Iran’s forcible “sex-reassignment” surgery for gays

December 10, 2015 • 9:45 am

The television program that inspired the Twit**er exchange at the bottom of this post actually aired in April, but I didn’t learn some things about Iran’s odious policies towards homosexuals until I investigated that exchange yesterday, when Knight rebuked the first gentleman on Twi**er for his gross misunderstanding of what’s actually happning in Iran.

We all know that homosexuality is a legal offense in some Middle Eastern countries, as it violates Islamic law—law set out not in the Qur’an, which is unclear on the issue, but in the hadith. In Iran, homosexuality has been illegal for over eighty years, but in fact was tolerated under Shah Reza Pahlavai.

That all changed when the Shah was deposed in 1979 during the Islamic Revolution, and homosexuality and transsexuality became crimes punishable by death. Seven years later, though, transsexuals were legally reclassified as “heterosexuals.” Since gays were lashed and then executed if the whip didn’t prove a deterrent, this new policy opened a legal path for gay males to continue having sexual relationships with men. But that meant having their penis and testicles cut off, and living transgendered—as a woman.

Since we know now that being gay is not a “choice” but a behavioral imperative—and one that does not respect national boundaries—gay Iranian males either must to repress their behavior, exercise it in secret at risk to their lives, flee the country, or get sex-reassignment surgery and live as females. Many apparently choose the last option, but clearly that’s a choice made under coercion, one carrying serious medical risks. As the YouTube description notes:

Post-revolution Iran is notorious for its religiosity: when Ayatollah Khomeini came to power in 1979 he enforced strict Islamic custom that made homosexuality punishable by death. Surprisingly, though, the state treats transsexuals differently, allowing sexual reassignment surgery and in some cases even paying for it. It’s become so widespread there, in fact, that Iran is now one of the world capitals for the procedure.

But the fatwa allowing the surgery has a grim drawback: families, therapists, and the state see gender reassignment as a solution to the “illness” of homosexuality—not understanding the risks of forcing the long, life-changing process of a sex change on someone who wasn’t born wanting it. Gay Iranians now face the agonizing choice of fleeing their communities or permanently changing who they are.

A VICE program on the issue was commissioned by HBO and aired last April; the entire program is embedded below. Do watch it if you have the time, for its coverage of the issue is thorough, including personal, religious, and medical issues. It also shows that women are forced to undergo the procedure as a way to become “legal lesbians”.

Seeing homosexuality as an illness that can be “cured” by surgically refashioning the genitals of gays is certainly not an enlightened policy. Gays should of course have that option, but it’s clear that many Iranian gays get the surgery as their only viable option to either death or exile. Thus, the tweet by the first “gentleman” at the very bottom of this post—I use the term very loosely—was based on either duplicity or sheer ignorance.  That person implies that Iran’s policies toward LGBTQ people are enlightened, with the government actually favoring and subsidizing sex-change operations to help gays. But of course that’s not the situation at all: it’s largely a form of punishment, and a severe one. It’s done not to help gays, but force them to conform to religious dogma.

Those Westerners who ally themselves with Muslim extremists holding odious views like the ones discussed here, and who claim to do so on grounds of favoring the oppressed, should realize who they’re getting into bed with. That was, for instance, the mistake made by the Feminist Society of Goldsmiths College when they—and, ironically, its LGBTQ+ Society—allied themselves against Maryam Namazie and with the Islamic Society, whose own president opposes equal rights for women and gays.  That president, Muhammed Patel, has since resigned after his homophobic tw**ts came to light. Here are two of them:

Muslimsoc2_640x345_acf_cropped Muslimsoc1As Stephen Knight commented:

A pervasive strain of toxic western feminism is on show here. It seems they hold two books for equality: One for themselves, and one for the browner, less ‘them’ people. Like Namazie, they should be screaming from the rooftops about the oppression visited on women in the name of Islam. Instead, we have an instance where a group of men openly harassed and intimidated a woman minority (Iranian ex-Muslim), and the feminist society chose to stand with her aggressors. ’Feminists‘ siding with Islamists is akin to PETA sponsoring your local steak night. This is an utterly shameful display of moral confusion.

The double standard also applies to the Goldsmiths’ LGBTQ+ers. How dare they ally themselves with a society whose president (along with many of its members) opposes equal rights for gays, issues homophobic tweets, and stands against Namazie, who favors LGBTQ rights? What sort of twisted doublethink could create such behavior?

