The Kingdom's Got a Big Closet

Why gay life flourishes in Saudi Arabia, even though it's a capital crime
By Caroline Miller,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 20, 2007 1:35 PM CDT
Members of a traditional Saudi honor guard with their golden swords adjust their headress as they wait for the arrival of Arab leaders at Riyadh air force airport, Saudi Arabia, Tuesday, March 27, 2007...   (Associated Press)
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(Newser) – Sodomy is a capital crime in Saudia Arabia, but that hasn't stopped a gay scene from flourishing there. Quite the contrary, writes Nadya Labi in the Atlantic. Men and women are so zealously separated that homosexual encounters are easier to pull off. One Syrian who moved to Riyadh seven years ago calls it a "gay heaven."

The religious police seem to turn a blind eye to blatant cruising, Labi reports, partly so that men who aren't able to have sex with a woman—because they're unmarried or their wives are pregnant—can find an alternative. That doesn't mean they consider themselves gay; homosexuality is thought to be a behaviour, not an orientation.