Fettered Liberalism? A critical framework of the approach of The Islamic Republic to transgendered people?


Image result for iran 70'sIntroduction

“The open sexuality, practiced in joy with a view to the fulfilment of being, gradually gave way to a closed, morose, repressed sexuality”[1]. AbdelwahabOn sexuality in pre-modern Islam.


This essay seeks to investigate the approach the Islamic Republic of Iran has adopted with regards to non-normative identities, through sex change surgery and non-normative transgender gender identity.

In 2008 Iran carried out more sex change procedures than any other state except for Thailand[2]; with a diagnosis of “gender identity disorder” leading to hormonal treatment and surgery, partly state funded, the state exerts control over these binary breaking individuals. With homosexuality and same-sex relationships punishable by death[3], only binary hetero-sexualism is accepted. Although Iran legalized sex change operations in 1987 by fatwa (religious decree), the status and situation of transgenders both inside and outside the system is precarious.

The approach of the government is deliberate, and although in appearance a ‘liberalisation’, it is repressive, it enforces a binary gender system, without space for the ‘self’s’ construction of sexuality or gender. This has led many pre or post-op transgender people into depression, drug addiction, joblessness and prostitution. Excluded targets of society, their families, police and the government[4].

Before western modernisation, and its concurrent institutionalisation of governance and governmentality, Iran, and other Islamic states readily accepted non-normative sexuality and gender. The Iranian Qajar eras’ historical figures of the ‘amrad and amradnuma’[5] exemplify this. Amrad a young beardless man, similar to the ancient Greek adolescent of ephebe[6], and amradnuma an older man aping the amrad, were perceived genderless, engaging in sexual practices deemed both homosexual and heterosexual, with social superiors. Gender and sexuality were in pre modern Iran mainly ‘constituted by the principles which public life was organized”[7]. Thus identity of gender and sexuality were much more performative, fluid and societally based, devoid of a governmental-medicalised discourse.

Iran’s wish to “achieve modernity”[8] has led majoratively to a repressive regime of gender control, with heteronormative society ‘enshrined as a disciplinary norm’[9]. The gender matrix excluding some as ‘disordered’[10] socially, psychologically and physically,

The approach of the inquiry is to highlight the significance of an organised critical framework based upon logical epistemological positions, and their consequent influential role in the theoretical foundation, thusly affecting perceptions of Iran’s approach. As this work would technically be in a post-modernist approach, utilizing Queer Theory, the central epistemological foci will be upon ideas that relate to transgender study, such as gender identity, governance and the power of regulatory discourse.

The essay will seek to explore the applicable research design and analytical techniques appropriate, arguing that post-modern Queer Theory, utilizing qualitative methodology, is most apt. allowing “the researcher to see through the eyes of the people being studied”[11]. To understand the plight of Iranian transgenders, one must appreciate ‘lived experience’, an approach espoused by Queer Theory. By “queering” normalised understandings via the ideas of the “fluidity of gender” and “performativity” one can reveal the hidden problematic nature of government’s actions upon non-binary genders. Exposing a form of fettered liberalism, where supposed freedom has led to crude binary identity enslavement, actioned through the power of the state.

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Therefore the main research area is:

Has the approach of The Islamic Republic of Iran to binary breaking transgendered people enforced hetero-normativity?

With focus upon;

Which theoretical constructions, research designs and analytical techniques are best to answer this research question?


Justification, importance and topicality

Hetero-normativity is a political and cultural norm, categorising a bias in favour of opposite sex relationships, seeing breaks from this as abnormal, leading to gender and sexual prejudice. Partly a cultural phenomenon, like sexism and racism, hetero-normativity exerts hegemonic influence over social and political institutions and vice versa. Hierarchical binaries are created and supported. Leading to problems because gender and sexuality are arguably largely socially constructed[12] and not a binary structure; instead fluid and not fixed[13], leading to hierarchy and mistreatment of what I entitle ‘binary-breakers’. Transgender ‘binary breaking’ people for this study include a variety of non-normative genders, including transsexuals, transvestite’s, genderqueers, androgynes, and bigenders.

This research area is pivotal because transgender people are subject to a repressive gender binary society. Consequently transgender people are often outcast and mistreated, suffering at the hands of society and state. This is in spite of the illusion of liberation, via the legalization of sex-change operations, often hailed as a step forwards[14]. The treatment of transgenders, within the law, medicine, and society, is at best exclusionary, and at worst a form of gender enslavement. With a lack of fluidity forcing binary regimented gender conceptions upon individuals, limiting choice, enforcing injustice, leading to for example, the travesty of homosexuals being forced to change gender to ‘normalise’ their sexuality[15].

