Be Like Others

Tanaz Eshaghian • 79m

In the Islamic Republic of Iran, a country with strict social mores and traditional values, sex-change operations are legal. Over twenty years ago, Ayatollah Khomeini issued a fatwa (religious edict) making sex change permissible for “diagnosed transsexuals.” Yet homosexuality is still punishable by death. With Iran’s international arms negotiations dominating news headlines worldwide, a very private kind of drama is unfolding behind the scenes. Highly feminine and attracted to members of the same sex, yet forced to live in secret for fear of retribution, a generation of young Iranian men are adopting an identity legally allowed to them—transsexual. In pursuit of what one man calls simply, “a decent life,” they flock to the country’s best-established gender reassignment surgeon, Dr. Bahram Mir Jalali, and are counseled by 24-year-old Vida, a post-op woman who claims to be “reborn” but warns of dangers that still await. Iranian-American filmmaker Tanaz Eshaghian accompanies several young men as they contemplate and prepare for their transformation, then follows them into and out of surgery. Intimate and unflinching, BE LIKE OTHERS is a fascinating look at those on the fringes of Iranian life—those looking for acceptance through the most radical of means.