In Iran, being gay is punishable by death, and every year, organizations for human rights report that there are indeed executions of homosexuals.
But where this is somehow weird, is that the government accepts them if they change their gender as Ayatollah Khomeini authorized gender reassignment surgeries in 1980 to follow his meeting with a transgender woman living in a man's body.
"I was so young and I didn't really understand myself," Donya, a young butch, told the BBC.
"I thought if I could stop getting my periods, I would be more masculine."
If police officers asked for her ID and noticed she was a girl, she says, they would reproach her: "Why are you like this? Go and change your gender."
This became her ambition. "I was under so much pressure that I wanted to change my gender as soon as possible," she says.
"I didn't have easy access to the internet - lots of websites are blocked. I started to research with the help of some friends who were in Sweden and Norway," she says.
"I got to know myself better... I accepted that I was a lesbian and I was happy with that."
Today, Donya, 33, fled her country in order to live her life as a freely lesbian. She now lives in Canada.
As one Iranian clinical psychologist tells the BBC, the government does not know the difference between identity and sexuality.
"They show how easy it can be," Shabnam says. "They promise to give you legal documents and, even before the surgery, permission to walk in the street wearing whatever you like. They promise to give you a loan to pay for the surgery."
So many homosexuals have used this surgery when they are just gay and not transgender.
A doctor told the BBC that he carries out more than 200 such operations each year.
A gay Iranian, who fled to Canada, launched a support group to help homosexuals in Iran. This group is called the Iranian Railroad for Queer Refugees.