Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Encountering *Sexuality Issues

….They were astonished to find him(Jesus) talking to a woman, but none of them asked him why he was doing it or what they had been discussing.   John 4:27b

“Look over there! I am sure those are men but they are dressed like women and wearing red lipstick and jewelry!” I exclaimed to my husband as if they were aliens rather than real people. That was my introduction to Pakistan’s outcast community of eunuchs which is comprised of hermaphrodites, transsexuals, transvestites, and homosexuals. They are an unwanted group, often with few rights who may resort to begging and prostitution, or interrupt at weddings by dancing for money. I regret my lack of understanding and compassion in those days. As a newcomer to Pakistan it was necessary to learn about sexuality etiquette for both the public and private spheres.  Every culture has its own beliefs and practices when it comes to sexual identity and expression. In my Canadian culture same-sex marriages have become legal. Experimentation and expression of various kinds of sexuality are all legally acceptable. Sex education in elementary school here is shocking to many Muslims. That means Muslims have to figure out how to deal with all their confusion just like I did when I lived in Pakistan. We both encounter new sexuality issues.
Often in Muslim cultures where there are social restrictions in regards to male and female interacting with each other the amount of showing affection when women get together with other women may initially surprise us. When non-Muslim women meet Muslim women we will encounter more kissing and hugging than we are used to. They may walk hand in hand or have arms draped over each other. Those are signs of friendship. There is more physical touch and sometimes intimate information shared about their husbands and their sex lives. On occasion they ask me questions which I consider to be private. It is okay to reply that it is private. We don’t need to divulge our birth control method or how many children we plan to have. Observing women belly dancing together might be a new experience for us.

Then there is trying to figure out how a Christian woman should interact with a Muslim man. It varies from culture to culture and also how strict or secular he is. A strict Muslim man here does not like to shake hands with a lady, sit in the same room with her, converse with her, or have direct eye contact. If he does not put out his hand to shake then that is my clue to withhold my hand. In those cases I will not initiate conversation and look for where the women are congregated.   But the more secular he has become the etiquette relaxes considerably. However if I see him stare at me too much or his look does not feel pure I will move to an area where his eyes will not remain so much on me. The older the Christian woman gets the more relaxed the “rules” become as she is viewed more as a mother figure.
Both Muslims and Christian workers can get confused about sexuality issues. The Holy Spirit knows how to carry us safely through unfamiliar and perhaps uncomfortable territory.
Dear heavenly Father, please keep me from becoming judgmental. In Jesus’ name. Amen.