WE WERE LOUNGING on oversized floor cushions in my parents’ living room in Karachi when my friend Ali Mehdi Zaidi told me he was moving to London. The talented photographer said he couldn’t stand living as a gay man in Pakistan, where the gay scene was too focused on one-night stands, abuse, and subterfuge. He wanted to be able to live as who he was and to have meaningful relationships.

That was in 1988.

Ali’s desire to have normal gay relationships was at odds with South Asian culture, where being gay was something you did, not something you were.

Yet homosexuality is, and has always been, a part of Pakistani culture, much as it is all over other countries of South Asia — India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka. The concept of “purdah” or drawing a veil over sensitive topics simply kept it under wraps.

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