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Critical Montages

"Method of this project: literary montage. I needn't say anything. Merely show." -- Walter Benjamin

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

In Iran, transsexuals, changing sex, have been changing Islam as well, under its still theocratic government: Everything about Amir appears masculine: his broad chest, muscled arms, the dark full beard and deep voice. But, in fact, Amir was a woman until four years ago, when, at the age of 25, he underwent the first of a series of operations that would change his life. Since then he has had 20 surgical procedures and expects another 4. And Amir, who as a woman was married twice to men -- his second husband helped with the transition and remains a good friend -- is now engaged to marry a woman. "I love my life and I'm happy, as long as no one knows about my past identity," said Amir, who asked that his full name not be published. "No one has been more helpful than the judge, who was a cleric and issued the permit for my operation." After decades of repression, the Islamic government is recognizing that some people want to change their sex, and allowing them to have operations and obtain new birth certificates. Before the Islamic Revolution in 1979, there was no particular policy regarding transsexuals. Iranians with the inclination, means and connections could obtain the necessary medical treatment and new identity documents. The new religious government, however, classed transsexuals and transvestites with gays and lesbians, who were condemned by Islam and faced the punishment of lashing under Iran's penal code. But these days, Iran's Muslim clerics, who dominate the judiciary, are considerably better informed about transsexuality. Some clerics now even recommend sexchange operations to those who are troubled about their gender. The issue was discussed at a conference in Tehran in June that drew officials from other Persian Gulf countries. One cleric, Muhammad Mehdi Kariminia, is writing his thesis on transsexuality at the religious seminary of Qum. "All the clerics and researchers at the seminary encouraged me to work on the

Changing Sex, Changing Islam-Iran______________________


They even made me take hormones to look like a man. Four years ago. An Islamic philanthropic group known as the Imam Khomeini Charity Foundation has agreed to provide loans equivalent to about $1. "They said that my research can help change the social stigma attached to these people and clarify religious decrees on the matter. Furthermore. Ms. Molkara recalled." It took him eight years after the revolution. who was to become the leader of the revolution but was still in exile. was an early campaigner for the rights of transsexuals in Iran"/Photograph by S. Co-founders include Ali Razini. head of the Special Court of Clergy. The Iranian government covered the expenses. the revolution intervened and men like himself or those who had already changed their sex were harassed. to get government permission to proceed with surgery. But he could not afford the surgery and did not have it until 1997. he wrote to Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. However. "It was like torture for me. in 1986. who was formerly a man known as Fereydoon. and Zahra Shojai. when he underwent a sex-change operation in Bangkok." Ms." he said in an interview. Before the revolution. Molkara established an organization to help those with gender-identity problems. Reza for the New York Times The ayatollah replied that his case was different from that of a homosexual and therefore he had his blessing. he wanted religious guidance.200 to help pay for sex-change surgery. In 1978. "Maryam Hatoon Molkara. To obtain legal permission for sex-change operations and new birth certificates. under the shah.subject. The process can take years. which I had worn for many years and was used to. "They made me stop wearing women's clothes. It also involves considerable expense." One early campaigner for transsexual rights is Maryam Hatoon Molkara. even jailed and tortured. In Tehran. Iran's vice president for women's affairs. he had longed to become a woman but could not afford surgery. a branch of the judiciary that only deals with clerics. who was formerly a man known as Fereydoon. explaining his situation. the initial male-to-female Changing Sex. Changing Islam-Iran______________________ 2 . applicants must provide medical proof of gender-identity disorder.

