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7 March 2015

Guavas and Bananas

GUAVAS AND BANANAS. Living Gay in Papua New Guinea from vladsokhin on Vimeo.

 

The sleepy coastal village of Hanuabada sits on the north western outskirts of Papua New Guinea's capital, Port Moresby, and is probably best known for producing half of PNG's national cricket team. What it is less known for is being a safe haven for Port Moresby's gay and transgender community. About 30 gay men, or 'Gelegele' in the local tongue, permanently live in the village, while others drift in and out.

When I first arrived on Bougainville as a young man in 1970, I hardly knew what a homosexual was and certainly had never seen one until several chaps in Camp 6 were pointed out to me. There was that queer couple, Owen and 'her husband' who worked in Bechtel's office. Before coming to Bougainville, they had operated a hotel on Espiritu Santo in what's now Vanuatu. They built themselves a 'sak-sak' at Camp 5 where they were going to live happily ever after until Owen's 'husband' died and Owen's little world was totally destroyed.

And then there was that tall half-Indian Matt who was a typist in Bechtel's Loloho office. He'd walk, hand in hand with a native 'boi' on either side, through the camp, with a strong smell of cheap perfume always wafting behind him. I saw him again, years later, when I set up the audit department within Air Niugini, in their accounts department in Port Moresby.

Undoubtedly, there were many more but, in line with the social mores of the day, they probably kept to themselves. I am sure they all would have been delighted with this recent 'coming-of-age' in Papua New Guinea.