Saturday, June 20, 2009

Transgender people and passing in Iran: Be Like Others and Offside

I just wanted to pass on these two clips from Be Like Others, a documentary on transgender individuals in Iran.

Trent Gilliss from Speaking of Faith writes,

What’s surprising to me in these clips is the nature of the conversation. Even though there are discussions about operations and genetic tests confirming a biological male identity, the root of these conversations is love and caring and community. Despite her objections about his transformation, the mother in the second clips spends as much energy lecturing her son on wearing less makeup and donning the hijab properly when going out; in the first clip, a member of the transgender community reprimands a peer for going out in public with hair hanging out the back of her hijab and talks of bringing respect to their community.

Although these individuals are pursuing lifestyles that are outside the cultural norm, it doesn’t mean that they abandon their upbringing and the values instilled in them. They continue to live within the larger culture, defying some strictures while observing others. Obviously, they face predicaments I can’t imagine, but, it’s also heartening to see that their families remain in dialogue with them in tense circumstances. I find that heartening and am anxious to view the documentary.

I'm looking forward to seeing the documentary as well. While on the topic of passing genders, I want to mention Offside, a movie about women in Iran trying to pass as men in order to see a World Cup match. While what the women in the movie are doing is vastly different from the people in Be Like Others, it's an interesting fictional take on something similar. The girls in the movie end up being caught by the police and put in a holding pen until their relatives can pick them up, but in the end the celebration of winning the match overcomes all gender restrictions. The gender-bending and quietly powerful subversiveness is enough for me to recommend this movie. While what's actual said in the film is thought-provoking in its own right, what's left unsaid is just as interesting.

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