In this BBC news story from 2014, Donya, a lesbian from Iran, now granted asylum in Canada, says, “I was under so much pressure that I wanted to change my gender as soon as possible.” The article casually suggests cross-sex treatment is not mandatory for lesbian and gay Iranians, but the truth emerging is much more complicated, and we know that such mutilation is the only alternative to death and despair for many.
Notice that Donya says she “WANTED” to do this. In her perception, this was a “choice” and she embraced it. Nevertheless her story makes it clear how her perception was manipulated by her culture so her ability to make any real choices based on true information was almost obliterated.
In feminist analyses, it is sometimes taken as axiomatic that women seek cross-sex hormones and medicalized mutilation in a desperate attempt to escape our sex-based oppression. While it is understood that no woman can “become” a man, and therefore no woman can shake off her own oppression by emulating a man, female cross-sex self-identification becomes analogous to “choice feminist” agitation for the “empowerment” of prostitution. As with that example of sexual exploitation in its more familiar form, this framework applies only to a minority of the population in question.
The majority remains partly but insufficiently examined by feminist theory because it is largely inaccessible, and because the population of women who approach cross-sex medical treatment with a “choice” based perspective self-selects for analysis. If not for women who have survived and escaped trafficking, we would know much less about their experiences. Because so few women thus far have survived or escaped cross-sex medical mutilation, our understanding of the submerged majority is still limited.
The enormous emphasis on male cross-sex mutilation in both media and social activism (the latter often due to the necessity for women to respond that men create in their violent agendas) also obfuscates the true final goal of transgenderism: the obliteration of lesbians (and gay men) who pose the greatest threat to the gender hierarchy which anchors patriarchal brutality.
Donya is just one of the many silent victims. Almost all focus in media now is on gay men forced into cross-sex mutilation, because the image of a castrated man provokes sympathy, whereas a gendered society takes it for granted that any approach closer to maleness is an improvement for a lesbian. It’s just not as tragic when women’s bodies are carved up, when women’s lives are treated as disposable–clearly, since sadistic medicalized experimentation on women has always been the status quo in every patriarchal culture.
Oh, and of the three people profiled here, Donya is the only woman. Is that because women like her don’t exist, don’t wish to speak, or are somehow socialized not to speak? Or perhaps is it because they have no ability to speak due to violent coercion, and no one to amplify their voices even if they do?
Donya got out. How many of her sisters remain?