Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Letter to Mom about Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's Statement on Homosexuality in Iran


Though much ridiculed, the statement itself-- "In Iran, we don't have homosexuals like in your country" -- might in fact be true if understood in its proper context, and if proper attention is payed to the word "like."

It seems that what Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad meant was that the concept of "gay-identity" doesn't exist in Iran. "Gay identity" was an invention of 1970s America, along with "black identity," "Jewish identity," "female identity," and others. In the 70s, America's melting pot faced its first severe identity crisis, and it responded by drawing rigid lines around the various and often arbitrary categories of race, gender, and sexual behavior.

These "identity movements," however, were a particularly American phenomenon, and one would be hard pressed to find similar examples elsewhere in world history (though the American movement did subsequently spark various offshoot movements around the world). Of course, homosexual activity exists today in Iran and has always existed; but, generally speaking, the Persians, like the Japanese, have not felt it necessary to define themselves by it as they do in the U.S. In other words, the lines are blurred, there's room for ambiguity, and a defiant proclamation of identity is unnecessary, even laughable.

Themes of pederasty, sodomy, and homosexuality are in fact quite common in both the pre-Islamic and Islamic literature of Persia (up through the present), and, like the Greeks and the Japanese at particular times, Persian poets often praised homosexual relationships, which they considered to be the purest expression of human love.

"Ryan, are you gay?" I can hear now the doubts being raised. No, mom, I'm not gay, either in the contemporary American "identity" understanding of the term or by the standards of the Persians. I'm just explaining what I think the President of Iran meant by his statement. This explanation, of course, does not excuse him for treating homosexual activity as a crime (assuming the accusations are true); but neither should these claims be used by the media to excuse the U.S. from waging war on Iran.

Your devoted son,


Anonymous said...


i still think you're gay.

mom (Tom)

Anonymous said...

>homosexual relationships were often praised by Persian poets as the purest expression of human love.

Does the term ''homosexual relationships'' used here refer to relationships of both gays and lesbians? Or gays only?


Ryan said...

yes, the term, as used here, refers only to male homosexuals. I'll have to research more about lesbians in Persian literature.

Anonymous said...

i cannot believe you wrote this:

"実は、最初はxxx xxさんなどがこの授業に登録しているのを見て、この日本語の初心者と一緒に授業に入って意味があるのかと心配したのですが、調べたらこれより上級レベルの授業がないと分かったので、授業変更を断念しました。"

It was you who persuaded me several times to register this class! And now I got to know why.
-An Lin

Anonymous said...

でもまあ、この世の男性諸君で マザコンでない男性はめったにいないので ご安心を。