Arya Marvazy is only two years into his journey as an openly gay Persian man but he’s already working with other Queer Persians to change the many misconceptions about the LGBTQ community. Since 2016, he and 11 other Queer Persians from diverse faith backgrounds have developed and presented events and panels that address Queer Persians and their place in their communities. The JQ Persian Pride Fellowship, “a nine-month leadership, activism and training program for Iranian LGBTQ individuals and allies,” held a weekend retreat in March where they came together and produced a short PSA designed to educate the Persian community about the LGBTQ experience.
“Unfortunately, in today’s political climate, some people’s existing misconceptions about the Persian Queer community is being affirmed,” Arya said. “Some people have been taught to see being LGBTQ as a disease or illness or a symptom of being raised badly. But I don’t blame my community for having these misconceptions. I don’t blame people for being products of how they’ve been raised. These are deeply embedded perceptions and beliefs that I want to work hard to change.”
The JQ Persian Pride Fellowship was created to cultivate the type of leadership and strategic thinking that will enable Arya and his cohorts to tell the authentic narrative of LGBTQ Persians and help the community deepen their understanding. Arya hopes that by sharing personal stories he and his cohorts can change the hearts and minds of Persian community members who haven’t been willing to accept Queer family members, friends, and neighbors. According to Arya, part of the problem has been that there hasn’t been much information available about LGBTQ people who are Persian and most of the information available is not in Farsi.
Some people have been taught to see being LGBTQ as a disease or illness or a symptom of being raised badly. But I don’t blame my community for having these misconceptions.
“We want to have an impact on all of the community especially those individuals who will never show up to a panel or any other public space to discuss this issue,” Arya said. “But we want to reach those individuals because they may be willing to explore these ideas from the safety and privacy of their homes in their own native language.”
Arya and the rest of the JQ Persian Pride cohort plan to not only provide LGBTQ informational resources in Farsi but they want to build robust support networks where the Persian Queer community can be authentic and fully accepted as they are. They want to provide social hours, discussion groups, potlucks, and other activities that can help individual Queer Persians build community especially if they haven’t found acceptance in their families or faith communities. But Arya isn’t stopping there, he wants to reach out to the various faith leaders in the Persian community because he believes that acceptance in these faith communities will make it easier for the wider community to embrace LGBTQ individuals.
When imagining a Sephardic synagogue embracing Queer Persians, Arya spoke of the powerful impact of a position of support.
“I think that it would be a cataclysmic event so much so that it would create a much broader systemic and communal change in our community,” Arya said. “And that’s true if I’m talking about a synagogue in the Jewish community or a mosque in the Muslim community. And I know that there aren’t many Persian Christians but the impact would be similar if a Persian priest was to support that change their community. But I know for a fact that in our Jewish community in particular there is so much clout and respect given to some of our faith leaders that a statement of inclusion would essentially allow others to think about inclusion as something that they too could accept.”
Cover photo: Arya Marvazy