Sex-change surgery has been practiced through a medico-judicial process in Iran based on Ayatollah Khomeini's Islamic juristic legal opinion (fatwa), which he issued just a few years after the Islamic revolution, in 1982. According to the Iranian legal system, judges can refer to the fatwas as a source of decision making if there are no stipulations on the matter within existing legal codes. In this article, I elucidate the divergent legal opinions on sex change among Islamic jurists in Iran and how this has amounted to different legal practices by judges in the country. The lack of law has generated difficult—and in some places impossible—conditions for trans persons to undergo sex-change surgery. According to Ayatollah Khomeini's fatwa, and by drawing on semi-structured interviews conducted in Iran, I argue that sex-change surgery is not obligatory, opposing those who believe homosexuals in Iran are forced to undergo it. Trans people who decide to do so see it as a way to complete the transition, which indicates the importance of body materiality. Using the information gathered during interviews with trans persons in Iran, I examine bodily experiences during the process of transition, in which I have identified three phases: self-recognition, passing, and rebirth. These analyses show that transition does not happen at once or suddenly, it rather takes a long time and may continue after sex-change surgery, which is only one part of it.

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