Iranian gays insist they actually do exist, and in large numbers, contrary to statements made by Iran's president to derisive laughter at Columbia University last week. But life there is much more "complicated" for gays than it is in North America. “You can have a secret gay life as long you don’t start demanding rights,” one man told the New York Times.
It's illegal to be gay in Iran, where gays are punished by lashing or death if it can be proven that they engaged in homosexual relations. Observers believe President Ahmadinejad was caught off guard by a question about gays at Columbia, where such a question would be unheard of at an Iranian university. "We don't have homosexuals," he said.