20 September 2016

Girls Just Wanna Ride Bikes...In Iran

If you were going to start a movement, would you ban 51 percent of the people from participating in it?

Perhaps that seems like a rhetorical, or merely silly, question. 

It is, however, one that is begged by a turn of events in a country full of paradoxes.

I'm not talking about the US Presidential election campaign.  Rather, I am referring to a something that happened in a country where such things normally don't happen--and what resulted in one part of that country. 

The nation in question is performs more gender-reassignment surgeries than any country except Thailand.  Yet its leader once famously declared that there are no homosexuals in his country.

By now, you may have realized that I am talking about Iran. 

It's not a country noted for its advanced environmental policies.  So more than a few eyebrows were raised when, in November 2015, environmental activists in Aran, an industrial city in the western province of Markazi, introduced the idea of "Tuesdays Without Cars" or, more generally, "Clean Tuesdays", on which people are invited to leave their cars at home and, instead, commute by bicycle. 

The idea quickly spread and now all of the Iran's provinces have joined in.  Now it's on the verge of becoming a national event.

But national events aren't easy to coordinate in a country like Iran.  I have never been there, but I have been told that in at least one sense, it's like neighboring Turkey, where I have spent some time:  there are great cultural differences from one region to another.  So, in a city like Tehran or Istanbul, there are neighborhoods full of people who live lives not too dissimilar from those in Western capitals.  However, in both cities, there are also conservative religious enclaves.  So, it almost goes without saying that in the countryside, customs and interpretations of Islam are, shall we say, not exactly liberal.

In Marivan, a county of Kurdistan province about 500 kilometers from Markazi, some women were stopped on 29 July for the crime of...cycling.  At least, some police officers had the idea that women on bikes were haramFor the time being, women can't ride bikes on the streets in the area.

While there is nothing in Iranian legal codes that prohibits women from cycling, in places like Marivan, the idea of a woman riding a bicycle goes against traditional religious values--or, at least, interpretations of them.

Now, I am certainly no expert on the Qu'ran or Sharia law, but I don't think anything in either would exclude women from riding bicycles, specifically.  But some would interpret those texts, which warn against shameful acts, to mean that women should not ride bicycles.

Or, at least, they would interpret them to mean that women should not be seen riding bicycles in public.  Upon hearing about the July incident, Mamousta Mostafa Shirzadi, the Friday prayer Imam for Marivan, said that officials of the Sport and Youth Organization "need to provide" the women an "appropriate indoor space" for cycling.

In response, organizers of Tuesdays Without Cars pointed out that women, as much as men, need to be able to use their bikes as transportation-- and not just for exercise or recreation, which is all that an indoor space would allow.

Here is a video from a protest against the ban:

Below is a still from a video of a mother and daughter defying the de facto ban on women cycling:

A mother and daughter defy the fatawa against women cycling.


14 September 2016

If Only She Would Quit Her Day Job, Too...

If you've been reading this blog, you might (rightly) guess that I'm no fan of Ann Coulter. 

So I couldn't help but to grin, just a little, when I saw this video:

Ms. Coulter really bombed.  The best parts, for me, came at the 4:56 mark--when Pete Davidson yells "good one!" ironically--and at 6:34, when Jeff Ross gives, shall we say, a frank appraisal of her performance.

She was trying to use the occasion to hawk her newest book.  Somehow I don't think it was a very good marketing strategy.  But what do I know?:  I studied literature and history, not business!

13 June 2016

I'm Sick And Tired Of Hearing About "Thoughts And Prayers"

I know it's been a while since I've posted on this blog.  I began one year before my gender-reassignment surgery and planned to document that year leading up to it.  I had no idea of whether I would continue after that--or, if I did, what direction this blog might take.

For a while, I was writing about my post-surgery life.  But, in time, there was less and less to say about that, so I found myself writing about various transgender--and LGB--issues.  Too ofen, they involved malicious, discriminatory acts of violence (mentally and legally as well as physically) against us.  Perhaps I don't have as strong a constitution as I thought I had, for I could only write about such things so much, and for so long.   And I have never had any interest in turning this into a blog about academic gender studies.

Lately, though, I can't help but to notice the violence against LGBT people.  I don't know whether there's been more of it lately, or whether it's receiving more notice--which is to say that people are recognizing that we are being victimized for being who we are.  

That is what happened to 50 people in the Pulse nightclub.  Though my days of going to bars and clubs are long past, and I am not as immersed in the LGBT milieu as I one was, I'd heard of it: It seems to be one of the gay destinations in Orlando, Florida.  Thus, it seems like a logical (if I might use that word) target for someone like Omar Mateen, who was "repulsed by the gay lifestyle" according to media reports.

"The gay lifestyle":  Did he actually say that?  If he did, I'm amazed that, at this late date, the media still uses it without attributing it to him.  If they were not directly quoting him, it shows that they are just as misinformed, if not prejudiced, as he was.  Being gay--or lesbian or trans--is no more a "lifestyle" than being Muslim or black or handicapped.  A lifestyle implies choice; no one has ever chosen to be gay or transgendered, though we may indeed make the choice to follow our innate selves.

Also, while Mateen may well have been an ISIS sympathizer or whatever, it's hard to imagine that it was his primary motive for going into a crowded nightclub and opening fire.  First of all, ISIS-type terrorists usually choose larger, more public venues.  Second, he was described as "self-radicalized".  It's hard to understand why, if he indeed sympathised with ISIS or any other large organization, he would carry out a mass murder-suicide mission in their name without their help.  Even if he were, as some say, "crazy", it's hard to understand why he would make such a choice.

But, I fear, the real reason why law enforcement authorities and the media want to pursue the ISIS angle--to the extent that it exists--is that they can justify throwing more resources at investigating it, and carrying out other kinds of surveillance, than they could for investigating this tragedy as just a hate crime.  I mean, they will take something more seriously if it involves geopolitics than if it involved "just a bunch of gays out drinking and dancing".  Oh, should I add that most of the victims were Latinos?

Anyway...I can only imagine how the loved ones of those who died, and those who could in the coming days, must feel.  Which is the reason why it makes me sick to hear what we always hear after mass murders and other horrific crimes and tragedies: "Our thoughts and prayers are with them."

Fuck thoughts and prayers.  They never prevented anything like this or helped anyone who had to pick up the pieces afterward.  What we need is to keep folks like Omar Mateen from getting the weapons that enable them to commit such atrocities.  (He was in Florida, where one can walk into a Wal Mart and buy a gun almost as easily as one can buy a fishing reel.)  He bought his weaponry just days before he walked into the Pulse:  enough time for a background check that could have revealed, for example, that he beat his ex-wife.  Also, it might have raised questions as to why he, who wore police garb whenever he could and wanted so badly to becoe a cop, never became one.  Did he reply, and was he rejected because of psychological issues?

Mourn the victims. Give the families and friends the resources they need to help them move on with their lives, to the degree that is possible.  And keep assault weapons away people like Omar Mateen.  Fuck thoughts and prayers:  Neither our high-mindedness nor God will solve anything that we won't solve for ourselves.