Nahal smokes yet another cigarette on her mother's balcony overlooking Tehran, one of the few peaceful places the 19-year-old transgender woman has in Iran, where her identity can bring harassment and prying, judging eyes on the street.
Nahal recalled how she had hardly started high school before being forced to leave over her classmates' insistence she dress as a man. Her manicured fingernails, painted pink, brushed away her long brown hair as she looked through old photographs of her childhood, recounting how even her own family has struggled to accept her.
"I no longer see my relatives," she said. "Maybe I'm a sign that if your own children will have a similar problem later, you can accept it."
It shouldn't be like this for Nahal in the Islamic Republic, which — perhaps to the surprise of those abroad — has perhaps the most open mindset in the Middle East toward transgender people. The Shiite theocracy's founder, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, issued a religious decree, or fatwa, 30 years ago calling for respect of transgender people, opening the way for official support for gender transition surgery.