It’s in your head

Homosexuality is forbidden in Pakistan, and most of us are pretty homophobic to even talk about it. It’s prohibited in the sense of openly discussing it, and that’s why there was so much protest to the release of the movie ‘Joyland.’ I experience the same discomfort inherited from the culture I breathe in and find it difficult to share my views on homosexuality through my writing. Our not discussing it doesn’t mean that there are no men and women with homosexual tendencies living in our country. And I closely know a few who, because their sexual orientation is taboo and unacceptable, claim heterosexuality and end up getting married because of social pressure. Most get married for procreation and to satisfy the family and continue to pretend in life while having secret lives.
Don’t. Don’t get married because you want to please your parents and claim normalcy. You are being unfair to your spouse, and in the last couple of years, more than once, I have worked with a couple where the man is not sexually interested in his wife and had been gaslighting her for years and eventually comes out of the closet within the therapeutic space sharing his sexual interest in the same gender. Mostly that disclosure comes in too late. There are children involved. The wife has internalised the shame and finds it challenging to share her husband’s sexual orientation as a reason to dissolve the marriage. She has to continue to live an unfulfilled life and the pain of years in a relationship where she was made to believe that the problem was with her.
I also wonder why, when we think of homosexuality, it’s associated more with men and less with women, particularly in our society. Again, coming back to the main idea, which isn’t sexual orientation but the lack of empathy and responsibility individuals have when they commit to relationships for their selfish interests without realising how painful it is for their partner to be in a relationship that lacks intimacy.
More importantly, I have worked with women clients who spent years in marriages questioning the lack of intimacy and were made to feel they were not desirable enough, and the problem was with them. They were made to believe that ‘it’s all in their head’ and lack of intimacy isn’t a real issue. The spouse projects his challenge onto his partner and hides his sexual orientation behind excuses such as he is overworked, the wife’s attitude problems, lack of connection, and so on that contribute to married life without sexual intimacy.
Every relationship has challenges, but some fundamental issues are limited to the individual, and they have to take responsibility for it. Sexual orientation is a personal preference, and men in our society must stop being so self-centred as to marry to keep a pretence of being a heterosexual male. I understand that homosexuality is a challenge and struggle for some, but involving another person in that conflict is cruel. More importantly, it keeps her in the dark and makes her believe she is the problem. I also think that some women marry for the same reason and are unavailable to their spouses in the intimate space.
Marriage is a great institution, and physical intimacy is a fundamental pillar. Don’t get married if you know you can't ever be sexually attracted to the opposite gender. How to face your family or navigate the situation, no matter how tough it may be, is your problem. Be transparent; if your partner can commit to a relationship without intimacy, that’s different.
As a country, we are deeply in conflict regarding homosexuality. We can no longer hide in the closet as a society, and more open conversations seem unavoidable now. So, let’s stop forcing our adult children into marriage, and I deliberately say ‘adult’ children as most parents here are involved in their children’s weddings. Be the adult, decide for yourself, and don’t ruin another’s life.

Zara Maqbool

The writer is a BACP (British Association For Counselling and Psychotherapy) accredited individual and couple psychotherapist based in Islamabad. She can be reached at or her official website.

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