Iranian Transsexuals

Athena, a 20-year-old transsexual in conservative Iran. As a young boy, Athena used to play with her mother's dresses and enjoyed wearing makeup. But he was badly treated by his father, afraid that his son was homosexual, which is illegal in Islamic culture. Two years ago, Athena became a she. Photo by Alexandra Boulat

Athena, a 20-year-old transsexual in conservative Iran. As a young boy, Athena used to play with her mother's dresses and enjoyed wearing makeup. But he was badly treated by his father, afraid that his son was homosexual, which is illegal in Islamic culture. Two years ago, Athena became a she. Photo by Alexandra Boulat

In 1976, the supreme leader of Iran, Ayatullah Ruhollah Khomeini, imposed a fatwa to allow people with hormonal disorders to change sex if they wished, as well as change their birth certificates. Last year, 70 transsexuals were registered at the Khomenei Relief Center, a non-governmental organization that loans money to transsexuals to help them pay for surgery and to provide psychological assistance. Athena, 20, and Milad, 30, are one of many transsexuals in Iran. The pair, who met three years ago at the center, became good friends as a result of undergoing the same life experience.

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