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Unlikely Sex Change Capitals of the World: Trinidad, United States, and Tehran, Iran, as Twin Yardsticks of Homonormative Liberalism

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... In the late 1980s, in Iranas a Shiite-majority Muslim country -SRS was legalized in Shari'a and in state law by the Fatwas of Ayatollah Khomeini. Till 2008, after Thailand, Iran had the largest number of SRS operations in the world [20]. Nevertheless, considering Iran as a pioneer SRS country, there is a research gap about this niche medical tourism market in Iran. ...
... After Thailand, Iran has provided leadership to legitimize gender reassignment surgeries (GRS). In Iran, people after the diagnosis of transgenderism, are legally permitted hormone therapy and GRS [20]. After GRS, all their identity documents are changed in accordance with their new sex. ...
... After GRS, all their identity documents are changed in accordance with their new sex. Bucar and Enke [20] refer to Tehran as a salient center for SRS. GRS records in Iran demonstrate experience and expertize of the surgeons [23,24]. ...
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Some studies have focused on identifying the factors affecting the selection of medical tourism destinations with regard to different types of treatment. But less attention has been paid to factors affecting individuals’ travels to Iran for sex reassignment surgeries (SRS). There is a research gap with regard to this niche medical tourism market in Iran. Iran is one of the SRS pioneer countries, where the concept of this medical tourism market can be developed further. This study addresses this knowledge gap through in-depth interviews with key professionals in SRS and medical tourism. We use a content analysis of interviews to identify the factors affecting the selection of Iran as a medical destination for SRS by individuals. The results indicate that factors influencing individuals’ decisions on medical tourism destinations come under seven headings. We conclude by recommending research directions for future research by health, medical, and managing scientists.
... Research on news coverage of issues faced exclusively by the transgender and intersex communities have included sex reassignment surgery (Buscar & Enke, 2011;Meyerowitz, 1998;Oberacker, 2007;Siebler, 2012), "passing" (Mackie, 2008;Siebler, 2010;Skidmore, 2011;Squires & Brouwer, 2002;Wilcox, 2003), hate crimes against trans people (Barker-Plummer, 2013;Eckhardt, 2010;Schilt & Westbrook, 2009), stereotypes of trans people (Ryan, 2009), and the strategic use of the media by the intersex and transgender movements (Gray, 2009;O'Riordan, 2005;Preves, 2004). English-language research on global news has investigated Thailand (Sinnott, 2000), Iran (Shakerifar, 2011), Britain (Amy-Chinn, 2011), and Australia (Kerry, 2011). ...
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Sex-change surgery has been practiced through a medico-judicial process in Iran based on Ayatollah Khomeini's Islamic juristic legal opinion (fatwa), which he issued just a few years after the Islamic revolution, in 1982. According to the Iranian legal system, judges can refer to the fatwas as a source of decision making if there are no stipulations on the matter within existing legal codes. In this article, I elucidate the divergent legal opinions on sex change among Islamic jurists in Iran and how this has amounted to different legal practices by judges in the country. The lack of law has generated difficult-and in some places impossible-conditions for trans persons to undergo sex-change surgery. According to Ayatollah Khomeini's fatwa, and by drawing on semi-structured interviews conducted in Iran, I argue that sex-change surgery is not obligatory, opposing those who believe homosexuals in Iran are forced to undergo it. Trans people who decide to do so see it as a way to complete the transition, which indicates the importance of body materiality. Using the information gathered during interviews with trans persons in Iran, I examine bodily experiences during the process of transition, in which I have identified three phases: self-recognition, passing, and rebirth. These analyses show that transition does not happen at once or suddenly, it rather takes a long time and may continue after sex-change surgery, which is only one part of it.
