Surgery, Escape or Death?

Since the 1980s, thousands of Iranian gays and lesbians have undergone sexual reassignment surgery to avoid the alternative -- execution.
Religious leaders in Iran contend that homosexuality is a “tremendous sin” and that therefore, gays and lesbians act “against God.” Transsexuality, however, is not formally addressed in the Quran, and Iranian doctors perform about 300 sexual reassignment surgeries per year.
These startling facts emerge in the gut-wrenching “Transsexuals in Iran,” part of a recent episode of Vice on HBO, a mini-documentary series that investigates global issues. The series has received numerous awards, including a 2014 Emmy for Outstanding Informational Series or Special. Its 2015 episodes have continued to captivate viewers with intriguing content and excellent reporting.
In only 15 minutes, Vice correspondent Thomas Morton delivers an informative and shocking exploration into a part of the world where the LGBTQ community faces grave danger because of their personal identities, sexualities, and gender expression. The report tells the stories of several LGBTQ Iranians facing persecution.
One story that the Vice episode follows is that of a transsexual man named Amir Reza. His brother is shown explaining that if Amir had chosen to identify as a lesbian before his surgery, his family would have had him killed. But because he instead agreed to get sexual reassignment surgery, his family has “gradually accepted [Amir’s> situation.” As Vice points out, it’s shocking to hear these sentiments coming from the brother of a transsexual man.
Sexual reassignment surgery has been legal in Iran since the early 1980s, when Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, founder of the Islamic Republic, unexpectedly issued a fatwa (an Islamic legal ruling) allowing transsexuality. Since then, Iran has become one of the world capitals for sexual reassignment surgery – but not because of a large population of trans-identified Iranians.
As a solution for what the Iranian government calls the “disease” of homosexuality, the Iranian government has begun to pressure gays and lesbians into undergoing sexual reassignment surgery and thereby becoming acceptable citizens in the eyes of government officials. Although there are currently no laws ordering homosexuals to transition into the body of the opposite sex, many Iranians choose to undergo surgery when faced with governmental pressure and the threat of death.
Morton delves further into the state of LGBTQ rights in Iran, exposing the harsh reality that some political and religious leaders deny the existence of homosexuality altogether.
At one point during the documentary, former Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who served from 2005 to 2013, is shown stating: “In Iran, we don’t have homosexuals like in your country. We don’t have that in our country.”
Morton was sent to Toronto by Vice to explore alternatives for gay Iranians who do not wish to undergo sexual reassignment surgery. Wealthier LGBTQ Iranians facing execution often choose to flee the country, if they can. Many people escape to Turkey, a trip that does not require a visa, as a temporary stop while attempting to find places to move more permanently. But fleeing from Iran is expensive and dangerous.
Fortunately, human rights organizations have given financially stressed Iranians opportunities to escape the oppressive government in recent years. The Iranian Railroad for Queer Refugees (IRQR) is a Toronto-based organization that helps Iranians flee the country and emigrate to Canada. Their mission, as stated on the IRQR website, is to “Assist persecuted LGBT Iranians seeking asylum to find refuge to live free and equal in dignity and rights.”
IRQR founder Arsham Parsi states that the organization has helped roughly 885 gay Iranians escape Iran since 2005 and now averages about five cases per month.
Although American LGBTQ communities face continuing issues of acceptance and equity, we live in a country where we are largely able to wear our identities freely and proudly. As we enter Pride month this June, we must remember the areas in the world where LGBTQ communities are forced to hide their identities, flee their countries, or face death penalties. Vice on HBO does a terrific job of investigating one of these places, forcing its viewers to consider LGBTQ struggles in Iran and around the world.
“Transsexuals in Iran,” part of Episode 27, is available on HBO Go, HBO Now, and HBO on demand. For more information on the series, visit "

Photo courtesy of Jose Cuervo

2023 Reserva de la Familia Limited Edition Terceerunquinto

On January 10, 2023, Reserva de la Familia, Jose Cuervo’s ultra-premium collection of artisanal small-batch tequilas and Mexico’s crown jewel, announced its 2023 collector’s box, designed by artists Rolando Flores and Gabriel Cázares of the Mexico-based Tercerunquinto Collective. The piece of custom art, titled “Structuring a Landscape”, features a geometric abstraction of the landscape of Tequila, Mexico and will adorn the 2023 limited-release collector’s box of Reserva de la Familia Extra Añejo.

Since 1995, Jose Cuervo has worked with internationally recognized artists with roots in Mexico to design the box artwork for Reserva de la Familia Extra Añejo. Each box is an authentic collector’s item, with a limited quantity produced annually before a new artist is chosen. Previous artists include Gonzalo Lebrija, Pedro Friedeberg, Carlos Aguirre, Ricardo Pinto and many more. Every artist is selected by a team of art curators including 11th generation Cuervo family member and CEO of Jose Cuervo, Juan Domingo Beckmann, Executive Director of El Museo del Barrio in New York City, Patrick Charpenel and founder of Zona Maco, Mexico’s number one art fair, Zélika García.

Keep reading Show less
Photo courtesy of Velvet Ibiza

Velvet Ibiza

Every year, Ibiza is home to Europe’s very epic queer woman’s party, Velvet Ibiza, which is celebrating its 7th anniversary and promises to be next level. Velvet Ibiza is an all-inclusive 5-day and 5-night party and includes transportation from the airport, a bungalow, 3 meals, and activities and parties day and night, and drinks until around 10:30 pm.

This year, international crowds of LGBTQ+ women will be attending Velvet Ibiza on May 2 - 7 to celebrate life, belonging, and freedom. Event organizers have rented an entire resort in order to build a community vibe and allow queer women to connect so there’s no reason to go anywhere unless of course, you want to go shopping, head to the beach, or explore the island.

Keep reading Show less

Financial Planning for the LGBTQ+ community

The new year has arrived. For many people, that means making resolutions and thinking of ways they can do better in the coming year and beyond. Money management and financial planning are often very popular resolutions and goals, but most financial advice tends to be aimed at heterosexual couples who want to grow their family and raise children.

But, what if your life goals are different? What if you don’t receive the same protection under the current laws as hetero couples?
What if you don’t want to have kids?

Keep reading Show less