Our City of Colours breaks silence on LGBT presence in Persian Canadian community

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      Our City of Colours has released the second in a series of six posters that will augment the visibility of queer people in cultural and linguistic communities in Metro Vancouver.

      The first poster was designed by the grassroots project to reach the Chinese Canadian community. This time around, the posters are designed to address the Persian Canadian community.

      In this bilingual poster, 24-year-old Farhad poses on stairs, while details about him, such as being an engineering student and a soccer player, are written in both English and Farsi. (Farsi is primarily spoken in countries such as Iran, Afghanistan, and Tajikistan.)

      The imagery in this poster is more modest than the Chinese Canadian poster, which featured two men holding hands and gazing lovingly at each other. It was accompanied by a list of their interests, such as yoga and watching hockey, and statements that they loved each other at the bottom. This new Persian Canadian poster features only one male.

      Mo Kazerooni of Our of City of Colours, explained by phone that the reason they only chose one male was because they had difficulty finding a second model. "I know lots of people who support it and I know of lots of them who would get involved," he explained, "but it's hard for them to come in front of the camera."

      While there is no visible imagery of Farhad being gay, large script at the bottom states in both English and Farsi that Farhad loves his boyfriend. And Googoosh.

      Who is Googoosh, you might ask?

      Googoosh, or Faegheh Atashin, is one of the most iconic female pop stars and actors from Iran. What's more, the Iranian superstar even graced our fair city on September 18, 2010, with a concert at Queen Elizabeth Theatre.

      Kazerooni explained that this pop cultural reference was a way of connecting with their target audience. "We want to speak to these communities, so that's why we get something from the respective cultures also…. Everyone knows who Googoosh is in the Iranian community."

      The posters may also help queer Iranian immigrants who come to Canada due to our country's liberal attitude towards LGBT people. Kazerooni, who has lived in Canada for the past seven years, talked about attitudes towards homosexuality in both the Persian Canadian community and in Iran. "I can see it's changing but it's still quite—I don't want to say homophobic, but it's not talked about as much as it should. In Iran, homosexuality is [subject to]…capital punishment. And that's why there are queer refugees coming to Canada, because of their sexual orientation. And lots of them can't be out in their respective communities. And it leads to other problems, like finding jobs or they want to belong to the Iranian community but they struggle with that."

      The recently released film Circumstance, starring Vancouver's own Nikohl Boosheri, is one of the first films to represent a lesbian relationship set in Iran.

      "I'm glad that these movies are being made," Kazerooni said. "I hope to see more of these movies made. It's a good start."

      He also hopes that these media images help to increase discussion about LGBT issues. "I would like to see more dialogue regarding these matters. I know people who are out to their families and their families are okay with homosexuality, but not okay with their sons or daughters are being gay. As long as it's somebody else who's gay, it's not my daughter or son."

      The posters will be plastered up throughout the city. The organizers are looking for volunteers to help put them up. If you want to help out, visit their Facebook webpage, which has their email address in their info section.

      More posters—three more for the Chinese Canadian community and one for the South Asian (Punjabi) Canadian community—will be unveiled later this month. Future plans for other possible communities may include the Korean, Filipino, and Japanese Canadian communities.

      You can follow Craig Takeuchi on Twitter at twitter.com/cinecraig. You can also follow the Straight's LGBT coverage on Twitter at twitter.com/StraightLGBT.




      Nov 7, 2011 at 8:27pm

      I think it's great that Our City of Colours is trying to increase awareness of such a controversial issue in other parts of the world. Keep up the great work! These posters are a great idea and an excellent place to start!

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      Nov 8, 2011 at 6:21pm

      I think that Our City of Colours is doing great work and it's wonderful to see that they're focusing on increasing awareness of accepting everybody regardless of sexual orientation in Persian Canadian and Chinese Canadian Communities. I have friends from those communities and I'm sure that this is a great service for them. Keep up the great work!

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