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Something happened in 2003–4: transsexuals and transsexuality in Iran suddenly became a hot media topic, both in Iran and internationally. The medical practice of sex change by means of surgery and hormones dates to at least the early 1970s in Iran; for nearly three decades the topic had received occasional coverage in the Iranian press, including a series of reports (presumably based on real lives) published in a popular magazine, Rah-i zindigi (Path of Life), beginning in 1999.1 Iranian press coverage of “trans-” phenomena increased sharply in early 2003, however, and it has continued intensely ever since—sometimes the reports directly address transsexuals and transsexuality, and sometimes they pertain to them in the context of other people marked as “vulnerable to social harm,” such as prostitutes (both male and female) and runaway girls, who reportedly live trans-dressed lives. It was these last two topics that drew the attention of documentary filmmaker Mitra Farahani to the subject of transsexuals in Iran. Her documentary Just a Woman won international acclaim at the 2002 Berlin Gay and Lesbian Film Festival and elsewhere and seems to have ignited broader international attention to the issue of transsexuality in Iran. A flurry of articles appeared in the world press in 2004–5. The Guardian, for example, wrote on July 27, 2005, that “today, the Islamic Republic of Iran occupies the unlikely role of global leader for sex change,” adding, “Iran has even become a magnet for patients from eastern European and Arab countries seeking to change their genders.” A number of television documentaries in France, Sweden, Holland, and the United Kingdom followed, as well as several independent documentary film productions (Abdo 2000; Eqbali 2004; Fathi 2004; McDowall and Khan 2004; Harrison 2005; Stack 2005; Tait 2005). The celebratory tone of many of these reports—welcoming recognition of transsexuality and the permissibility of sex change operations—is sometimes mixed with an element of surprise: How could this be happening in an Islamic state? In other accounts, the sanctioning of transsexuality is tightly framed by comparisons with punishments for sodomy and the presumed illegality of homosexuality—echoing, as we shall see, some of the official thinking in Iran. 2 While transsexual surgeries are not new in Iran, over the past decade such operations seem to have increased not only in publicity, but also in actual frequency. At the first national symposium on transsexuality, “Studying Gender Identity Disorder,” held in the northeastern provincial capital of Mashhad in May 2005, Dr. Aliriza Kahani, from the National Legal Medical Board, reported that in the fifteen years between 1987 and 2001, 200 males and 70 females had submitted sex change petitions to the board, and 214 had been approved. Over the following four years, between 2001 and 2004, another 200 petitions had been received (Shakhis, May 24, 2005).3 Anecdotal statistics from a private sex change clinic in Tehran point to similar increases—for the period 1985–95, 125 of 153 clients went through partial or full sex change operations; in the decade that followed, the numbers increased to 200 surgeries in a client population of 210. The increasing frequency of sex change petitions and operations is not an unproblematically positive development, empowering though this trend has been for transsexuals. Many political challenges are posed by framing transsexuality within a dominant mapping of sexuality that explicitly renders as diseased, abnormal, deviant, and at times criminal any sexual or gender nonconformity (including transsexuality itself, as well as same-sex desires and practices). For legal and medical authorities, sex change surgeries are explicitly framed as the cure for a diseased abnormality, and on occasion they are proposed as a religioegally sanctioned option for heteronormalizing people with same-sex desires or practices. Even though this possible option has not become state policy (because official discourse is also invested in making an essential distinction between transsexuals and homosexuals), recent international media coverage of transsexuality in Iran increasingly emphasizes the possibility that sex-reassignment surgery (SRS) is being performed coercively on Iranian homosexuals by a fundamentalist Islamic government (Ireland 2007). This narrative framing (along with similar ones concerning the suppression of women’s rights and other political and labor struggles) circulates within larger...
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This paper explores the connections between ethnicity and sexuality. Racial, ethnic, and national boundaries are also sexual boundaries. The borderlands dividing racial, ethnic, and national identities and communities constitute ethnosexual frontiers, erotic intersections that are heavily patrolled, policed, and protected, yet regularly are penetrated by individuals forging sexual links with ethnic "others." Normative heterosexuality is a central component of racial, ethnic, and nationalist ideologies; both adherence to and deviation from approved sexual identities and behaviors define and reinforce racial, ethnic, and nationalist regimes. To illustrate the ethnicity/sexuality nexus and to show the utility of revealing this intimate bond for understanding ethnic relations, I review constructionist models of ethnicity and sexuality in the social sciences and humanities, and I discuss ethnosexual boundary processes in several historical and contemporary settings: the sexual policing of nationalism, sexual aspects of US-American Indian relations, and the sexualization of the black-white color line.