Iran as a case study exemplifies the problems for non-normative genders relationships with states. Actions taken to apparently modernize in Iran have actually excluded non-dimorphic genders, a consequence of hetero-normative society and the apparent striving for ‘modernization’; economically, politically and socially. Western influenced modernization, as according to Foucault’s concepts of ‘bio-power’[16] leads not to greater freedom but greater ‘govermentality’[17]. The state develops, ‘differentiated, compared, hierarchized, homogenized, and excluded’ bodies to create governmentable citizens’[18]. This influence spreads through various discourses and their power structures, such as psychology, medicine, law and religion. These discourses imprison non-binary persons into a system where they are treated with suspicion and controlled, in a supposed institutionalised ‘Islamist panopticon’[19].

The study of this topic is vital because the misallocation between perception and reality is great, all the while unnatural hardship is placed upon a minority either assimilated or ostracised. Iran is often hailed as surprisingly ‘liberal’ in their approach to gender by western media, highlighting visits by “patients from Eastern European and Arab countries”[20]. Reports stating that “repression has eased”[21]. However despite these libations, those that do not fit within the states ideal gender binary often side-lined or mistreated. Transsexuals and transgendered people in Iran face huge challenges in terms of job prospects[22], and the constant threat of honour killings[23] from families, within a society that cannot come to terms with those outside the traditional gender matrix.

The plight of an outsider group such as Iranian transgenders puts a mirror to our own societies, shining the lens upon the pre-existent norms engrained through religion, medicine, media, society, morality and governance. The nexus of power and discourse both visible and invisible, both concrete and cognitive.

A central and important reason for studying these supressed minorities in various circumstances is that the legal, medical, religious and societal approach to transgenders has been influenced by codification. The laws in place in Iran are not laws for protection of autonomy, choice and free-will, but instead they are laws that protect the status and classification of transsexuals and transgendered people ascribing values of permanence and rigidity. This powerful discourse pervades many societies, and needs further understanding. Gender and sex are ‘disciplinary power constituting subjectivities’[24] and therefore are influenced heavily by historic socio-cultural construction. The nation’s hetero-normative character and sexual dichotomy, that is modern in conception, means many transgenders are forced into a legislated sexual society, enforcing for some, a form of ‘disciplinary’[25] gender enslavement.

At a major crossroads, transgenders highlight both the lack of homogeneity within Islam, but also that, at the very heart of the mistreatment of transgendered people, is the state, its formulation, and its governmentality. As legalization can equal discipline. It promotes the ‘de-individualization’ of power, promoting the ‘disciplinary’[26] panopticon which guarantees the successful enforcement of the new administrative and disciplinary measures’[27]. Understanding this discursive power is vital, in order to challenge illegitimate treatment of humans based purely on arbitrary designs such as codified ‘sexuality’ and ‘gender’. Consequently study of the “manner in which these phenomena reveal the operations of systems and institutions that simultaneously produce various possibilities of viable personhood, and eliminate others”[28] is vital.

Review of the concepts and themes; and the major epistemological positions & techniques relevant to a study of Iranian transgenders.

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As a unique and under researched area of study, transsexuality and transgendered people in Iran, relies heavily upon modern understandings of sexuality and gender politics. There has been a convergence of research into understandings of gender, identity and the power nexus responsible for the current formulation of hetero-normative societies. Studies upon transgendered people has grown exponentially since feminist scholarship challenged patriarchal heteronormativity in relation to women; utilizing the radical deconstructionist approaches of postmodern thinkers such as Foucault, and feminist approaches espoused by Butler.

The most powerful approaches to transgenderism that have gained credence today, are in the post-structuralist and post-modern paradigms, especially in feminism, critical theory and queer theory, utilizing post-modern deconstruction of norms and discourses. Challenging pre-conceived understandings of gender, sexuality, power and social standing, especially within the psycho-medicalised discourse, and its “pathologization of transgender people”[29]. This approach has been very Western-centric, but can be expanded to the wider political world, and within a socio-historical bracketing to lend weight to the current formations as both a modern conception, and a hegemonic institutional political discourse.

Vital to answering the question, a group of central thematic constructs will be examined, which all factorize the problems of hetero-normative society for non-normative peoples. Appropriate epistemological positions, based upon differing qualitative approaches, with understanding of their differing effects upon theory construction will also be examined, in light of the central thematic constructs necessary to understand transgenderism in Iran.


The main relevant themes and concepts for the study of transgenders in Iran.

