Arya Marvazy, an HR consultant and community organizer, first felt brave enough to come out as gay to his Iranian friends and siblings only after moving to Israel to study.
Like many, from the first flush of romantic feelings in early adolescence, Arya Marvazy knew something was different. Accepting himself was a long journey that began with a fraternity brother, a fellow Persian Jew, coming out to him while they were still in college. Watching a mirror of himself blossom as an openly gay man was hugely inspiring, but it was during a move to Washington D.C., followed by Israel to study where he first felt brave enough to come out to friends and siblings, who were incredibly supportive, all the while avoiding the subject with his parents. In some ways, he says, the tiny, insular nature of LA’s Persian Jewish community means they are uniformly more conservative, making the stigma of homosexuality even greater.
Over seven years of playing a hide-and-seek game of selective ‘outness’, Arya mustered up the courage and communal support to come out to his parents during Passover of 2015.
While they took the expected time to process together, his parents were soon acting in a role of support. Like so many middle-eastern cultures, there is an emphasis on family respect and reputation. One must assume there are plenty of LGBTQ Iranians, but the shame associated with it so often stifles their stories that knowing how to navigate the reality is basically impossible. While his parents came to terms with his news, Arya was embracing his newfound openness, and a deep-seated desire to help others inspired him to create a coming out video, which he posted to Facebook. Naturally his parents were the first to know, as he wanted their approval and support. His mother who was on her way to accepting her son in his entirety, was hesitant for how it would be received. She even sat with him as he posted, watching the comments come in in real time as it became viral. As the positive comments and likes flew in she was astounded, excitedly reading them aloud. Pride and love for her son overcame her fear, and now, incredibly, Arya actually refers parents of friends in similar situations to his mother and father for guidance.
Naturally, he received his fair share of bigotry, but those negative comments were the minority. He’s regularly approached online for help on platforms like Facebook and Instagram, and amazingly, apps like OkCupid and Grindr too. He mentions his bisexual Persian friend who works alongside him at JQ, who has an abundance of closeted female friends too scared of repercussions, to come out. Later when I finally find some, I talk to Iranian women online who say they have to be incredibly careful with their lesbian dating profiles, and will absolutely never tell their parents about their identity. The fear, they say, isn’t a physically harmful backlash, it’s the knowledge they will be ostracized, of seeing the look of pain on their parents’ faces as they realize their child is (apparently) bound for hell for all eternity. It’s the fear of embarrassing the family. Read the full story on The Iranian