Iranian gay and lesbian lexicon
July 27, 2004
I read the "Watch
your language" piece in
the Shorts section. "Queer" has
termed faraahanjaar by a group of Iranian queers. To get the theory
behind it, refer to Homan magazine
No.18, introduction (You can contact
copy if you don't have it). Also, In the lexicon section of a queer
women's site, khanaye-doost.com, there
is a list of
I say faraahanjaar is tentative (even as it has been
taken up and coopted by some queer groups already) because it is
under construction and was introduced as a term that could yield
to more appropriate terms. It was certainly NOT introduced as a
short-hand for a long list of identities such as gay, lesbian,
bisexual, transgendered, etc., but has been used as such.
Some of us have been talking about the way hamjensbaaz,
because of it's negative connotations, could be re-signified by
queers, the way "queer" has been owned up in the U.S.
by queer theorists. However, more carfeul work on the history of
the term hamjensbaaz and it's uses is needed before
one makes such a move. Otherwise, this form of "translation" may
risk a form of ahistorical copying.
(Time permitting, this fall,
I am hoping to do some work on the discursive production of baazi, jens, and hamjens, their
historical uses, and their roles as supplements, in the Derridean
sense, in the reification of Iranian nationalism.
If I get anywhere with it, I'll let you know. For now, Afsaneh
Najmabadi's forthcoming book Women with Mustaches and Men without
Beards has an excellent section on transformations of sexuality
in Qajar Iran, where she talks about "fokoli" and effiminate
figures as essential to imagining the nation in Modern Iran.)
Also, kooni is not really translatable as "asshole," but
signifies an association with koon (of "ass").
It connotes a deviation from the "proper orifice", if
you will. More often that not, it was (and still is) used to refer
to the one who is penetrated and not the penetrator.
So long as the penetrator is not subjected to such "unmanly" deeds
as being penetrated by another man, he does not count as kooni in
heteronormative discourses. It has to do with notions of "manhood" and
what takes to be demasculinized. It is curios how the Iranian man's
manhood is constructed in his koon!
You are right about
the prevelence of the term hamjensgaraa among a large number of
Iranian queers. Interestingly, because women's sexuality is all
together erased in Iranian popular discourse, hamjensgaraa, has
come to have a masculine designation. That is, used on its own,
hamjensgaraa often connotes a male homosexual. Attaching zan becomes
the way to get around this linguistic problem (Zanaan-e
The term is also exclusionary as it does not really account for
those who do not fit within the naturalized and hegemonic heterosexuality,
but are not solely attracted to their same sex either (some transgenders,
To make the long story short, there is no "correct" word
to name non- normative sexualities, and as it is always the case,
words are constantly resignified as they are circulated. Who knows,
maybe hamjensbaaz will one day become a more common
term reclaimed by Iranian queers than the terms hamjensgaraa or
it is expected, there are many hamjensgaraas who would not agree
with me on this. There are many who do not want to be called "queer" or
insist on identifying as "hamjensgaraa." There are also
those who use the word "queer" because it is perhaps
the "chic" of diaspora these days. It makes one seem "cool" to
be queer! Perhaps, as a friend once said, it is because of the
desire for innovation in modernity that terms lose their political
usefulness as they are appropriated.
Lastly, with a term such as "dyke" or "homo," it
obviously depends on who uses it and how. Being called a dyke by
homophobic bigots is being bashed by hate speech, but being called
a dyke by a friend could even be a term of endearment. (As you
know the march before the Gay Parade day in San Francisco is called
goodbye to spam!