Iranian Homosexuals; Social Identity Formation and Question of Femininity
Iranian Homosexuals; Social Identity Formation and Question of Femininity
Iranian homosexuals; social identity formation and question of femininity
Iranian society and its cultural traits have remarkably changed over the last century, mainly during the late nineteenth and the early twentieth century when the country went through a modernizing process and after the Islamic Revolution based on Shi’a ideology where gender and sexuality issues were central to both movements. While homoeroticism has been removed from public space and gender roles have been reintensifying repeatedly, gays, whose identity is interwoven with the culturally denied homosexuality and femiphobic mannerism of the people, have been struggling to negotiate their social identity within backstage groups of private spaces. Although there are several scholarly works written on sexuality and gender in Iran (Amin, 2002; Moallem, 2005; Sadeghi, 2008; Afary, 2009; Shaditalab, 2006), the field lacks a focused study on identity formation among homosexuals in Iran. Taking identity as a sum of different attributions and categories (Jenkins, 2010), this paper is primarily concerned with the feminine aspect of social identity among Iranian homosexuals. Here femininity is not a fixed social concept, but one which is constantly under construction and negotiation between subjects. Therefore this study will also examine the position of femininity and effeminacy among Iranians since these factors are decisive in sociocultural rejection of homosexual subjects who at times display culturally perceived feminine behaviors.
The question of identity formation in relation to the femininity and other cultural attributes (Friedman, 1997) indicates that identity is built in constant negotiation with and within social, cultural, historical and political discourses through positioning and repositioning the subjects. The notion of negotiation invites us to consider the process of identity formation and the power relations involved in and resulted from such negotiations.
The idea that identity formation is an ongoing process implies the incompleteness of the process and its product. Therefore, identity becomes the problematic and unaccomplished product of the cultural practices and negotiations (Hall, 1990). It becomes the ‘becoming’ itself; it shifts in different contexts and representations as the subject takes positions or is positioned by the discursive practices. This very relation between the subject and the discourses of culture and history problematizes the identity construction and identification (Hall & Du Gay, 1996). From a discursive approach, the relations involved in identity formation construct and constitute social identities through “power” in form of oppression and resistance (Hall, 2001). In the case of making sexual identity it has been discussed that there are complicated links between sexuality, religion, cultural values and institutionalized practices (Madureira, 2007; Jaspal&Cinnirella, 2012; Annes & Redlin, 2012) which produce various constructs of sexuality, masculinity, femininity and gendered social structures.
Discourse of sexuality in Iran is mainly produced by religious and governmental heterosexist discourses while this should not depict the youths as the mere victims. Heteronormativity of Iranian culture contains heterosexism where female subject and its characteristics are depreciated in comparison with the male subject. In such gender structure, men and women are expected to perform and represent certain identities which are constructed through definitions of masculinity and femininity. While masculine and feminine behaviors are constricted in this symbolic system of identity, homosexual subject who performs a different gender role and demonstrates abnormal identity attributes will endanger the whole structure. Here, homophobia is produced to circumvent such threat. Thus, heterosexism and homophobia operate simultaneously in order to mark certain forms of sexual expression as appropriate and those who do not conform to such heteronormative standards as inappropriate (Fine, 2011). Through entrenching heterosexist cultural values and inducing psychological cognates and affects such heterosexist and femiphobic discourses will reproduce sets of identities and preclude others. Since homosexuality, homosexual identity and homophobia are not recognized in any discourse in Iran, here I am about to dissect the role of femiphobic attitudes in social identity formation among Iranian gays in the heterosexist context of Iran. In this paper I examine the basic reasons behind the rejection of homosexuality in Iran and the ventures of the Iranian gays into cyberspace and back to society, while struggling to construct a new feminine-admissive social identity. The final part of this study is devoted to the discussion of the seat of femininity, particularly effeminacy, among Iranians. The paper concludes with demonstrating the incomplete social identity formation of gays, but also envisages a rising divergence in Iranian youths’ gender behaviors which grants the likelihood of negotiating the newly developed social identity to homosexuals.
 Ahmad KarimiMaster of Social and Cultural Anthropology, KU Leuven, Belgium
 For further discussion on social and psychological foundations of heterosexism and homophobia see Madureira, 2007.
 This means that homosexuality for Iranians is exclusively linked to the sexual act not the same-sex emotions and desires. Consequently, homophobia in its western concept, in absence of homosexual subject, is about and directed toward the same-sex intercourse only.