Well, we know. It’s the doublethink that says it’s okay to deny gays and women rights so long as oppressed “people of color” are doing the denial. It’s the doublethink espoused by the first gentleman in the tw**t below.

Actually, the Advocate site mentioned by Stephen Knight (“Godless Spellchecker”) is no longer the one in the link above; rather, it’s here. 

Finally, you might find this exchange with Ali Rivzi enlightening and amusing.


40 thoughts on “Iran’s forcible “sex-reassignment” surgery for gays

  1. As I’ve said before, since Islam opposes the West, it is on the Left according to many Leftists, and there are “no enemies on the Left.”

  2. I still remember when Ahmadinejad was president of Iran and he visited the US. He did a speech at a university there and someone asked him about gay rights in Iran. All smiles, he announced that was a phenomenon that didn’t exist in his country.

  3. Rivzi’s comments are great. However I’m pessimistic about anyone in the anti-enlightenment left camp listening to them, as other advocates for the same ideas have been repeating the same basic messages for years. Yet we still have this problem of people defending injustice, sexism, etc. as long as its nonwestern people doing it, so obviously messages like his aren’t changing many minds.

    1. One never knows. A lot of times it’s about framing and tipping points. I’ve been having discussions like this with my anti-Western kind of liberal friends for years, but I was always engaging them on the niggling details of whatever topic was at hand, engaging with the accounting of who has done more harm to who, for example, without really clearly noticing and putting my finger on the nature of the moral shortcut they are taking: defend the person with less power. I didn’t name this on my own, I read it in places like this. Once clearly named, this has helped me to see all of the little details as rather irrelevant. Power is not related to moral standing in any meaningful way (who was more moral, Montezuma or Cortez?), so obviously they are going to go awry with this moral shortcut. I’ve only clearly named this idea in the last year, maybe. The cartoon related message of “punching up” really helped to bring it into sharper clarity for me as I contemplated “Which way is up?”. The fact that they described their moral intuition in terms like that also helped me to accept that they really were using some imagined power structure as a proxy for moral valence. All this to say, if I’m only just now getting some clarity about all of this, I think there is hope that a lot more people can get some clarity too.

      At the very least, it has given me clarity enough not to be cowed by the superficial moral zeal of these people.

      1. That’s probably a good attitude to take. Consider repeated conversations as a necessary part of the overall process rather than a signal of failure.

  4. Hideous, barbaric, unconscionable. The regressive left may be a lost cause at this point, but it’s not like the rest of the world is protesting much against these twisted theocracies either. With Saudi Arabia on the UN human rights commission, we may already be beyond the Orwellian event horizon.

    1. I’m almost surprised the UN hasn’t already given Iran an award for it. They gave Suharto in Indonesia an award for population control, while he was having women in East Timor forcibly sterilized.

      1. Cliché or not, most of us, literally, could not make this stuff up. Or if we did, it would be only for the blackest of humor, as with Justin Zimmer’s Godwinning at 7, below.

        And when the world so desperately needs an enlightened United Nations…

  5. A disturbing story, but what’s happening in Finland and Germany is even more so…

    “In the snow covered town of Kempele, 400 miles north of Helsinki, locals are angry after a youth migrant centre opened in the town and two weeks later a schoolgirl aged 14 was raped.


    The day after the schoolgirl sex attack in Kempele, another 14-year-old girl was attacked in the southern town of Raisio. This time, the man arrested was a 19-year-old asylum seeker.

    Two days later, Afghan Ramin Azimi was jailed for life for raping a 17-year-old Finnish girl from Pori and burning her alive.”

    Multiculti in Berlin: Turk Incinerates 19-Year-Old Pregnant German

    “By Friday, the alleged principal perpetrator was already in custody. Here are the facts: Maria P. had befriended a 19-year-old Turk. She was in the final stage of pregnancy. The German citizen with Turkish origin demanded that she have an abortion. When she did not agree, he felt his honour had been offended. On Thursday evening he drove with her into a forested area on the Bärenlauchstraße in Lower Schöneweide and stabbed twice at her abdomen with a knife. As she desperately defended herself, he and his friend poured gasoline over the still-living Maria, who was soon to give birth, and set her on fire.”

    1. Terrible. Yes on the one hand, asylum-seekers and immigrants must be held to the same legal standard of behavior as everyone else…and there will be bad apples. OTOH, the plural of ‘anecdote’ is not ‘data.’

