In 2015, the Iranian Women’s National Football Team was reported to include several transgender women who had not undergone gender reassignment surgery In fact, Iran reportedly performs the second highest number of gender reassignment surgeries in the world, despite being a strict Muslim nation
So, why would a country that demonizes homosexuality be such a proponent of gender reassignment surgery? Well, Iran has long been considered one of the more conservative Middle Eastern countries Almost any activity outside of a heterosexual marriage is illegal, and many homosexual men and women have been arrested, beaten, and put to death This is in line with Sharia, or Islamic law However, in the 1980s, Iran’s religious leader, Ayatollah Khomeini, was visited by a transgender woman Although reports differ, she pleaded her case by showing him that she was a woman living inside of a man’s body
In response, Khomeini publicly issued a religious ruling, or fatwa, arguing that “If somebody wants to undergo a sex change because he feels trapped inside someone else's body, he has the right to get rid of this body and transform into the other sex” This pronouncement may have come as a surprise, but in fact, Khomeini had already investigated the controversial issue of transexuality some 20 years ago At the time, he wrote that surgically changing your sex was not in violation of any religious laws, which has since been reaffirmed by the Iranian government Today, Iran regularly encourages gender reassignment surgeries, and even subsidizes a significant portion of their cost The country is thought to have one of the highest rates of sex reassignment surgeries in the world, comparable to Thailand But, while the high rate of surgeries may seem to suggest a more progressive Iran, in practical application, the situation is much worse than it seems The issue stems from the fact that any non-heterosexual behavior is condemned Thus, sex reassignment is more of an effort to bring a person’s behavior and lifestyle in line with Islamic law Transgender men and women who are outed, or who choose to continue living without surgery are often lumped in with gays and lesbians, and risk being put to death
While many transgender people in other countries are able to live without undergoing unwanted surgery and hormonal alterations, in Iran there may be few alternatives What is considerably worse is that because homosexuality is poorly understood in Iran, it is treated more like a mental illness One common prescription is for gay people to go through gender reassignment, so that in the eyes of the law, they are attracted to the opposite sex Some have even reported that they were unaware of homosexuality as a concept, and believed that the only explanation was that they were trapped in the wrong body Many people who go through such an experience in Iran deeply regret the taxing and difficult transition
Finally, reports indicate that gender reassignment surgery doesn’t eliminate the abuse that trans and homosexual Iranians face Discrimination and violence continue to be a distressing part of their lives So, while on its face, Iran’s acceptance of transgender men and women seems progressive, in reality it is anything but To learn more about countries who recognize a third gender, watch the video down below It’s been great hosting for you today! If you want to see more of me, check out my channel, Just Between Us, where we regularly discuss sexuality
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