Author: Shadi Amin
Date: June 13, 2016
Translated by Frieda Afary
Translator’s note: Shadi Amin is the author of Gender X (2015) and a number of other works on Iranian LGBT identities and the sexual torture of women political prisoners. She has also translated and published a collection of writings by Adrienne Rich and Audre Lorde. She is one of the coordinators of the Iranian Lesbian and Transgender Network in Germany. Below, she comments on a gunman’s massacre of 49 people at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida on June 12, 2016.
I am with those who stood up to the hatred and madness of a homophobic Islamist who murdered 50 people. I am with those around the world who expressed their solidarity with the survivors of this terror and murder, spoke of the freedom to love and condemned homophobia.
I have always lived in fear of becoming a victim in “Orlando.” I and others like me have walked in empty streets in fear of being stabbed by someone who does not like us. Late at night, when travelling on an empty bus, we have worried about the curious gazes which have observed us to determine whether we are “women” or “men.” We homosexuals and transgender people have experienced the bitterness of the gazes which are worse than gun shots.
Today, it was announced that the murderer himself was a homosexual and had been taunted by his father. Ask yourselves: If this is true, why did he get married twice and each time to a woman? How had religious ethics, doctrines and the pressures and violence of his family possibly forced him to deny and hide his sense of self and fill himself up with hate?
When we spoke about the internalized and institutionalized homophobia in Iran and among homosexuals, you looked at us in disbelief. Homophobia is the result of the freedom, the gestures, the pride and privileges of heterosexuals like you.
Have you asked yourselves why homosexuals in Orlando, Frankfurt, Berlin, Paris, Amsterdam, etc. and in Capetown and Mexico City need separate clubs? Be honest with yourselves. When we kiss our homosexual partner in front of you, we feel your disgust and swallow our anger. We have heard you whisper to yourselves: “Did you have to kiss each other in front of everyone else?” But you use pictures of your kissing scenes as invitation cards to your wedding anniversary. When we dare to speak about our homosexual partner in front of your children, we witness your anger. You “kindly” point out that “there are children here” but go on to speak of your old girl friends or old boyfriends. You admire the interest of your five-year old son in girls and the flirtatiousness of your four-year old daughter.
We have seen the way you view our entire bodies. When a lesbian woman is taunted for the “crime” of wearing trousers, you address her “like a man.”
We have seen, heard and sensed the bitterness of your words when you say “this issue is not important to me. I knew a few people like you in college” or “I had heard a lot about this during my compulsory military training.”
We have seen your hidden hatred when we have told you about our sexual preference. In order to discreetly relegate us to the status of something “unnatural,” you have tried to make us understand that this [preference] is “genetic.” Of course that is your condition for granting us our “right to live.”
We have read your gracious analyses which state that “those pretending to be homosexual should be psychologically examined” and then conclude that “pretending to be homosexual and announcing it gratuitously is akin to psychopathology.” You call our “pretending” to be homosexual, a “psychopathology” and ask us to hide and isolate ourselves. You only give us the right to kiss and hold hands and cuddle when you deem it necessary.
We gather in hundreds at our own clubs and become the targets of an Islamist and murderous reactionary because you cannot tolerate seeing us kiss each other and hold hands. We still need spaces that allow us to be free of your hostile gaze and bitter words. We need social acceptance in a society that is sick to the core and full of patriarchal and phallocentric violence. We need to free our senses and our embraces, a freedom which your reactionary and limiting understanding of femininity and masculinity cannot tolerate.
In addition to expressing a virtual and transitory compassion for the victims of this human tragedy, you should look inside yourselves. Ask yourselves how you have marginalized homosexuals in your own relations with others; how you have facilitated homophobic doctrines with your stupid and homophobic jokes. Ask yourselves why your homosexual and transgender friends do not spend their free time or weekends with you. And ask why you refrain from inviting them to your gatherings out of consideration for them.
Why is it that at work whether as a journalist, human rights activist, poet, writer, actor, attorney, sanitation or construction worker, painter, engineer, physician, etc. you are careful not to be “labeled” lesbian or gay because of your “friendship” with gays.
If there is one message which the Orlando victims have left us, it is that we should fully accept variations among humans. These differences may not be compatible with our religious and superstitious beliefs, but they do exist. If there is one lesson to be learned from the murder of women and men in their moment of happiness and celebration, it is that we should accept the way people want to love each other or enjoy themselves.
This basic lesson has not yet become common knowledge for many of the people of this world. Otherwise, there would be no reason for the daily fears and worries which we harbor on the streets of Tehran, Kerman, Shiraz, Paris, Vienna, New York, Kuwait, Karachi, Lahore, Kabul, Istanbul, Denizli and many other places. Otherwise, we would see the beautiful sites around us instead of the dangers which we aim to control.
We are afraid. Everyday, we are fearful and every night we are proud of our resistance and power as we look forward to another day.
Heterosexual patriarchy saturated with religion and violence has taken victims. We need to challenge it by seriously reorganizing our thinking.