Saturday, October 6, 2007

No Gays in Iran


اجابه غير اكاديمية ياسيد احمدي نجاد



No Gays in Iran… But Many Same-Sex Couples

New America Media, Commentary, William O. Beeman, Posted: Sep 26, 2007

Editor’s Note: Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s comment that homosexuality does not exist in Iran like it does in the West is true in a sense, writes anthropologist William Beeman. In fact, same-sex relations in Iran do look very different from what is called gay behavior in the West.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was derided for his statement in a Sept. 24 speech at Columbia University that homosexuality doesn't exist in Iran. Though many Americans may find it incredible, differences in the construction of sexual behavior do exist across cultures.

As an anthropologist, I can state with confidence that sexuality varies tremendously between cultures. The notion that one is either "gay" or "straight" does not accord with what we observe in human sexual behavior, which is far more flexible. This categorization is an artifact of American culture, which glories in binary categories for classifying people. Folks that identify as "bisexual" (yet another ambiguous category) in the United States often get grief from both the gay and straight community for "deluding" themselves about their sexuality.

Of course it is impossible to discern precisely what President Ahmadinejad meant in his remarks. But what is true is the construction of same-sex behavior and, indeed, same-sex affection in Iran is extremely different than in Europe and America. There has been a recent phenomenon of Western-style "gay culture" emerging in Iran – replete with gay bars, clubs and house parties – but this is very new, largely limited to the upper classes, and likely not known to President Ahmadinejad, whose social milieu is the middle and lower-middle class. This recent Western-style gay phenomenon is distinct from ordinary same-sex behavior as practiced traditionally in Iran. Indeed, there was not even a word for homosexuality in Persian before the 20th century. It had to be invented. The term used by President Ahmadinejad was “hamjensbaz,” a neologism that literally means, “playing with the same sex.”

In Iran, same-sex sexual behavior is classified rigidly into active and passive roles. The Arabic terms “fa’el” and “maf’oul” (active and passive – actually grammatical terms used to describe active and passive verbs) were the common designation for these roles. The passive partner is still called by the Arabic term “obneh,” or, more crudely, “kuni.” (Kun means anus.) The active vs. passive same-sex preference is well known in the Western world, but it is constructed quite differently in Iran and other Arab and Mediterranean cultures.

Active partners in Iran do not consider themselves to be “homosexual.” Indeed, it is a kind of macho boast in some circles that one has been an active partner with another male. Passive partners are denigrated and carry a life-long stigma if their sexual role is known, even after a single incident. They have been deflowered, as it were, in the same way that women might lose their virginity, and they are considered to be "xarob" or "destroyed."

In actual fact, many men are "versatile" in their sexual activity but if they are known to have relations with other men, they will always claim in public to be the active partner. Same-sex relations between females are undoubtedly practiced, but this is the deepest secret in Iran, and rarely talked about at all.

Emotional relations are very different. Men and women both may become exceptionally attached to people of the same sex, to the point that Westerners would swear that they must have a sexual relationship. It is not necessarily so. Kissing, holding hands, weeping, jealousy, physical contact and all the signs of partnership can exist without any sexual activity or, indeed, with an undercurrent of absolute horror that it might take place, because of the active-passive split in sexual classification and men's fear of being pegged as a passive partner. A man who truly loves another man doesn't want to degrade him by making him a passive sex partner.

More typically, male teenagers who become exceptionally attached may marry sisters in order to become kin to each other, thereby creating a lifelong bond. There is even a quasi-marriage ceremony based on the idea of “muta,” or temporary marriage, through which two men or two women can become fictive “siblings.” This takes care of many things, allowing intimate relations, and intimacy between family relations, but also imposing an even stronger taboo against sexual relations, which would be considered incest.

Iranians who come to Europe and the United States may "discover" that they are "gay" once they are liberated from the rigid cultural system that binds them into these polarized active-passive roles.

To be sure, sodomy is punishable by death in Iran, but such executions have been historically extremely rare compared with the routine incidence of same-sex sexual behavior in Iran. Much was made in the United States of two boys who were executed in the city of Mashhad a few years ago for "being homosexual," as the Western press put it. However, they were executed because they had essentially committed what we would call statutory rape on an under-aged boy. The boy's father was beside himself with rage and grief, and pressed charges. In many such cases, the shame of the family and the victim himself is so great that no one ever finds out.

In the end, both the United States and Iran classify sexuality in a way that fails to accord with the range of actual human proclivities. However, there is no doubt that the two systems are very different.

