Facing Mirrors

Sometimes you have to be forced to leave your homeland in order to appreciate it more.

I went to see Facing Mirrors, playing at National Geographic Grosvenor Auditorium as part of the All Roads Film Festival. It’s one of the better films I have seen in the past few years, and certainly among the best about a transgender person. But it wasn’t just about being transgender. The two protagonists — Rana and Adineh/Eddie — created the perfect foil, with shades of gray adding complexity to both the characters and the narration. And it’s hard to believe that the story idea was conceived in less than two hours:

Rana and Adineh, two women of opposite background and social class are accidentally brought together to share a journey. Rana, inexperienced, religious and bound by traditions, is forced to drive a cab in order to survive financially. Adineh, wealthy yet rebellious, has escaped from her home. In the middle of the way, Rana realizes that her passenger is a transsexual who is planning on having an operation. For Rana, comprehending and accepting such reality is close to impossible and equal to surpassing all she believes in and traditions she values.

When the straight cisgender woman hits the transgender protagonist in a moment of hysteria and panic, she later explains her reaction as “I thought you were a man and tricked me.” I immediately thought about my own mother who is very much like Rana, working dangerous jobs to make a living for her family contrary to the gender roles she subscribes to, and my heart went out to her despite her transphobic reaction. Throughout the movie, her husband is in prison, but Rana is the one who feels imprisoned by her circumstances. And as a woman violating gender roles to provide for her family, she’s concerned about her safety as much as the transgender protagonist who also feels unsafe, but safety for him requires leaving his family and homeland. At the end, neither one of them is particularly happy even as they get what they want all along. And we are left contemplating the meaning of happiness as it pertains to us.

All the actors did a marvelous job but Shayesteh Irani of Offside fame, was especially  brilliant as the transgender protagonist. She looks a bit like Sheetal Sheth, which means I spent most of the movie crushing over a male character, played by a cisgender woman. I need to deconstruct that at a later time. It’s probably as simple as the fact that I love androgynous and butch all women.

Watch the movie if you get an opportunity. It is in Farsi, subtitled in English.

5 Actions You Can Take To Halt the Deportation of Bita Ghaedi

Really quick – An asylum seeker in the United Kingdom, Bita Ghaedi conducted a hunger strike for up to a month because she was terrified of being tortured and killed if she is forced to return to Iran. Guess what? She is being forced to go back now by the British government this coming Tuesday!

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Bita sought refuge in the UK with viable grounds for establishing refugee status. In Iran, Ghaedi was bound, tortured, and scarred by pervasive gender-based violence. Her political activities with PMOI/MEK/MKO mark her as an opponent of the present regime, and also one who will face certain execution upon return to Iran. Bita has confirmed that she is “pretty sure it is benevolent, advisable and godly for them to kill me if I won’t be arrested.” There is no reason to deny her asylum claim.

So here is what you need to do:

1. Make the calls: (0191) 456 8910 to David Miliband and (020) 7035 4848 to Alan Johnson. Jam their phone-line and fill up mailboxes.

Sample message: “As a citizen of the United Kingdom, I am concerned about the deportation of Bita Ghaedi back to Iran. She was circumscribed, bound, tortured, and scarred by pervasive gender-based violence in Iran. Her political activities mark her as an opponent of the current regime, and also one who will face certain execution upon return to Iran. Bita has numerous reasons to fear for her life if she is returned. I urge you to intervene and stop her pending deportation to Iran which is this Tuesday.”

2. Change.org: Email alert to David Miliband and MP Alan Johnson to take action immediately to halt Ghaedi’s deportation. Get as many emails as possible sent to Miliband.

3. Send David Miliband a message on his Facebook account.

4. Tweet Miliband via Act.ly

5. In the U.K.? Join the DEMO this Monday!

MONDAY 19th April 2010

Assemble Home Office, Marsham Street, London @ 10am

After you are done with these, contact your local and national UK press as well as your favorite bloggers to give this issue attention!

