Sunday, September 30, 2007

I see gay people

It was inevitable that someone would come forward (or should I say out) to dispute the claim by Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, that there are no lesbians or gays in Iran. We are, as the saying goes, everywhere!

Reza, a 29-year-old Iranian, knows the truth … he is gay.

Leaning back in his black leather desk chair at home in Tehran, he said there were, in fact, plenty of gay men and women in Iran. The difference between their lives and those of gays in Europe and North America is one of recognition and legitimacy.

“You can have a secret gay life as long you don’t become an activist and start demanding rights,” he said, speaking on the condition that his family name not be used because he feared retribution.

Reza, who shaves his head and often wears an earring in his left ear, has lived in Europe extensively. Gay life in Iran, he said, “is just complicated in the same way that it is for other groups, like workers and feminists, who don’t have many rights.”

It seems we have much in common with our Iranian brothers and sisters. Religious right leaders, in and outside of Congress, work tirelessly to deny basic civil rights to lesbians and gays in the US. And some religious leaders on the right have gone so far as to say gay people should be executed, but given our form of government should have the benefit of a trial first.

For a country that is said to have no homosexuality, Iran goes to great lengths to ban it. Gays are punished by lashing or death if it is proved that they have had homosexual relations. Two gay teenagers were executed in 2005 in Mashad, a northeastern city.

Fear of persecution is so strong that some gay men and lesbians have sought and received asylum in Western countries.

The Iranian Student News Agency reported in 2005 that a lesbian had been killed in prison by other inmates whom, it was alleged, she had forced to have sex with her.
Lesbians and gays in the US are subjected to similar kinds of violence. Who can forget the violent beating of Matthew Shepard, or the rape and murder of Brandon Teena, a transgender person who simply wanted to live life on his own terms.

How ironic that Brandon might not have met such a tragic death, had he lived in Iran.

Iran has also taken the unusual step of encouraging sex change operations for those with homosexual tendencies. While religious authorities here view homosexuality a clear sin, transsexuals are considered ill and in need of the help that such an operation can provide.
While I would argue that homosexual and transgender are not the same, I would think Brandon would have welcomed the surgery over death.

What is disturbing about this, however, is that apparently some gay men in Iran are actually undergoing surgery so they ”could be recognized by the government as transsexual and mingle with men more easily.”

How tragic it is that anyone would feel compelled to mutilate their body, in order to live an authentic life. And while it is much easier to be lesbian or gay here, we are still living in a glass house.

1 comment:

fairlane said...

"How tragic it is that anyone would feel compelled to mutilate their body, in order to live an authentic life."

Senator Craig, Haggard, Conley et al come to mind.

They may not mutilate their bodies, but they mutilate their identities.

I don't see much difference. The Fundies are hell bent on marginalizing homosexuals in this country, and if they ever get their way they will completely control the sexuality of us all whether we're straight or gay.