Be Like Others

Fri, May 30, 2008, 7pm

A major sensation at the Sundance and Berlin international film festivals, Be Like Others is a fearlessly honest and unadorned look at the rationale behind gender reassignment in Iran. Over twenty years ago the Ayatollah Khomeini pronounced transsexuality legal while, according to Islamic law in Iran, homosexuality remained illegal and punishable by death. In Tanaz Eshaghian’s fascinating and stunningly revealing film, we witness the boom in the gender reassignment industry and the decisions that some who are attracted to the same sex are forced to grapple with.

Dr. Mir-Jilali, the country’s most prominent sex change surgeon, has no shortage of young men and women seeking his help. The film follows, over a year’s time, a number of young men who are in many cases desperate to overcome the social disgrace and legal harassment of their “condition.” In a mind-boggling sequence, Iran’s Theological Expert on Transsexuality, Cleric Kariminiya, explains that changing one’s gender isn’t much different than changing a tree into a chair.

Be Like Others sheds light on what Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad may have meant when he notoriously stated at Columbia University that Iran had no homosexuals. The blur between gay and transgender identities may be difficult for us to comprehend in this context, but the oppression of sexual minorities is crystal clear.