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Conferences & lectures

The Simone de Beauvoir Institute Research Associates Seminar Series presents Changing Sex in Contemporary Iran: A Socio-Legal Study of Policies and Practices with Zara Saeidzadeh

Date & time
Monday, January 21, 2019
2 p.m. – 4 p.m.

Zara Saeidzadeh


This event is free


MU Annex
2170 Bishop

Wheelchair accessible


Various parts of the world understand trans persons differently due to culturally diverse conceptualizations of gender and sexuality. In Zara Saeidzadeh’s research, she examines trans persons who undergo surgically-assisted transitions — which, in Iran, are still referred to as sex change surgery — in order to shed light on how they embody masculinity or femininity by means of gendered practices situated within an Iranian socio-legal structure.

The diagnostic category known as Gender Identity Disorder (GID) entered the Iranian medical system in 1930 prior to the country’s first sex change surgery (Najmabadi 2008: 24; Kariminia 2010: 50). In 1976, however, Iran’s medical council decided to limit sex change surgeries to intersex people (Najmabadi 2014: 49).

In 1982, Ayatollah Khomeini’s legal opinion — known as a fatwa — reversed the decision that permits trans persons to go through a medico-judicial process that results in a legal change of name and gender. Saeidzadeh’s research explores Khomeini’s fatwa and its relationship to the legality of sex change within an Islamic context while investigating how it interacts with the Iranian legal, medical and judicial systems.

Saeidzadeh’s research reports on 42 semi-structured interviews with trans persons, surgeons, activists, lawyers, jurists and psychologists in Iran. Through a thematic analysis of these interviews in addition to a textual analysis of legal documents such as Khomeini’s fatwa, I argue that sex change surgery has not yet been fully legalized and that trans persons remain misrecognized in substantive Iranian law.


Zara Saeidzadeh is a doctoral candidate in gender studies at Örebro University in Sweden. She is also a research associate at Concordia’s Simone de Beauvoir Institute. Her work involves the socio-legal examination of sex change in contemporary Iran. She has also been involved in a project on Iranian Transgender Advocacy Network at Lund University in Sweden, as well as a project relating to TRANSRIGHTS in Europe focusing on Sweden at Örebro University.

Her publications include:

Reza Banakar and Zara Saeidzadeh (2015) Culture: Reflections on Individualism and Community in Driving Culture in Iran: Law and Society on the Roads of the Islamic Republic(ed.) Reza Banakar (2015), I.B.TAURIS: UK.

Zara Saeidzadeh (2016), “Transsexuality in Contemporary Iran: Legal and Social Misrecognition, Feminist Legal Studies,” 24 (3), 249-272.

Zara Saeidzadeh (2016), “Möte med Susan Stryker: Om trans, trans* och Framtidens Forskning” [meeting with Susan Stryker: on trans, trans* and the future research] translated by Henrik Gundenäs, Tidskrift För Genusvetenskap [Journal of Gender Studies], 37(4), 92-99.

Zara Saeidzadeh (2019), “Understanding Scio-Legal Complexities of Sex Change in Post-Revolutionary Iran,” Transgender Studies Quarterly, 6 (1), in press.

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