Heteronormativity as hegemonic binarism.

“Hetero-normativity” is vital to understanding the repressive regime transgenders find themselves under, especially in a state such as Iran. Heteronormativity is defined as the “cultural understanding in which heterosexuality is the norm and the resulting social institutions are based on that assumption”[30]. This identifies a bias in favour of opposite sex relationships, consequently those perceived to break the system are treated as “deviant” or “unnatural” and pushed into “regulative discourses”[31] in an assimilative hetero-normative binary structure.

Heteronormativity’s role upon LGBT peoples has been argued over in academia, one major problem is many of the approaches engage in universalism, with little interest in historical formation or context in varying state formations and societies. Authors such as Hubbard and Najmabadi have tried to address the problems of outlining heteronormativity as permanent across the world, and not differentiated. Hubbard shows that varied “ubiquitous geographies, and hetero-normativity’s uniqueness of role in different public spheres”[32] effect non-normative peoples differently. Najmabadi highlights the vital role socio-historical factors play in hetero-normative matrixes.

Similarly for this study the focus upon transgenders away from hetero-normativity’s usual use upon homosexuals, requires a differentiated approach, and a more open view for the allowance of sex-change operations. Rich Adrienne[33], Judith Butler[34] and Gayle Rubin[35] all have polemic works upon hetero-normativity, however they fail to examine varied countries and differing socio-religious situations effectively. For this study hetero-normativity will be opened up to other ideas that can inform the specific context for transgenders in Iran, such as historical works, and phenomenological historical approaches as taken by Asfaneh Najmabadi[36] and Deniz Akin[37]. This broader thematic approach to hetero-normativity, with an attestation to the epistemological importance of socio-historical factors will negate the ‘western bias’ of many works, and allow a functioning study of a very different situation for transgenders, in a non-feminised society.

Finally although many authors highlight the social nature of hetero-normativity, by following the work of Foucault on regulated bodies, and with the nature of Iran’s theocracy. The focus, unlike the majority works on hetero-normative as ‘social’ as per Rich Adrienne, and with focus usually on women’s experiences; this study must also take into account Iran’s religious, institutional and governmental nature. This is vital to understand transgenders in Iran, the specific context and epistemological foundations, and the hegemonic pro-binary control the modern state exerts over the people.


The fluidity of gender and gender performativity.

“Fluidity of gender” is a central construct of modern ideas of gender and sexuality, which informs both a criticism of heteronormative society, and of the lack of freedom for self-conception. This lack of self-mastery is especially problematic for transgenders, who may wish to not adhere to a binary model. Within this is Judith Butler’s construct of the “performativity”[38] of gender, and an approach that there are no specific eternal set genders, sexuality and attributable characteristics.

The fluidity of gender is defined as one that is therefore performed. This is a very divisive topic in feminist academia with Janice Raymond[39] and Bernice Hausman[40] rejecting the idea that gender identity can be fluid and performative. This has caused a huge rift with Queer Theorists/Feminists who do as per Jagose[41]. To fully understand transgenders plight in Iran, one must deconstructed gender, in order to be able to understand the position that transgenders are in. Butler provides an important approach to conceptualising gender as ‘fluid’; as opposed to the repressive structure of hetero-normativity though binary or even ‘third gender’[42]. Butler and later others, extended the field in this regard, with her concepts of ‘gender performativity’, related to the socio-cultural construction of gender.

Gender performativity provides that your gender is constructed via “…a stylized repetition of acts which are internally discontinuous so that the appearance of substance is precisely that, a constructed identity, a performative accomplishment which the actors themselves, come to believe and to perform”[43]. This makes gender a fluid concept, one that can shift, not immutable. This is a core concept, as is allows inference into social and institutional circumstances, whilst appreciating the role of freedom of choice, and an understanding of how gender has shifted over history in the Islamic Republic. Consequently hetero-normative states are guilty in their application of a false categorizing discourse, as ‘gender subsumes sex’ and consequently ‘the social construction of the unnatural, presupposes the cancellation of the natural, by the social’[44]. The strongest approach to the thematic categorisation of transgenders will not examine the differences of gender and sex; instead they will be conflated together as Butler originally argued in her thesis ‘Gender Trouble’.

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Socio-historical construction.

