Writes About It...

Mike Luongo’s Been Around The World

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AB: How much of your work – I saw a quote talking about sexual fantasies –

ML: Are you talking about The Post?

AB: Yeah.

ML: What I wrote as fears, they wrote as fantasies. I was really worried about getting raped at this party I went to – that didn’t happen, but that was my fear. I do have a constant fear of rape, depending on the situation, but –

AB: Only in the Middle East?

ML: Well, you could clearly have that in other places, but – I was at party where no one knew where I was, with fifteen other men, we had a long talk about sex and we were talking also about terrorism and jihad… If something were to happen, who the hell would know. It was a fear of mine, but in the Post’s coverage, they discuss it as a fantasy, but that’s not what it was: it was actually a fear.

AB: Is there any aspect of othering in your book?

ML: It’s very easy for us to view the Middle East or Muslim countries as exotic and as other. The furtive nature of sexuality does make it alluring and exotic. The notion that at anytime someone could be flirting with you, even though it’s forbidden, does create this exotic allure. There’s strong erotic tension within many of these countries, because you can’t necessarily discuss things openly, but it’s always there. It’s always there. I try not to other people, though.

AB: You hear stories of people who go to anti-gay nations, where homosexuality’s very vocally opposed – one of the stories that’s been big is Dick Jefferson, the CBS news man who went to St. Maarten and was attacked. If you go someplace and you know that public displays of affection or being obviously gay are going to create tension – do you think that people should self-censor? Do you think that in traveling, people should adapt to their surroundings?

ML: If your choice is to adapt or death, then, clearly, yes. It’s not just same-sex behavior. There are many types of behavior where you should self-censor. As a traveler or as a tourist, the purpose is not to disrupt the culture that you’re visiting, but to experience it. Probably many gay activists will be upset by me saying this, but even if you go to Texas, you probably shouldn’t hold hands. If you go to Alabama, you probably shouldn’t hold hands. I’m not saying anyone deserves what they get, but you do know what the culture is like. You can find so many different things. Are you there as a traveler there to experience the culture or are you there to be something that sticks out and disrupts the culture?

AB: Do you think it’s possible to strike a balance between that “men have sex with men, but it’s not gay” and what we have in the United States, where you have gay rights organizations. Do you think it’s possible to strike a balance with regard to sexual politics?

ML: I don’t even think that here in the United States we’ve struck a balance with sexual politics. Senator Craig, as an example: we are trying to force him to use the word “gay” to describe himself, because he may or may not have had sex with other men. If he had sex with other men, does that necessarily make him gay. We’re forcing him to label himself, because we force people to label themselves based on their behavior.