Saturday, May 16, 2009
Unselfconscious affection, visibly expressed. This quality has already pretty well disappeared between contemporary American men, whatever their orientation. This small collection shows many American young male friends up to the middle of the 20th century clearly unembarrassed to be photographed with their limbs entangled. And it is equally clear that men in some other parts of the world still feel that ease. The paradox is that these casual unremarked public displays of attachment are now confined to a few of the world's most homophobic countries. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the President of Iran, spoke in September 2007 at Columbia University in New York. He was laughed at and booed when he answered a question about gay rights in Iran: "In Iran we don't have homosexuals like in your country. We don't have that in our country. In Iran, we do not have this phenomenon. I don't know who's told you that we have it." My personal guess is that the man thought he was telling the truth, and that the Middle Eastern men to be seen here arm-in-arm in public parks and plazas probably would agree with him. It is an ironic source of regret to me that as their world westernizes further, this traditional and uncontroversial touching and embracing will cease.