Your Passport Doesn’t Work Here: Asylum, Space, and Iranian Queer Heritage
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The OED defines heritage as “that which has been or may be inherited,” implying a linear succession through generations. But what constitutes heritage in the LGBTQ+ community, where marginalization has defined life experiences for centuries? Unlike race, religion, or other ostracizing societal factors, gender identity and sexual orientation are not always passed down to children from their parents. For as long as society has marginalized queer individuals, spaces formed around their isolated social existences have acted as classrooms and battlegrounds. In these spaces, queer heritage has passed down through generations as lessons on survival, struggle, and resilience. It can be argued that initial locations for queer gathering (bathhouses, cruising grounds, hidden bars, etc.) created places of nurture, but also of segregation – a closeting that can be detrimental to the progression desired by contemporary gay rights movements. In other words, these spaces have acted like Foucauldian heterotopias: at once apart from, and yet mirroring the realities of the societies they belong to. The question of their heritage is similarly paradoxical: at once taking us back to the segregated closet, and yet acting as homes to the queer culture born around oppression and resilience. The challenge in defining relationships between queer space, the closet, and queer heritage is heightened in the Iranian LGBTQ+ diaspora. Legal, cultural, and political conditions of recent decades have resulted in a growing number of Iranians seeking asylum in the West on account of their sexual orientations or gender identities. These exiled individuals are now the custodians of a heritage they build on while scattered around the world. How can queer heritage, so reliant on space, be detected in this displaced community? Is this a heritage to aspire to, given its often closeted nature? The spaces serving the Iranian LGBTQ+ community in Iran, in transitional countries like Turkey, and in Western destinations like Canada, reflect the life experiences of their users. By looking at case studies of these spaces, Your Passport Doesn’t Work Here challenges the concept of heritage in queer communities, while examining its relationship to space.
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Paniz Moayeri (2019). Your Passport Doesn’t Work Here: Asylum, Space, and Iranian Queer Heritage. UWSpace. http://hdl.handle.net/10012/14401