The Current

Gay Iranians pressured to surgically change gender, seek asylum

The medical establishment in Iran pressures gay and lesbian Iranians to change their gender because if would be more culturally acceptable.
Gay people in Iran know that life in their country can be horrific. They can face execution for being themselves. Those who wish to remain in Iran often receive shocking advice from the medical community. And it involves surgery to change their gender, to be more culturally acceptable. 

Homosexuality remains a crime punishable by death in some ten countries across the world today, including Iran. Living an openly gay life there is hardly an option. In fact, to be gay in Iran is to live with hardly any palatable options at all.

One gay man who fled Iran for Turkey told his story through a translator to BBC World Service Reporter Ali Hamedani on the condition that his name not be revealed.

"The only alternatives I had was first to get married to a woman. This is quite common in Iran, you get married and you live with it, maybe for one or two years. The other option is to change gender. I know people who considered gender change in Iran. I never considered this at all. I thought there must be better options. I would rather die than do this". Gay man who fled Iran for Turkey in BBC's "Iran's 'sex-change' solution"

LGBTQ activists are concerned that gay and lesbian Iranians are being increasingly pressured to have transition surgery, It may not be official government policy, but -- they say -- Iranian society is more accepting of that than being gay.

Arsham Parsi is the founder of the Iranian Railroad for Queer Refugees. He came to Canada from Iran nine years ago after he got into trouble with the authorities over his LGBTQ rights advocacy there. He now helps other LGBTQ Iranians resettle overseas.

Hasti Khalilian was born a man but now identifies and lives publicly as a woman, though she has not transitioned biologically. She fled Iran and came to Canada as a refugee.

Hasti Khalilian spoke in both English and in Farsi, which we have translated.

We requested an interview with the Iranian government but have received no response back.

This segment was produced by The Current's Sujata Berry.


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversation  Create account

Already have an account?