“They told me to have a sex change” – Iranian lesbian

June 30, 2014

Sara, a bright young woman studying for a masters at Tehran University, is a lesbian – but if the Iranian authorities had their way, she would change her sex and become a man.

Homosexuality is considered sinful in predominantly Muslim Iran, and homosexual acts are illegal. Sex changes, however, are legal and appear to be positively encouraged by doctors and psychologists as “treatment” for people who prefer their own sex.

When Sara came out to her family nine years ago at the age of 20, she was sent to a psychologist who declared after one 40-minute consultation that she should have a sex change.

“She said I was really a man in a woman’s body and I had to change my body to suit my personality. My sister had brought a photo along, (taken when) I was maybe 5 years old. I was wearing boy’s clothes and had a toy gun in my hand and the psychologist emphasised that this photo showed that I was a man,” Sara told Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“I was shocked because I had never wanted to be a man and I really liked my body. I had never had problems with my female body. I had emotions towards girls, rather than boys, but I could only imagine myself as a girl loving another girl, not as a man.”

Sara’s experience is not unusual, according to a new report by Justice for Iran and 6 Rang, an Iranian lesbian and transgender network, which says lesbian, gay and transgender people routinely come under pressure to have sex reassignment surgery.

Sara – not her real name – grew up in a strict religious family in southern Iran. She says her family think her lesbianism is a sin, but she is lucky – they have not cast her out. Many lesbians and homosexuals are ostracised or forced to marry. Others leave Iran after persecution and death threats – sometimes from their own family.

Not only is lesbianism severely stigmatised but homosexual acts are illegal. The punishment for lesbian sexual acts is flogging. If someone is caught four times the punishment is death. Men arrested for sodomy face execution.

Sara, who now runs a closed facebook page for women like her, says most lesbians she knows who have consulted a doctor or psychologist have been advised to have a sex change.

“They say homosexuality is a sin. If you are interested in the same sex you have to change. They only accept male-female relationships. If you love a woman, you have to be a man.”

You can read the full interview with Sara on the Thomson Reuters Foundation site. For more on the issue click here.

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