There is no visibility because there is no chance to be visible. One day as we sat at a cafe having tea and cake we were seated two tables away from a pair of policemen having coffee when suddenly they were alerted to a problem and sprang from their seats and ran off to deal with the disturbance. All policemen carry a hand gun and a phone device so if there is anything unusual a dozen policemen will be on the scene within minutes.
(photo left, Tashkent: Richard and Michael by statue of Tamerlane) That said, it is rare to find a LGBT citizen serving jail time for a sex crime, first because two people have to be caught in the act by a witness and, more often, the offense is handled on the spot with a fistful of som money.
’ to which I said ‘yes, 25 years’ to which he rubbed two forefingers together saying ‘gay? He frowned and started to look away but I caught him up by saying something to the effect of it being ‘natural… He was surprised, not reactive or disgruntled or hostile toward us as we continued driving westward toward the dried up disaster of the Aral Sea We three actually got along easily for this part of our ten-day tour of the legendary Silk Road tour with its four famous cities of Tashkent, Samarkand, Bukhara and Khiva–as well as the Aral Sea. Few people want to hear or know about or understand the nature of homosexual orientation.
It is overall a repressed society even though free enterprise is developing and is superficially successful.
But they aren’t all bad: three of them in a patrol car gave us a ride to our tour office one day when we were lost.
One of the first things we noticed arriving in Tashkent were the numbers of policemen–on the streets, at subway entrances and down in subway stations (where photos are forbidden), in public markets, patrolling pedestrian underpasses of main roads, on major bridges over rivers, cruising the streets in cars and jeeps.
They can stop and detain any driver to see their papers are in order–and mostly likely speedup the delay with a few som (money) slipped between palms.
While Michael climbed the hill to the ancient Zoroastrian cemetery at Shylpyk-Kala, in the middle of a desert, I stayed behind by the car and Serge and I small-talked about California and former governor ‘Schwarznar’ and other forgettable things.
Then he casually asked if we were brothers to which I said ‘no, friends’ to which he asked ‘long time? (photo left, native folk singer; friend of Serge’s) And that was it. If he were upset he did not show it and he continued to be his usual gruff yet cheerful self.