William O. Beeman is professor and chair of the department of anthropology at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. He has been conducting research in Iran for more than 30 years, and is a fluent speaker of Persian. He is author of Language, Status and Power in Iran and The "Great Satan" vs. the "Mad Mullahs": How the United States and Iran Demonize Each Other, the second edition of which will be published later this year by the University of Chicago Press.

28 comments:

GayVisionFromMorocco. said...

اكيد اجابة لا اكاديمية لكن ما صدر عن رئيس الجامعة بعيد كل البعد ايضا عن الاكاديمية حتى و ان لم يرتبط بالمثلية

تحية

Ali said...

gayvisionfrommorocco سلام

انا معك بان ما صدر من رئيس الجامعة كان غير اكاديمي وفي رايي الشخصي
بان الرئيس الايراني احرج رئيس الجامعه باجابتة الاكاديمية في الحق الاكاديمي بمناقشة قضيه
holocaust
وحق العلماء في البحث

اجابته العقليه في الموضوع ازهلتني واعتقد ازهلت الكثيرين الى ان سمعنا من الاكاديمي بان في ايران لا يوجد مثليين كما في بلدكم

شكرا

اجندا حمرا said...

صدقني ياعلي مهما وصلت درجه ثقافه الانسان دائما بيرجع لجذوره تمام زي العربي اللي بيعيش في اي دوله من دول الغرب بتلاقيه برضه بيكون له فكر متفتح بس مع ذلك في بعض المواقف بيرجع لأصوله العربيه و ممكن تلاقيه قفل مسوجر في بعض الاحيان

المهم ياجميل عيد سعيد و كل سنه و انت طيب و بخير و يارب تحقق كل امنياتك و اكتر شويه

arabicmask said...

صديقي علي حتى ان قالها نجاد فهذا لا يلغي الواقع ..ولكن اجزم ان مقولته سياسية ..كل عام وانت بالف خير

Marwan said...

I bet Ahmadi najad was drunk when he made his statement,..I mean who is he kiddin !!?

Gay by Nature said...

I bet Ahmadi najad was drunk when he made his statement,..I mean who is he kiddin !!?

Gay by Nature said...

yeah one more thing EID MUBARAK !!

amro said...

عزيزى على
كل عام وانت بخير
وعيد سعيد عليك وكل من تحب وكل الاهل والاصدقاء
اتفق مع سامر بان التصريح يحمل ابعاد سياسية
ومع مروان بانه مثير للسخرية
تحياتى

"Gay Boy" Weekly said...

اولا كل عام وانت بألف خير

طبعا انا اعتبر ما قاله احمدي نجاد نكتة غير مضحكة، لكني لا الومه، فلقد تعودنا هذه التصريحات الغبية ونكران الواقع

LORD.M.M said...

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تحياتي ..

Ali said...

سلام اجندا حمرا

اولا جد اسف على التاخير في الرد عليك
واتمنى تكوني استمتعتي بالعيد

اعتقد كلامك بخصوص السيد احمدي نجاد قد يكون صحيحا وقد تكون هناك اسباب سياسية اخرى

شكرا

Ali said...

سلام سامر

اسف على التاخير في الرد عليك يامان
وانت بالف خير وانشاء الله تكون استمعت بالعيد
انا اميل الى ان اجابته قد تكون لارضاء المتدينين في ايران


شكرا

Ali said...

hey marwan

sorry bro for the delay to respond and Eid Mubarak to you 2. I always thought red eyes n biting one's lips are signs of being high. guess we will never know.


thanks

Ali said...

سلام عمرو

اسف على التاخير في الرد عليك ياعمرو
وكل عام وانت بالف خير وانشاء الله ينعاد عليك باليمن والخير
واتمنى ان تكون استمتعت بالعيد

اكيد الاجابه لها بعد سياسي وقد اخذت بعدا هزليا عالميا واكيد له اسبابه لقوله ماقال وكما قلت سابقا اميل الى ان الهدف قد يكون عدم الخروج عن الطور الديني الممنوح له من قبل قائد الثورة

شكرا

Ali said...

gay boy weekly سلام

اسف على التاخير في الرد عليك
وينعاد عليك باليمن والبركه وانشاء الله تكون استمتعت بالعيد

نكران نعم هو نكران ولكن المشكله هي باننا لن نعرف لماذا قال ما قال
وكما تعودنا في السياسه هناك الكثير من التحاليل ولا يستطيع احد بالجزم بان اي من التحاليل هو الصواب

شكرا

Ali said...

