In Iran – you can’t be gay, but you are allowed to be transgender.
A loophole in the law means the strictly-religious country performs more sex-change operations than any other, except Thailand.
Ten years ago, Tarane was known as Amir. That was before she met a woman in a café who had undergone sex change surgery.
“When I left the cafe, I was no longer Amir,” she says, “I realised what my dreams were all about. I felt like I had finally been freed from my shackles.”
In Iran, same-sex relationships are punishable by death. But there is no law against sex-change operations in the Koran – and the procedure has flourished.
Grand Ayatollah Yousef Saanei says it is a case of what is not expressly forbidden is allowed:“In Islam, there is a principle which says that everything is allowed unless there are strong arguments against it or a law forbidding it.”
“I have never felt any regret, but without the support from my friends, I would not have managed the first year” says Tarane. “My mother only called the hospital once, to find out if I had woken up from the anaesthetic, nothing more.”
Human rights groups are critical, however. They say people should not be forced to change sex to survive.
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