Left Behinds

The anti-andrewsullivan.com. Or, the Robin Hood (Maid Marian?) of bright pink Blogger blogs.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

More About Gay Ol' Iran

Following up on this post about gay activists and Iran, here are more thoughts from a Lebanese writer and activist named Daniel Drennan (writing from Beirut).

Again, I'll excerpt it here, then put the full text after the jump.

I think he makes some good points about sexual identity and gay behavior as practiced in the region compared to the west, and traps that well-meaning gay activists can fall into.

I think that the testimonies that are presented as "evidence" have to be taken in the context of a) a region still undergoing a certain post-colonial "malheur arabe" (as Samir Kassir puts it, and extending perhaps to Iran, Turkey, and other non-Arab countries in the region); and b) a realization of how these testimonies are exalted by those with a particular agenda to push while any kind of dissenting opinion leaves the person expressing it open to character assassination or the like.

Meaning, I am interested to know the particulars of whom is being interviewed. How do they map onto, say, so-called spokespeople from this region who condemn Islam and who then find themselves on every talk show and in every bookstore in North America and Europe?

I could similarly rather easily assemble a group of Iranians who are all aching for the Shah to be reinstated. And if I were a monarchist I could set up the argument such that their claims become the whole truth. I know people whose views echo those interviewed by Ireland. But I also understand where they are coming from. The thing that bothers me goes back to Massad's article: The opinion reflected is chosen by the author to push a certain agenda. This wouldn't be a problem if there were room for dissenting opinion or an exploration of the bigger picture involved; but the Great Irony and Hypocrisy of, say, the U.S. State Dept.'s condemnation of supposed assassinations of homosexuals in Iraq for example has nothing to do with the well-being of homosexuals and everything to do with anti-Islamic and anti-Arab sentiment and foreign policy. So too these articles painting a Shangri-La vision of the West vs. the flaming hellpit of this region.

Further, since the average MSM/WSW outside of this poll *doesn't* echo the sentiment that would have a binary essentialist sexuality imposed on him/her, s/he is ignored, which brings up additional issues of class, socio-cultural, and language differences.

So it is insulting to rail against people who don't see themselves represented in this Western construct, or who respond rationally to Massad's article, for example, and understand it without immediately throwing it away as "homophobic tripe"; or, for another example, to Urvashi Vaid's dismantling of essentialist homosexual identity in "Virtual Equality".

It is equally insulting to assume that everyone falls within a certain camp, or that a small number of (usually) English-speaking, educated (abroad), middle class or upper middle class self-identified gay men or lesbians from any country in this region is in any way representative of the majority of people here.

The greater point is that the effects of this universalization of Western imperialist culture (and by extension aspects of this constructed gay culture we are discussing) are everywhere here, and based on my discussions with those who question a Western defined model of homosexuality, are much more worrisome--and much more
important to fight--than is the idea of welcoming the imposition of a foreign notion of same-sex behavior or identity.

For example, we can point to such things as gay sex tourism which promulgates an obnoxious neo-colonialism and the de facto racist fetishism of the Western gay "community"; to NGOs working here whose actions are proscribed or given incentive based on monies coming from the West; to MSM/WSW who are forced to make a binary choice based on an Anglo-Saxon model which also requires that they reject local intrinsic notions of family and community in order to have so-called "individual liberty"; and also to local laws against homosexual behavior which in fact are relics of (Christian) European colonial control and not the (Islamic) Ottoman Empire.

Insulting as well, then, are Ireland's tirades because they don't consider the critique of his own backyard to be valid and they insinuate a "poor them" Othering attitude that just doesn't wash anymore. And he shouldn't get upset if there are people who don't buy his line.


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