Being 'illegal' gay and from Iran with no hope of political asylum?

here is a link to some questions i had asked one of my close DREAMer friends, who is also gay and hails from Iran. his answers were quite insightful, and i hope to have some more people participate in these short bio projects. something that comes through in his answers is how the issues of immigration, asylum and human rights are so intertwined and interconnected that we cannot possibly see them as separate.

someone also suggested a while ago that we should submit our stories to curve and the advocate. i plan to do that once i get the other project done after april.

Gay Iranian Seeks Asylum

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I was livid when I heard that Mehdi Kazemi, a gay teenager from Iran was being denied political asylum in the UK and then by a Dutch Court even after he could prove substantial risk to his life.


"I wish to inform secretary of state that I did not come to the UK to claim asylum … But in the past few months my situation back home has changed. The Iranian authorities have found out that I am a homosexual and they are looking for me."


He continued, "I can not stop my attraction to men … If I return to Iran I will be arrested and executed like [my boyfriend]. Since this incident … I have been so scared."

Finally, today, Britain halted the move to deport the teenager and granted temporary reprieve. For now, we can all sigh in relief that the international public outcry against the folly of deporting the gay teenager to Iran has halted the order. However, I couldn't help thinking of another gay Iranian friend of mine who is in the United States, and like me, also 'out-of-status' and awaiting his DREAMs to come to life.


He goes by "Quaker" on forums, and is one of the hard-working leaders in the movement to pass our DREAMS. And unlike me, he hasn't had the privilege to attend college in his state, since colleges there are unwilling to take "undocumented" students, yet, his focus, determination and drive to make a future for himself is apparent from his participation in the movement. A while ago, I asked him some questions about how it felt to be a DREAMer as well as being gay since I was curious about comparing our experiences. Here is what he had to say to several of my questions:

Is it more frustrating to be a gay DREAMer?

Absolutely.  During our calling campaigns after hanging up the phone with any, pro-Dream / immigration reform, republican's office I'd think to my self 'now would they even give me the time of day if they knew I was also gay?'  I always find myself having to think a bit on how to answer certain questions and whether it is worth the risk of exposing my self to them.  "Do I want to risk losing them as a great ally in advocating for Dream?"  Like for example with Mark, after chatting online for hours about the graduation card campaign and prior to that him giving me, out of the blue, enough money to cover the first plaque, we started to chit-chat about ourselves and at some point he asked whether I was religious.  I had to think on that question for a good two or three minute, not because I didn't know the answer, but because I knew the follow-up would be why and I wasn't sure if it would be worth the risk of telling him.  Here we had a great thing going, working on projects, getting something done and so is it really something I'd be willing to lose?  Not something I think I would have even crossed my mind had the issue been say… my not accepting free tickets for the big OSU v UofM game because it was cold outside.

Do you think the pro-migrant or pro-DREAM community we have going is alienating towards queer immigrant issues?

At one point on the forum someone asked whether we'd be willing to volunteer for a possible DC lobbying trip, like many I immediately said yes.  But then I started thinking about what story I would tell. I couldn't help but to keep going back to my being gay, being from Iran and how because of that I would probably never ever be able to go back to Iran.  But then, just as with the phone calls, reality hit that it probably wouldn't be smart to share any of that as we'd drive a wedge between the much needed republicans. At the same time, without bringing that up I really don't have a story to share; I didn't spend 30 days walking across the blazing desert to get here, I don't have to take the bus for two hours everyday to get to and from school, I wasn't a 4.0 student that was denied the chance to go to an amazing school on a full ride and so on.  It's frustrating because, even though you are out, you cannot share who you are. I also find it amusing how similar the "should I tell bf/gf/friend that I am illegal" is to what we have to go through when coming out.

Have you considered or been pressured into a marriage of convenience?

No, I mean it sucks not having the option and when people discuss getting legalized by doing so it always reminds me that I don't even have that option, but other than that I don't think of it much.

Have you faced any hostilities as part of the DREAM Act student movement?

I haven't had much hostility from anyone on DAP or any other pro-Dream person.  We seem to be a pretty understanding bunch.


That concludes part of the experiment we are running about getting more DREAMers featured on this blog. Let us know if it is something you would be interested in seeing more of and we could probably hear other voices on this blog more frequently.