Socio-historical construction is important to this study, as gender has changed over time, highlighting both the way gender is fluid, and that the state enforces a new heteronormativity, exerting hegemonic and negative powers over binary breaking transgender people. Asfaneh Najmabadi is an academic whose work on sexuality and gender in Iran has highlighted the openness of sexuality and gender in Iran’s past. Understanding this is central to seeing how transgenders are treated today, and how this has changed, putting the modern state apparatus in the middle. As ‘gender is an impersonation, becoming gendered involves impersonating an ideal that nobody actually inhabits’[45]. A construct that changes through history, and which exerts strong control. Thus the entire gender system is a façade, problematic for the ordering of society, an epistemological basis Queer theory espouses.


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State modernisation, Westernisation, Governmentality and Institutionalisation and their coexisting discourses; religious, legal and medical.

Bio power, Westernisation, Governmentality and Institutionalisation are key themes that come from Foucault’s investigations into: sexuality, criminality and government. With this study an understanding of Foucauldian ideas of discursive power, and the power of institutionalised discourse lends weight to the continuing plight of transgendered people. Allowing one to appreciate the formation of hetero-normativity and its continuation. Foucault attests that as the ‘the enlightenment, which discovered many liberties, also invented the disciplines’[46] which negatively enforce political control and management; exerting influence over non-binary gender and sexuality.

This regulative control did not exist in the pre modern Iranian Qajar dynasty. Pahlavi came to power in 1925, and the era saw the striving for ‘modernity’, through new governmental bodies and institution; creating a new controllable modern Iranian populace. Foucault’s argues, queered towards transgenders, ‘that during the same period in Europe, gender relations and related power and knowledge regimes were linked to the ‘production of modern governmental bodies’[47].

Increased European interaction in the Pahlavi era brought about hetero-sociality, because of the presence in Europe of women in the social sphere, rather than differing classifiable types of homo-sociality as with the amrad’s and amradnuma’s. Confusion over Iranian homo-sociality led to European misconceptions of Iranian male social action as homosexual, this led to a modern conception of same-sex acts and a medicalised discourse on homo-sexuality where previously it was accepted as an action only not a sexuality. With the remorseless movement towards ‘modernity’ and ‘westernisation’ and the associated ‘modern governmentable bodies’[48]. Classification and governmentality increased and with it gender binarism, and the pre-existing social based gender system of homo-social and non-gender associated acts became considered as a ‘vice’. Those who failed to adhere to the binary system; homosexuals, transgenders and transsexuals gradually lost their freedom as gender entered a self-regulative disciplinary norm, within a regulative panopticon.

This is the key theme of bio-power that; “it is a form of power that regulates social life from its interior, following it, interpreting it, absorbing it. Its primary task is to administer life”[49]. Its required institutionalisation through ‘governmentality and disciplinarity’[50], creates ingrained heteronormativity, enforced through powerful discourses and discursive practices.

The Iranian Qajar rulers influenced by Western ‘modernity’, the prevalence of medicine, statistics and population data all enshrined a ‘binary sex/gender categorisation’[51]. Accordingly a legal framework developed, leading to Iran applying this ‘ideal state’ of binary gender. This presented a new form of sexual power unlike the original negative command of ‘juridico-discursive power’[52] which held less influence upon gender and sex. There is a legal necessity for patients to be ‘diagnosed to get a sex-change operation and new birth certificates’[53] in both nations. This new discourse/discursive power operated not by right but ‘technique’ not by ‘law but by normalization, not by punishment but by control, with methods that go beyond the state and apparatus’[54]. The Basij-e-Mostaz’afin[55] , the Morality Police are one such example of control.

The medical discourse also provides a strong arm of hetero-normativity enforcing injustice. Within Iran the modern apparatus of medicine has not been hampered by Iran’s change into a theocracy, medicine has continued in a western trajectory, but still is parcel to religious determinism.  Iran’s medical discourse is ruled by two concepts; upon the religious idea of ‘jins-e haqiqi’[56] meaning every human body is innately male or female, and the western-rooted modern psycho-medicalized discourse on the “truth of sex” ‘haqiqat-e jins’[57]. The western truth concept based around ‘Scientia Sexualis’ has led like ‘jins-e haqiqi’ to ‘politicise and control sexuality’[58] as a discernible normality. These medical discourses lead to problems both in the medical and social sphere for transgendered peoples. Implying  an inherent ‘truth’ and treat transgendered people as people with “gender identity disorder”[59] fuelling people’s belief of transgenders being ‘mentally disturbed’[60].

Religion is a difficult discourse to analyse as much evidence exists for it to have been accepting of non-normative society before modernisation. As demonstrated with its relative acceptance of non-normative genders and sexualities within the Quran[61]. Indeed, if not for the fatwa, and the jurisprudence of theological elites using the Hadith, Quran and Ijtihad, transsexuals may well still be denied sex change operations. However discourse pervades much of theocratic Iran, with transgenders outsiders, enforced to a new approach of binarism, which the Quran does not explicitly demand.


