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.
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.
This week’s episode of Vice airing Friday, April 10 on HBO takes a close look at the heartbreaking situation, focusing on stories of abuse, emotional and physical sacrifice, and choices no one should ever have to face making.
Below, a preview of how high the stakes are for our gay brothers living in Iran (Warning: video contains disturbing imagery):
One organization, the Iranian Railroad for Queer Refugees (IRQR), helps gay people escape Iran, leaving behind their loved ones for the hope of a better life in Canada:
See the full report on Vice, airing on Friday, April 10th on HBO.