Mini-Review: If You Could Be Mine: A Novel, Sara Farizan (2013)

Monday, August 4th, 2014

An Engaging Exploration of Sexuality & Gender Identity in Iran

four out of five stars

Sahar is seventeen and in love – with her best friend Nasrin. In Iran, homosexuality is a crime punishable by imprisonment, corporal punishment, and even execution, forcing the young women to keep their relationship – and sexuality – a secret. But when Nasrin’s family arranges a “suitable” marriage for her, each girl struggles to find a way to hold onto the other. Nasrin’s solution? An extramarital affair – which can also earn you the death penalty. Meanwhile Sahar, emboldened by a chance meeting with trans woman Parveen, hatches a misguided plan to undergo a sex change operation so that she can marry Nasrin herself.

Iran is home to more such surgeries than any country save for Thailand; typically they’re even funded in part by the state. Yet this development is far from positive, as the government views sex changes as a handy “cure” for homosexuality: a way to align one’s sexual orientation with one’s gender. Thus, many gay and lesbian Iranians are pressured to undergo such surgeries (including under threat of imprisonment); and, while arguably more acceptable than homosexuality, transgender Iranians are met with discrimination and oppression just the same. Meanwhile, gay and lesbian cissexuals who undergo coercive sex reassignment surgeries are trapped in a prison of a different kind; one possibly worse than any concrete and steel cell erected by a government: bodies which are not their own.

(More below the fold…)