Think what you will about Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's recent talk at Columbia University, but when I read about his assertion that there wasn't a single gay person in Iran, I had to laugh. And now, I've got this editorial from the Washington Post to back me up. Titled "I'm Here, President Ahmadinejad," it's a testimonial by a man going only by the name "Amir" that starts off by simply saying, "I'm one of those people Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad says don't exist. I'm a 25-year-old Iranian, and I'm gay."
Amir, who wrote the piece under a pseudonym because of safety concerns, goes on to describe an Iran left unmentioned by Ahmadinejad in his speech -- a world in which gay people not only exist but are slowly becoming more accepted. He describes his homophobic parents and fear of persecution, but also mentions gay parties with heterosexual guests and public places where gay people occasionally gather, like "coffee shops, special park areas and even certain offices."
It's depressing to note that even today, being openly gay in Iran can be life-threatening. Yes, this is obviously true in certain areas of America as well, but at least we're farther along the road to acceptance -- while our president may not think gay people have the same rights as heterosexuals, at least he acknowledges that they exist. But it's also heartening to read stories from people like Amir, who are working to increase people's tolerance from the ground level up.
And on a much lighter note, I just have to pass on this link to Andy Samberg's most recent "Saturday Night Live" music video -- a love tribute to Ahmadinejad featuring Adam Levine from Maroon Five and a dead-on impression of Ahmadinejad by Fred Armisen. (Here's a link to the lyrics.)
"Mahmoud, I remember when it started, saw you on the news," Samberg croons. "You hating gays, I was eating food." It continues with a faux love song, mocking Ahmadinejad's homophobia by casting him as Samberg's love interest. "I know you say there's no gays in Iran/ But you're in New York, baby!" Samberg raps to Ahmadinejad as he lies sprawled across a grand piano in a red cocktail dress. (Some might call "SNL" homophobic itself for the hairy butt and "butter pecan thighs" references, but given the context, I'm not bothered.) For some reason, NBC has pulled the video and it's tough to find on YouTube -- but seriously, you should check it out. It's not every day, after all, that you get to see Jake Gyllenhaal masquerade as the president of Iran.