There is one moment in Tanaz Eshaghian'sBe Like Others that starts by plucking at our insistent hopes for happiness. Hungry for love and affection from his family, Ali Askar tells a story about being thrilled when his father insisted that Ali have breakfast with him. While it was such a simple action, it was one with insistence that Ali had never seen before. This act seemed full of the loving camaraderie and acceptance that the young man had dreamed of. His father poured them tea, but Ali refused to drink it; he realized that this wasn't a warm act of fatherly love. This wasn't a breakthrough moment in their relationship. Ali's father was trying to kill him with rat poison. His father would rather kill his son than allow him to get the sex change that he yearns for.
But it is more complicated than a transsexual wanting a sex change. In Iran, this matter is complicated because homosexuality is punishable by death, and transgendered lifestyles are not an option. However, sex changes are not only permitted legally -- they are also subsidized by the government. It is this strange path of religious, political, and social ruling that Eshaghian focuses on in Be Like Others. She does not argue the particulars of this strange rationale, but rather shows the life and world of those who live it -- lives that reveal a flawed and chilling system for dealing with differing gender preferences and sexuality.