Monday, April 09, 2007

They kill gay people, don't they?

This is the last night of the "Blog against Theocracy" blogswarm, and I'm all too happy to contribute.

Well. That's not exactly right. As Dave said, this turned out to be harder than I thought. There's almost too much to say and most of it's already been said. I collected dozens of articles for the occasion, only to revisit something that's been eating at me for ages.

You see, I'm a bit naive about some things. I know homophobia still pervades and poisons our culture. Approx once every six months or so, I still find myself in vein-popping 'conversations' with people about equal marriage.

But I could hardly contain myself when I read about what the LGBT community faces in Iran. I wrote about it at the time, June 1, 2006, in celebration of Canada Day. The original piece is sadly lost to the Star archives, but you can find it reprinted here. Doug Ireland has written extensively about this too. Here is the excerpt that verily brought me to tears:
Immigration lawyer Battista understands how difficult it is for many gay people to seek asylum in Canada.
"Often, they have spent a lifetime suppressing, hiding and lying about their sexual orientation to save their lives," says the lawyer, who has spent the past 14 years assisting gays and lesbians who fear harassment, torture and even death if Canada won't let them in. "Soon after they've arrived in Canada they are at a hearing, and they are asked to prove one, that they are homosexual, and two, that they cannot return home," says Battista, who leads about 40 homosexual refugee applicants through the process each year.
"In many cases, they haven't directly experienced problems of persecution. Because the conditions are so oppressive, they are too fearful to express their sexual orientation or sexual identity in any sense."
Battista recalls one of his earliest clients being an older man from Iran who was seeking protection based on his sexual orientation. "But he couldn't even say the words. He was at the airport in tears of frustration trying to explain to the immigration officer why he was seeking asylum in Canada, and he was saying, `It's because of who I am. It's because of who I am,' and the officer was asking, `Is it political? Is it religious?'
"And finally the officer said, `Are you gay?' And the poor man burst into tears. That was the first time there had been an official recognition of who he was, his sexual orientation. That story will always stay with me."
I know it's hard to be shocked in this day & age, but I confess: I felt totally destroyed at the thought of it: state sponsored torture and execution of gays. In 2006. While everybody watches on...

I did some digging and found the website for the "Persion Gay & Lesbian Organization." The PGLO finds its headquarters in...Toronto!
Due to the existing government censorship and other limitations in Iran, PGLO became a registered organization and began its activities in Norway, but the majority of our friends and allies remain in Iran. We have now decided to register IRanian Queer Organization - IRQO in Toronto, Canada and open our main office there, and we will expand our activities from there.
{ is also an important resource for news and information--including that 'lost' TorStar article!}

But not everyone believes what they read. Some need to see it with their own two eyes. At this point, I want you to take the time to watch "Out in Iran," a doc produced for CBC Sunday:

If the video fails on the CBC site then run, don't walk to Youtube and watch the film there (part I, part II, and part III).

This is what theocracy looks like. And lest you accuse me of 'picking' on Iran, do I need to remind you of this? Not close enough to home? Have a look at this...

...and go back and watch that video.

Good night & Gawd bless.

Read on, MacDuff!

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Stuck in a loop: Blog Against Sexual Violence Day

If you were forced to watch the same crime committed over, and over, and over again...would you do anything to stop yourself from seeing, hearing and otherwise bearing witness?

I think about this more often than I care to admit.

Trauma survivors--including victims of sexual violence--are often retraumatized by their own brains. Forced to replay the trauma, to re-experience the trauma, and re-recover from the trauma. Sometimes it's a little different. Sometimes the replays are "worse than" and include events even more horrible than the real thing. The police were right: my assault was only a "3 out of 10." I was lucky it wasn't that bad!

And yet other replays are distorted in the opposite direction. Not so much to make us feel better but, rather, to fantasize about regaining control of events and somehow preventing or foiling the crime. Why didn't I knee him in the balls? Scratch his face apart? Scream bloody "FIRE"? Why did I just stand there like a moron?

Why, oh why must we keep renting this awful movie? Aren't we sick of it? Hell, even our very bestest friends walked out on it weeks ago. Really, it's not that I don't care, y'know? I just don't know what else to say to make you feel better.

So you stop renting the movie for a while. Life goes on, after all. It's not like you can take time off of work to recover--what are you going to do? Tell your boss? So life goes on, blast itall, and weeks, maybe even months pass. And then you catch a scent or a glimpse of something...and we're all cued up and watching that motherfucking movie again.

But wait! Maybe you're one of the lucky ones. Could this movie have a happy ending? The police called...they've made an arrest!

Of course your brain still isn't playing for your team. In fact, your reactions to the arrest might surprise you. Somebody's in jail because of you! Whaddya think of that, you ol' bleedin' heart?

And just behind your brain, your very own body is in the on-deck circle, warming up for the other team. You're nauseated. Sudden and overwhelming nausea. We thought you should know that he's getting out of jail. The Crown is not asking for any jail time. Youth criminal, you know.

