I’m From Salt Lake City, UT.

by Par Kermani

Satellite overhead image of Utah from Google Earth 2022

I’m twenty-one years old now, living on my own and working my way through school. I was born in Salt Lake City, Utah, and raised in a highly conservative Iranian family. Though they weren’t LDS, their religion was similar. Growing up, my mother was my best friend. My father on the other hand was either working or forcing me on his days off to play sports with his friend’s sons. Rarely did he ever let me choose what I wanted to do, it was all about manning me up and showing me how to work so I can take care of my “wife and kids” one day. He spoke to me like he knew I was gay–I was only 10 years old. During middle school, my parents decided to move which resulted in me switching to a new school. As soon as students starting catching on to my musical taste and love for fashion, they tortured me. It didn’t end. Jocks in middle school would tell me all day how much of a “fag” I was, and then I’d come home and my father would tell me the same thing. I couldn’t tell my parents why I was so miserable, I couldn’t tell them what the kids at school called me and how much they tortured me. I didn’t want them to get any idea that I was gay, because I myself hadn’t accepted it. My sophomore year of high school rolled around and that’s when I met a gay guy for the first time. His name was Cody, and I found everything about him so intriguing. The more I hung out with him the more I knew what I was. One by one I came out–to my best friends first, then my school (which for some odd reason stopped the bullying), then my extended family. It seemed the whole world knew by my senior year of high school that I was gay except for my parents.

The older I got, the more distant my relationship with my parents became. Financially they took care of all my needs, and for that I love and respect them to this day. My father had his own cable company, and I began working for him right out of high school. He always told me it was his lifelong dream to someday see me as the owner of the company with both my younger brothers working underneath me. It sounded nice, until he would always add at the end, “…and for me to come over to your home and have dinner with your wife and my grandkids.” I won’t lie–it broke my heart every time, because by that point in my life I had already been with a guy for six months. Every time I walked into work I carried this burden with me, and it felt like a knife was stabbing into my chest every time I looked him in the eyes and lied telling him I have a girlfriend, and that he will get to meet her one day.

My father had toned down on the harassment, but my mother was catching on quick that Mary was actually a Matt. She would question me constantly, and finally when Matt officially dumped me for someone else, the way I handled the breakup through my constant crying, and not eating, from the look in my mom’s eyes I knew she knew.

Somehow word got out in the Iranian community that I was gay and it was brought up to my mother. She was so embarrassed from people talking behind her back that she moved the whole family to L.A where no one knew her or our family. I used college as an excuse and stayed behind, my dad bought me a small condo to live in, but under one condition: that he could stay there when he came twice a month for payroll. I was happy to be away from it all, and for once in my life I felt free to live my life, and I did. A year later my mom came to visit me, and found my boyfriend-at-the-time’s boxer briefs in my laundry. I told her they were mine but it was obvious his size 30 waist did not fit my size 34 waist. She didn’t say anything until she got back to California, and then called me and after an hour-long phone conversation of her hounding me with questions, I told her the three most painful words of my life: “Mom, I’m gay.” She went speechless, and I felt like I had just shot her in the heart. I always told myself that when I would come out to my parents I wouldn’t cry, I would be confident and proud, but even though she was silent, her pain was not. I couldn’t keep the tears from coming out. She told me I was disgusting, and that I was an embarrassment to her, and hung up the phone. I didn’t hear from her for six months.

After that, my mother was never the same. She starting talking to me again and told me she accepted it, but to this day I can tell she doesn’t. A couple months after she started talking to me again she decided to leave my father. When I asked her why, she simply said, “You’re doing what you want, well I want to do what I want.” She kicked him out of the house, and he permanently moved in with me. Everyday was hell, listening to him cry, or yell over my mother. That’s when I started smoking cigarettes. Watching one burn reminded me of what my family once was and, because of me, what it had become: Ashes.

During one of their fights, my mother told my father I was gay. He threw a knife at me and told me to get as much stuff as I could from my house and leave. He managed to tell his highly conservative side of the family about me and I was blamed for the divorce. They told me my mother had gone crazy for knowing I was gay, and that it caused her to have a mental breakdown and leave my father. They harassed my mother until she gave my father full custody of my little brothers. He changed their numbers so that I could never speak to them again.

Since then I’ve been struggling to live on my own, but I’m doing it with the help of my boyfriend I’ve been with for two years. I can’t say I’m completely over what happened because I’m not. I still smoke cigarettes and think of my family when I do. But at least I can say that I’m okay and that I am happy. I take everything one day at a time, and still get to see my mother every now and then. To be honest, I’m scared of what my future looks like, but I’m confident that I will do everything in my power to become as successful as possible. I’m not going to give my family the chance to look at me as some low-class queer, but to see a successful businessman instead. And then it wouldn’t matter if I were gay…would it?

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