restricted access Verdicts of Science, Rulings of Faith: Transgender/Sexuality in Contemporary Iran

International reports welcoming Iran's recognition of transgender/sexuality and the permissibility of sex-change operations sometimes mixed celebration with an element of surprise: How could this be happening in an Islamic state? In other, and especially later, accounts, the sanctioning of sex-change became tightly framed through a comparison with punishment for sodomy (a capital offense) and the presumed illegality of homosexuality. For legal and medical authorities in Iran, sex-change is explicitly framed as the cure for a diseased abnormality, and on occasion it is proposed as a religio-legally sanctioned option for heteronormalizing people with same-sex desires and practices In this essay, I aim to capture the polytheistic scattered practices that were a critical element in shaping trans-lives and subjectivities in this period in Iran, to map out a situated "cartography of desire," which locates the contemporary discourses and practices of transgender/sexuality in a longer historical trajectory and intersecting discursive sites, including medicine, religious doctrine, psychology, criminology, the family, trans-activism, and practices of everyday life. What transgender/sexual as a "human kind" means today in Iran is specific to a nexus formed not simply by transnational diffusion of concepts and practices from a Western heartland to the rest, but is also the product of the sociocultural and political situation in Iran over the previous half century.