سلام لورد

شكرا على اعطائي اللينك وانشاء الله لا تواجه مشاكل اخرى يامان


شكرا

اجندا حمرا said...

Hi ali

just wanted to ask how u r doin
long time no new posts
i wish u well
take care my friend
:)

arabicmask said...

عاجل ..عاجل
الاصدقاء الاعزاء..هناك حملة تشن على المثليين في الصحف الاردنية ..فارجو التكاتف وابداء اراءكم في التعليقات على الموضوع على هذا الرابط وبسرعة ..ان تخبروا كل اصدقاءنا للانضمام للرد على هذه الحملة الشنيعة .
الرابط:http://www.ammonnews.net/arabicDemo/article.php?issue=&articleID=12595

Ali said...

hey Agenda

Thanks for your concern, I'm really fine just not in mood for writing or doing anything these days, that's all.....Thanks again...


Thanks...

Ali said...

hey arabicmask

thanks for the info, man....I'll do my best to post a comment there....


thanks

mgreene said...

Ali--
Your post caused me to reflect on my own upbringing in what was, by Western standards, an environment very tolerant of homosexuality. I grew up in the United States and therefore my idea of tolerance was shaped by an American framework.
You have stated that Western homosexuality has helped men in the Middle East to discover their own sexuality because of the clear-cut distinctions placed on sexuality in this culture. However, your post has allowed me to recognize the serious shortcomings or Western conceptions of sexuality. While Western cultures have prided themselves on naming and therefore recognizing and legitimatizing homosexuality, these tags also seem to restrict our ability to consider a much broader and realistically ambiguous realm of sexuality. By defining precisely who is tolerated, we implicitly confine the extent of our tolerance. Thanks for your insight.
Molly

Ali said...

hello Molly,

I do apologize for the delay to respond

glad I could help. I hate to admit it but I'm one of those who do labeling. yeah, I know it's unfair sometimes to label people cuz they themselves don't know who they are besides no one has the right to label anyone it's their right to do it in their own time

azulpositivo said...

Hola, soy Johan de Venezuela, los felicito por tan excelente iniciativa... un abrazo

Ali said...

Hola Johan,

Muchas gracias y que realmente agradecemos su apoyo.


Gracias

tayloreinhagen said...

Hello Ali,

I am a student at the University of Vermont in America. I am currently enrolled in a 'Gender in the Middle East' course. Right now, I am working on an assignment which requires me to read blogs written by Middle Eastern men and women and not only summarize my feelings about them but also make comments on the blogs themselves. After reading a handful of your entries as well as watching some of your posted videos, I was very interested in what life must be like for you as a homosexual in the Middle East.

This entry specifically captivated me because sexuality (especially homosexuality) is something I see as taboo in the Islamic culture and I was very, very eager to read a first hand account involving such a subject. I, personally, am very familiar with gay and lesbian issues. I live in New York City, one of the gay capitals of the United States, I have many gay and lesbian friends, and my university is openly accepting t oteh gay and lesbian community. To hear that the traditional 'gay behavior' that we hear about in the United States does not exist in the same way in the Middle East puzzled me. That 'same-sex' behavior is looked at much differenly than 'gay' behavior in America is intersting. I was shocked to hear that some men involved in same-sex relationships do not even think to consider themselves homosexuals. I was also confused by the comments made by Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad ('homosexuality does not exist in Iran'). But I was most shocked to hear that same-sex behavior between women was so condemned. Of course, lesbian relationships occur everywhere however, it was described as 'one of the Middle East's biggest secrets' which is unfortunate for those who have to hide and live double lives.

This entry in your blog has taught me so much about a topic so little spoken about. I commend you for writing about such things. Blogs like yours will not only help broaden the perspectives for those all over the world about those from the Middle East and those who happen to also be homosexual. Not only that, but I believe your writings will someday help to liberate people such as yourself helping you live more open lives and be more widely accepted.

Ali said...

Hi tayloreinhagen,

My apologies for the delay to respond. I'm real glad this post helped you for your assignment.

I just want to point out that the situation of homosexuals in the middle east is not perfect but also at the same time it's not as bad as it is portrayed on the international media. There is gay/lesbian scene in all of the middle east countries, of course the scene varies from one to other country. Yes it is not visible but it has taken many steps recently to show itself with convenience to their culture.

Thank you for your interest and good luck in your studies.

Cheers...
Ali

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