If you think LGBT people in this country have a hard time with the religious right, it pales in comparison to those residing in Iran. Granted, here in the United States, being homosexual is not punishable by death—at least not as a government-sponsored policy, although there are those on the right who advocate for it. However, Iran has come up with an answer to the problem of gay people: gender reassignment. Yes, you’re reading that right. Although it isn’t government policy, sex change operations in Iran are encouraged as the solution to the “disease” of being gay.
In a country where the president maintains there are no gay people, there is pressure put on gay people to undergo gender reassignment surgery in order to “cure” them of their “sickness.” With the exception of Thailand, Iran carries out more sex change operations than any other country on the planet. The Iranian government supplies up to half of the cost of the procedure and will even alter birth records to record the change.
At first blush, this sounds like a positive move, however, being gay does not mean that an individual desires to be a member of the opposite sex. The BBC report illustrates that people who cave into the pressure being put on them by family and friends are fast tracked to get the surgery without the benefit of psychological therapy and many times, without the ability to differentiate what it means to be gay and to be transgender.
Studies done here in the United States, where being gay or transgender is more out in the open, show that the incidence of homosexuality is much more pronounced than that of those who wish to undergo gender reassignment surgery. When a person does indicate a desire to have the procedure performed, there are many steps to be taken, including comprehensive psychological therapy to insure that the individual is prepared for what is literally a life-altering event.
An unlikely critic of Iran’s stance towards gay people seems to come from some on the right. However, when examined for what it is, the support is actually the right’s way of branding all of Islam as a danger, not only to gay and lesbian people, but also to the rest of the world.
It is also an opportunity for the right to gang up on liberals, specifically San Francisco transsexual Theresa Sparks, who heads up the San Francisco Human Rights Commission. According to the right wing press, she is advocating for sharia law because they claim she said “it’s actually easier to get insurance for sexual transition in Iran than in America.” If you Google the quote, the only place it shows up is on right wing blogs. The real issue is that Sparks is taking the revenue from incendiary right wing ads placed on some San Francisco muni buses and donating it to religious tolerance agencies to combat the hateful anti-Islam “What’s Your Jihad?” campaign that paints all Muslims as gay hating terrorists. The ads were approved by the San Francisco City Council on the basis of the freedom of speech guaranteed under the First Amendment. So once again, the outrage expressed by our brethren on the right is a diversion tactic to hide their own gay hating, Muslim hating, fear mongering agenda.
No surprises there.
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