Being Trans in Iran

Reading the Najmabadi article I was struck by how similar the process of becoming eligible for trans* surgery in Iran was to the process in America. It seems as though Iranians are forced to jump through just as many medical hoops as we are here. Najmabadi points out that a trans* persons word is not good enough; they must carry the documentation with them wherever they go. They must visit a barrage of doctors who are the deciders of the validity of their trans*ness and hold the key to surgery much like here. However, this key includes health insurance, financial assistance, military service exemption and a name change that entitles the person to receive new national identification papers (Najmabadi pg. 9).

This makes the identification as either homo or trans of utmost importance. Homosexuality is seen as extremely deviant and wrong while trans*ness appears to have become more accepted because surgery is “correcting” homosexuality. If a person is receiving surgery it is so that their desires may be heterosexual and not homosexual. This may help explain why the government is so quick to offer aid in the financial aspect of surgery for trans* individuals. These notions are of course dominated by the assumption of gender-sexual dimorphism (Najmabadi pg. 12).

While the norm appears to still be a gender-sexual dimorphism here in America, trans* individuals have a much harder time receiving health care let alone financial assistance with their surgery. Last year I was taking a sociology class and my professor scheduled a guest lecturer to speak to the class about his transition from female to male. When the guest lecturer walked in I was surprised to see he was a professor I had previously had in a gender studies course. He spoke of all the difficulties that come after transitioning, in particular with government and medical documentation. He spoke of insurance companies claiming a persons’ transition from female to male as a complication and therefore the cause of diseases such as ovarian cancer. These are the companies’ excuses for not paying.
However, recently some LGBT groups have challenged Medicare’s denial of benefits to transgendered people. While this is a step in the right direction, trans* individuals are still stigmatized and pathologized. One must be suffering from severe gender dysphoria in order to have any voice in this fight. Returning again to the hoops that one must jump through just to be seen as legitimate and be taken seriously.


Kathleen Hennessy


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