Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Ahmadinejad: "No homosexuals in Iran"

As widely reported, the president of Iran, Ahmadinejad, has stated that homosexuals do not exist in his country. This doesn't really have to do with autism, but I happen to have researched the history of homosexuality, which went from being criminalized to being a disease and finally depathologized in 1973 when it was removed from the DSM-II. There's something I once read on the topic which probably explains Ahmadinejad's remark.

Evidently, homosexuals exist in Iran, probably at about the same rate as they are found to exist in the West (which BTW is not the 10% usually cited.) However, I do not doubt that homosexuals are a "hidden horde" in Iran, largely unseen, if you will. They have to hide, and the vast majority of Iranians could easily be unaware of their existence, except when they are reported by the media.

You see, homosexuality is criminalized in Iran (source 1, source 2).

Let's find out what it was like in the West when homosexuality was criminalized. The following is a selection of passages about a sodomy trial taken from The Medical Construction of Homosexuality and its Relation to the Law in Ninteenth-Centry England.

Mr Archibald thought it "fortunate" that "there is little learning or knowledge upon this subject in this country; there are other countries in which I am told learned treatises are written as to the appearance to be expected in such cases. Fortunately Doctors in England know very little about these matters". Mr Archibald could not have made a better summary of the position of forensic knowledge about sodomy and about homosexual practices...

Gibson also noted that this was an "uncommon condition so far as my experience goes". Gibson had read the two leading Continental authorities on sodomy, August Tardieu and Johann Casper, a fact used by the court to establish a doctor's expertise in detecting sodomical practices...

Lord Chief Justice Cockburn brought to the court's attention that "although this gentleman has not seen an instance of the effect produced by such a crime, yet if his general anatomical and surgical knowledge enables him to form an opinion, and he is able to say that the result of certain acts must be to produce such an effect, that would be legitimate evidence"...

This establishment of ignorance amongst medical practitioners concerning knowledge about sodomy was to become crucial for the conclusion that sodomy did not exist in England, for unlike their Continental colleagues, credible and respectable English doctors at this trial (not Paul) were on the whole unable to tell if it had occurred or not.

If a survey of homosexuality were to be done in Iran, my bet is that the results would indicate there is close to 0% homosexuality in that country. Nevertheless, whether recognized rates of homosexuality in the West are 40-fold or 6000% higher than those of Iran, that does not prove homosexuality is biologically more common in the West, of course. Someone such as David Kirby could very well disagree with that logic, though.


  1. This is strikingly similar to statements recently made by a US politician claiming he wasn't intentionally playing footsies and fingerfun under the washroom stall divider.

    IMO VERY not highly credible.

  2. I think he believes it, but doesn't understand it. It's similar to someone claiming autistics didn't exist before Kanner first reported on the syndrome.

  3. Yup, and they have much happier marriages in Iraq; no religious strife; and the trains run on time...

    It was good to give this guy a forum from which to stick his foot in his mouth...

  4. There's another bias at work here: the will to believe mixing with cognitive dissonance and confirmation/disconfirmation bias. Ahmadinejad's ideology tells him that there should be no homosexuals in a proper Islamic state. Since he wants to believe that he's running (or, more accurately, figureheading) a proper Islamic state, he's going to discount/overlook evidence that there are gay people in Iran and be uncritical of "evidence" purporting otherwise.

    Humans have a vastly overdeveloped capacity for not seeing things they don't want to see or don't expect to see. Douglas Adams' SEP field and J.K. Rowlings Muggle-repelling charms all work on this principle.

  5. I can imagine that in a country where homosexuality is punished by death, there would be a natural resistance to a frank and open discussion of one's sexual orientation.

    If Mr. Ahmadinejad is unaware of any homosexuals in Iran, we will just have to add that to the very long list of things he is not aware of.


  6. This is so sad in this day and age.

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