A Kurdish lesbian activates writes

Lesbian Gays and Bisexual in Iran or world  is a true natural phenomenon and will never be considered as disease. Nature has the reason for each and all of its system. Gay people will make about %10-12 of the human beings population everywhere in this world. It is not among human beings alone but among all other living creatures  and even implant world and flowers. some people says the reason behind this phenomenon is to control the overpopulation on the earth and avoid creating related disaster, over population world might bring new crises, for example when we human beings interfere the bird’s world and produce large numbers of birds for our own use, we see bird flu disease started and it threat not only bird’s world but our life too.

Usually Gay personality is very creative and artistic, if we go through the history pages we can see many famous names of creative artists and writers such as Oskar Wild, Rambo…etc.

The answer for gay issue cannot be violence and it will never solve the problem. We think for creating modern and creative society we need to accept our differences and live together in peace; gay can be your son, daughter, husband, good friend….. If they hide it that does not mean it is not exist? We exist along history and will stay here right beside you along the life, so better to accept it and respect it, after all love is not shame but shame is to consider love as shame.

Giving an anthropology perspective, Margaret Mead wrote a famous book where she suggested that the anxieties that come with the transition from youth to adulthood – including the new found sexuality –are culturally constructed. She worked with young people in Samoa , where the culture encouraged them to experiment with their sexuality, even with pre-marital sex, on the assumption that it would make them more confident social and sexual partners when they reached adulthood and married.

However, in societies which are neither completely pre-industrial as the Samoa she described, and also shaped largely by Islamic values, we see a similar attitude towards adolescence as a time of turmoil, stress and potential calamity. Mead’s point about the open attitude towards adult sexual and romantic relationships, and the freedom to experiment in early adolescence among Samoans, makes an interesting counterpoint to the experiences of young people in Iranian Kurdistan, where the divisions between the sexes and prohibitions of relations perceived as sexually dangerous are strictly enforced.

From this perspective, attitudes about the dangers in premarital male/female interactions are perhaps unsurprising. The ‘ideals’ of female behaviour as equally theatrical, dramatic and also shy and reserved, are perhaps a result of this, and can be compared to the feelings of anxiety associated with ‘western’ adolescence and its everyday performance. There may also be an interesting point to observe about the ongoing infantilisation of female roles in adulthood.

In contrast, boys are socialised in a uniform process through their two year military service, through which the state directly intervenes in this status transition from youth to adulthood (Sinclair-Webb, 1992; Kaplan, 1992). After this, if they have not chosen a profession or higher education, they are typically absorbed into the family business, or open a small shop with family help, as is often the case in the Kurdish region. Modernisation has tended to have a destabilising effect more on the questioning of female roles. Traditionally they would only transition to adulthood through marriage, though now many are leaving home in their late teens or early twenties to pursue education as a means to gain some degree of economic independence.

Although the problem with unemployment remains high in Kurdistan generally, there are much fewer, and have been decreasingly, opportunities for women to find work in the public domain or private sector, which is mainly considered the territory of men (Tohidi, 1994).

In contrast, boys are socialised in a uniform process through their two year military service, through which the state directly intervenes in this status transition from youth to adulthood (Sinclair-Webb, 1992; Kaplan, 1992). After this, if they have not chosen a profession or higher education, they are typically absorbed into the family business, or open a small shop with family help, as is often the case in the Kurdish region. Modernisation has tended to have a destabilising effect more on the questioning of female roles. Traditionally they would only transition to adulthood through marriage, though now many are leaving home in their late teens or early twenties to pursue education as a means to gain some degree of economic independence. Although the problem with unemployment remains high in Kurdistan generally, there are much fewer, and have been decreasingly, opportunities for women to find work in the public domain or private sector, which is mainly considered the territory of men (Tohidi, 1994).

Even though male homosexuality has long been known in Kurdish society, and used as a derogatory social category even when not talked about, the public emergence of lesbianism is still in very early stages. This has begun in northern Kurdistan (Turkey), where in other parts of Kurdistan gay or lesbian public life is virtually non-existent. Kurds in diaspora, because of their focus on other more pressing campaigns, have also failed to put the issue on the public agenda.

While Turkey’s secular laws do provide some opportunity for gays, lesbians and transsexuals to organize public lobbying and other activities for their acceptance in society, they are mostly absorbed into Istanbul-based NGO’s. Therefore the needs of this hidden community of Kurdish gay, lesbian and transsexuals are still largely ignored.

Cross-culturally, homosexuality is usually contrasted with heterosexuality and bisexuality. Three major forms of homosexual relationships are proposed by anthropologists: egalitarian, gender-structured, and age-structured. Of these, one is usually dominant in a given society at a given time. Looking at the history of Kurdish attitudes in regards to homosexuality, one could observe a large numbers of ‘local’ references made to individuals (usually rich and middle aged, always men), who were believed to pay for sex with young boys. While the individual (who might in the west called a pedophile) carried on with their life as a family man, there were nonetheless always giggles whenever of young boys was talked about.

It’s often the case that those young boys expose to such sexual abuse need to put up with very strong sense of humiliations within the society they live in for the rest of their life, in the result many will choose to live their homeland running always from such ”shameful” background. This just goes to show how the only acknowledged form of homosexuality was one in which it was placed in a deviant and even criminal status. Although pedophilia was and is recognized and maybe even alluded to in social interactions as an ‘open secret’, normal adult homosexuality or transgender is less accepted than this exploitive form. But this attitude towards homosexual and transgender activity may be a more recent phenomenon, and a result of conservative’s struggles with modernity. Such kinds of sexual lives were common in Middle Eastern and therefore Kurdish culture for centuries.