The main epistemological approaches that have guided study in this area.

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Epistemologically there are a variety of philosophical approaches that can be used to understand the plight of transgenders in Iran. The strongest are strictly post-modern, as they question the formation of the power nexus that influences gender and socio-political relations between transgendered people, hetero-normative society and government. This approach allows reality to be known from the position of transgenders, allowing a deconstruction of power and its perceived certainty as fabricated.

Positivist, quantifiable medical papers have been created from outside and within Iran, although many highlight the issues of transgenders and sex changes, they rely heavily on upholding the categorised values leaving transgenders in plight. Their inadvertent use of the psycho-medicalised discourse engorging the problems which are revealed by “queering” the situation, and using a bottom up model, such as constructivism.

A Queer approach to the research question, analyses and presents the power structures effecting non-heteronormative peoples, and how these structures came to be formed. A “queered” socio-historical analysis from combined methodologies of Tashakorri and Teddlie’s[62] critical theories, emphasizing historical methods, as emphasized by Najmabadi[63], illuminates this sexual matrix shift. With focus on “the examination of the values, practices and interests emanating from particular dominant groups at the expense of disempowered groups”[64], one can see that Iran’s approach to transgenders is both a modern phenomenon and repressive.

Queer theory also allows a strong bond in the relationship between the knower and the known, with a bottom up approach, allowing radical interpretation; and questioning perceived understandings and power. Foucauldian discourse analysis, and case study phenomenology, based upon his work in ‘Discipline and punish[65], ‘Governmentality[66] and ‘The history of sexuality[67] is best utilized. With laws, medical records and reports, documentaries, newspaper articles, and other secondary sources examined for their hetero-normative power and hegemonic discourses, fielding valuable data. Using a Foucaultian ‘discursive’ manner, the discourses apparent will be examined to reveal the hidden power network that has created and sustains the repressive hetero-normative structure.


Interpretavist over Positivist

Interpretavism is the most astute philosophical approach to transgenders in Iran, although less economical with data, less comparable and controllable, it does allow the researcher to be alive to changes which occur, allowing the facilitation of the understanding of how and why. Positivism is problematic at finding the source for transgender injustice, and the social processes that could be causing this; often not allowing for complexity and contextual factors, or the meanings people attach to social phenomena. However there is obviously uncertainty with using a post-modern queer theoretical interpretavist approach. Understanding the role of power, discourse and hetero-normativity, are by nature varyingly unquantifiable factors, which nonetheless provide a solid argument for the maintenance, implementation and existence of the plight of transgenders Iran.

Interpretavism allows the characteristics of the Iranian State and society toward transgenders to be questioned on principle, with arguments based upon the fluidity of gender and heteronormativity utilised, to challenge current policy, and consequently broadening the findings into a powerful questioning of Iran’s approach.

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Critical theory

As a study of Iranian transgenders requires a study beyond the obvious, in order to uncover the effects of political structures and their associated power relations. Its ultimate intent is emancipatory. Queer theory is a descendant of critical theory, post-modernism and feminist theory. With its emancipatory goal to challenge injustice, trying to establish ‘the view from nowhere’[68].

The approach I have laid out, of Foucauldian power examination and the role of discourse, the use of queer theory to challenge hetero-normativity and Judith Butler’s ideas of performativity, all coexist and work harmoniously because they are all within the critical theory paradigm. All these categories overlap, fluid and shifting. It must be appreciated that the importance of perspective is problematic, gender, race, ethnicity, sexuality and geo-politics constrain our understandings of the world as well as our capacity to act within it. This is why a strong theoretical and epistemological basis is vital.

One of the key reasons for utilizing Queer theory with these facets is that it challenges the limitation of human agency, social structures determine an individual’s behaviour” especially in Iran. These ‘structures’ limit or affect the choices and actions of individuals (such as social class, religion, gender, ethnicity, and so on). It is important to highlight that in many ways transgenders are used merely as a vehicle to explore the role of agency in an analysis of hegemonic state control, over individuals. Transgenders make a perfect vehicle to examine this, because they are often at the edge of society, controlled, absorbed or rejected. Indeed an epistemological reason to ask these gender outlaws is because of their experiences being “rich and subtly nuanced discourses”[69] a key epistemological foundation of queer studies.

