Joonies, it’s confession time.
I’m a lesbian. And an Iranian-American.
How many of those have you met, hmm? Your torshideh khaleh (trans: unmarried aunt) doesn’t count! I’m the real deal:
Since day one of preschool, I was on the playground, flashing my 101 Dalmatians underpants at the other girls. Then on the weekends my father, a half-Tork mazhabi (trans: religious) Rashti would drag me kicking and screaming in a roosari (headscarf) to Islamic school on the weekends, which I totally could not get down with. Like, not even a little.
Unless we spent the whole day talking about Adam and Eve — but mostly Eve — running around naked in the Garden of Eden before the whole seeb (apple) thing happened. Yowza!
When I got a little older, Baba jan gave up on the religious training and started bringing me to Persian language classes. This was ideal: sweet, kind-hearted Persian girls in their early twenties teaching us babies how to read, write, and speak. Leila, Fatemeh, Sholeh, Narges…. I was in love! I learned kheeiiiilliii (a lot of) Farsi in those years, joonies. Kheili. Besyaar.
I sensed that the feelings I had for my teachers, and other women, were abnormal and so it became my own little secret.
In fact, I still haven’t told Baba jan that I’m gay.
(Good thing his English reading comprehension ain’t much!) Ever since I hit 20 years old, when we talk on the phone he offers to introduce me to Ali the banker, Mohammed the physician, and any one of the million other young Iranian guys who are the gainfully employed. Mamnoon but no mamnoon.
Still, even with a super mazhabi baba and a recovering Catholic mother (from Detroit), my cultural environs have allowed me to be a very different, much more liberal — and liberated — person than if I had been born and raised in my father’s home country.
As a teenager, over time I came out to all my friends — including my Irooni ones. One day, it all got me thinking: isn’t it amazing that we Iranian-American young people keep our parents’ culture alive while simultaneously blending it with what we learn here in the States?
This hybrid culture is a seriously significant phenomenon, as you probably know if you’re on this site in the first place.
It’s also a story worth telling:
the story of Iranian-Americans, of who we are, and of where we are taking our heritage. This history is at risk of disappearing in the wind if nobody takes the time to record it.
Luckily, I’ve got a project in the works aimed at doing just that: it’s a multimedia journalism piece called “Rose Petal Pathways: Journeys Through Iranian America.” I’m crowdfunding the expenses for a cross-country train ride to conduct research for it; check out the fundraising page here. If you agree that these stories need to be told, get your contribution in before February 15.
TWEET AT JULIE: @JERSHADI