As there are different biological, historical and psychosocial origins among many Middle-Eastern Muslim cultures, homosexual practices were widespread and public. Persian (fars) poets, such as Attar (d. 1220), Rumi (d. 1273), Sa’di (d. 1291), Hafez (d. 1389), and Jami (d. 1492), and also the Kurdish Poet Shik Raza wrote poems replete with homoerotic allusions. Recent work in queer studies suggests that while the visibility of such relationships has been much reduced, their frequency has not. The two most commonly documented forms were commercial sex with transgender males or males enacting transgender roles exemplified by the köçeks and the bacchás, and Sufi spiritual practices in which the practitioner crossed over from the idealised chaste form of the practice to one in which the desire is consummated.

For example in old Persia homosexuality and homoerotic expressions were tolerated in numerous public places, from monasteries and seminaries to taverns, military camps, bathhouses, and coffee houses. In the early Safavid era (1501-1723), male houses of prostitution (amrad khane) were legally recognized and paid taxes. A rich tradition of art and literature sprang up, constructing Middle Eastern homosexuality in ways analogous to the ancient tradition of male love in which Ganymede, cup-bearer to the gods, symbolised the ideal boyfriend. Muslim — often Sufi — poets in medieval Arab lands and in Persia wrote odes to the beautiful Christian wine boys who, they claimed, served them in the taverns and shared their beds at night. In many areas the practice survived into modern times (as documented by Richard Francis Burton, André Gide, and others).

Homosexuality is still very much struggling in its battle for rights and justice even in western societies. As a gay, lesbian or transsexual you are still at risk of being insulted on the streets or made unwelcome in some public places. UK is currently in the midst of a dispute between the government and those in the tourism industry; some conservatives privately run Bed & Breakfast and hotels are demanding it’s their right to turn away gay couples who would want, as any other couple, to share a room together. While Europeans gays have fought hard for the legislation of gay marriage in a number of countries, such events have polarised international opinion, and led to many well-publicized political debates and court battles in a number of countries. In 2006 the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Canada and South Africa legalized same-sex marriage. Regarding same-sex marriage in the United States, only the Commonwealth of Massachusetts has legalized gay marriage while the States of Vermont and Connecticut allow civil unions.

Other countries, including the majority of European nations, have enacted laws allowing civil unions, designed to give gay couples similar rights as married couples concerning legal issues such as inheritance and immigration. Numerous Scandinavian countries have had domestic partnership laws on the books since the late 1980s. In the United States, the framing of the debate around marriage rather than civil unions may have been partly responsible for the defeat of a number of measures by sparking opposition from many conservative and religious groups. For example, in California, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger stated that he supports full legal protection for gay couples – but that the issue of gay marriage is best decided by the people or in the courts.

For many traditionalists, and in the light of unfavourable views by certain religions, objections have been raised, e.g. arguing that marriage is a specific institution designed as a foundation for parenthood, which an infertile union cannot qualify for. The American Psychological Association has largely discredited such arguments (C. Patterson, 1995) and found that the majority of unbiased academic studies of gay and lesbian parents contradict these beliefs. More interestingly, publicly gay politicians have attained numerous government posts, even in countries that had sodomy laws or outright mass murder of gays in their recent past. Gay British politicians include former UK Cabinet ministers Chris Smith (now Lord Smith of Finsbury who is also a rare example of an openly HIV positive statesman) and Nick Brown, and, most famously, Peter Mandelson, a European Commissioner and close friend of Tony Blair. Openly gay Per-Kristian Foss was the Norwegian minister of finance until September of 2005

The overall trend of greater acceptance of gay men and women in the latter part of the 20th century was not limited to secular institutions; it was also seen in many religious institutions. Reform Judaism, the largest branch of Judaism outside Israel had begun to facilitate religious weddings for gay adherents in their synagogues. The Anglican Communion encountered discord that caused a rift between the African and Asian Anglican churches on the one hand and North American churches on the other when American and Canadian churches ordained gay clergy and began blessing same-sex unions. Other Churches such as the Methodist Church had experienced trials of gay clergy who some claimed were a violation of religious principles resulting in mixed verdicts dependent on geography. Islam in this case is only part of the problem, since certain sects and approaches, as we have seen, have tolerated various kinds of homosexuality.

With respect to Kurdistan, Kurdish leftist political parties have traditionally show limited public support for gay and transgender rights, but this has rarely translated into any public action. Certainly, more pressing issues on the political agenda of the Kurds, concerning basic human rights for all, have partly prevented this. The bigger challenge for Kurdish society is not to change attitudes within the political elite, which may be more enlightened on this topic than religiously conservative American politicians, as we have also seen with Iran. The challenge is to change attitudes in the culture, and population as a whole, who still view homosexuality and transsexuality in criminal terms, and this is the only ‘acceptable’ scenario in which to address it.

This also has implications for women’s rights in Kurdistan more generally, for a society in which the only ‘acceptable’ sexual expression is through the institution of marriage, and where patriarchy has been the norm as in Kurdistan, is bound to severely limit women’s freedoms in not only sexual but social terms. Of course this as implications also for addressing attitudes towards the highly controversial incidence of ‘honour killings’ recently debated in Kurdish society both in Kurdistan and the diaspora. In sexual and social terms, we should begin to see things in more pluralistic terms, which would afford more rights to all members of society. As far as sex and gender, no single label or description will fit all individuals, and people should be able to see this as a positive, rather than stigmatising people who are brave enough to stand up and be true to who they are for themselves. It is an issue that has long existed in Kurdish society, and if Kurds want to form modern nations, Kurds should now be willing to address this issue publicly, without shame, and with support for human rights.

Read more: Obscured existence of homosexuality and transsexuality inside Kurdish culture

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