(June 4, Kabul) British Royal Marines got a gay welcome when they returned from the Afghan mountains where they were battling the al-Qaeda.
A swarm of gay male prostitutes, many in traditional Afghan female clothing greeted the marines when they entered several towns at the base of the mountains.
Male prostitutes are common in Afghanistan, but usually remain secluded, often being kept by wealthy men. Most dress and act feminine but do regard themselves as transvestites or transgendered.
For the Royal Marines, most of whom are young and from small towns, it was their first encounter with gays. Although gays and lesbians are not excluded from service in the British military, few are out.
The British newspaper The Scotsman reports that the marines were shocked when more than a dozen of the camp followers with their painted nails mobbed them as they marched into the towns.
The hustlers were persistent.
One marine, James Fletcher, said: "They were more terrifying than the al-Qaeda."
"We discovered from the Afghan soldiers we had with us that a lot of men in this country have the same philosophy as ancient Greeks: 'a woman for babies, a man for pleasure'" Fletcher told the paper.
At one stage, troops were invited into a house and asked to dance. Citing the need to keep momentum in their search and destroy mission, the marines made their excuses and left.
Diversity training was not given to the marines before they were deployed to Afghanistan.
Posted 12:43 am, June 4, 2002
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