Saturday, June 27, 2015

Iran Coerces Gays Into Having Sex-Change Operations, U.S. State Department Thinks That's Very Liberal Of Them

Everything will soon be all right* 

One of the semi-well-known quirks of official social philosophy and policy in modern Islamic Iran is that homosexuals and lesbians are thought of as people "trapped" in the wrong physical genders. Thus, the solution for gay people (and society) is for them to have sex-change surgery.

If you think about it, the philosophy might indicate a somewhat more "compassionate" or "liberal" stance on homosexuality than the Muslim norm. Homosexuality is not evil. It's simply a consequence of some kind of biological misidentification or mistake. And sure enough, in some measures, things are arguably less repressive for homosexuals in Iran than in some other Islamic countries. Perhaps that doesn't say much. But still.

On the other hand, there have long been reports that homosexuals in Iran have been pressured, coerced or forced into having sex-change treatments often including surgery. This is well-known among human-rights organizations, although a minority of activists appear to be sympathetic to the government's "supportive" measures.

Among other things, the government will give you loans and grants worth up to $3,690 to go through with it.

Well, it beats getting thrown off a building.

So, now I'm a homosexual man in a "woman's" body--the discount model ($3,690), I should add. Or maybe I wasn't even technically homosexual, just a bit feminine. It happens.

Why are they still laughing at me? Why am I still not accepted?

I think there's been some mistake. It's not exactly what I wanted. Can I get another $3,690 to go back, please?

Shut up and wear your burka. No one will be able to see you anyway.   

A 2014 BBC report summarizes the situation, making it clear, among other things that the pressure is both societal and governmental. 
It's not official government policy to force gay men or women to undergo gender reassignment but the pressure can be intense. In the 1980's the founder of the Islamic Republic, Ayatollah Khomeini, issued a fatwa allowing gender reassignment surgery - apparently after being moved by a meeting with a woman who said she was trapped in a man's body. 
Shabnam - not her real name - who is a psychologist at a state-run clinic in Iran says some gay people now end up being pushed towards surgery. Doctors are told to tell gay men and women that they are "sick" and need treatment, she says. They usually refer them to clerics who tell them to strengthen their faith by saying their daily prayers properly. 
But medical treatments are also offered. And because the authorities "do not know the difference between identity and sexuality", as Shabnam puts it, doctors tell the patients they need to undergo gender reassignment. 
In many countries this procedure involves psychotherapy, hormone treatment and sometimes major life-changing operations - a complex process that takes many years. 
That's not always the case in Iran. 
"They show how easy it can be," Shabnam says. "They promise to give you legal documents and, even before the surgery, permission to walk in the street wearing whatever you like. They promise to give you a loan to pay for the surgery." 
Supporters of the government's policy argue that transgender Iranians are given help to lead fulfilling lives, and have more freedom than in many other countries. But the concern is that gender reassignment surgery is being offered to people who are not transgender, but homosexual, and may lack the information to know the difference. 
"I think a human rights violation is taking place," says Shabnam. "What makes me sad is that organisations that are supposed to have a humanitarian and therapeutic purpose can take the side of the government, instead of taking care of people." 
Psychologists suggested gender reassignment to Soheil, a gay Iranian 21-year-old. 
Then his family put him under immense pressure to go through with it. 
"My father came to visit me in Tehran with two relatives," he says. "They'd had a meeting to decide what to do about me... They told me: 'You need to either have your gender changed or we will kill you and will not let you live in this family.'" 
His family kept him at home in the port city of Bandar Abbas and watched him. The day before he was due to have the operation, he managed to escape with the help of some friends. They bought him a plane ticket and he flew to Turkey... 
Marie, aged 37, is now staying in Kayseri after leaving Iran five months ago. She grew up as a boy, Iman, but was confused about her sexuality and was declared by an Iranian doctor to be 98% female. 
"The doctor told me that with the surgery he could change the 2% male features in me to female features, but he could not change the 98% female features to be male," she says. 
After that, she thought she needed to change her gender. 
Hormone therapy seemed to bring positive changes. She grew breasts, and her body hair thinned. "It made me feel good," she says. "I felt beautiful. I felt more attractive to the kinds of partners I used to have." 
But then she had the operation - and came away feeling "physically damaged". 
She had a brief marriage to a man but it broke down, and any hope she had that life would be better as a woman was short-lived. 
"Before the surgery people who saw me would say, 'He's so girly, he's so feminine,'" Marie says. 
"After the operation whenever I wanted to feel like a woman, or behave like a woman, everybody would say, 'She looks like a man, she's manly.' It did not help reduce my problems. On the contrary, it increased my problems...
How widespread the practice is is difficult to know. Presumably, if you're homosexual but are discreet and have a bit of luck, you will be able to avoid the whole thing. The recent Daily Caller news item on the issue, states:
Since homosexuality can be punishable by death in Iran, known homosexual men tend to accept the government-subsidized surgery to become women, and vice versa.
The implication is that the practice is almost the norm (or the norm for "known" homosexuals). This seems incredible to me, but I really have no idea.

