Banishing Fear in Iran
A few months ago, The Gully conducted an email interview with the teenage author of one of the first weblogs written in Iran by a lesbian known only by the initial S. Shortly afterwards, her Internet service provider was forced to pull her blog from the net. She hopes to have another one up soon.
THE GULLY: What made you start a weblog?
BLOGGER S.: I think it was loneliness. I hoped to find new people I could talk to. I'd always wanted to meet somebody like myself, but never did. So I had to take the initiative, and I started the weblog.
Maybe there are a lot of girls who share my feelings, but they don't have any way to articulate them. If God wanted me to be like this, I have a duty to figure out how to live my life as well as I can, the way that I am.
What kind of reaction have you gotten?
Well, I was happy to see that there are some people like me around. Some [negative] comments bothered me, but they didn't really change my perspective. No, not at all.
I haven't actually met anyone in person through it. But I enjoyed seeing my honest self through my weblog. I think this is really who I am, not the one I used to be in society, and I like showing my real personality.
Do you know of other weblogs written by Iranian lesbians?
There are some, but they don't really work on their weblogs. They mostly talk about their sex lives. I'm not interested in that at all.
Why do you think gay men in Iran write more weblogs than lesbians?
It's because boys are more involved with computers. They spend lots of time on the Internet. Girls usually prefer other stuff. The other thing is they mostly don't know how to type in Persian, and they don't think that it is necessary to learn, so... Also, unlike girls, boys aren't afraid that this will get them in trouble. Girls are brought up with fear. So it is natural for them to avoid these activities.
When did you first realize you were a lesbian?
I can't give you a specific date. It was just a feeling I had ever since I was a child. Not a sexual thing, I just used to feel more comfortable spending my time with females. As I became older, I realized that my feelings about women included a sexual part, too.
I can't say this was easy for me to accept. You know, no one has a positive view of homosexuality in Iran. Neither did I, you know.
I had to change my views. I tried to tell myself that if you are interested in women, you are a lesbian. And unless you actually have a sexual affair with a woman, you are allowed to be a lesbian "in word." So, why not? I'm not doing anything wrong. That is the thing I want people to know.
It was only about five years ago that I first understood that there is something called lesbianism in the world. Of course I was very happy to find out that there were some other people like me.
Since that time, I've been struggling with myself to find out whether I am a real lesbian or not. I've never had a partner. But about five or six months ago, I finally decided to call myself a lesbian. Because it is a source of pride for me to be different from my straight friends whose only wish is to find a good husband. I'm really glad that I'm not like them.
Are you out to anyone?
No, I'm not out to anyone at all. And I think it is nonsense to do this here. I would never do that, even to my closest friend. Never.
Are you close to your family?
I'd really like to be, but I don't see them much. I prefer the Internet rather than spending my time with my family. But I love them anyway, and I know that they are more important than anything else.
What would happen if they found out you are a lesbian?
Well, that is a hard question. You know, I don't think that they are indifferent about my lifestyle, especially my mom. I'm sure she is worried about why her dear daughter has never had a boyfriend. And I believe she is really worried about my future, so it's not so much that she is uninformed about my situation, but that she doesn't know for sure.
I can't guess what she would do if her guess were confirmed. I hope my parents would understand me, but I'm not really optimistic about it. Anyway, I try my best not to let them know who I really am. Because they can't really help me, either. The only person who can help me is myself. I believe in that.
As far as my siblings go, it would be awful. I really hope they never find out who I really am. I pray this will never happen.
Has the experience of being a lesbian, or of being different, shaped how you look at the world?
Of course it has. I've seen all these different approaches to life, but none of them suits me at all. So I have to come up with something myself. This forces me to have a different perspective.
Examining things in detail is a big part of my life. That is how I try to figure out if someone is like me or not. Little signs are my only hope. I have to guess. It is horrible.
