No Military Service For Gays In Iran, If You Can Take The Examinations

During the Vietnam War, it’s commonly joked that all you had to do was say that you were gay and you could avoid the draft. While this was somewhat true at the beginning, as the war progressed you might have had to convince a psychologist if they would even accept the admission at all. For compulsory military service in Iran, the decision of whether or not to reveal their queer identity has many consequences.

Akin to some countries around the world, males 18 years and older must serve in the military for two years in Iran, before or after their university experience. After serving each man is issued a document showing they completed their tour of duty. Without this, an Iranian man cannot legally buy or sell anything, participate in formal activities, be employed by the government, or obtain a passport. Further, many areas in the private sector recruit men specifically because they have served in the military.

Like in the U.S., men and their families try to get out of military service for various reasons. One way this does work is to declare being homosexual. Since this has to be determined, gay Iranian men will be sent to doctors to be examined, usually in the form of an invasive rectal exam. The idea is that if you are a bottom, then you are homosexual, and can be excused from military service. Tops, showing no physical signs of “homosexuality” are declared fit for service. Seems pretty inclusive, doesn’t it?

Sexuality in Iran works a little differently than in the U.S. and other Western nations. Remember former Iranian President Ahmadinejad’s, “In Iran, we don’t have homosexuals, like in your country,” comment? Well, in his mind he was correct. He was speaking from the belief of his culture where homosexuality, as a state of equal desire, intimacy, and partnership between to people of the same gender, doesn’t make sense. In the U.S. we’ve gotten beyond sexual roles in relationships (for the most part) but there it makes a huge difference: the top is seen to be the true man and the bottom is equated with the status of a woman. And women can’t serve in the Iranian military.

So what to do with all of these men who have sex with men? Simple, give them operations so they become women. Since Ayatollah Khomeini passed a religious edit in 1979 authorizing sexual reassignment surgeries for “diagnosed transsexuals,” Iran has carried out the second highest number of them, only behind Thailand. This puts many people in an uncomfortable place: remain an openly gay man and risk public discrimination and possible execution, or go through with a surgery and live in a body that doesn’t feel like your own.

A religious cleric responsible for sexual reassignment surgeries, Hojatol Islam Muhammad Mehdi Kariminia elaborated on the topic, saying that, “The discussion [of transsexuals and sexual reassignment surgery] is fundamentally separate from a discussion regarding homosexuals. Absolutely not related. Homosexuals are doing something unnatural and against religion.”

If a man who requests exemption from military service is granted it, he receives an exemption card, which until recently defined the type of exemption based on color and description. Today they are all alike, except for the number of the section or addendum of penal code to which the exemption refers, making discrimination less likely.

Iran’s government and society shows no signs of becoming more tolerant. Hopefully any decisions you have to make this week won’t seem as daunting as those looking at their mandatory military services.


Straight Allies Spotlight: Why We Love Chris Kluwe

“Society’s trending towards more equality, and you see that in the locker room.”

– Chris Kluwe (to Larry King, on “Larry King Now” broadcast)


Oh, Chris: how do we love thee? Let us count the ways.

First off, few people can bring themselves to hate him.

As the Oakland Raiders’ American NFL football punter, Chris Kluwe comes off as a fresh-faced, cheery, potty-mouthed and an unabashedly proud “gamer geek.” Kluwe’s spoken up—loudly—about everything from NFL labor disputes to honesty in the media. Now, he’s championing gay rights and marriage equality—and it’s not his first time rocking the mic for LGBTQ inclusivity.

The UCLA alum combines dashing good looks and dorky gamer references (he owns a fantasy gaming store for goodness’ sake), and let’s just say his wife Isabel isn’t the only one who finds him easy on the eyes.

Hm…male model? Athletic cover boy? What? Okay, losing track of the numbers here.

Still, there are so many reasons to adore him.

As articulate as he is awkward, Chris recently appeared on “Larry King Now”  to promote his  book, “Beautifully Unique Sparkleponies: On Myths, Morons, Free Speech, Football and Assorted Absurdities.”

On the show, he briefly mentioned his personal protest of the Minnesota Marriage Amendment and his ever-expanding record of LGBT advocacy, which started hitting its stride last year.

Sharing a viewpoint with Larry King that’s rarely been shared by celebs publicly, Chris went on to express a bittersweet regret about the Prop 8 decision, saying  we could have pressed even harder to get more mileage from the opportunity to make permanent changes.

“I liked the DOMA decision,” said Kluwe, “Because obviously it extended federal benefits to married couples. Not a big fan of the Prop 8 decision, because while it allowed gays to be married in California as soon as they vacate the stay, the problem is, the Supreme Court had a chance to extend those rights across the entire country…whereas they could’ve made a statement.”

“They have a precedent,” he continued. “They have Loving v. Virginia—that says

marriage is a human right. They could’ve extended that out to say, ‘Same sex marriage, that is a human right, and you can’t discriminate against that.’”

Trying to keep realistic, he tied things up by saying, “So now we’ve just got to go to all the other states that—right now—gay marriage is illegal in, and get that passed.”

Earlier this month, in what could have been a media disaster, Kluwe shared a stinging truth (citing ex-New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez’s murder charges) in the following exchange with Conan O’Brien on the “Conan” show:

“Now what about the NFL? Where’s the NFL in all of this?” Conan O’Brien asked.

“They pretty much just left me alone,” Kluwe answered, “As long as you’re not out shooting people…”

Here’s the deal: straight allies often put their foot in their mouths, no matter how good their intentions may be. Chris Kluwe’s using his “big-mouthed” persona to our advantage. You just can’t hate on somebody for that.

Chris Kluwe loves World of Warcraft, loves the game of football, loves to raise consciousness and awareness, and is all about a message of transparency, fairness and equality.

In his “Larry King Now” appearance and his Out of Bounds blog, Kluwe rants on with this through line: if we are not honest with ourselves and protecting our own, our civilization is doomed. He simply won’t back down from the idea, and his new book likely puts that sentiment on full blast.

Well-played Chris Kluwe—and play on.

What’s your take on Chris’ mouthy antics? Do you think he’s trying to co-opt Gay Rights to get attention? Does that matter, either way? Wait…you’re too busy looking at his “Out” magazine cover spread, aren’t you?

Don’t leave us hanging, y’all—what’s the T? Let us know what’s on your mind, and you can holler at your boy Chris Kluwe @ChrisWarcraft on Twitter.