On to the United States response.

The U.S. State Department recently released it's Annual Human Rights survey, containing 16,000 words on Iran. As one would expect, there's a section on "Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity." The first part references the assorted horribles that one would expect to find in any authoritarian Muslim country:
The law (of the Islamic State of Iran) criminalizes consensual same-sex sexual activity, which is punishable by death, flogging, or a lesser punishment.... Security forces harassed, arrested, and detained individuals they suspected of being gay....Thirteen interviewees claimed that security officers subjected them to torture or physical abuse in detention, including punches, kicks, baton strikes, sexual assault, or rape. Many reported that family members beat them at home but feared reporting those assaults to authorities because they might themselves be charged with a criminal act.
But the concluding paragraph of the section references sex-change surgery:
The law defines transgender persons as mentally ill, and the government provided transgender persons financial assistance in the form of grants of up to 4.5 million tomans ($1,660) and loans up to 5.5 million tomans ($2,030) to undergo gender-confirmation surgery. In addition, the Ministry of Cooperatives, Labor, and Social Welfare requires health insurers to cover the cost of gender-confirmation surgery. Individuals who underwent gender-confirmation surgery may petition a court for new identity documents with corrected gender data, which the government reportedly provided efficiently and transparently. Human rights activists and NGOs reported that some LGBT persons were advised to undergo gender-confirmation surgery to avoid legal and social consequences due to their gender-identity ambiguity.
Now, on the surface, the above is not completely inconsistent with, say, that BBC report, and indeed it repeats some of the basic facts. But note the overall positive, or at least neutral tone, especially when contrasted with those punches, kicks and baton strikes of the first part. Notice the use of "advised to undergo" as opposed to "pressured", "coerced" or "forced". Also note the use of the phrase "gender-confirmation surgery" as opposed to the now generally accepted term, "gender-reassignment surgery."

Ask Marie about gender-confirmation.

Is face reassignment surgery available for John Kerry?

I'm sure there are a number of Iranians who would like to give it to him for free.

Obviously, the sex-change surgery for gays mania is not the worst thing about living in Iran (unless you're a known homosexual overly attached to your gender). Other minorities have their own problems. If you're a Muslim who converts to Christianity, you'll be strongly pressured to have your own "re-assignment" treatment. The State Department report alludes to this, or at least to cases of it, but it's contained within a long list of other instances of "Arbitrary or Unlawful Deprivation of Life." And as expected there's no mention of the underlying Islamic view that apostasy from Islam should always be prevented or punished--with death, according to the usual sources.

But one gets the impression that if you're not a member of any kind of minority (counting women in that category), life can be almost normal.

Ignore the fact that your neighbor just underwent genital mutilation.

Who knows, it might have even been a man. 

*In the blog title photo (from Getty Images by way of the Daily Caller), the nurse on the left is actually a pre-treatment, man.

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