The Legality of Transsexual Gender identity in Contemporary Iran
Zara Saeidzadeh, Research Officer, Lund University, Sociology of Law
Title: The Legality of Transsexual Gender identity in Contemporary Iran
The legality of Sex Change and Reconstruction of Transsexual Identity in Contemporary Iran
The Islamic government in Iran has legalized transsexual surgeries and introduced a legal process which leads to medical intervention in transsexual cases. This has allowed thousands of Iranian men and women to undergo sex change every year. This paper explores the social and legal discourses on sex change and transsexuality in Iran in order to examine if the legalization of sex change surgery has legitimized transsexual identity within law and society. The discourse on "gender identity disorder" in connection with sex change started in Iran in the 1960s, but has gained prominence among doctors, legal scholars and jurists in recent decades after the 1979 Islamic revolution.
This study describes how Islamic jurisprudence operates in order to generate legal rules through its internal and self-referential communication within the legal framework of Shari’a. Sex change surgery is allowed through juristic legal opinion in response to the existing social facts and norms, on the one hand, and structural cooperation with medical system, on the other. This has amounted to legally constructed “misrecognition” of transsexuals’ identity in society. Using semi-structured interviews, this essay explores how Iranian transsexuals understand and define their gender identity, while embracing modern interpretation of Islamic rules in relation to gender and sexuality. The results of the research show that although transsexuality, as an identity in its own right, is not legally recognized in Iran, sex change surgery is nevertheless permitted by fatwa. However, transsexuals’ narratives demonstrate strong agency of Iranian youth in reconstruction of gender identity through reconceptualization of Islamic laws.
Finally, the study throws light on the role of surgeons, who play a vital part in mediating the relationships of transsexuals with their families to jettison the heavy weight of stigma attached to the “trans status”. Moreover, transsexuals being aware of pathologization of their gender identities use this as a strategy to overcome social pressure. That is to say, the interviews show an increasing level of self-knowledge among young transsexuals, while giving cause to question the forceful heteronormalization by the government through surgery.
More seminars this Autumn: http://soclaw.lu.se/en/research/research-seminars-in-sociology-of-law