000 on medical procedures. one of Tehran's few sex-reassignment surgeons. Amir has spent $12. the man-turned-woman divorced. After the surgery. and he has attempted suicide several times. "What we really need to help these people." he said. He wants to be known as Susan and wears women's clothes at home but only emerges dressed that way at night. referring to the black head-to-toe garb worn by religious women. "People treat me as though I have come from Mars. 2004) Iran is not the only predominantly Muslim nation where sex-change operations have found growing acceptance. "We have a problem even deciding at which hospital to do the surgery because society considers these people deviant.000. "is a serious cultural campaign." (Nazila Fathi. August 2." Dr." New York Times. and there was no sign of the bearded man I had operated on. Changing Islam-Iran______________________ 3 ." he said. "Hospital officials have reacted negatively because they say other patients do not like the looks of my patients. "As Repression Lifts. and then married the cleric." said Assal. More Iranians Change Their Sex. "When she came to see me years later. So far. "She took off the chador." the doctor recalled. "They compliment a girl who behaves and dresses like a man as a strong person. Most men I am attracted to reject me. Women pull my hair and laugh at me on the street. but they look down at us and despise us. she was wearing a chador. Mirdjalali said. said one of his patients had been a member of the Revolutionary Guards who served five years in the war with Iraq. constantly adjusting his long curly hair to cover his sideburns." He said one patient's father pulled a knife on him in his office. the stigma against any man who wants to be a woman is especially strong. others lag behind. Dr. and threatened to kill him if he touched his son. His operation was paid for by a Muslim cleric he had worked for as a secretary. Even if Iran's Muslim clerics are more understanding now of transsexuals' needs. He says the constant need for secrecy has left him severely depressed. The people who pursue this route come from many different backgrounds." But many who cannot deal with the legal and financial obstacles to a surgical solution have to deal with humiliation in their daily lives. Dr. Earlier this year. One 27-year-old man said he ran away from home at the age of 14 because he did not dare tell his family of his urge to become a woman. news of a court ruling approving sex-change surgery in Kuwait was reported by BBC: Changing Sex. "I have suffered all my life." In a society where men enjoy a higher status than women. Bahram Mir-djalali. Mir-djalali said he had to fight on many fronts to help more than 200 patients who had consulted him in the 12 years he had performed sex-change runs about $4. who was disowned by her father for having surgery to become a woman.

his face brightens up: 'This great man! Sheikh [AlAzhar. Mr Yahya.." Mr Yahya said the process of getting final approval for the ruling may take up to a month. who had ." Egypt Today 25. Changing Islam-Iran______________________ 4 . not a case of switching gender or as they call it in Kuwait a third-sex case.1 Spring 1998).A Kuwaiti court has said a 25-year-old man who underwent sex-change surgery can be officially regarded as a woman.. then Mufti] Sayed Tantawi! He issued his own fatwa during the controversy [over Sally]. saying that it's a medical situation best left to the doctor's discretion if he sees the need to operate. the plaintiff's lawyer. Lawyer Adel al-Yahya told Reuters news agency the judges were guided by a religious edict allowing gender change if there are medical reasons for it. and the court ruled according to that condition. The ruling has to be approved by a higher court before it becomes final. in Egypt. ("Kuwait Sex-Change Case Upheld.7. July 2004). al-Azhar. a fatwa from al-Azhar. "This is a very rare condition. 2004) Both the BBC article above and a 1998 article about the Turkish transsexual scene in Middle East Report cite "a June 1988 fatwa issued in Egypt by the Mufti of the Republic on the question of Sayid 'Abd Allah. I have tons of respect for this enlightened man'" (Azza Khattab. The unprecedented ruling came after the court was told of the plaintiff's physical and mental torment since childhood due to hormonal imbalances. This allows people to change their gender if there are proper medical reasons for doing so. as if remembering something. Photographer: Mohsen Allam/Egypt Today Sally herself credits Mufti Sayed Tantawi for preserving individual freedom: "Then. Sally Mursi strikes a pose in Tahrir Square." April 25. "Transsexuals and the Urban Landscape in Istanbul. . undergone a sex-change operation" (Deniz Kandiyoti. because we have a case of illness." he told Reuters. "We have evidence. Changing Sex. "Sally's Story. Downtown Cairo." Middle East Report 28. . alias Sally [Mursi]. said he presented the court with an edict from Sunni Islam's top religious institution.

