Moss Adams Voices

Parsa Dara: Outward, Not Backward

Parsa Dara explores his journey from Iran to the US and speaks to community within the Pride business resource group during this year’s LGBTQ+ Pride Month celebration.

Parsa Dara

For this year’s celebration of LGBTQ+ Pride Month, tax staff member Parsa Dara (he/him) shares his experience immigrating to the United States from Iran. Parsa, a trans man, left Iran to search for a place he could safely be himself in his personal and professional life. He first joined Moss Adams in our Seattle office as an intern. Since being hired full-time in July 2022, Parsa has found community in the Pride business resource group (BRG) and explores his journey to Moss Adams.

The Pride BRG’s chosen theme for this year’s LGBTQ+ Pride Month celebration is Outward, Not Backward. What does that mean to you?

The theme encourages us to remember we’re valuable. Societal norms often push back, but we must step forward. While it may not be easy, we must push ourselves out of our comfort zones and work together toward progress without giving up.

Parsa Dara in a cap and gown with a rainbow academic stole.

What would you like to share about pushing toward your personal growth?

Sometimes in my life, it hasn’t been safe to say out loud that I’m a trans man. In Iran, schools are separated by gender until higher education, sometimes longer. I was the top student in my class, but I was treated differently and that left me feeling alone. I also was required to wear a hijab, which further isolated me. My family put me in therapy because I wanted to dress like the boys; in Iran transgender people are treated as if they’re suffering from illness.

At 18, I discovered gender-affirming surgery was legal in Iran even if not culturally accepted. I came out to my family and explained I wanted to transition, but they were upset because they thought they’d lose the dreams they had for me. It took months, but we talked and eventually they accepted me for who I was.

I had the surgery after graduation, then waited three years until my documentation was ready before I went to university. I worried moving with my dead identity could create problems for me. Eventually, I left Iran after my university graduation.

Can you elaborate on what led you to leave?

I didn’t feel safe. Because I required documentation noting that as a trans man I was ineligible for our mandatory service in the Iranian Army, I was sometimes forced to tell my story and people would react poorly.

For example, when I went to change my passport to leave Iran, the person I was speaking with saw my new birth certificate. There’s an explanation at the bottom about my transition. She went to another room, told her coworkers, and all of them came out to look at my paperwork and stare at me. I felt like they were looking at me like I was from another planet.

Around the time I was transitioning, an Iranian president suggested there were no LGBTQ+ people in Iran. Homosexuality is punishable by death there, and even a few months ago, two women who were brave enough to speak out for our community were sentenced to death. There may be an assumption that there’s no LGBTQ+ community in Iran, but we exist. We’re hiding because we have to or else we may be executed.

I left for Turkey and immigrated to Portland in 2016. There are still times I feel like I have to hide my true self. I carry deep trauma from those experiences.

Parsa Dara standing in front of some Chihuly glass art.

Have you found community since moving to the US?

Yes, I’ve found support within the LGBTQ+ community here. Being around others who have experienced similar struggles helps me feel less alone. Still, I struggled with new challenges. I thought I would leave my gender identity challenges in Iran, but intersectionality presented new obstacles here.

The culture shock and language barriers were overwhelming when I moved. I enrolled in a community college to learn English, and I struggled to express myself. I escaped from Iran to be accepted by society, but in the United States I was still outside of society because I was so different.

At college, I worked in the Queer Resource Center. That showed me a safe space to express my identity, which is so important. I knew I wanted to work for a company with a similar culture, so before graduation I shared this with a professor and mentor who encouraged me to look into Moss Adams. I already knew the firm promoted inclusion and diversity, but during my internships, I learned about the Pride BRG. That sealed the deal for me.

What would you like to say regarding your experience at Moss Adams and with the Pride BRG?

I am grateful for the sense of community in the Pride BRG. I have space to talk about my professional interests, I can find mentorship, and I even attend in-person events with other BRG members where we network with other LGBTQ+ people from different businesses. We also have a small community of trans and nonbinary colleagues from different offices who help each other through our personal and professional challenges—disclosure isn’t required to join.

People need to feel safe at work. I worried when applying that employers would learn I’m part of the LGBTQ+ community and that may put me at risk for not being hired. I think having a place where people feel free to express themselves and raise their voices as part of the LGBTQ+ community creates a place of belonging, and that’s something we all should have in our lives and in our communities.

Parsa Dara on a sunny lawn holding a dog.

How do you celebrate Pride?

I attend events and parades, learn more about the history of the LGBTQ+ movement, and show my support for the community how I can. I believe celebrating Pride Month should be a reminder for people to express themselves and their identity without fear of discrimination or persecution. There’s beauty in diversity.

I’ve faced unique challenges as a trans man, even in the workplace. Sometimes, people assume I’m a cisgender man or believe stereotypes based on my ethnicity. I still feel like I’m put in a different box and I don’t want to be seen that way. My experiences are part of who I am, and I carry my trans identity proudly.

I have a strong relationship with my family now. They support me as I am. I understand years ago they were concerned for me because they were afraid of what might happen to me in Iran. Through hard work, perseverance, and the support of my community, I’ve come to accept myself and find my place in this new country. I’m proud of who I am and what I’ve overcome, and I know I have the strength to face any challenge that comes my way.

Go Beyond the Desk

At Moss Adams, we believe in the power of possible to empower our clients and people to pursue success however they define it. Explore stories about our professionals, including their personal achievements, at our Beyond the Desk page.