An Iranian lesbian has said the country’s authorities tried to force her into having gender reassignment surgery to “fix” her sexuality.

The woman, known as Sara, said she was ordered to undergo the “treatment” by a psychologist, after coming out to her family, aged 20.

Sara told Reuters: “At first it was difficult. They tried to convince me that I was wrong and made an appointment with a psychologist.”

“She said I was really a man in a woman’s body and I had to change my body to suit my personality.

“My sister had brought a photo along, (taken when) I was maybe 5 years old. I was wearing boy’s clothes and had a toy gun in my hand and the psychologist emphasised that this photo showed that I was a man.

“I was shocked because I had never wanted to be a man and I really liked my body. I had never had problems with my female body. I had emotions towards girls, rather than boys, but I could only imagine myself as a girl loving another girl, not as a man.”

According to a report by Justice for Iran and 6 Rang, Sara’s practice is common, and lesbians are regularly told to undergo gender reassignment surgery.

6Rang founder Shadi Amin said: “Most healthcare professionals in Iran believe homosexuality is a form of mental illness. Lesbians and gays are often told they have gender identity disorder.”

“The doctors who do this are not specialists for transsexuals. Any surgeon or gynaecologist can do it.”

Sara added: “They say homosexuality is a sin. If you are interested in the same sex you have to change. They only accept male-female relationships. If you love a woman, you have to be a man.

“Most of my friends have not come out to their families even if they are not religious at all. One of my friends said if her family knew about her sexual orientation they could kill her.”

Both male and female homosexuality are illegal in Iran, but while men could face the death penalty for a sodomy charge, for lesbians the death penalty is only extended to repeat offenders.