Quick, think of places in the world that are actually not the most horrific for trans folks. Did you think of Iran? No? Well you were wrong, because trans folks actually have like a tiny handful of rights there compared to lots of places. The government has recognized transgender individuals and allowed them to undergo sex reassignment surgery since the mid-80s, plus the government provides up to half the surgery cost for those needing financial assistance and the sex change is recognized on the person’s birth certificate. As of 2008, more sex change operations were performed in Iran than anywhere else in the world except Thailand! We know. We were surprised too. We talk about it in this week’s episode:
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There’s a sorta nice little backstory to this, which involves a transgender woman, Maryam Molkara, who appealed to Ayatollah Khomeini with her plea for recognition in the late 1970s and early 1980s. After being institutionalized and forced to take male hormones, she went to see Khomeini in person, and he spoke with her and several doctors and learned what “transgender” even meant, after which he sent her with a letter addressed to the chief prosecutor and the head of medical ethics giving religious authorization for her to have a sex change operation. And the implication was that this was a freedom for others like her as well.
Since then Iran has officially recognized transgender identity and provided government assistance for sex change operations for those who need it.
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