Gender-related turmoil in Iran – where will it lead?

Not sure how much you’re following what’s happening in Iran right now, but what’s happening is pretty major – and it’s directly connected to whether people (specifically women) have autonomy over their own bodies. The recent protests were sparked in late September by the death of a woman while in custody of the morality police after she was arrested for not wearing her hijab properly.

But the protests have continued, and so have the crack downs. Most recently there was an Iranian woman who competed in an international rock climbing competition and “forgot” to wear her hijab during competition. She was cheered as hero by the crowds when she returned to Iran, but was in serious trouble with the authorities. Now there are reports that her family home was just demolished by the police – apparently as retribution for what she did.

Meanwhile, the Iranian team at the World Cup initially refused to sing their national anthem, then they were threatened, and so they started half-heartedly singing the anthem.

If you don’t even have the support of your country’s major athletes and they’re looked up to by the masses – then you’re in trouble!

It seems like the Iranian authorities want things to be more like Afghanistan where women can’t even go to public parks while men are able to live an almost Western life centered around gyms and bodybuilding (fascinating article – highly recommended!)

But the Iranian population is pushing back and it’s unclear whether the authorities can control what’s happening. It feels like the more ruthless the authorities become the more people are throwing themselves into the fight. 

There’s even an article recently about gay life in Tehran – curiously it’s centered around one of the most religiously conservative neighborhoods – so conservative that no one thinks to look for gay men there.

The point here is that it’s easy to take the typical American view that Iran is backwards and hopeless, but that doesn’t seem to be the case at all. It will be fascinating to watch over the next few months and years. I suspect there will be a revolution on the scale of the 1979 revolution. But then what?

When the hardline conservatives are removed from power – who will take up leadership of the country? Something tells me it won’t be as conservative as the other gulf states. This revolution will be based on personal freedom – especially bodily autonomy and huge strides in gender equality – which could lead to surprising results. Will there be a widespread rejection of religion since the current oppression is religiously based? Will the new authorities go as far as being OK with things like porn and LGBT folks (or at least not caring about stuff like that)?

Under the Shah the upper classes tried to westernize the country (instead of modernize it). It was their fatal flaw. But now it seems the masses want some form of modernization/westernization…

Anyway, if anyone tells you that the bodily autonomy, which women, gay folks and others depend on, isn’t a basic tenant of “freedom” – just point to Iran. It seems a lot of Iranians have figured out its importance. I wish them well in their struggle. 

There’s Still A Long Way To Go For Gay Rights

Today is the day when the first gay marriages are being performed in New York. That’s a huge step forward and it’s great, but we need to remember that we still have a LONG way to go before we’ve got equality. I’ve been having a back and forth on Facebook with a classmate from grade school (I went to a very conservative Baptist school). One of his comments was “So you have gay marriage in New York, why are you complaining?” Let me explain why I’m still complaining…

Dan and I have been married since 2005. The problem is that our marriage is just not on the same legal footing as straight marriages. I’m being asked to be happy and content with the fact that a state here or there recognizes my marriage. But meantime…

  • I couldn’t give Dan a green card. What if his immigration status had been more tenuous? He would have had to leave the country and there’s a chance I couldn’t have followed him if he came from a country that didn’t recognize me as his spouse. (That’s academic for us, but isn’t for many bi-national gay couples). [Dan did finally get his green card this year, but the issue is that he should have gotten it 10+ ago based on his relationship to me.]
  • We’ve had huge legal bills to keep Dan in the country.
    • Before getting his green card Dan used to be here under NAFTA and we had to go through the process of getting him approved by immigration every year. The first few years we used a lawyer ($$) and then we had to do use a lawyer again after 9/11 when things got tighter… Very little of that would have been necessary if our relationship had been recognized and he had gotten a green card by being my spouse.
    • We had to incorporate our business twice because we did it wrong the first time. Immigrants aren’t allowed to be owners in the companies that sponsor them for work visas/statuses. Before 9/11 the INS didn’t really care, but after 9/11 we had to reincorporate the company ($$) so I was the sole owner.
    • We had to spend $5,000 on rather complicated wills. Since he wasn’t allowed to own the company that sponsored him if something happened to me we had to set things up so a trust would take over the company until he had his green card.
  • Health insurance has been an ongoing issue. 
    • In one company the (lesbian) general manager got rid of domestic partner benefits somewhat by accident (she didn’t realize the company had them since no one was using them). The executives over her were not gay friendly but luckily she was. When she realized her mistake she gave Dan a job so he’d have health insurance (he was already freelancing at the company). We just lucked out – most bosses don’t go that far for their gay employees.
    • When Dan was at other companies that weren’t so gay friendly I had to get health insurance through our company. That cost us an extra $800/month. While we could afford it, a lot of other gay guys and lesbians can’t. And for god’s sake – there were other things I would have rather done with the $800/mo.
    • Even now with Dan working for a gay-friendly state agency (CUNY) I get health insurance, but because the federal government doesn’t recognize our relationship Dan has to pay federal tax on my health coverage as if it were extra income. That tax is not imposed on straight couples.
  • Dan has had to do particular types of work to stay in the country. Since Dan’s Canadian he’s eligible to work here under NAFTA, but he had to do particular types of work – namely graphic design. If I had been able to give him a green card he probably would have pursued some other career option or had more time to pursue art. Only now that CUNY got him his green card last year does he have that flexibility.
  • If we’re hospitalized while traveling we may not be able to make medical decisions for each other. This is potentially a big one. Because there are places where our marriage is not recognized we may not be able to make medical decisions for each other in an emergency. We have executed heath care proxies and living wills but our attorney tells us they’re only valid in the state in which they’re signed. Other states can choose not to honor them.

