Monday, September 14, 2009

Iran as a Case Study in GLBT Politics

Iran is interesting from the perspective of GLBT politics for a number of reasons. First, it has flipped the roles of the Transgendered part of the GLBT spectrum and the GLB. Being homosexual in Iran (and getting found out) carries a death penalty; meanwhile the country seems ironically almost enlightened when it comes to transgender rights - creating a situation where GLB equality movements have to find a way to build on transgender rights in Iran.

In many respects, Iran is the example that shows why politically GLBT equality are inseparable even if they are somewhat distinct. Iran uniquely creates a situation where in many same-sex couples one partner will transition and have GRS - regardless of whether they identify internally as a member of the opposite sex.

This creates a situation for the person who transitions which is as devastating post-transition as transsexuals in Western societies experience before they transition. A common aspect of transsexual narratives prior to transition is a fervently expressed sense of distress over the disjoin between their body and their identity - it leads many into self destructive behaviours and even suicide. Yet, for the homosexual in Iran, transition may indeed be the only option in order to keep body and soul together.

I'd be very, very curious as to what the suicide rate among post-operative transsexuals in Iran is, and how that compares with the suicide rate among pre-operative transsexuals in other countries.

Returning to my opening point though, it seems to me that the situation in Iran holds a mirror up to the GLBT movement in western societies, and is an object lesson in why Transsexual equality must be a part of the overall GLBT equality drive - even though the objectives and needs are somewhat different. Fundamentally, if one excludes the other, we end up in a situation where some percentage of people end up living in lives that don't really fit them simply to ensure their survival. In Iran, it's GLB people transitioning in order to live with their chosen partners; in Western societies it is no doubt a sizable number of transsexuals who never even attempt to transition out of fear for the consequences.

As long as the GLBT movements allow laws to exclude one subgroup or another, this situation continues to be perpetrated and exacerbated. Further, the hostility of religious extremists towards GLBT people places all who fall under that umbrella at risk from maliciously designed laws and ballot initiatives.

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