Last week promotions for our comedy show, "There are no Gays in Iran", got started with ads in iranian.com in the San Francisco Bay Area and in our newsletter which is emailed every other day.
On day one of the campaign, I got an interesting reaction from a prominent member of the Iranian-American community (and a "candidate" for the presidential elections in Iran).
"We didn't know Jahanshah Javid of Iranian.com is GAY too [for] promoting this," he wrote in an email to me, and CCed to his friends in a well-known organization.
What does that mean exactly? Does he have a problem with gays in general? Does he object to attempts at making fun of Ahmadinejad's statement that there are no homosexuals in Iran? And how does that make me gay? And what if I was gay? Would that be a problem?
What does this say about our community leaders? About our feelings towards homosexuals?
Sources told me a very famous opposition politician was working with a friend to draft a constitution for a future democratic government in Iran. When they reached the section regarding individual freedoms, the politician expressed the view that the language should not be so broad as to recognize homosexual rights. His friend pointed at his behind and said: "This is MY ass and I have the right to do whatever I like with it."
When I was a student at the University of New Mexico in the early 1990s, we had a couple of writers at the campus newspaper who were openly gay. A male and a female. I was friendly with both and respectful. I considered them my good colleagues and admired their courage in fighting against bigotry and discrimination.
My first social encounter with gays took place a year or so later when I transferred to Hunter College in New York. My landlord, a German woman, asked me to join her and her male gay friends for Christmas dinner. I accepted with mixed feelings. I considered myself an open-minded person who could socialize with anyone. So why not gays? But this was my first, and like any new or unprecedented situation, I felt awkward. There were three of them at the dinner table. Two of them were a couple and the third was my landlord's close friend, soulmate and frequent travel companion. At the beginning I looked at them as though they had a big GAY sign on their forehead. But I relaxed as the evening progressed. Shocking realization: They were as normal as all other people.
A few years ago on a trip to London I was invited by a friend to go to an Iranian party off Edgware Road. I didn't know anyone there and sat much of the time in a corner, observing. Five beers later things went kinda blurry and I started laughing -- in my head. I was thinking about the strangest party ever. I was with a secret lover. She was not paying much attention to me and looked a bit tense. I winked at her when no one was around: "Wanna get together after the party?" She said no, not tonight. Eva! Why not? I started to wonder. Had I done something wrong? (She told me later she thought she was pregnant even though I've had a vasectomy.) I was bummed. Then a friend of mine came and sat close to me. Real close. She'd had the hots for me for the longest time and I kept pushing her away. We shared a puff or two on my peace pipe. My resistance was beginning to weaken and I could have done something I shouldn't have if my ex hadn't barged in -- with a guy. I looked at him long and hard. I was in an unbelievable, uncontrollable jealous rage but I controlled myself. I went as far away from everyone and everything as I could. I saw my lesbian friend sitting alone. I hit on her for the rest of the night. What a crazy crazy night.
When I was working for IRNA, I once observed a discussion on homosexuality. I expected all participants to make fun of gays and firmly condemn them. "Some people are just born that way," said one of the senior editors. He described homosexuality as a phenomenon as natural as heterosexuality. I was amazed. At the time I did not consider him the most open-minded person in the group. A married man with children. A practicing Muslim. A man loyal to the Islamic Republic. My respect for him grew tremendously simply because he spoke his mind without fear, against common beliefs and official policy.
His fearless straight talk finally got him into trouble. Today he sits in Evin Prison.
They say everyone has a gay relative. I've searched long and hard but haven't found any. Well, there's one suspect. Some of my friends keep asking me if he's gay and I keep telling them absolutely not. He's just not the type to keep anything a secret. He does have some effeminate mannerisms that you would not see in the common Iranian man, but so do I. And I can tell you straight that I've never been sexually attracted to any man. It's just not in me. I sometimes play mind games and tell myself if women are attracted to men, why can't I? My reaction is a quick "Ahh!" There's just no way. I can't help it.
Homosexuals can't help it either. They are who they are. Let's recognize that and stop the hate.
Do you have any stories about gays? Gay relatives? Please share.
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