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.”
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.
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.
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.