Curious message from a teenage girl in Iran. How to reply?

Hi, friends and readers:

Via this website, I hear from people all over the world: the U.K., Australia, Asia, and South America. And I hear from readers all over the United States, of course. But I’ve never heard from a teenage girl from Iran before.

The girl’s name is Behin. Here’s what she said (edited for smoother reading).

“Hi, Martin. Please don’t  leave until reading this whole message.
Can girls come here? Or is it forbidden? I don`t know.

“Anyway I have some questions actually…

“I`m a girl and I`m 17, a Muslim girl from Iran! Now what do you think of me? Honestly…?
I think It`s been almost a month since I found your website. You know your website was the only site about gays that wasn’t filtered. `Cause in here Iran, [content] like this is considered sooooooooo bad. Do you mind if I call you Martin?

“Okay, let`s go through the first question…how do you feel of being gay?

“Have you ever had some feelings for girls?

“I like both girls and boys. I like a boy, but because of certain reasons I can`t be with him. My closest friend and I like each other, but we both are shy to express it, and we both had boyfriends and then broke up with them.

“What do you think so far?

“And the most important reason for not expressing our feelings for each other is our religion. We both say our prayers and believe in our God. Being gay is forbidden in Islam. And our families are conservative and religious people! In our country, gays would be hung for their behavior.

“Oh, sorry, I just explained about myself.

“I guess you don’t want to have your own children, but I want this for me.

“You know Atefeh and I (her name Atefeh means “emotion” and mine means “the Best”) enjoy being with each other, but sometimes something inside me is just critical. It tells me:  BE normal and don’t go after love from Atefeh.

“Okay I think actually said more than enough.

“If you want to know who is behind this comment, I can send you a photo of us.

“Thanks, and catch you another time. B-y-y-y-e.”

Wow ….

Where to begin?

Behin, first of all, thanks for writing. It’s great to hear from a citizen of Iran, a nation we Americans know little about. To us, Iranians seem a hostile people, but that is only because of what we hear from our media, and also because of Iran’s nuclear energy program. We believe it threatens peaceful relations in the Middle East. Do you?

Behin, you, as an individual, don’t seem hostile at all. I also think you are quite brave to write me about your feelings toward your female friend. Look, don’t let these feelings scare you. I am sorry Islamic society is not more tolerant toward same-sex relationships. It’s sad, really. We all deserve to love someone we truly care for. I am not a religious person, and I don’t think religious leaders should dictate who we love and how.

How do I feel about being gay myself? I’m fine with it. In fact, being gay has opened up so many opportunities for me, ones I’d never have experienced had I been straight. Have I ever been attracted to women? No.

Behin, you know more about life in Iran than I do, but I would not recommend sending your photo to me. It seems to me Iran is a “closed society” with very few freedoms. I don’t want you to get into trouble. Frankly, I am surprised my website makes it through the Internet “filters” your government imposes on Internet content.

In the end, we all have to compromise with the culture we live in, I suppose. But you can still dream of being affectionate with your female friend, can’t you? No one can control your thoughts but you. Right?

Best of luck, Behin. Thanks again for writing me.

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