Courtesy of Ramin Haghjoo Haghjoo and Nia's wedding ceremony. Each person introduced me to someone I had previously photographed. He avoids traveling to those places. At his college, a security guard told Nia that a man had been there and asked for his schedule. Even if they are no longer living in Iran, their families do not know their sexual identity.
As a result, Iran ranks as second in the world, following Thailand, for gender realignment surgeries. Being in Turkey was difficult, too. The couple came to the U. The whole first month we were dating, we spent most days together but we managed to have sex only once. I met him at a party at a villa in Lahejan, near the Caspian Sea. Haghjoo was exempted from the military service mandated for all Iranian men because of his sexual orientation, which the Iranian military considers a mental problem. Many come to Denizli, an industrial city in southwest Turkey that acts as a transit zone, allowing Iranian refugees to live in a state of purgatory while they wait patiently for a visa to live in yet another country. He fled to Turkey, leaving his life and art behind. He wrote it for them specifically. Nia, meanwhile, applied for refugee status in the U. Rasti shares her experiences making this work, offering insights on how to photograph invisible people with compassion, dignity, and respect. Transgender individuals live and work openly in Tehran, the government will even pay for sex reassignment surgery for those who want it. But still it is magical. The election was difficult for them to watch. And yet I have not been able to find one who has ever introduced a boyfriend to his parents. Their first dance was to a song with lyrics by Seyed Medhi Mousavi, an Iranian political refugee who now lives in Norway. He showed me how to light candles in the sagh-e khane, little alcoves built into walls around the city that are usually covered by metal bars and may feature an image of an Imam or famous martyr. When we walk in public, he refuses to let me hold his hand or even walk too close to him. He took me to the avant-garde studios of young artists where we smoked hash and engaged in meandering discussions of Bruce Nauman and abstract expressionism. Then his home phone rang. The infinite possibilities of the universe collapsed in that moment into a singular inescapable fact: The two married on Aug. But Haghjoo and Nia still celebrated. More and more, I see gay and lesbian couples being openly affectionate on the streets. Most nights a well known park near the City Theatre and the university of Tehran becomes a vibrant cruising ground for gay men.
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