Critical theory in the Interpretivist model, utilizing culturally and historically situated interpretations using an inductive or theory-building approach underpinned by a subjectivist ontology, is the central approach that will yield justifiable results. Understanding how and why things happen, elucidating meaning, this is the only approach capable of examining this highly contentious and problematic area.  This unique approach allows the method to be shared and repeated by others, in order to assess the quality of the research and the reliability of findings. As this approach can be used to question varied nations in varying social contexts across religion, state make-up and legal freedoms for transgenders.

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Discussion of how differences in operationalization impact the subject

Operationalization is a procedure of defining the measurement of a phenomenon that is not directly measurable, though its existence is indicated by other phenomena. For a strong level of operationalization the formation of the theoretical variables is key. Theoretical concepts are clearly distinguishable, as long as one measures against the ideas of gender fluidity as a core concept. Empirical observations will be limited to interview data gathered from transgenders by varied means. Nevertheless as this is a highly philosophical work in both social and political history alongside an understanding of governmental and social power through discourses, there is a difficulty in measurement. This however is not a problem for operationalization, or the understanding of transgenders in Iran, as the words of transgenders will be used to illuminate the discourses of power and the injustices apparent in the theoretical and epistemological foundation.

Observations will be made, the discourse analysis will be achievable from a phenomenological approach; one problematic area of operationalization is that of letting transgenders speak themselves to support these discursive discourses and their role in their lives. Individual interviews, questionnaires or focus groups could be used, especially easy over the internet. There are problematic issues to this element in, language, perception and understanding, however if achievable the theoretical approach will be born out in the words of those oppressed, and an understanding of how and why this came to being. Contextual data/observations or written materials will provide deeper understanding and create a strong operational basis for the study. The approach taken must answer the question of whether the words of the transgenders mirrors the socio-historical and Foucauldian phenomenological examination of hegemonic hetero-normativity and the role of a power nexus repressing trangender sexual freedom.


‘Transgressors are a fascinating example of how “individuals create, produce, and articulate their gendered identities or subjectivities in relation and resistance to gendered discourses and cultural repertoires”[70]. Hetero-normativity is the application of a caste system that organises and overlays hierarchies upon differentiated groups of people assigned inaccurate labels leading to a less free and ‘liberal’ society. To examine this, the approach of queer theory explicitly challenges this pre conceived norm, with Foucaudian ideas of power the explanatory variables.

With gender as performative one can understand the injustice of this system, and with socio-historical context one can understand its formulation and continuing influence. This is despite these countries governments’ movements towards western perceived ‘liberalism’ within the movement towards sexual and gendered legislation geared towards gender equality, and the consequent apparatus of state. However this equality legislation has fettered gender freedom through the exclusionary and assimilative nature of the codified laws, and the enshrouding binary society.

This problem needs to be examined critically with an eye towards Iran’s socio-historical past, with history effectively Queered and modern society and government critically analysed for heteronormativity. Allowing the hidden to become visible and the realisation that state approaches are enslaving transgenders not freeing them.


N.B – Important books and journals are emboldened.


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[1] Abdelwahab Bouhdiba, Sexuality in Islam (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul,1985), p.232.

[2] This has been around 3500 Iranian transgender people thus far.

[3] Iranian Legal Articles 108-113.

[4] Documentary ‘Be Like Others’ (Eshaghian, 2008)

[5] Najmabadi, Afsaneh. “Types, acts, or what: Regulation of sexuality in nineteenth century Iran.” Islamicate sexualities: Translations across temporal geographies of desire 39(2008)p.66.

[6] Halperin, David M., John J. Winkler, and Froma I. Zeitlin. Before sexuality. Princeton University Press,1990,p.123.

[7] Barale,Michele, and David,Halperin. “The lesbian and gay studies reader.” NewYork-1993.p.419

[8] Najmabadi, Afsaneh. Women with mustaches and Men without beards. University of California Press, 2005.p.555

[9] Foucault ‘Sexuality’-[1978],p.43

[10] A.A noorbala, A survey on the personality and intellectual characteristics of transsexuals in Iran., m.d.f-Raisi M.D. Z. Alem-m.s.c

[11] Bryman, Research Methods, 2012,p44.

[12] Foucault ‘Sexuality’-[1978],p.43

[13] American Psychiatric Association has stated, “some people believe that sexual orientation is innate and fixed; however, sexual orientation develops across a person’s lifetime” (May-2000). “Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Issues”. Association of Gay and Lesbian Psychiatrists.

[14] Barford,Vanessa. “Iran’s diagnosed transsexuals.” BBC News25 (2008).