So while it’s great New York is doing gay marriage now, unfortunately those marriages in many respects still aren’t equal to the same marriage performed in the same place for a straight couple.

My classmate from grade school went on to say “Actually, I feel bad for the situation you find yourself in, but as far as I vote, I answer to a higher authority than you and Dan. It’s not a personal insult.” Thing is, when you can look someone straight in the face and ask them to sit in the back of the bus, how are they supposed to interpret it? He, and people like him, are denying me my civil rights. They’re not necessarily bad people, they just don’t get how offensive their actions are to people like me. At one point he said “Let me ask you this, if you could get a green card would that make you happy? If you could have a ceremony in a liberal church would that make you happy?” What he doesn’t understand is that throwing scraps my way will never make me happy. I don’t want a little here and a little there. I want equality. We keep making progress (like gay marriage in New York), but we’re still not equal.

When you run across people who are against gay rights, please challenge them on their beliefs. They need their world view widened and you can make a difference…

Politicians Aren’t Priests

I don’t get the whole “Weinergate” thing… I mean we don’t elect the guys to be our priests. We elect them to represent us on political matters. From what I saw Anthony Weiner did a great job representing his constituents. So what’s the problem? The only thing you can say against him is that his personal life was a distraction, but it was only a distraction because people made a big deal of it.

anthony weiner chest

Yeah, (unless he and his wife had an open relationship) chasing skirt less than a year after he got married makes him a bit of a schmuck, but if we took all the schmucks out of Congress there wouldn’t be many people left there to get stuff done.

The only person who should really care about what he did is his wife. It’s not really anyone else’s business.

(BTW – nice chest!)

What Do You Say To Your 7 Year Old?

As you may know, the chairman of House’s Armed Services Committee (Ike Skelton) said the other day we should keep Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell because repealing it could mean that parents might have awkward moments with their kids when they ask what it means to be gay.

I’ll just ignore all the other issues (Rachel Maddow covers them beautifully in her segment below), and I’ll answer the question posed by Mr. Skelton…

7 years old is the perfect age to discuss what it means to be gay with your kids. Why? Because at that age it’s not about sex – it’s about the relationship. You don’t have to discuss what you might think of as “icky” sexual practices – you can talk about loving relationships which should never be seen as “icky”. If your 7 year old asks if gay couples have kids, explain adoption to them and say gay couples adopt kids that same-sex couples aren’t able to care for. There’s nothing icky in that either…

I can see where the question could be awkward if the kid is 12 or 13, but I don’t see anything awkward about answering the question when the kid is 7.

And now for Rachel Maddow’s take on the issue…

Republicans Advocate For Gay Rights

I was watching This Week yesterday and hoped an embeddable version of this clip would be available… It’s absolutely brilliant. You’ve got two top notch conservatives (Matthew Dowd – chief strategist for the ’04 Bush/Cheney campaign, and conservative commentator George Will) saying that repealing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell is long overdue…

After listening to the intro, skip the discussion of the oil spill by clicking in the area to the right of the pause button and jump to time code 7:23 in the video…

Some of the best lines were Matthew Dowd saying “Republican office holders are so far out of step on this”, “it’s way overdue” (his emphasis). And then George Will saying that for young people “being gay is like being left handed – it’s not really very interesting”. And then he quotes a Supreme Court decision that talks about “the evolving standards of decency that mark a maturing society”. I wonder if he realizes just how damning that phrase is of people who favor “traditional values”. It literally says they’re neither mature nor decent. Then he goes on to say “the case is over” and the Republicans in Congress are “not being very intelligent”.

First there was Laura Bush, now Matthew Dowd and George Will… It’s really refreshing to see Republicans standing up for what’s right. But what took them so long? Democrats figured this out decades ago…