Young in Iran, old in Burma: IDAHO

Documentary made for the first-ever IDAHO event in Burma

Thursday was the International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHO, or perhaps, with the belatedly-added identities, IDAHOAT). I am generally a Scrooge when it comes to holidays, and if there were an IDAHO tree to deck, or IDAHO eggs to hide, I would bow out, bah-ing. This day, however, was made for people like me, those too jaundiced or depressive to appreciate the manic self-congratulation of Pride; it gives space to consider the obstacles LGBT rights movements still face, as well as those overcome. This probably accounts for the popularity it’s won in half a decade; there were events in 95 countries this year.

In Iran, activists staged discreet celebrations. Here’s one photo: more can be found here.

long may it wave

(As an Iranian friend of mine sniffed, “In north Teheran, you can do anything.”)  Even more significantly, Iranian Liberal Students and Graduates, an informal association founded early  in the Ahmadinejad years to discuss liberalism as politics and philosophy, issued a statement of support for IDAHO, defending “tolerance for homosexual, bisexual transsexual, and transvestite people”:

  • The consensus of experts is that homosexuality is not a physical or mental illness;
  • The consensus of experts is that sexual orientation is unchangeable;
  • There are numerous homosexual persons in all societies, and it is not a phenomenon unique to Western societies …
  • Homosexual attitudes and behavior have been observed in nearly 1500 species of other organisms, and are not unique to humans;
  • And the consensus of experts is that no evidence is available that of the psychological development of children in gay families is inferior to that of children in heterosexual families …
  • Criminalization of homosexual behavior and its punishment by brutal execution in Iranian law should be repealed;
  • And all legal discrimination based on the sexual orientation of individuals, at any level, should be removed from the laws in Iran.

It has taken years of patient work and persuasion by Iranian LGBT rights advocates to integrate their issues with dissident movements’ concerns, and achieve this kind of support. They should be congratulated on this.

Meanwhile, as a Southeast Asian Spring comes to Burma, the first-ever open LGBT event was held in Rangoon, partly organized by my colleage Aung Myo Min of the Human Rights Education Institute of Burma, which still largely operates in Thailand exile. A 106-year-old transgender woman spoke:

A local youth brought the centenarian transgender woman to the stage during a section called Paying Respect to Seniors.  ‘She was almost in tears,’ … Aung Myo Min  told Gay Star News. ‘She told the audience how pleased she is to see this event take place in Rangoon.’

In 1906, when she was born, Burma had been a British colony for 20 years. She was 14 when the first revolt against colonial rule — by university students  (Aung San Suu Kyi‘s father was one of them) — happened; 36 when the Japanese invaded; 42 at independence; 56 when the long nightmare of military rule started. I hope someone is recording her life story. I also hope that when I’m her age, no one expects me to have anything to say.

IDAHO event in Rangoon

2 thoughts on “Young in Iran, old in Burma: IDAHO

  1. Wonderful events, and IDAHO is a source of amazement for two reasons–the 1) courage it has empowered in viciously cornered communities of queer folk around the world, and the 2) prospect that we’re still faced with ugly, murderous homophobia well after 10 millenia of human “civilization.”

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