ANKARA, TURKEY—Mahtab Mirghaderi signals to her husband to leave the interview. “He hates hearing about my life in Iran before we met,” she says. “It makes him too sad and too angry.”
Saleh Shahsaver takes his cigarettes from the coffee table in the lobby of an Ankara hotel and stands out of earshot as his wife, a small 30-year-old woman with thick blonde hair, prominent cheekbones and a delicate figure, shuts her eyes and goes back in time.
Five years ago, when she was living in Tehran, Mirghaderi’s mother gave her $3,000 U.S. for a sex-change operation, a medical procedure they were convinced would solve all of their problems.
There was one condition: Once her son became a woman, once the surgery was completed, Mirghaderi had to stay away from the family, including her five sisters and two brothers.
“My mother said, ‘I don’t want to see you anymore.’ She said my brother would kill me. Now I have no relationship with my family.
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