Messenger of God. (Muntaqi l-Akhbar wa Sharhan nayl al-Awtar. the rulings derived from these and other noble hadiths on treatment grant permission to perform an operation changing a man into a woman. 'O. except for one disease. Prophet of God. There is another version: "Some bedouins said.'" This [hadith] is told by Ahmad [ibn Hanbal]. p. [he is at least willing to accept that] it is still possible for him to abandon it. thereby curing a corporal disease which cannot be removed. We find that cUsama ibn Sharik tells: "A bedouin came to the Prophet and said. What supports this view is what al-Qastallani(30) and al-cAsqalani say in their Changing Sex. This is based on [the consideration that] if he is not capable of abandoning the female. The physician cut a vein and burned it. asking for the opinion of religion on the matter of a student of medicine at the al-Azhar university. v. even if this can only be achieved step by step. 'Yes. but persist [in his manners]. indicating a buried [matmura] female nature." This hadith is related by Ahmad [ibn Hanbal] and Muslim. at-Tirmidhi. the blame shall include him.'" This version is related by ibn Maja abu Da'ud. and others. This is also dealt with in a hadith about cutting a vein. 8. God's servants can cure themselves. 'Yes. then he deserves blame.especially if he displays any pleasure in doing so. it must he confined to one who does it deliberately [tacahhada dhalika]. .The fatwa in question reads as follows: FATWA ON SEX-CHANGE OPERATION JUNE 8. This proves that no blame is on the hermaphrodite for simply being created that way. 200. 9. And He said. as well -. 'O. v. Changing Islam-Iran______________________ 5 . while one who is like this out of a natural disposition must be ordered to abandon it. 1988 To the honored general secretary of the Doctors' General Syndicate. which is related through Jabir: "The Messenger of God sent a physician to abu ibn Kacb. Messenger of God. This is an answer to the Syndicate's letter number 483 of May 14. But if he gives up the cure with no good excuse. . The person who is by nature a hermaphrodite [mukhannath khalqi] is not to be blamed. and Fath al-Bari bi Sharh Sahih al-Bukhari. who has been subjected to a surgical operation (removing his male organs) in order to turn him into a girl. p. At-Tabari took it as an example that the Prophet (God bless him and grant him salvation) did not forbid the hermaphrodite from entering the women's quarters until he heard him giving a description of the woman in great detail. can you cure?' And He said. for God never gave a disease without providing a cure or a medicine for it. if only gradually. what disease is that?' He said. or vice versa. 1988. 273. 'old age. As for the condemnation of those who by word and deed resemble women. because the operation will disclose these buried or covered organs. for God did not send a disease without sending a cure for it. Should he then not comply. can you cure?'.' They asked. That being so. swinging his hips in walking and speaking in a feminine way. as long as a reliable doctor concludes that there are innate causes in the body itself. or a covered [maghmura] male nature. except by this operation. knowing it from His knowledge . after having been subjected to treatment against it. Then he prohibited it. 'O. by al-cAsqalani(29). in the chapter on those who imitate women).

having given him treatment in order to abandon it. (qtd. The Iranian discourse on sex change." rather than "at the mere wish to change sex from woman to man. . arguing that a sex-change operation is permissible if it is to bring out a hidden female or male "nature." And this is further sustained by the author of Fath al-Bari who says ". It is." whether or not their physical bodies may be so described ( Changing Sex. To sum up: It is permissible to perform the operation in order to reveal what was hidden of male or female organs. fulfilling their social. July 2004). liberal clerics are ready to explicitly (rather than implicitly) make room for not just operations on bodies physically labeled "intersex. cultural. . whereupon the Prophet himself (God bless him and grant him salvation) expelled one. is that. with surgery if necessary. not permissible to do it at the mere wish to change sex from woman to man. in that men and women can have sex-change operations simply based upon their wishes. . however. on the other hand. Indeed. it is obligatory to do so on the grounds that it must be considered a treatment. in Jakob Skovgaard-Petersen.3. # posted by Yoshie : 4:18 PM : Comments: Post a Comment þÿ comments(0) Comment Google Search  WWW   montages. This operation can not be granted at the mere wish to change sex with no clear and convincing corporal motives. in short. not transsex. it seeks to fit polymorphous bodies into two biological sexes. . as reported in the New York Times above. Spring 1995) The fatwa." This is a clear proof that the duty prescribed for the hermaphrodite can take the form of a treatment.commentaries on it: "This means that it is incumbent upon the hermaphrodite to remove the symptoms of femininity.blogspot. is at once prescriptive and permissive: on one hand." as in the case of Egypt and Kuwait. but also for men and women who want to become transsexuals in order to achieve happiness. who is mighty and guiding. "Sex Change in Cairo: Gender and Islamic Law. In that case it would fall under that noble Hadith which al-Bukhari relates through Anas: "The Messenger of God cursed the hermaphrodites among the men and the over-masculine women. Changing Islam-Iran______________________ 6 ." The Journal of the International Institute 2. and psychological needs and desires. it is in practice liberalizing. demanding proof of "genderidentity disorder" before legal sex change. perhaps even the best treatment. similarly medicalizes the question of sex and gender. Praise be to He who created. or vice versa. when a trustworthy doctor advises it. in Iran. or vice versa". From what has been said the answer to what was in the question will be known. and cUmar expelled another one. however. Praise be to God the most High. What is different and promising. as long as they can find liberal doctors "willing to diagnose them as inter-sex. saying 'expel them from their houses'. The operation is such a treatment." This Hadith is related by Ahmad and alBukhari.

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