There are no gays in Vanuatu. That is the official line from the church and from the general populace, at least in public. The reality is slightly different. There are some out gay and lesbian couples in Vila, though they are few and far between. In fact, the only ones I know of are ex-pats. There is no access to “gay culture” here, the movies they watch are things like Jet Lee and Terminator, which rather lack in gay characters and they don’t have the internet on the island.
There is a boy near me who would be FLAMING in the States. He falls directly into every stereotype of flaming teenage boy you can find, even ones that don’t fit the culture here. For instance, here, talking to someone of the opposite gender is grounds for mockery and marriage. He hangs out with all the girls. He has a soft, high pitched voice and is totally limp wristed. During sport time, he plays volleyball with the girls instead of soccer with the boys. He runs like a duck. (Jason and I help teach sport.)
Let me relate a few stories from the other Western teachers. They were marking papers in class and as a treat for good behavior, the teacher told the students that they could mark with any color pen (normally, they are limited to red, blue and black ink). He immediately whips out a hot pink pen and starts waving it around the classroom.
They are working on persuasive essays in English class at the moment. This is both a challenge to their English and to their ability to think outside the box. One of the topics given was, “Students shouldn’t have to wear uniforms.” His opening to his essay went something like this, “The question is not whether or not students should wear uniforms, it is what color the uniforms should be.” (I cleaned up the English.) The color he wants the uniforms? Violet.
On a less happy note, he also wrote an essay about how England is better than Vanuatu because you can be who you really are and not have to hide anything. We knew what he was talking about, but I’m not sure about the other English teacher. He is the nephew of a nun, the kind of nun that asked a Jew what her religion forbids her from doing. She would not take kindly to being told he is gay.
I am more convinced than ever that not only is being gay or straight not something we as individuals have control over, we don’t even have control over the cultural expression of our sexual orientation. Where else would this kid come from? He is just so flamboyant, I can’t believe they think he’s not gay.