Sunday, July 6, 2008
A Wedding in SF and Gender Reassignment in Iran
Last Tuesday at 10 a.m. we were married in the Board of Supervisors' meeting chamber at San Francisco City Hall. The lavish Beaux Arts structure, with its sweeping staircase and carved bust of Saint Harvey of Castro Street, was right up there with St. Patrick's Cathedral or Notre Dame as the ideal place to tie the knot. And best of all it was free of any religious connections. Surrounded by family and friends is the traditional way to do it and who are we to buck tradition? Rings were exchanged, vows were recited. Toasts were made and cake was eaten. There were some funny moments too, like being handed the family planning pamphlet that is standard issue with each marriage license. It was a low key event that went off without a hitch and ushered us into a new phase of our relationship; legally--at least as far as the State of California is concerned--married spouses.
Only a few days earlier we attended a presentation by Arsham Parsi, founder of the IRanian Queer Organization-IRQO, that offered a somewhat murkier view of gay life. (Ed's interview with Arsham appears in a previous post). One piece of his talk in particular kept coming back to us again and again; the issue of gender reassignment surgery in Iran.
According to a story in The Guardian "Iran has between 15,000 and 20,000 transsexuals, according to official statistics, although unofficial estimates put the figure at up to 150,000. Iran carries out more gender change operations than any country in the world besides Thailand. Sex changes have been legal since the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, spiritual leader of the 1979 Islamic revolution, passed a fatwa authorising them nearly 25 years ago. Whereas homosexuality is considered a sin, transsexuality is categorized as an illness subject to cure. While the government seeks to keep its approval quiet, state support has increased since Ahmadinejad took office in 2005. His government has begun providing grants of £2,250 for operations and further funding for hormone therapy. It is also proposing loans of up to £2,750 to allow those undergoing surgery to start their own businesses."
Couple this bit of information with government sponsored death threats and execution of homosexuals, not to mention President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's assertion in 2007 that there are no gay people in Iran you have a complex situation not easily untangled.
For a link to the full Guardian story: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2007/sep/26/iran.gender