Saturday, May 17, 2008
"There Is No Homosexuality In Iran": Gender Reassignment Surgery as a Solution To Illegalized Homosexual Activity.
I can be amazed with how the constructs of race, gender and sexuality manifest with such diversity around the world. On a personal account tip, my amazement was more like shock when I was travelling in West Africa, and Ghanaians would refer to me as... white. Apparently, a lot of the way that race is constructed there is that a drop of white blood makes you white. That got my head spinning. Also, by being from the United States, which is considered to be predominantly a "white culture", (and a culture of affluence), by default, all citizens of the United States are considered to be relatively rich- and culturally white. It was pretty shocking for my black butt to finally get to the motherland and then be called white, that's for sure. But it also definitely cemented the fact that these social assignments (in this case, race) are concepts that we create as we go along, whatever culture we are in. In a lot of the West, we have decided to believe that a drop of black blood makes you black. Shoo, in apartheid South Africa, Chinese were applying to be reassigned as Japanese so they could gain privilege, and more recently have been fighting to be considered black.
I say that to preface this phenomenon in Iran, where homosexuality is considered an illegal offense punishable by death- and gender reassignment surgery is encouraged to create the appearance of heterosexual unions. These unions are recognized by the government and society. So while the Supreme Court decision that was passed in California a couple days ago would not fly anytime soon in Iran, there are laws there that give transfolks the same status as biological men and women- and biological women gain a lot of privilege becoming what we call transmen. Last year President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran shocked many when he said at Columbia University, “In Iran, we don't have homosexuals, like in your country.” But because of how gender and sexuality is constructed in Iran, essentially President Ahmadinejad was speaking a culturally determined truth.
Jessica Mosby of the Women's International Perspective writes about this, and the film covering this phenomenon called Be Like Others. Really a very interesting and enlightening read.
In further research on the subject, I found a document called State Sponsored Homophobia that lists the laws in almost 100 countries that illegalize sex between consenting same sex adults. My own beloved Jamaica is in the list of course. The laws in Jamaica use leftover British colonial jargon like "buggery" and actually only criminalize men having sex with each other. If you ask me, which is a muuuuuuch larger conversation, the Jamaican brand of homophobia is directly related to a) being colonized by the Christian and Victorian "sex is dirty" British b) having a particularly harrowing version of slavery that included only having African men work on the plantations. After decades of men being worked to death, being raped as boys, and basically only really being able to have sex with other men (voluntary or forced), the plantocracy considered it to be more "profitable" to bring African women to the plantations as well, and having forced reproduction of slave labor instead. In my opinion, these two factors created misguided rage towards men who have sex with each other (and women who would dream of witholding sex from men), and til today there is an association in the collective unconscious that correlates the nightmare of slavery with homosexuality, making it something that needs to be "burned".
hmm. That will be another post discussed more in depth for sure.