Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Of veiling kathoeys and bearded bois

What comes to mind when one says, Iran?

Nuclear warheads pointing westward? Bare-chested bearded men flagellating themselves down the avenue a la the best Folsom Street tradition? Xerxes and his funky curls?

I was privileged to experience first hand the beauty of the country and marvel at their historical monuments. The food is marvellous and travelling there can be pretty cheap. You get the pleasures of the four season and easy food (for Muslims).

But do many people realise that Iran is actually transsexual friendly? Apparently they lag second behind Thailand for the number of sex-change operation conducted annually. Yup, that means chopping off the family jewels and constructing a new plumbing system. Or creating new package where there wasn't any. If you want the gory details, go google it yourself.

Now, you may think ... nah ...

But seriously, the Shiite clerics are pretty enlightened about a number of things. The late Ayatollah Khomeini issued a fatwa to allow a trans-woman to undergo surgery, after asking his physicians to explain to him the difference between a hermaphrodite and a transgendered person. He believed that a good Muslim need to have a proper gender identity in order to fulfill his/her spiritual obligations and if that means going under the knife ... then so be it. Once they are the gender of preference, they are obligated to adhere to the conventions pertaining to their gender; e.g. veiling for women and beards for men.

This however, does not mean homosexuality is legal. They adhere to the strict interpretation of the Shariah law whereby men who have same-sex relations (the biblical knowing, okay?) can be sentenced to death. But a woman can marry a man who was born a woman (and vice versa).

The Government also issues a new set of documents to people who had undergone gender reassignment surgery for their new identity. So no getting flagged at the airport because the passport picture doesn't match. Isn't that wonderful?

So Fatine, hie yourself to Tehran, pronto!

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