Academic journal article Liminalities

Staying I(ra)n: Narrating Queer Identity from within the Persian Closet

Academic journal article Liminalities

Staying I(ra)n: Narrating Queer Identity from within the Persian Closet

Article excerpt

I remember how my grandmother would take me to Fereshteh [Angel] street corner where my parents first met. It was here where she would recite stories of how my father would wink at my mother from across the road, and wait for her to smile back at him. This became their secret code, and a harmless game that lasted for months. My grandmother swore that this innocent flirtation spanned through the majority of summer '73, and that my father's persistence (and form-fitting pilot's uniform) eventually won my mother over. She had fallen. Hopeless. Desperate. My mother knew what love was.

"In Iran, we don't have homosexuals, like in your county. '

- Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

Homosexuality, Culture, and Faith

In recent years, many researchers have explored the intersections between LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer) identity and intercultural and/or religious affiliation.1234 However, despite this research, many factions of the LGBTQ community, such as queer people of color, are often left out of the conversation.5 This marginalization is also present within the predominantly white mainstream LGBTQ community, which leads to interlocking oppressions for LGBTQ individuals of color.67 Leslie and MacNeill note that "within a racist, sexist, and heterosexist culture, living with plural oppressed identities can seem overwhelming," and can therefore be difficult to cope with and manage.8 Some members of the dominant LGBTQ community seem reluctant to seriously consider "diversity" and to support various cocultures and religions within their own population.9 Diverse perspectives are instead "embraced only when it is convenient and only when it is done in an innocuous way."10 Furthermore, even when acknowledged, oppressive stories are not necessarily formed on their own, but rather "shaped by forces and barriers which are not accidental or occasional and hence avoidable, but are systematically related to each other."11 The construction of identity within one's own culture allows people "to utilize identity as a means to locate themselves in the world... [these] identities can provide a comforting resource to (re)stabilize individual and collective subjectivities."12 Therefore, exploring how culture, faith, and sexuality intersect within dominant discourses is pivotal to expanding research.13 Because there has been a noticeable lack of scholarly material addressing the issue of the queer Islamic personal perspective, special attention must be given to the growing number of LGBTQ individuals that face challenges navigating through the heteronormative interpretations of Islam.14

Homosexuality and Islam

Islam is the second largest, fastest growing religion in the world and Islamic interpretations of homosexuality have been generally unfavorable.15 This conflict often arises not because of Islamic beliefs, but because "'queer Muslim' sexual identity is inextricably linked to their politicized religious identity in everyday life."16 Siraj maintains that, "homosexuality in Islam remains largely unexplored because the Qur'an, as a heteronormative source, has suppressed dialogue about the topic."17 Moreover, because of stringent restrictions in Islamic teaching, queer Muslims "must choose to live an irreconcilable double identity, repress or deny their homosexual feelings, or turn their backs on Islam in order to be true to themselves."18 Only recently have queer Muslims who have been confined to a 'culture of (in)visibility,' begun "speak[ing] out to re-claim their identity and to reconcile their faith with their sexuality."19 Although there have been some accounts of homosexual identification in the Middle East, North Africa, and other countries practicing Islam, these stories focus primarily on Arab cultural identities.20 Consequently, there is a gap in research concerning accounts of queer identity within the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Homosexuality and Iran

While there are non-Muslim religious minorities in Iran (e. …

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