February 18, 2009 – lgbrpcv.org
The Mysterious Fiancée Halfway across the World
by Michael Foster, RPCV Madagascar
As any PCV or RPCV will tell you, it is completely fascinating how much cultures and attitudes do in fact change once you finally get off the plane after travelling across the globe. The continuously difficult aspect for many people in these cultures to understand is that not everyone plans on having a traditional vady (spouse) and lots of zaza-kely (little kids). This was the looming question that awaited me as I arrived in Madagascar right after graduating from college where I had been open about my sexual orientation with my friends and family.
On top of all this, I knew that I was going to be an English teacher in a decently sized town, and being a mpampiananatra vazaha (foreign teacher) in the town would automatically draw lots of attention to my personal life and me. Luckily enough I got a chance to talk about this issue with the Malagasy training staff and some of the other gay and lesbian volunteers, and this gave me some ideas on how to deal with the questions once I got to my site.
When it finally came time to finding out where I would be living for the (supposed) next two years, I also found out that my predecessor had been the first PCV in that town and had married a girl from the town and brought her back to the USA! Now people were semi-expecting the next male PCV to carry on the tradition! Luckily for me, my site-mate was willing to help me figure out a story that she and I could tell the inquisitive townspeople when they came asking, “Ee Ramose! Aiza misy ny sipanao na ny vadynao?” (“Hey, teacher! Where is your girlfriend or your wife?”) I had a picture of me with one of my best female friends from high school, and this picture became the famous picture of me with my fiancée who was a PCV in another African country! Lots of people kept asking about my marital status during those first few months when the town initially gets accustomed to their new vahiny (visitor). When people would come to my house and ask why I wasn’t seeking out a sipa (girlfriend) in the town, I showed them the picture of “me and my fiancée” and said I was already taken.
People soon accepted this story and gradually began to leave me alone about it except for the young adolescent males (my students) who always seemed to think that if I didn’t have lots of girlfriends that I would get sick. But even then the curiosity died down after a few more months. Personally, I never came out to any of the people in my town and was never approached about my sexual orientation during my time there. Furthermore, no problems concerning or resulting from one’s sexual orientation were ever made known to me. On the other hand, like in many third world countries, I feel it is best to be reserved at first concerning one’s sexual orientation until it is safe to disclose the information to trusted persons in the community.
Another aspect of being gay in Madagascar was that many of the people, especially the men, told me that homosexuality didn’t exist in their country, and it was something that was invented by the vazaha (foreigner). The issue came up sometimes while I would either be watching BBC News at a neighbor’s house or showing copies of Newsweek Magazine to friends and some news report or article dealing with the gay/lesbian community would appear and spark the people’s curiosity. I tried explaining in simple terms to them that there are people who prefer to be with someone of the same sex, and the response was usually shock, surprise, or denial that such a thing existed. I usually left it alone at that except for the occasional person who would dare ask how two men or two women could have a baby upon seeing pictures of homosexual couples with children. I merely mentioned that they could either adopt them or use artificial insemination with the response usually being Tsy mety izany (That’s impossible) or Tena maha-gaga (That’s surprising).
This belief that homosexuality didn’t exist was puzzling at times because the Malagasy tend to be a homosocial culture in which the men tend to spend more time with each other holding hands, caressing each other, and sitting in each other’s laps than they do with their girlfriends or wives. In addition, many of the men cross-dress by wearing women’s hats, blouses, and sandals because for many of them there is no real distinction between the respective “his” and “hers.” Some of my male students even got dressed in drag and put on make-up to imitate female students for a school parade! However, on some of my travels around the island, I did meet some homosexual men in the capital and the big tourist towns that worked in restaurants, bars, and hotels where it wasn’t frowned upon like in the smaller more rural towns like mine.
Unfortunately, I didn’t have the opportunity to fabricate any more adventures in the long-distance relationship of me and my fiancée because we had to evacuate Madagascar in April 2002 due to the political and civil unrest stemming from the disputed presidential elections in December 2001. Overall, I had a wonderful experience that allowed me to travel throughout the island, work as a Boy Scout troop leader, create a radio program in English, start an English club, and teach classes all under the guise of an engaged man who was of course off the sena ny sipa (boyfriend market)!!!
October 12, 2011 – L’Expressmada.com
Translated from French
The number of people infected with HIV / AIDS is increasing. Worrying situation for some, for other logic
by Vonjy Radasimalala
New cases of people tested positive for HIV / AIDS at the municipal office of hygiene (BMH) of the Urban Commune of Antananarivo have increased significantly. "In 2005, a positive case was recorded every two to three months with 500 to 600 people a month come to testing. Today, four out of the 400 came a month are positive to HIV / AIDS, "said Hervé Rabeson, chief of medical service in the BMH yesterday after the signing of the fifth agreement between the health center and Sisal the Monegasque government to the tune of "31,000 euros" by Cyril Judge, Consul of Monaco in Madagascar.
Related to the crisis
This disturbing trend is likely to be followed in other centers. "Referring to the 27 new positive cases in 2010 on 350 people from a month to the test, the situation becomes worrying," said Andry Rasoloarimanana, center coordinator Sisal. Various factors have been advanced to explain this dramatic increase in new cases of HIV positive / AIDS. "Once the poverty rate increases, the number of vulnerable people such as prostitutes is also growing. All education on HIV / AIDS, including condom use, are released into the background in favor of money, "Andry Rasoloarimanana connects.
The head of Sisal, refers to the increase of 30% of prostitutes in the street due to the socio-economic crisis that crosses the Big Island for over two years. "We take care of 165 sex workers (TDS) every month. And 30% of them are new men and women, "says Hanintsoa Rakotoarimanga responsible for management of TDS within the Health Centre based Isotry central. For Andry Rakotomanana, Head of Unit for coordination within the national committee to fight against AIDS (SE / CNLS), "this makes sense to increase the number of estimated HIV positive / AIDS in Madagascar is 24 000" . The strategy adopted by the SE / CNLS have also influenced these statistics. "Screening and sensitized individuals currently concern the most vulnerable among other sex workers, men who have sex with men or carriers because of limited financial resources. This new strategy was able to increase that number, "she says.