This may be the first time I’m writing about myself in English. I was born and raised in Tehran, the capital city of Iran with more than 10 million people. For those who aren’t that familiar with Iran, I would simply describe it as a modern-looking country with religious and traditional complications. As a result, homosexuality is ignored, denied and not discussed. You could be gay at home and in your own privacy, but never out in public.
I moved to States in 2006. Prior to that, smart phones, social media and dating apps just didn’t exist. Nowadays, similar to here, it’s easier to meet other men in Iran and explore your sexuality as a gay man. That wasn’t the case when I lived there. My experience as a gay man in Iran was a cloud of uncertainty, confusion, guilt and a self-imposed asexuality. I was raised Muslim and any sexual activity before marriage is forbidden, let alone with another man. I interacted with other gay men using a dial up connection and unfiltered websites when my parents were out. I always knew I was attracted to men. My instincts were in agreement, but my religion was not. The constant guilt of being a sinner was destroying me in many ways. I am lucky to have grown up in an open-minded family where free thinking and education is highly respected. Yes, they were religious too, but they always encouraged me to educate myself about life - to trust my brain and my heart. I spent most of my high school and college years between studying and getting involved in cultural and political events, as a way to escape and ignore my sexuality.
I wasn’t able to fully experience being gay until I moved to the U.S. when I was 24. For the first time, I was able to date, to fall in love, to have my heart broken, and to move on. I was able to go out and have fun. Things that seem normal for a straight man, yet, were new for me. I have lived here for almost 12 years now and have witnessed LGBT rights movement from Prop 8 to the Supreme Court decision on gay marriage. I have seen the maturity and evolution of society here on this issue and wonder if that may also happen in my home country. Sometimes, I feel like living in a safe and fun bubble here in Southern California makes us forget the hardship of older generations that got us here. Today, I still have to limit how “out” I am, mainly for fear of persecution, should I ever decide to go back home. But I am thankful, for being able to live my life, the way I want, and most importantly, to live without fear or guilt.
Amir (last name ommitted)
Orange County, CA