Feb. 6 (Bloomberg) -- Nasser didn't think much of Iran's Islamic regime -- until it paid for him to become a woman.
Growing up in the city of Mashhad, Nasser knew he was different from the other boys, sneaking around in his aunt's skirts and experimenting with makeup. At age 14, he told his parents he wanted to have a sex change.
``I realized that I had a problem and that I needed to solve it through an operation,'' Nasser, now 18, says at a downtown Tehran clinic two days after he became a she called Hasti. ``Even if lots of negative things are said about the regime, they also do things that are good.''
In Iran, where men and women are segregated, and homosexuality is punishable by death, the government plans to spend 6 billion rials ($647,000) this year to help pay for sex- change operations. The policies aren't as contradictory as they seem, because in traditional societies there is more pressure to conform to standard gender roles, says Mahdis Kamkar, a Tehran psychologist who works with transsexuals.
``In closed cultures, a transsexual will be encouraged to clarify things, starting from his or her appearance,'' Kamkar says. ``Dressing up or behaving as the other sex is not satisfying enough.''