        1. Is that because it actually has the most rapes, or just the most rapes that get reported? A high number of reported rapes could simply mean that Sweden has been more successful than most countries at creating a climate where victims feel empowered to report–not necessarily that it has a high incidence of rape, relative to other countries.

    2. According to statistics linked below, the refugee population has a crime rate identical with “comparable groups”. Sex crimes account for 1% of crimes committed by refugees. Arson and violent attacks by right wing extremists is by far the most pressing problem related to refugees.

      Right wing terrorists here in Germany have also murdered an unknown number of people they don’t like, probably many hundreds in recent decades, and it gets covered up by the police. (The head of the secret police resigned after he was caught shredding files relating to a terror cell.)

      Furthermore, as of October last year, at least 750 Jihadists have traveled from Germany to Syria.

      And having noted the rather hysterical tone in the article you linked to in the previous comment, I would warn against Muslimophobia. German society needs to become more secular, not less.

      1. “Furthermore, as of October last year, at least 750 Jihadists have traveled from Germany to Syria.”

        Do you want to tell me that it’s somehow Germany’s fault?

        1. It suggests that the problem is not the people who are fleeing the violence, but those who are causing. And while it might not be “Germany’s fault” it is very clearly Germany’s responsibility if German terrorists are moving into other countries.

          Right wing extremism is entirely Germany’s fault and they have dealt with it poorly. It is deeply embedded in German culture and society, and has caused far more damage than Muslims or refugees.

          Germany’s population is aging disastrously quickly and we need a massive influx of young people fast. Germany has a lot to learn about integration, and a swift lesson is necessary, regardless of who it is being integrated.

          1. “Germany’s population is aging disastrously quickly and we need a massive influx of young people fast. Germany has a lot to learn about integration, and a swift lesson is necessary, regardless of who it is being integrated.”

            I would warn against putting realpolitik (in this case, economic concerns) over the safety of Europeans and social integrity — a fast and massive influx of immigrants into the EU, especially those hewing to 7th century moral codes, is a sure way of causing trouble…

        2. Hold on; you cited two instances of Muslim immigrants behaving badly and wanted us to take a lesson from that. Yakaru notes that 750 German emigrants behaved badly and you toss that fact away as meaningless?

          Yes, absolutely; your logic would dictate that if your two stories are supposed to make us suspicious of middle eastern immigrants, then Yakaru’s cite should make us highly suspicious of German emigrants. And if you think that’s a really poor and crappy conclusion to draw from Yakaru’s claim, then the problem is with your logic, not in his claim, and the best solution to the problem is to not be inordinately suspicious of middle eastern immigrants based anecdotes about a few of them.

          1. “Hold on; you cited two instances of Muslim immigrants behaving badly and wanted us to take a lesson from that. Yakaru notes that 750 German emigrants behaved badly and you toss that fact away as meaningless?”

            No, you misunderstood me.

            I only wanted to note that the 750 Muslims who joined ISIS weren’t radicalized by Germany, not by any stretch of imagination. They were, in fact, yet more Muslims behaving badly.

            And despite this fact, Yakaru’s strategy for the future appears to be to accept millions more Muslims into the EU regardless of who they are.

    3. Those stories are horrific,especially the part about different standards based on some idea of the cultural norms of someone’s origins… screw that… but without a better source to validate this information I don’t feel I can take it very seriously.

      That’s a pretty ideologically drive site.
      I would prefer to hear such stories from a less ideologically driven site. Surely something like this would be reported in an ordinary paper or news source somewhere? I can manage the translation if needed. Sometimes ideologically driven sources are simply motivated to find stories others ignore, and so sometimes they really are providing legitimate news and a legitimate corrective to news biases. Too often, however, they “report” with a pretty loose definition of accuracy.

      1. Maybe Yakaru who lives in Germany could verify the authenticity of the German rape described above (the website has a link to a German source)?

        As for the rape cases described in the Daily Mail, I can also only wonder why such crimes aren’t reported beyond the DM website, but I don’t think they are making the rapes and murders up.

        1. Honor killings like this one are in fact routinely reported in the German press. I read about this one in the center-left-ish Tagesspiegel. I don’t have time to chase it up right now, but I already knew of the case and only read the Tagesspiegel – so I know they covered it.

          The term used in the article, “Lügenpresse” — “lying media” — is a term coined by the right wing racist, isolationist “Pegida” group. (Their previous leader resigned after posting a pic himself dressed as Hitler, on his fb page and was mystified that no one got the “joke”.) They are not a reliable source for information.

