What would you like to share about pushing toward your personal growth?
Sometimes in my life, it hasn’t been safe to say out loud that I’m a trans man. In Iran, schools are separated by gender until higher education, sometimes longer. I was the top student in my class, but I was treated differently and that left me feeling alone. I also was required to wear a hijab, which further isolated me. My family put me in therapy because I wanted to dress like the boys; in Iran transgender people are treated as if they’re suffering from illness.
At 18, I discovered gender affirming surgery was legal in Iran even if not culturally accepted. I came out to my family and explained I wanted to transition, but they were upset because they thought they’d lose the dreams they had for me. It took months, but we talked and eventually they accepted me for who I was.
I had the surgery after graduation, then waited three years until my documentation was ready before I went to university. I worried moving with my dead identity could create problems for me. Eventually, I left Iran after my university graduation.
Can you elaborate on what led you to leave?
I didn’t feel safe. Because I required documentation noting that as a trans man I was ineligible for our mandatory service in the Iranian Army, I was sometimes forced to tell my story and people would react poorly.
For example, when I went to change my passport to leave Iran, the person I was speaking with saw my new birth certificate. There’s an explanation at the bottom about my transition. She went to another room, told her coworkers, and all of them came out to look at my paperwork and stare at me. I felt like they were looking at me like I was from another planet.
Around the time I was transitioning, an Iranian president suggested there were no LGBTQ+ people in Iran. Homosexuality is punishable by death there, and even a few months ago, two women who were brave enough to speak out for our community were sentenced to death. There may be an assumption that there’s no LGBTQ+ community in Iran, but we exist. We’re hiding because we have to or else we may be executed.
I left for Turkey with my partner who later became my wife, and together we immigrated to Portland in 2016. There are still times I feel like I have to hide my true self. I carry deep trauma from those experiences.