REFERENCESAdamczyk, Amy & Pitt, Cassady . "Shaping attitudes about homosexuality: the role of religion andcultural context." Social science research, 2009: 338-351Afary, Janet. Sexual Politics in Modern Iran. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009.Allen, David J. & Oleson, Terry . "Shame and Internalized Homophobia in Gay Men." Journal ofHomosexuality, 2008: 33-43.Amin, Camron Michael. Making of the Modern Iranian Woman: Gender, State Policy, and PopularCulture 1865-1946. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2002.Annes, Alexis & Redl, Meredith . "The Careful Balance of Gender and Sexuality: Rural Gay Men, theHeterosexual Matrix, and Effeminophobia." Journal of Homosexuality, 2012: 256-288.Boyd, Danah. Faceted ID/ENTITY ; Managing representation in a digital world. MA Thesis,Massachusetts Institute of Technology 2002, 2002.Butler, Judith. Bodies that Matter: On the Discursive Limits of "sex". Psychology Press, 1993. The Psychic Life of Power: Theories in Subjection. Stanford University Press, 1997. "Is Kinship Always Already Heterosexual?" differences: A Journal of Feminist Cultural Studies,2002: 14-44.Calvey, David. "The Art and Politics of Covert Research:Doing Situated Ethics in the Field."Sociology, 2008: 905-918Chiseri-Strater, Elizabeth. "Turning In upon Ourselves: Positionality, Subjectivity, and Reflexivity inCase Study and Ethnographic Research." In Ethics and representation in qualitative studies ofliteracy, by Peter Mortensen. National Council of Teachers of English, 1996.Clark, Jodie. Language, sex and social structure : analysing discourses of sexuality. Basingstoke:Palgrave Macmilla, 2012.D'emilio, John. "Capitalism and gay identity." In In Families in the U.S.: Kinship and Domestic Politics(Women in the Political Economy), by Karen V. Hansen. Temple University Press, 1998.Dor, Joël. Introduction to the Reading of Lacan: The Unconscious Structured Like a Language. Editedby Judith Feher Gurewich. New York: Other Press, 1998.Fine, Leigh E. "Minimizing Heterosexism and Homophobia: Constructing Meaning of Out CampusLGB Life." Journal of Homosexuality, 2011: 521-546.Flowers, Paul & Buson, Katie. "I was terrified of being different: exploring gay mens accounts ofgrowing-up in a heterosexist society." Journal of Adolescence, 2001: 5165.Foucault, Michel. specific power negotiations that produce differences and exclusions (Foucault, 1979.Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, 1979.Freud, Sigmund. Mourning and Melancholia. London: The Hogarth Press, 1917.Friedman, Jonathan. "Global Crises, The Struggle For Cultural Identity And Intellectual Porkbarrelling." In Debating Cultural Hybridity: Multi-Cultural Identities and the Politics of Anti-Racism , byPnina Werbner. Zed Books, 1997.Geertz, Clifford. The Interpretation of Cultures: Selected Essays. Basic Books, 1973.Gerami, Shahin. "Mullahs, Martyrs, and Men : Conceptualizing Masculinity in the Islamic Republic ofIran." Men and Masculinities, 2003: 257-274.Giddens,Anthony & Griffiths, Simon . Sociology. Cambridge: Polity, 2006.Goffman, Erving. The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life. Edinburgh: University of Edinburgh, 1956.34Green, Adam. "Remembering Foucault: Queer Theory and Disciplinary Power." Sexualities, 2010.Grotevant, Harold D. "Toward a Process Model of Identity Formation." Journal of Adolescent Research, 1987.Hall, Staurt. "Foucault: Power, Knowledge and Discourse." In Discourse Theory and Practice: AReader, edited by M& Taylor, S & Yates, S Wetherell, 72-81. London: SAGE Publications Ltd,2001.Hall, Stuart & Du Gay, Paul. Questions of Cultural Identity. London: SAGE Publications, 1996.Hall, Stuart. "Cultural Identity and Diaspora." In Identity Community, Cuture, Difference, by JonathanRutherford, 222-237. London: LAWRENCE & WISHART, 1990.Hammersley, Martyn. What's Wrong with Ethnography?: Methodological Explorations. PsychologyPress, 1992.Hardiman, R. & Jackson, B. W. "Conceptual foundations for social justice courses." In Teaching fordiversity and social justice: A sourcebook, by M.