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Iranian Gays and the Civil Rights Bus

July 29, 2006

To the Editor:

Scott Long says we can’t condemn the Iran governments’ murderous mistreatment of queer people because “lesbian and gay Iranians should not be reduced to the agendas of well-meaning strangers in the West” (“Debating Iran,” Jul. 27-Aug. 2). According to this lame reasoning, we in the United States should refrain from criticizing Israel because we wouldn’t want Palestinians being reduced to the agendas of us well-meaning strangers in the West. I doubt Long kept his opinion to himself during South Africa’s past racist system of apartheid. Are we to hold our tongues over all issues in the Middle East and Africa or only the ones pre-approved by Long? Truth be told, he just wants us to be silent when it is Iran, one of his sacred cows, acting in brutal and bigoted ways.

This is not the first time Long and his cohort in inaction Paula Ettelbrick, have been reticent in criticizing Islamic homophobia. When a gay journalist was recently beaten in Amsterdam by anti-gay Muslims, the hideously misnamed International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission refused to condemn the thugs. Instead Ettelbrick rationalized and excused this bloodthirsty hate crime as being rooted in poverty. As someone born poor in East New York, Brooklyn, I am appalled by the prejudice that assumes our economic status makes us unable to control violent impulses. Moreover, I doubt Ettelbrick would calmly dismiss an anti-Muslim crime if it was committed by an impoverished white person.

The nauseating reality is that too many so-called international human rights organizations expect lesbian, gay, and transgendered people to sit on the back of the civil rights bus. If any of us dares to speak out against our marginalized position on the left, we get threatened with the label racist or have our left/liberal credentials questioned. I am a life-long progressive who will not acquiesce to such bigotry. We should challenge totalitarians in our movement who expect us to tolerate the intolerable. To such leftists: Not in my name!

James Kernochan

Manhattan

Acknowledging Artistic Innovation

July 10, 2006

To the Editor:

It has been almost two months since Brian McCormick reviewed our Spring 2006 “Ear to the Ground” series, featuring Hou Ying and Sam Kim (“Smart, And Structurally Sound,” May 25-31). I hope it is not too late to extend thanks for writing such an eloquent, positive review of “Whirlpool” and “Avatar.” With so many dance pieces to choose from in this vast city, I appreciate you taking interest in the work we present… and I’m happy that you found it so satisfying! Our emerging choreographers series are very close to our hearts, and it is particularly gratifying to see the artists gain critical acclaim for their work, especially from such a noted publication clearly dedicated to the arts.

On behalf of H.T. Chen and Dian Dong (his wife and associate director), I hope you return to the Mulberry St. Theater for future events. Our next “Ear to the Ground” series will run Nov. 2-4, and our next “newsteps” series will run Dec. 7-9.

Helena Teply-Figman

Mulberry St. Theater

Manhattan

August 1, 2006

To the Editor:

I watched in dismay when the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission and Human Rights Watch’s Scott Long attempted to derail efforts by activists around the world (including members of the Persian Gay and Lesbian Organization) to protest the brutal murder of gays in Iran. I watched with horror as the regime’s “they’re rapists” flimsy case was thrown up as a defence by Long. I curled my lips with disgust when Long characterised gayness as an “imputed identity,” sounding more like one of the ex-gay “ministers” I encountered in my youth as a U.S. citizen growing up in the United States than a gay rights activist.

But now, Long writes, “Their lives should not be reduced to the agendas of well-meaning strangers in the West.” And indeed, they haven’t been, since people from around the world—including Iranian gay people—have expressed concern and taken steps, including lobbying for asylum reform in their countries of residence.

One gets the feeling that the “professional activists”—who lobby for a paycheck and prestige, rather than for nothing, out of a sense of moral commitment—are angry that they no longer own the bully pulpit, and that the grassroots are taking action without their “professional direction.” And that’s simply disappointing.

If Long and his (heterosexual) organization are so convinced that “strangers in the West” are hurting the prospects of gays in Iran, perhaps they should put their money where their mouths are by shutting down their group and renouncing their paychecks. Something tells me, though, that’s not going to happen. So just what is his point again?

Brian R. Miller

London

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Updated 5:17 pm, July 20, 2018
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