REVIEWS: Docs / Other films — September 2, 2011 at 4:32 pm

REVIEW: Transsexuals in Iran (2008)

This BBC documentary explores one of the “not so often seen” problem of the Islamic Republic of Iran. In case you don’t know, homosexuality in Iran is punishable by death, however the sex change is approved by the Iranian government.

So, in this short doc, we go to Iranian capital of Tehran, where Dr. Mejelali, a Paris trained surgeon performs sex change operations in his private clinic.

He operates on both men and women, and has over 450 successful operations under his belt. All his work is approved by the Iranian government.

The doc goes easy on the actual process of sex change, and rather focuses on the social problems that people who risk to undergo these operations, stumble upon in their society.

Two men, are willing to go for a sex change, simply because they cannot find normal work. According to their own words, “men harrass them, sometimes even sexually”, and they “can’t work with women either, because they’re not actually women”.

Problems arise in the families, as some parents simply turn their backs on their sons, when they first hear about a possible sex change.

As the documentary shows, one family has accepted this fact, and a mother of a boy (who wants to have an operation, and also happens to have a boyfriend) deals with this problem, and already talks of her child as “my daughter”.

In another family, its different – knowing his parents, a male son already plans to move away from home, because the family “won’t accept him/her back after a sex change operation”.

We do get some comments from Islamic religious leaders in this doc, however most of the time is given to the actual people who are willing to undergo the operation, “not having any other choice”.

They admit, that in another country (one of the western countries), they wouldn’t even think of doing so, but since they’re citizens of Iran, and want to live here, this is the only way for them “to be accepted by their own society”.

Is it really so? Is the sex change operation “really worth the pain”?

Well, by the end of the documentary we get 2 endings, one is a happy one, as “the new daughter” gets accepted back into the family, and now can live happily with “her” boyfriend.

In another family, the boy-turned-girl moves away from his/her home, and now has to live on her own, doing…”business” for survival, as she describes it.

By that, she simply means “selling herself”. However, in this case, its different – she goes on to do these “temporary marriages”, as she calls it.

According to her, Islamic law allows this, as before each marriage, they do a “temporary Islamic marriage contract”. She adds, that because of not having the female reproductive parts, and not being able to get pregnant, they “get married once an hour, or so”.

Anyway, the subject of sex change is a controversial one, thats for sure, however it’s interesting to know how various countries deal with this. In case with Iran, there’s also a darker side:

Certain men have to do the sex change operation (spend big money), if the really want to stay in the local society. It’s as if both the government and society tell them: Hey, listen, you can’t remain as you are and be among us. This is God’s work, and you want to change it. We won’t accept homosexuals here, and eventually you’ll either end up dead somewhere, or you hang yourself even earlier. So you got 2 reasons, one is you go for this operation (aka “pay your way out”, let us earn, let the doctor earn some too), or you simply leave the country and go on to live somewhere else.

Of course this not might be the actual case, it’s just my thoughts. I hope things have changed in Islamic Republic of Iran since 2007-2008 when this documentary was made.


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