndSlavery with one-off actions once or twice a year? NO! Raising awareness about this terrible injustice and ending the scourge of our times requires us to DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT every day, all day! After all, it's the greatest human rights challenge of this century and deserves our full attention!

What can YOU do?

So here are a few ideas how you can incorporate ending slavery into your daily life with very little effort. I've prepared a list of 14 everyday activities that are sure to #EndSlavery (in no particular order of importance)! The list is by no means exclusive, so I welcome suggestions for more easy and fun daily activities we can all share with friends and family to #EndSlavery! After all, I'm just one guy and to #EndSlavery we must all take a stand! Immediately!

So, pull yourselves and your mobile phones together and let's #EndSlavery! And don't forget – sharing is caring! 



1. Write it on a piece of paper in a stern tone, take a photo (better yet, a selfie) and share it on your social media with the hashtag #EndSlaveryNow.

2. Sing to #EndSlavery. As a suggestion, some particular songs that you can sing, if they fit your music taste, can be George Michael's Freedom, Grace Jones' Slave to the Rhythm, Cher's Gypsies Tramps and Thieves, Paul Robeson's Let My People Go, or the Prologue (Look Down) from Les Miserables (and almost any other song from Les Mis). Take a selfie and share it on your social media with the hashtag #SingForFreedom.


3. Write a letter to Santa. You could write something like “Dear Santa, I've been nice all year long. Please #EndSlavery!” Don't take a photo, though, because it must be a secret, but when you put it in an envelope, stamp it, take a selfie and share it on your social media with the hashtag #StampItOut.


4. Do your laundry, take a selfie and share it on your social media with the hashtag #WashItOut and #LaundryForFreedom.

5. Pray, for example, like “Our Father, who art in Heaven, please #EndSlavery!” [Change to suit your deity of choice]. Take a selfie and share it on your social media with the hashtag #PrayTheSlaveryAway.

6. Throw out your trash, take a selfie and share it on your social media with the hashtag #DumpIt or #TrashIt.


7. Bake a bunch of (unappealing but tasty) pumpkin and cinnamon rolls (filled with jam and walnuts, if you like) for those whose freedom has been taken away from them and can't bake pumpkin and cinnamon rolls for themselves. Take a selfie and share it on your social media with the hashtag #BakeForFreedom.

8. Flush the toilet after doing your thing, take a photo and 
share it on your social media with the hashtag #FluShItOut.


9. Masturbate compulsively – the surest way to #EndDemand for #sextrafficking. Don't take a selfie but you can still announce your tireless efforts to #EndSlavery with the hashtags #BeatIt and #EndDemand.

10. Gather your friends and watch together all 100 episodes of Escrava Isaura. Take a selfie (or a group photo) and share it on your social media with the hashtag #DamnYouLeoncio or just I <3 Isaura, to show enslaved girls all over the world that not all men are like Leôncio!

11. Smoke a cigarette for those whose freedom has been stolen from them and can't smoke a cigarette themselves. Take a selfie and share it on your social media with the hashtag #SmokeItOut, #BurnIt or #LetItBurn.


12. Ask the Universe to #EndSlavery by simply thinking about it. But think it positively (e.g. not “I wish there were no slaves in the world” but “I wish all people were free”!). Take a selfie and share it on your social media with the hashtag #WishTheSlaveryAway or #DearUniverse.

13. Clean your apartment (oven, shower, basement, room, whatever), take a selfie and share it on your social media with the hashtag #KeepItClean.

14. Play some Candy Crush Soda Saga, take a selfie and share it on your social media with the hashtag #CrushSlavery and #Sodalicious.

Feel free to share your selfies with me and to suggest more fun and easy ways to #EndSlavery!


Now on a more serious note. The aim of this little outburst of sarcasm was to mock the futility of some awareness-raising campaigns and actions out there. While undoubtedly, people need to be aware of exploitative labour situations, most campaigns and calls to action that I see just make me roll my eyes in exasperation of their simplistic story of it being about “bad people doing bad things to poor victims”. But exploitation doesn't happen in a vacuum and it is not even the problem – it's a symptom of deeper problems in society that cannot simply be wished away.

Consider, for example, this analysis from Prof. Chuang's article in the Anti-Trafficking Review:Depicting slavery as the product of individual deviant behaviour, modern-day slavery abolitionism creates a simple moral imperative with enormous popular appeal. And in so doing it depoliticises and absolves … the state for its role in creating the structures that permit, if not encourage, coercive exploitation of workers, especially migrants. The resulting prescriptions thus narrowly focus on punishing the enslavers and rescuing innocent victims. They further suggest that governments, corporations and individuals can eradicate slavery simply by engaging in more ethical consumption of goods and services. Any commitment to addressing the structural contributors to the problem thus becomes extraneous to the anti-slavery project.” And in practical terms, this “simple moral imperative”, these popular representations of "slavery" actually lead to policies and actions that often do more harm than good to real people.

So if you really want to DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT, start by informing yourself properly and thinking critically. Take a look, for example, at Beyond Trafficking and Slavery, which offers such a critical analysis, and question awareness-raising. If you don't feel like it – that's fine, get involved in another cause or simply enjoy your life and try to be a good person. Or even follow my 14 ways and take selfies, but don't fool yourself that this will change anything.