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Many parents, if they find out that their child is gay, will use violence against them, humiliate them, even reject them.

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Women leaving Friday prayers at Tehran University, 2001. Barry Iverson

Secrets in Tehran

SEPTEMBER 22, 2002. Mona, a 21-year old student in Tehran, describes a life torn between a growing identity as a lesbian, and her love of family and country.

I've had feelings for other girls since I was young, but I didn't understand what they meant. When I was 16, I studied in Europe. While I was there I tried to find out more about my feelings, mostly by talking with other people on the Internet. As times goes on, I feel more and more attracted to women, even though I've dated men before. It's not that I don't like them, I just don't feel physically attracted to them anymore. I don't know if this makes me bi or lesbian.

Hide Everything
But homosexuality is not accepted in Iranian society at all. Most people consider it evil. At best, they think it's an illness. Many parents, if they find out that their child is gay, will use violence against them, humiliate them, even reject them. If they are very open-minded, they might take their child to a psychologist. If someone finds out a friend is gay, they will stop seeing them. Some will be abusive. People who are understanding are very rare. You have to hide everything, even from your own family.

I was seeing someone once, and her friends found out about us, and tried to tell my mother. I'm very close to my mother, and my brother, too. He's five years younger than me and studies business administration. My father has a degree in science and business. My mother has a degree in art.

Anyway, I did everything so my mother wouldn't find out. I stopped seeing all of them. It was a very bad experience. I'm scared if I come out to my own friends I'll lose them. I'm also afraid to tell my mother. She's very homophobic, and I think she would be shocked and upset, even though my family is generally open-minded.

Though, now that I think about it, I believe that if my parents find out about me, they will accept me; it will just make them very sad. You know, all parents have dreams for their children. Even if they get suspicious some day, I don't think they will say anything.

Defining Freedom
Fortunately, my mother never pressures me to marry, which is good enough for me! I don't have any particular problems with my family and I have more freedom than most people. I have my own telephone line. I go wherever I want to go. I can travel. I have freedom and peace inside the house. And if I wanted to move out of my parents' house, they would let me.

I don't think most people have this kind of freedom, and sometimes my friends find it strange. My family trusts me and believes in me, and I have never tried to abuse the freedoms I have. I think the way people treat you depends on your own behavior. I tell my mother what I'm doing, and where I'm going, but she never questions me about my personal life. There have always been some guys around me, so even when I have a girlfriend, she won't get suspicious.

So for now, I prefer to live with my parents and concentrate on my studies. Most of my time now is taken up studying for the national University Entrance Exam next year, and I'm preparing for both Law and Medicine. Once I start University and get a job, then I will move out, but even then I think I will still come over and stay with my parents every now and then (I'm a spoiled child!). I won't even consider a "white marriage", not even with a gay man. Life is not a joke, for how long can one go on pretending? But then again, who knows what will happen in the future...?

Maybe I will have to leave Iran. As I said, homosexuality is not accepted here at all, and I feel scared! Everybody wants to be able to speak freely about their feelings, to live with the person they love. There are some places where lgbt people meet, but not everybody can become a member. I heard from someone that there are lgbt parties in Iran, but unfortunately it is very risky to go. Most of my socializing with other lgbt people is through the Internet. I have a girlfriend, but it's nothing serious.

But for now, I'm not considering leaving. I really love my family. When I studied abroad, being far away from my family was very difficult for me. The difficulties and the loneliness I experienced there taught me not to take things I have for granted, and especially to appreciate my family life.

And, I don't know why, but despite all the difficulties in Iran, I love it here, more than anywhere else. I will try to stay in Iran for now.

A Place For Us
I hope that one day there will be a place for lgbt people here. Anything is possible. Why not? Since satellite dishes and access to the Internet have become available, people have become more open-minded. Also, some people are now more aware of their own feelings. Films, articles, Internet sites and books can be very effective.

It would be great if there were more lgbt sites, or films showing lgbt relationships, which would show that love is beautiful, no matter who it is that you are in love with.

People have to know that this is not a choice. At first I thought I was committing a sin, but I never chose to be gay. God made me this way, and so she loves me the way I am. I'm not sick. People have to accept us, like we accept them. They have to let us live, and not just survive.

Related links:

For Khanaye Doost, a site for Iranian lesbian, bisexual and transgendered women.

For Human Rights Watch World Report 2001: Iran: Human Rights Developments.

For the lgbt Iranian group Homan.

For IGLHRC (International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission).

For Complete Coverage Gay Mundo

For Complete Coverage Middle East

translation from the Farsi: Niloufar

Gay Mundo
gay pride The Gully's ultragay coverage. Includes musings on activism, info on queers from Puerto Rico to Taiwan and more.


Middle East
From a US-Iraq showdown, to the Israeli- Palestinian conflict. Includes original features, headlines, and web resources.


Asia
From global warming to gay- trendsetting. Includes headlines, politics, and news from beyond.

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