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Gay Persian Canadians ‘Break Silence’ with Poster Campaign

Gay Persian Canadians ‘Break Silence’ with Poster Campaign

A public campaign has been launched in Vancouver to address the invisibility of LGBT people in ethnic minorities.

The project, Our City of Colours, was started by student Darren Ho. It follows a backlash against the Burnaby School District in Vancouver’s gay-friendly policy. The policy, which is intended to combat discrimination against LGBT students, was criticized by the parents for insufficient consultation and lack of transparency.

“We started our project before the Burnaby School Board policy thing came out, and once it came out, it really hit home about why we had to do this,” 22-year-old Ho told The Straight.

“Because I felt like watching the news about the people who were against the gay-friendly policy, I realized a lot of people who were against it were only against it because they didn’t know enough about it. Or they didn’t know enough about same-sex relationships, about gay bullying, about gay issues, about how being gay would affect a young student…because in their culture, they just don’t get a lot of information about it.”

The first poster was designed to reach the Chinese Canadian community. It featured two men holding hands and gazing lovingly at each other. It was accompanied by a list of their interests, such as yoga and watching hockey, and statements that they loved each other at the bottom.

The second poster is designed to address the Persian Canadian community.

In it, 24-year-old Farhad poses on stairs, while details about him, such as being an engineering student and a soccer player, are written in both English and Farsi.

Mo Kazerooni of Our of City of Colours told The Straight that they had difficulty finding a second model.

“I know lots of people who support it and I know of lots of them who would get involved,” he explained, “but it’s hard for them to come in front of the camera.”

The poster says that Farhad loves his boyfriend. And he also loves Googoosh, one of the most iconic female pop stars and actors from Iran. Shared love of the star is a way of connecting with the target audience, says Kazerooni.

Although Vancouver and the rest of Canada has accepted many LGBT Iranian refugees, says Kazerooni, the community is not accepting:

“I can see it’s changing but it’s still quite—I don’t want to say homophobic, but it’s not talked about as much as it should. In Iran, homosexuality is [subject to]…capital punishment. And that’s why there are queer refugees coming to Canada, because of their sexual orientation. And lots of them can’t be out in their respective communities. And it leads to other problems, like finding jobs or they want to belong to the Iranian community but they struggle with that.”

Future plans are for posters for the South Asian (Punjabi) and Korean Canadian communities and later the Filipino and Japanese Canadian communities.

Watch Googoosh peform in Vancouver:

Related stories:

Parents Protest Burnaby School District’s LGBT Friendly Policy

Quebec Launches Anti-Bullying Campaign in Wake of Teen Gay Suicide

Canada Accused Over Visa Denial to Kenyan Lesbian Activist

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Poster image Our City of Colours

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30 comments

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1:01PM PST on Nov 9, 2011

Queer synonyms are homosexual, odd, insane, and eccentric to name a few. I noticed that Kazerooni used the term ‘queer refugees’ and I got that old feeling in the bit of my stomach. I am an older lesbian that has fought tooth and nail to not be called queer and yet some of these young activists insist on using the term. It is and always has been a derogatory term. I am not queer and I don’t want anyone calling or referring to me as queer. These young activist who did not have to fight the tough battles us older folks (sorry but you didn’t) have seem to think it is cool, I don’t. Words can harm people. Isn’t that what starts the bullying process? Of course it is. My advice to young LGBT activist is to lose the derogatory terms and you might get further quicker.

This is a good thing that is happening in Canada. I just hope that the Iranian government doesn’t get the notion that these LGBT Persian activist or their families need to be punished for their courage/actions.
I wish you all much success.

12:15AM PST on Nov 9, 2011

Thanks for the article.

9:06PM PST on Nov 8, 2011

Wonderful!!! And you are all beautiful and loved!

-Holly

8:46PM PST on Nov 8, 2011

I wish the campaign much success,

8:27PM PST on Nov 8, 2011

Thank you for the article and the introduction to Googoosh.

5:11PM PST on Nov 8, 2011

Gay and lesbians are citizens and therefore should have their rights respected. Homophobia is a stupidity and does not do any sense in a globalized world and in a society that is told modern.

3:49PM PST on Nov 8, 2011

WoW! So exciting to see the tape of Googoosh! I know it's off subject, but I worked in the same nightclub as her in the 60s. She was wonderful then and hasn't changed a bit, still a lovely voice, full of fire and hasn't aged badly either.
I heard that she married a mullah and had loads of kids, which I found extremely disappointing, but it seems that either it was a rumor, a lie, or she somehow came to her senses!

3:01PM PST on Nov 8, 2011

Thanks for the info.

1:08PM PST on Nov 8, 2011

Until he extends his circle of compassion to all living things, man will not find peace.

Albert Schweitzer

12:53PM PST on Nov 8, 2011

thanks for the info

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