          Obviously there are going to be considerable problems when masses of youngish men from a different culture, with little money or resources suddenly move in. Berlin has a different feel to it suddenly, and especially women here feel uncomfortable.

          But a sense of proportion needs to be maintained. As I say, Neo-Nazis are by far the biggest threat to the peace and have already committed nearly a thousand cases of arson, very few of which are prosecuted. The press does tend to allow cover ups of right wing hate crime.

          Yes, Germany is responsible for its nationals who become radicalized, regardless of what religion they are. And Germany needs to learn about integration quick smart, regardless of who it is they want to integrate.

          I would be happy to try and chase up the stats and more info later, when I have a moment, if you wish.

          And thanks for your civil tone!

          1. Yakaru, I’d be interested in your thoughts about Time Magazine choosing Angela Merkel as its Person of the Year. But that may be too much of a hijack of this thread. (It was Time’s citing of her enlightened if unpopular views on immigration that made me think of that.)

            1. Thanks for asking, Diane! Sadly I don’t know enough about German politics to have any clear view of her beyond having the impression that she’s an entirely decent person and an extraordinarily good head of state.

              1. Well, that says a lot in itself. Thanks!

                I thought it was a surprising choice, and I really liked Time’s explanation for it.

            2. Now I’ve read the whole article in Time. Seems quite spot on. The only context I would add is that Germans probably take her for granted a bit. German politicians are generally just ridiculously sensible, decent and intelligent, when compared anywhere else. They forced the president to resign his (largely ceremonial) position a few years ago because he had left a nasty message on a journalist’s answering machine and the police announced an investigation into some loans his wife had received. By these standards the whole parliament of Australia would be sacked over night!

              In any case, I hope she has adjusted some people’s ideas of what women can achieve in politics, and how politicians can behave and succeed.

              1. “…German politicians are generally just ridiculously sensible, decent and intelligent, when compared anywhere else.”

                If only we could bottle that and send it everywhere!

                I find her most inspiring, the more so in that there’s so little fanfare about her in the media despite her prominence on the world stage. I’m glad Time was paying attention.

            3. Here’s a nice write up of a crucial speech she made today against calls from her own party for a cap on refugee numbers.


              “If we really doubt that we can do this, with a view to our European responsibility, our humanitarian responsibility, our responsibility to Germany, we wouldn’t be the CDU,” she added, explicitly linking the refugee crisis to the party’s European and Christian values.

              How rare it is to hear a politician cite Christian values in support of a humanitarian cause. And a smart, educational move, given the anti-Muslim in many European countries as well as Germany.

  6. “Well, we know. It’s the doublethink that says it’s okay to deny gays and women rights so long as oppressed “people of color” are doing the denial. It’s the doublethink espoused by the first gentleman in the tw**t below”

    I could be wrong, but I think that CJ is not even engaging in doublethink. He seems to think that these ops in Iran are voluntary, rather than forced. Clueless, as the second poster says.

  7. I was going to make a joke about Reza Aslan commenting on the progressive attitudes in Iran regarding transgender individuals, then I saw the tweet from CJ. That’s a little like celebrating the Nazi’s for giving out free showers.

  8. Medical ethics in Iran must be a morass, with doctors (themselves probably under coercion from above) performing life-altering surgeries on patients the physicians must know would have never elected to have the surgeries if they lived in an open society.

    1. I wonder who verifies it? I mean, who exactly would know if they say they performed the surgery but did not?

      Ugh. Even raising the practical questions just makes me shudder anew at how horrific it all is.

  9. “Intersectionality” defines contemporary feminism except for some dissident feminists and intersectionality is a one-way street. It means the political considerations of race, ethnicity, and colonialism come before gender equality, class, and LGBTQ tolerance every time. I have literally never seen self-identified intersectional feminists take an issue of gendered violence or discrimination involving non-whites and decide that gender rights take precedence, whatever lowest common denominator potential for racial animus might exist. That’s why every issue involving Islam turns out the same with the regressive left.

    1. I’m sorry, there’s just no way that’s any kind of feminism at all. Does this crap exist anyplace outside of universities? I’m not hearing anything remotely like that from NOW, for instance.

      Thanks for the term, I’ll be on the look-out for it.

      Intersectionality: noun 1. any instance in which feminism scores an own goal…

Leave a Reply