But what's wrong with him? Doesn't anybody want to know why he did this? Can't him into some therapy?

Can't really do that. He'll probably re-offend. He's gotten bolder with each attack. I'm not trying to scare you or anything...

No, of course not.

Would you like to write a Victim Impact Statement?

Why? Would it have any effect on the sentence?

No. But some women find it gives them, uh...y'know...closure.

No thanks.

Maybe I'll just stay-in and rent a movie.

Read on, MacDuff!

Once upon a time they were falling in love...U.S. Senators spend a day in Baghdad

"They paralyzed the market when they came...This was only for the media. This will not change anything."-- Mr. Faiyad, a merchant in the Baghdad market, where Sens. John McCain, Lindsay Graham and Mike Pence held their photo-op on Sunday.

Ah yes. The photo-op in Shorja market. You know how it goes: you get all decked out in your Sunday best (kevlar), invite 100+ of your best friends (soldiers in armored Humvees) and arrange for attack helicopters to circle over you whilst you have a quick 'boo.' Try not to think too hard about all of the doin's that are a-transpirin' in the meantime. Dead schoolgirls in Kirkuk, you say?! Why, that's enough to put you off your tea.

No. Sunday was all about progress. Yes, I said progress. What? You missed it? No worries: I took exquisite care to transcribe the Senators' press conference--all the progress that's fit to print!

MCCAIN: What's that? No, no...I'm pretty sure I did promise you a Rose Garden. Seriously, have you seen the gardens of Baghdad?
Over there, behind the 10 ft blast walls. No. There!
Huh? Why do you call them "Bremer walls"?
Repeat that?
No, I'm not hard of hearing, it's just the helicopters, er--lawnmowers--are really loud today. They're so fastidious, these guys. Can't even take one day off, heh heh. *cough* Ok, ok, nevermind.
Hey! Check out Senator Graham over here: show'em what you bought, Lindsay!

GRAHAM: I got faaahhv rugs for faaahv bucks!
What's that? Sorry, it's those dang lawnmowers ag'in...
Oh. Why yes I needed the rugs. It's not like we have any textile plants left in South Carolina.
No, I needed rugs. Lord knows that we'll have more bodies to get rid of.

REPORTER: What bodies?! But you sounded so optimistic, before.

GRAHAM: No, no no! Not for Baghdad bodies. They're for back in D. C. I feel another "purge" comin and you know what they say: you can never have enough rugs handy, when it comes time to "clean house."

REPORTER: Senator Pence, were you serious when you compared the safety of this market with quote: "a normal outdoor market in Indiana in the summertime"? Sixty-one people were killed here, in this very market, on February 12. Surely you would like to qualify your previous statement?

MCCAIN: Ok folks, that's enough questions for now...
Uh...Senator Graham, where did you get that karaoke machine?

REPORTER: Karaoke? Senator, you know they're rationing electricity in this district. The locals will be most displeased.
Sir! Sir, I beg you, please reconsider! Oh dear lord, he's serious...

{Graham loads up his favourite Bonnie Tyler tune (lyrics here) and turns on his mike. Senator Pence produces an electric guitar and takes his position behind Graham and McCain. The gunships still hover overhead but seem eerily quiet all of a sudden...}

GRAHAM {singing to Sen. McCain}:
Turnaround, every now and then I get a
little bit lonely and you're never coming around
Turnaround, Every now and then I get a
little bit tired of listening to the sound of my tears
Turnaround, Every now and then I get a
little bit nervous that the best of all the years have gone by
Turnaround, Every now and then I get a
little bit terrified and then I see the look in your eyes
Turnaround bright eyes, Every now and
then I fall apart
Turnaround bright eyes, Every now and
then I fall apart

Turnaround, Every now and then I get a
little bit restless and I dream of something wild
Turnaround, Every now and then I get a
little bit helpless and I'm lying like a child in your arms
Turnaround, Every now and then I get a
little bit angry and I know I've got to get out and cry
Turnaround, Every now and then I get a
little bit terrified but then I see the look in your eyes
Turnaround bright eyes, Every now and
then I fall apart
Turnaround bright eyes, Every now and
then I fall apart

{Sen. Pence kicks-in on guitar}

And I need you now tonight
And I need you more than ever
And if you'll only hold me tight
We'll be holding on forever
And we'll only be making it right
Cause we'll never be wrong together
We can take it to the end of the line
Your love is like a shadow on me all of the time
I don't know what to do and I'm always in the dark
We're living in a powder keg and giving off sparks
I really need you tonight
Forever's gonna start tonight
Forever's gonna start tonight

Once upon a time I was falling in love
But now I'm only falling apart
There's nothing I can do
A total eclipse of the heart
Once upon a time there was light in my life
But now there's only love in the dark
Nothing I can say
A total eclipse of the heart

Read on, MacDuff!