There aren’t a lot of well-known gay Iranians out there. In fact, there aren’t any. There are some within the expatriate Iranian community, but more widely?
That’s all about to change with the reality TV show Shahs Of Sunset, which is set in Los Angeles, home to a huge Iranian-American population.
One of its stars is gay Persian Reza Farahan, and he is well aware of the responsibility which comes with being a ‘first.’
He told AP:
“I have an important message, all the bling and Mercedes aside: I’m an openly gay Persian man. According to the president of the country I was born in, I don’t even exist…”
That’s a reference to Iranian President Ahmajinedad’s infamous statement at Colombia University that gays don’t exist in Iran, which was actually more like we don’t have gays like you do in the West but which he doubled down on last year, telling CNN:
“My position hasn’t changed.”
“In Iran, homosexuality is looked down upon as an ugly deed. Perhaps there are those who engage in such activities and you may be in contact with them and more aware of them. But in Iranian society such activities, thoughts, and behaviors are shameful. Therefore, these are not known elements within Iranian society.”
Farahan says that another reason he agreed to participate in the show is because he wanted his community to acknowledge the existence of gay Persians/Iranians.
Farahan told the Daily Beast that since the show debuted, he’s received Facebook messages from closeted teenagers in Iran as well as hate mail from Iranian bloggers — one suggested he was “a fake gay” because it’s trendy in Hollywood. But Farahan says, “I’m not backing down because of some blogger. That’s not how I roll.”
“I don’t mind being stereotyped as materialistic. Middle Easterners have many stereotypes, and materialism is one of the better ones. We’re usually viewed as evil terrorists, so if you’re going to stereotype me I’d prefer it be because we love gold and Mercedes instead of Uzis,” he says.
He also told the Beast that “I would date an ex-con before I would date a Republican.”
Watch Farahan talk about why he’s doing the show on CNN: