Being Gay in Iran by Farhad Dolatizadeh

Iran FlagOn May 28, 2014 The Stranger, Seattle’s Only Newspaper reported: Coming Out in a Country Where That Can Get You Killed, and the TV Documentary That Outed Me to the World

I’m 16.

“May I ask you something personal?”

I know what’s coming.

I look at my aunt as she takes her time to assemble the correct words. She is a tiny, sweet woman wearing a loosely draped head scarf, staring at me with shining dark-brown eyes. I love her more dearly than anything in the world. Of course I will tell her the truth. I can’t think of a reason to hide from her. It isn’t as if she might murder me or run around spreading my secret. She’s not one of those closed-minded, brainwashed people who would automatically judge me. She spent most of her life outside of Iran, living and working as an architect in Norway and Germany. If there is anyone out there who would understand me, it’s her.

“Are you gay, Feri Kitty?” she asks.

My name is Farhad, but since I was little, my aunt has affectionately called me Feri Kitty, referring to my soft spot for kittens.

“You call me Feri Kitty and expect me to be who? Robocop?” I snap. The bitch inside me has been growing day by day.

She just gazes at me. Eventually she smiles and wraps me in her arms. “It’s okay. There’s no need to be aggressive… everything is going to be okay.”

I weep into her shoulder and can’t respond.

This is my first coming out.

I’m 17.

I’m lying on my bed, waiting for sleep to take me, when my brother stirs. He and I are sharing a room, and his bed is only a few meters away. He is four years older than I am, but I have always regarded myself as the more mature one.

It’s been six months since the conversation with my aunt.

I can’t make out my brother’s features, but I hear his voice, husky from sleep: “Farhad, who is this new guy you are hanging out with so much? He seems older than you! Is he from your school?”

I am silent for a beat. “You mean Darius?”


“Yep. He’s my friend. Nope. Not from school,” I say, trying my best to indicate that I am on the verge of sleep and the conversation is over.

But he barges on: “Where do you know him from, then?”

“Why do you care, you dumbass? Go bug your girlfriend and leave my life to me,” I say in my mind. But to my brother, I say: “I met him at a cafe.”

Another pause, and then, without a trace of emotion, my brother says: “He is handsome. Is he your boyfriend?”

I am shocked. Is this really my brother? Has he been possessed by some kind of demon? I quickly assess that, although he is not the smartest or even the most open-minded person in the world, he is a good brother, and he has always been there when I’ve needed him. I can trust him with the truth.

I still can’t see his face in the dark, so I’m unable to catch his reaction when I reply, “Yes. He is.”

Another heavy pause.

“So, does that mean that you are gay?”

Whoa. “Gay”? Really? I am shocked that he has used the English term. I thought that my brother, like most Iranians, would know only the slang term “sissy.” Maybe he’s not as stupid as I thought.

“Yes?” I blurt, stunned.

I wait for him to respond, but nothing comes. I can’t believe it—he just rolls over and goes back to sleep. For fuck’s sake, you just found out that your younger brother is gay! You can’t just nod off and leave it like that! You should say something, you need to say something!

What a dumbass.

Five minutes later, I hear another rustle and see his silhouette shift as he turns back to me.

“Farhad, does that mean that I’m not going to be an uncle?”

Is he trying to act cool? Is that really his primary concern? “I… really don’t know. Maybe someday?”

“Okay,” he says, and goes quiet again, leaving me with a head full of racing thoughts.

I’m 18.

I’m sitting in the car with my dad. We are driving to his factory, when he suddenly asks, “Have you decided what you are going to do about your military service?”

“I’m not going,” I say, trying to avoid his searching look.

“But every single man must go into the military, unless they can prove some handicap…”

My father is in his 40s and has worked hard all his life. I see the deep lines of experience on his face. Maybe this evidence of wisdom is why I feel so ready to expose myself to him. I don’t know. But I have a feeling that he will accept me.

“I know the rules, Father. I’m not going. I can’t go because of the rule prohibiting homosexuals from serving in the military,” I say. Despite my determination, I am unable to keep my voice completely stable.

“But… are you gay?” he says, eyes fixed straight ahead—on the road.  Continued

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