I said I was a homosexual from the time I was born. But actually accepting that I was a lesbian was what made a big change in my view of life. Everything was more colorful. I just knew what I really wanted from this world. The problem was that I couldn't bear my friends anymore, because they were always talking about their experiences with boys. They all seemed stupid to me. Although I love them very much, I became really angry with them sometimes. Even though I kept it to myself.
Do you think the experience of being a lesbian has made you more radical or more conservative?
You know, being radical was a part of my personality from the day I was born. I'm not afraid to explain my feelings to people. I'm also a sensitive person, and you could say emotional, too. I just don't show it. Maybe this is the conservative part of my personality. Let me explain. When it is about women and their rights, I become radical, but when it is about my sexual identity I prefer to be conservative.
What is your daily life like?
Besides being a student, I'm a member of a sports team, and during the summer I spend more time at the club than at any other place.
I wake up with the hope of finding someone like myself, and I go to bed with this hope, too.
Do you ever think about leaving Iran?
Well, of course I've thought about it. But I don't want to do this before I have a job and a degree, and also enough money of my own not my dad's. I like to stand on my own feet, and spend my own money. And, if one day I decide to go abroad, I'll do it under my own steam. Not with the help of my parents. I'm sure this will cause me some problems out there. But I prefer to solve them myself.
I think it would be much better for someone in my situation to live abroad. At least I can be out as a homosexual there. This is something that is impossible here, and it bothers me a lot.
Do you identify as Muslim?
Let me tell you something. I really believe in God, Mohammed, and Ali. I believe in some of the prayers like "Ayatolkorsi", "Naade Ali", "Va En Yakad" and so on. And I say these prayers whenever I'm going out of the house. But I also believe there are some rules that are getting more outdated every day, and I don't have to obey them. Anyway, in general, I am very proud to be identified as Muslim. I feel this very strongly, and being a Muslim is my own choice, not my parents.
I don't see homosexuality as having any conflicts with my beliefs. I've settled it in my own mind. I believe that my religion says we should love and have relationships with other people. There is no mention of the sex of my partner. I know that there are some rules about homosexuality in Islam, but I don't believe in them. I believe in God and the Koran. I don't believe in all the rules that came after. Islam is for everyone, even for homosexuals. After all, Islam is for all human beings and I am a human being.
This is what I think about Islam. But the real Islam is not being applied in Iran.
Did you ever have any role models (people you could relate to)?
Um... no, I prefer not to compare myself with others. Sometimes watching Tatu (the Russian pop duo) makes me feel good. But I don't really relate to them, because I am not really like them. Sometimes there is a lot of nudity in their shows. I'm totally against it.
Why do you think Iranian society is so ignorant about LGBT people and homosexuality is such a taboo subject?
They are ignorant about it, because no one talks about it here in Iran. You can't find anyone that is interested in LGBT issues and problems. People are just living for themselves here. No one thinks about other people. Not just LGBTs. This is typical of everything.
Do you think LGBT people will ever have their rights recognized in Iran?
I see no bright future here in Iran. I'm not an optimistic person. But it is really nonsense to see a bright future for lesbian and gay people in Iran. At least not in the near future. Probably not at all.
But I really hope one day, whether I'm alive or not, this dream [of a bright future for lesbian and gay Iranians] will come true. I really wish this from the bottom of my heart.
What changes would you like to see in Iran in five years, in ten?
I'm not really interested in politics or economic problems. I just want to have a quiet life, and this depends on my own efforts and beliefs. But, in general, I would like to see people happy. I don't know how to make it happen. Just being happy is very important. I think it solves all the problems there are.
However, I would like to see reforms in the government, too. This is everyone's hope here. More possibilities, more comfort for people is my hope for the future; also, I would like to be able to go outside without the fucking scarf and manteau [long coat]. This is my greatest hope for my society.
I also wish people understood lesbians and gay men, and would let them be open without harassing them. It's terrible that I can't tell my closest friend who I really am, and what I think about my future.
We have two lives. The real one that we keep to ourselves, and the other one that exists only for society to accept. We just live like them, but we are not really like them.
The interview was conducted in English by Gully staff member Niloufar and included emails exchanged throughout 2003.