Numbers of gay men and lesbians in Iran have adopted a desperate method of shielding themselves from the country’s harsh laws against homosexual activities: sex-change surgery.
In a country where same-sex relationships are punishable by execution, sex-change surgeries can mean the difference between life and death, says Sasha von Oldershausen in a Huffington Post article on the subject.
The BBC says that more sex-change operations are performed in Iran than in any other country except Thailand, and Iran has just made such operations easier to afford. A new ruling requires health insurers to pay the full cost of sex-change surgeries.
The Guardian says that official statistics put the number of transgender Iranians at 15,000 to 20,000, but unofficial estimates range up to 150,000.
Sex-change surgeries can be acceptable to Muslims who view homosexuality as a disease and think of sex-change surgery as a cure for that disease.
Von Oldershausen cites filmmaker Tanaz Eshaghian, an Iranian native whose award-winning 2008 documentary “Be Like Others” focused on “a generation of young Iranian men choosing to undergo sex-change surgery.”
Eshaghian showed “the pressure felt by gay men and women in Iran to have sexual reassignment surgeries as a means of legitimizing their sexual orientation. As gay individuals, they are committing a crime. As transsexuals, they can exist under Iranian law,” in the words of von Oldershausen.