[15] http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-29832690

[16] Bio-power is the ‘numerous and diverse techniques for achieving the subjugations of bodies and the control of populations’ – Stryker, Currah, and Moore. “Introduction: Trans-, trans, or transgender?.” Women’s Studies Quarterly 36.3-(2008):11-22.

[17]Foucault,M.(1991).’Governmentality’,The Foucault Effect: Studies in Governmentality, University of Chicago Press.p.94.

[18] Abdi, M.Ali. Gender Outlaws between Earth and Sky: Iranian Transgender Asylum Seekers.Central European University, 2011.p45.

[19] Afary,Janet.. Sexual Politics in Modern Iran. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University

Press. Obviously referencing Foucault. p.267

[20] For example The Guardian wrote on the 27/07/2005 that “the Islamic Republic of Iran occupies the unlikely role of global leader for sex change”.

[21] Nazila Fathi,  The New York Times, 2/08/2004

[22] Blake, Emily. “Challenging Gender Norms in the Republic of Iran: The Impact of Gendered Citizenship on Social Movements.”Footnotes 6-(2013).

[23] Carter, B. J. “Removing the Offending Member: Iran and the Sex-Change or Die Option as the Alternative to the Death Sentencing of Homosexuals.” J. Gender Race & Just.14-(2010):p.7.

[24] John S. Ransom. Foucault’s discipline: The politics of subjectivity. Duke University Press, 1997.p.23.

[25] Forcing a gender choice when many do not wish to be a binary gender, as in Iran, is tantamount to my coined term of ‘enslavement’ as Janet Afary alludes too but I label, in Sexual politics in modern Iran. Cambridge-University-Press, 2009.

[26] “‘Discipline’ may be identified neither with an institution nor with an apparatus; it is a type of power, a modality for its exercise, comprising a whole set of instruments, techniques, procedures, levels of application, targets; it is a physics’ or an ‘anatomy’ of power, a technology” Foucault, Michel. Discipline & punish. Random House of Canada, 1977. P.215

[27] Abdi, Gender Outlaws, 2011.

[28] Stryker,Susan. “An Introduction to Transgender-Studies.” The Transgender Studies Reader (2006)p.24.

[29] Butler, Judith. Undoing gender. Psychology Press, 2004.

[30] Maurer-Starks, Suanne S., Heather L. Clemons, and Shannon L. Whalen. “Managing heteronormativity and homonegativity in athletic training: In and beyond the classroom.” Journal of athletic training 43.3 (2008): 326.

[31] Foucault ‘Sexuality’-[1978],p.43

[32] Hubbard, P. (2008), Here, There, Everywhere: The Ubiquitous Geographies of Heteronormativity. Geography Compass, 2: 640–658.

[33] Adrienne, Rich. (1980) ‘Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence’ Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, 5:631-60.

[34] Butler, Judith. (1990). ‘Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity’. New York : Routledge.

[35] Rubin, Gayle. (1993). Thinking Sex: Notes for a Radical Theory of the Politics of Sexuality, in Vance, Carole.Pleasure and Danger: Exploring Female Sexuality

[36] Najmabadi, A., 2005. Mapping Transformations of Sex, Gender, and Sexuality in Modern Iran. Social Analysis 54–77.

[37] Akin, Deniz. “Bargaining with Heteronormativity: Elaborations of Transsexual Experiences in Turkey.” (2009).

[38] Butler, Judith. “Feminism and the Subversion of Identity.” Gender trouble (1990):p.11.

[39] Raymond, Janice G., and J. Neville. The transsexual empire: The making of the she-male. New York: Teachers College Press, 1994.

[40] Hausman, Bernice L. Changing sex: Transsexualism, technology, and the idea of gender. Duke University Press, 1995.

[41] Jagose, Annamarie. “Feminism’s queer theory.” Feminism & Psychology 19.2 (2009): 157-174.

[42] N.B Third gender is accepted in some nations as neither a man nor woman as in Turkey however it could be argued to enforce a gender caste system and hetero-normativity as few rights are attached and classification is too crude. See – Weiss, Jillian Todd. “Gender Caste System: Identity, Privacy, and Heteronormativity.” Law & Sexuality: LGBT Issues-10(2001):p.7.

[43] Butler, Judith. “Feminism and the Subversion of Identity.” Gender trouble (1990):p.11.

[44] Butler, Judith. “Bodies that matter.” Feminist theory and the body: A reader (1999): p.235.

[45] Quoting Judith Butler – Fei, JiaJia. “the ballad of nan goldin subversion of gender and photography”, History (2007).p.9.

[46] Foucault, Michel. “Discipline and punish.” A. Sheridan, Paris, Gallimard (1975).p.222.