& Bell, A. & Griffin, P. Adams, 23-29. NewYork: Routledge, 1997.Héritier, Françoise. MASCULIN/FEMININ. La pensée de la différence. Editions Odile Jacob, 1995.Hoey, Brian & Fricke, Tom. "From sweet potatoes to God Almighty." American Ethnologist, 2007:581599.Holstein, James. Handbook of Interview Research: Context and Method. . SAGE Publications, 2001.Jaspal, Rusi & Cinnirella, Marco . "Identity Processes, Threat, and Interpersonal Relations: AccountsFrom British Muslim Gay Men." Journal of Homosexuality, 2012: 215-240.Jenkins, Richard. "Imagined but Not Imaginary: Ethnicity and Nationalism in the Modern World ." InExotic No More: Anthropology on the Front Lines: Anthropology on the Front Lines , by JeremyMacClancy. University of Chicago Press, 2010.Kashani-Sabet, Firoozeh. "Patriotic Womanhood: The Culture of Feminism in Modern Iran, 1900-1941." British Society for Middle Eastern Studies, 2005: 29-46.Kaufmann, Jeffrey & Rabodoarimiadana, Annie. "Making Kin of Historians and Anthropologists:Fictive Kinship in Fieldwork Methodology." History in Africa, 2003: 179-194.Khosravi, Shahram. "Displaced Masculinity: Gender and Ethnicity among Iranian men in Sweden."Iranian Studies, 2009: 591-609.Lewin, Ellen. "Lesbian and Gay Kinship: Kath Weston's "Families We Choose" and ContemporaryAnthropology." Signs, Theorizing Lesbian Experience, 1993: 974-979.Lewis, Helen Block. "Shame and Guilt in Neurosis." Psychoanalytic Review, 1971: 419-438.Madureira, Ana Flávia do Amaral. "The Psychological Basis of Homophobia: Cultural Construction of aBarrier." Integr Psych Behav, 2007: 225247.Mahdavi, Pardis. Passionate Uprisings: Irans Sexual Revolution. Palo Alto: Stanford University Press,2009.Malinowski, Bronislaw. Argonauts of the Western Pacific: An Account of Native Enterprise andAdventure in the Archipelagoes of Melanesian New Guinea. Routledge, 1978.Marddent, Amporn. Sexual Culture among Young Migrant Muslims in Bangkok. Silkworm Books,2007.Massad, Joseph. "Re-Orienting Desire: The Gay International and the Arab World." Public Culture,2002.McNay, Lois. Gender and Agency: Reconfiguring the Subject in Feminist and Social Theory. Wiley,2000.35Miller, Susan Beth. Shame in Context. Analytic Press, 1996.Moallem, Minoo. Between Warrior Brother and Veiled Sister: Islamic Fundamentalism and the Politicsof Patriarchy in Iran. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2005.Najmabadi, Afsaneh. Women with Mustaches and Men without Beards: Gender and Sexual Anxieties ofIranian Modernity. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2005.Radcliffe-Brown, A. R. The Andaman Islanders a Study in Social Anthropology, (Anthony WilkinStudentship Research, I906) . Forgotten Books, 2012.Rayside, David & Wilcox, Clyde . Faith, Politics, and Sexual Diversity in Canada and the UnitedStates. Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 2011.Riley, Denise. "Am I that name?": feminism and the category of "women" in history. Macmillan, 1988.Rowson, Everett K. "The Effeminates of Early Medina." Journal of the American Oriental Society,1991: 671-693.Sadeghi, Fatemeh. "Negotiating with Modernity: Young Women and Sexuality in Iran." ComparativeStudies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East 28 (2008): 250-259.Sahlins, Marshall. "What kinship is (part one)." Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, 2011: 2-19.Sahlins, Marshall. "What kinship is (part two)." Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute , 2011:227-242.Salih, Sara. Judith Butler. Routledge, 2002.Sayers, Janet. "Divining Psychoanalysis: Melancholia, Dostoevsky and Kristeva." Women: A CulturalReview, 2010: 281-291.Shaditalab, Jaleh. "Islamization and Gender in Iran: Is the Glass Half Full or Half Empty?" Signs, 2006:14-21.Shakhsari, Sima. "From Homoerotics of Exile to Homopolotics of Diaspora, Cyberspace, The War onTerror, And the Hypervisible Iranian Queer." Journal of Middle East Womens Studies 8 (2012):14-40.Simiã, Marina. "Fieldwork Dillemas: Problems of Location, Insiderhood, -." 2010.Simmel, George. "Fashion." The American Hournal of Sociology, 1957: 541-558.Siraj, Asifa. "The construction of the homosexual other by British Muslim heterosexuals."Contemporary Islam, 2009: 41-57.Stets, Jan E. & Burke, Peter J. . "Identity Theory and Social Identity Theory." Social PsychologyQuarterly, 2000: 224-237.Tangney,June &Wagner, Patricia & Fletche, Careyr& Gramzow, Richard . "Shamed Into Anger? TheRelation of Shame and Guilt to Anger and Self-Reported Aggression." Journal of Personality andSocial Psychology, 1992: 669-675.Woodward, Kathryn. Identity and Difference. London: SAGE Publications Ltd, 2001.iek, Slavoj. Looking Awry. An Introduction to Jacques Lacan through Popular Culture. Cambridge:MIT Press, 1991.