Wandering as I was through various Iraqi regulations for a variety of purposes, all professional of course in the end, I came across these still effective regulations respecting gender change under Iraqi law. I could not resist but translate them.
For context, these regulations date to 2002, and specifically November of 2002, when Saddam was in control and the threat of a US invasion was already imminent. I do not think that threat particularly significant, certainly I do not think it in any way related to the promulgation of these regulations, but that is the broader geopolitical context.
Rather, what I suspect is that the numbers of Iraqis who sought to change their gender was significant enough to garner the interest of the Health Ministry. Yet Iraq fundamentally identified itself as an Arab country to its deepest core in November of 2002 (even my Kurdish brothers and sisters would not so much deny that self identification as decry it, with some justifications). Moreover, it was among the most steeped in machismo of the Arab countries. We are Iraqis, we drink our whiskey neat, we smoke our tobacco unfiltered and we fuck without condoms, the mantra goes, though usually said outside of the company of women. (I still remember the look on my good friend the kind and gentle Dr. Majid saw my other kind and gentle friend Kimberli pour Diet Coke on her Johnny Walker Black. She might as well have peed in it.) What could be more macho than all of this? And yes, it is a Muslim country too, though there are other Muslim countries less driven by this hypermasculine sense than Iraq. I played an entire 15 point set of volleyball in Malang, Indonesia once with a group of drag queens (they needed a sixth, I wanted to play. We won, for the record, wasted the other six drag queens 15-4.) In Iraq, the whole lot of them would have had the crap beaten out of them along with me for playing with them well before the set ended.
So here you have this collision of social need and social taboo. And the Health Ministry left to navigate it, necessarily relying on “science” as some sort of “objective” basis to deal with the problem. Because, you see, once it is “scientific”, it is no longer normative. Or so the theory goes. You be the judge, my editorializing limited to the italics.
Based on the articles 1 and 105 of the rules of the Law of Public Health, No. 89 of 1981,
No notation as to Article 1, but I will assume it is that below since Article 2 follows it.
A specialized committee was formed in [each] public hospital exclusively in each health department, and two sections in Saddam City and Yarmouk tasked with studying the need to correct the gender from those affected or those in their custody under 18 years of age [whose members have] the following specializations:
This was issued in 2002, hence the reference to Saddam City, that which would be called Sadr City now. Even in 2002, it would have been known as Revolution City rather than Saddam City, its largely Shi’a underclass residents never would have referred to their home as relating in any way to Saddam Hussein, but officially, it was Saddam City. Yet we digress. Article 1 of the law in question merely guarantees good physical and mental health to Iraqis, and Article 105 authorizes regulations in furtherance of the Law. So these regulations were not so much demanded as, at best, authorized.
Note the term. “Correct” the gender, not “change” it. It’s a matter of getting the thing right, “scientifically.”
1. Injury to the urine pathway
2. Obstetrics and gynecology
3. Mental health
4. Cellular genetics
5. Legal representative whose task is direction and understanding of applications of legal consequences to the change and supporting the committee in legal matters as to this.
This fifth sounds like the Ba’athist overseer, making sure the committee does not go too far in its regulations. Still, note that mental health and injury to the urethra play a role in gender change. I read this as an attempt to permit gender change without acknowledging some sort of broad right to do so.
An applicant must present a medical report from a medical specialist in the operation, which includes a scientific opinion of the type of gender correction in a detailed fashion.
Interesting, I think. Gender change needs to be “scientific” and recommended by a medical specialist.
An application must submit to the following inspections and present the findings to the committee referenced in Article 1 of these regulations.
i. Psychological evaluation
ii. Phenotype inspection of exterior reproductive organs.
iii. Ultraviolet or similar, such as MRI, inspection of interior reproductive organs, and a specification of the type of reproductive glands.
Forgive me, but I am a lawyer, not a doctor. I am not sure I know what this means medically.
iv. Inspection of the following hormones
And the presence among men and women differs in the pituitary gland
a the activity of the sex gland FSH
c Male hormone testerone
d Female hormone progesterone
The result of the identification of hormones
f. Hydroxylose 21
If it is confirmed after the psychological and phenotype evaluation that the condition is the result of confusion in gender identification TRANSEXUALISM [this word appears in allcaps in the original, no edition here] then the afflicted is transferred to the initial psychological medical committee and then to secondary psychological committee. [Lots of committees, but not unusual in the case of Iraq. Still, two layers of appeals to ensure the “correct” result is reached, as in legal questions.] In the event of their agreement on the operation of correcting the gender, the afflicted is subject to the treatment and rehabilitation program for a period determined by the committee to accommodate the correction.
[Technically the word for “accommodate” is “coexist”. The idea being to get the person used to the fact that they will be changing their gender.]
The operation may take place in a public or private hospital based on the desire of the applicant or those caring for him after the period of rehabilitation set forth by the committee.
The hospital administration and its surgeons are responsible for the operation to correct gender that conflicts with the rules of the law and these regulations.
[This is important. You can only “correct” gender if done in accordance with these legal provisions and if you fail to do so, consequences attach. Needless to say, in Saddamist Iraq, these consequences are not minor.]
The health department shall inform the relevant drafting board and the civil status board of the correction in gender.
[These are obviously necessary even in the United States at this point. Women are not drafted, and same sex marriage is yet to be universally permitted, making gender references necessary in civil status documentation and to any military selective service board. Though given how many wars Saddam had fought by 2002, and given the imminence of a second war against the United States, I wonder how many men would give up their penises to avoid being drafted into another war. Probably not many, though who knows . . . . ]
These regulations are effective from the date of their issuance in the Official Gazette
Umaid Madhat Mubarak