[47] Foucault ‘Sexuality’ [1978].p.43

[48] Najmabadi ‘Moustaches’ 2005a,p.67

[49] Hardt, Michael, and Antonio Negri. Empire. Harvard University Press, 2009.

[50] Obviously in lineage to Foucault, Nadesan, Majia Holmer. Governmentality, biopower, and everyday life. Psychology Press, 2008.p.151.

[51] Göçek, Fatma Müge, and Shiva Balaghi, eds. Reconstructing gender in the Middle East: tradition, identity, and power. Columbia University Press,1994.p92.

[52] Willcocks, L. Foucault, power/knowledge and information systems: reconstructing the present. Wiley, Chichester, 2004.p77.

[53] Dr Reza Molavi and Dr Mohammad M Hedayati-Kakhki – The Advisory Panel on Country Information (APCI) review of the COI Service’s Iran COI Report, undertaken by of the Centre for Iranian Studies at Durham University, dated 23/09/2008.

[54] Foucault ‘sexuality’ (1978),p.89

[55]Translation -‘Mobilization of the Oppressed’, Morality Police.

[56] ‘The classical Islamic medical discourse’ Abdi, ‘Gender-Outlaws’ 2011.p23.

[57] Ibid ^

[58] Foucault ‘sexuality’-1976.p.53

[59] 3000 have occurred since legalisation, the second most in the world after the Philippines.

[60] Afsaneh Najmabadi – Verdicts of Science, Rulings of Faith: Transgender/sexuality in Contemporary Iran Social Research Volume-78, No.2, Summer-201.p4.

[61] There is no passage in Quran that directly forbid homosexuality and ‘Classical Islamic law in terms of assigning legal rules, inter alia, explicitly recognizes four genders among human beings, namely male, female, hermaphrodite, and effeminate male‘ – Haneef, Sayed Sikandar Shah. “Sex Reassignment in Islamic Law: The Dilemma of Transsexuals.”

[62] Tashakorri and Teddlie’s (1998)

[63] Najmabadi, Afsaneh. Women with mustaches and Men without beards. University of California Press, 2005.p.63

[64] Dieronitou, Irene. “The ontological and epistemological foundations of qualitative and quantitative approaches to research.” 2011

[65] Foucault, Michel. Discipline & punish. Random House of Canada, 1977.

[66] Foucault,Michel.(1991).’Governmentality’,The Foucault Effect: Studies in governmentality, pp. 87–104.. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press

[67] Foucault, Michel. “The history of sexuality: An introduction. Vol. 1.” New York: Vintage (1978).

[68] Sullivan, Nikki. A critical introduction to queer theory. NYU Press, 2003.

[69] Weiss, Margot. “The Epistemology of Ethnography Method in Queer Anthropology.” GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies 17.4 (2011): 649-664.

[70] Blackwood,Evelyn. “Gender Transgression in Colonial and Postcolonial Indonesia,” Journal of Asian-Studies-Vol.64 (2005):p.859.

Don’t get sucked under.

Other interests

Gander above at this fabulous obscure piece of 70’s agit-theme. The show must have been a let down after the theme tune ended. Also above is a photograph of my grandfathers, a well travelled man with a great eye, Hamburg in the 60’s looks effervescent. I will be posting more with time.

Welcome to the first of the first transgresses I am bothered to make into this blogicidal domain, nevertheless stay posted for politics, music, film, art, history and whatever I decide you should know about on the interweb.

China is erasing its border with Hong Kong


When Britain handed Hong Kong back to China in 1997, Chinese leaders agreed that Hong Kong would be able to keep its economic and political systems, including some of the civil freedoms denied to China’s citizens on the mainland, for the next 50 years. Although Hong Kong still has nearly 30 years of semi-autonomy left, China has started tightening its grip, and many believe it is chipping away at Hong Kong’s freedoms.


Uruguay: a left-wing rockstar for Latin America?


Famous for its football team, Uruguay is one of the 9 countries that has ever won the Soccer World Cup. This is a whole of an achievement given that Uruguay is one of the smallest countries in all across South America, both in population and surface. Nonetheless, Uruguay is also known as one of the most stable economies of the continent, one of the wealthiest countries in LATAM (GDP per capita wise), good public services and civil rights. Compared with its neighbours, Brazil and Argentina, Uruguay is amazing. And, thanks to this, one of its latest president, Jose Mugica, became a left wing rock star in all around the world. Nonetheless, Uruguayan economy faces lots of challenges now. So the question here is… why is Uruguay’s economy more successful than others?


We will see what happens…