Both men use fake names among gay friends, and said none of their relatives or colleagues know the truth about their sexuality. Naveed, 24, said he recently turned up at one of Kabul’s major hotels to get together with a man he’d met in a doctor’s waiting room who had asked for his phone number. Pressure to conform can cause profound distress, and “creates a lot of psychological problems for the person themselves and their families,” said Khalil Rahman Sarwary, a psychology lecturer at Kabul University. When the exact needs of a person are not being fulfilled, when a homosexual man is forced to marry and have children, it can lead to terrible unhappiness, divorce, even violence within the family. “Bacha bazi” is a culturally-sanctioned form of pedophilia, in which pre-teen boys — many from poor families, often sold into the practice — are sponsored by powerful and wealthy men to dress as girls and dance for parties of mostly middle-aged men. Yet the “bacha baz,” as the sponsors are known, are rarely punished for the years of abuse they commit against the dancing boys, and it is not unusual to see older men in public with their young sex slaves. While the boys themselves can carry the stigma of their dancing days throughout their lives, their sponsors, most of them married with children, are not regarded as homosexual, and their actions are often justified with the saying “women are for children, boys are for fun.” Like the other gay men who spoke to The Associated Press, he said that as a young man he felt that he wanted to be “normal,” and concealed his sexuality, until it just became too difficult. Since the Taliban’s extremist regime was overthrown in the U.S. invasion of 2001, the flow of information into Afghanistan has helped boost awareness, but understanding and tolerance of homosexuality are still a long way off, even compared to regional neighbors. “[…] I am lucky,” he said.