The madness -- I can't think of any other word to use -- going on in Iran is difficult for me to even begin to wrap my head around. With such a complex situation made even more opaque by a lack (or blatant manipulation) of information about what's happening, we're forced to watch (or read twitters) and wait for the smoke to clear.
Be Like Others, a new documentary about young Iranian men who are choosing to undergo sex reassignment surgery airing on HBO on June 24, highlights one of the issues at the center of the storm happening right now in Iraq: attempting to live free lives under strict Islamic rule. Unlike homosexuality, which is punishable by death in Iran (read Out's feature story on Iranian gays who have fled to Turkey and Canada), being transgender became legal over twenty years ago when Ayatollah Khomeini issued a fatwa (religious edict) making sex change permissible for "diagnosed transsexuals."
Iranian-American filmmaker Tanaz Eshaghian follows several young men as they seek out help from the country's most prestigious reassignment surgeon, Dr. Bahram Mir Jalali and are counseled by 24-year-old Vida, a post-op woman who claims to be "reborn." The film shows the men as they prepare to undergo their transformations, as well as the aftermath of their decisions. In what is being called an "intimate" and "unflinching" look at life on the edges of -- and trying to fit into -- a unwelcoming society, Be Like Others could not be more timely.