Hegemonic Masculinity and the Policing of Heterosexuality: Gender and Transgender in Two Iranian Films--Be Like Others and Facing Mirrors

By Mostafa Abedinifard
Submitted to Session P4656 (Gender and Sexuality in Iran, 2016 Annual Meeting
Art/Art Hist
Gender/Women's Studies;
LCD Projector with Audio Patch or Speakers;
This article discusses the documentary Be Like Others (2008) and the feature film Facing Mirrors (2011)—each film the first of its type that focuses on trans people in contemporary Iran—in order to examine the relation between gender norms on the one hand and transgender and transsexual issues on the other in current Iranian society and culture. Through troubling clear-cut definitions of gender, trans people pose a constant threat to a heteronormative gender order. As depicted in both films, despite the legalization of sex reassignment surgery in current Iranian society, the trans people within Iran—whether pre- or post-operation—continue to become subject to various forms of violence, social control, and exclusionary practices. Central to such issues encountered by trans persons, I argue, is a gheirat-based hegemonic masculinity that deems as unintelligible and intolerable the trans people’s embodied violations of the heteronormative gender binary system. To demonstrate this argument, I show how Be Like Others addresses trans people’s major struggles within a patriarchal gender order while Facing Mirrors foregrounds the roles played by hegemonic masculine ideals in sustaining or otherwise challenging such an unequal and oppressive order.