Rejection of Transgender in Arab World

Arab world map

Transgender Arab World Map. Image by author.

The following lines are to be my first article here on planet transgender, and I want to take the chance to say that I feel honored to be part of this wonderful place, and I hope that I would be able to contribute as much as I can to help the Arab transgender community to reach a new level, a better place, and give them better chances and make them better individuals in their societies.

Talking about the Arab countries, the first thing you need to know is that they are very conservative communities. Religious and cultural habits have big influence on people. Both, religion and culture are almost the only references when it comes to people’s point of view of basic rules of life there. This influence makes it difficult to understand and accept anything considered as new, different or uncommon.

Same as other cultures, rejection is the most difficulty you will face as a transgender person in the Arab world. Rejection from almost everyone and everything. You’ll find yourself alone, everybody will be against you, family, relatives, friends, society, religious people, government, and in lots of cases, doctors.

The rejection from family, relatives and friends is mainly a result of feeling that the transgender person will only bring shame. Arabic societies are known for its strong family relationships, the big family is important, you will never find a person who is not connected to every member who shares the same family roots, and because of this very strong connectivity, the first thing you will here is “what will people say”. It is as simple as that, you are not allowed to be who you are because some third degree cousin might feel that you have dishonored the family name, you will be hearing things like “no one will want to marry your sister or brother”. And if you decided to neglect the family feelings, and managed somehow to run away, then you have to leave and don’t show yourself to them again, migration will be your only option, and you have accept the fact that for them, you are their deceased son/daughter.

Society and government will be no less harmful, you are not allowed to change your name or gender, you will not get a chance to change your legal documents, and you won’t be able to find a job and make a living. Streets will be your home, and if you are caught by police, you will be treated like a criminal, humiliated and punished for something that you didn’t choose.

As for the religious figures, they do not recognize gender identity disorder as a real thing; they always connect it to homosexuality, which is a taboo in Islam. You will always be someone who wants to change his/her sex in order to enjoy sexual fantasies, there is nothing as gender identity, you are only what god made you from outside, anything else is just hallucinations, and the surgeries are changing god’s creation, which leads directly to hell.

Doctors are supposed to be your allies, but not in the Arab world, not because they do not understand your gender dysphoria, but because they want to avoid the problems they will face from families of their transgender clients. They will try to convince you to adjust, accept your fate, and if they fail, they will only advise you to leave your home and find another country where you will be accepted.

As a result of the rejection you will face as an Arab transgender, you will have one of four options, hide your true self, commit suicide, die on streets, or leave for good.

I hope that one day my words will reach someone who can take a real action; I want to draw the world’s attention to us, so that we might be able to live our lives as we should.

Maya Anwar

I am a Jordanian, Palestinian trans-woman. Writing has always been more than a hobby, it was my passion, the thing I do to express myself and let my feeling live, it was my special world. Now, I am trying to utilize my writing skills to help the transgender community in the Arab and Muslim world. I want to give a chance to our conservative societies to understand us, accept us, and treat us like any other society member.

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9 Responses to Rejection of Transgender in Arab World

  1. Dainna November 23, 2014 at 6:51 am

    And on the other hand, not all of the people within Islam feel this way. In an adult education class I was a guest instructor for a few years ago, at Regis University in Denver, there was a husband and wife couple, both doctors, in the class. Others in the class asked them about Islam and TG/TS. Their response was that “if transition and transformation is what you feel Allah wills in your life, you must comply”.

    • Maya Isis November 23, 2014 at 2:10 pm

      That is true, you will find many Muslims and Arabs who understand and accept, but they are negligible within the society as a whole. There are some Islamic figures who thankfully gave good feedback about us and our right to live as we should, and they used Islam as a reference to justify their thoughts, but average people will not accept their opinions because of the cultural habits. That is why I focused on the term “conservative”. Islam is not the reason, but it is the tool in the wrong hands. Thank you for your comment.

  2. Kristi Hicks November 23, 2014 at 8:57 am

    Well written my sister 🙂

    • Maya Isis November 23, 2014 at 2:18 pm

      Thank you Kristi, this is only a small step towards a better future

  3. Komakino November 23, 2014 at 9:27 am

    You forgot to address Iran which is a partial exception in that the government does help you and performs one of the most SRS in the world. Though there are forced ones as well for gay Iranians.

    • Maya Isis November 23, 2014 at 2:28 pm

      I did not name any country in my article, I was talking about the Arab countries all together, due to the similarities in many aspects. And despite the fact that Iran is a Muslim and Middle Eastern neighbor, but as said by David, it is not an Arab country, and it has its own culture and identity.

  4. David November 23, 2014 at 9:55 am

    @Komakino – The author didn’t forget Iran – Iran isn’t part of the Arab world. Indeed Iranians are often offended when they included in the Arab world as they share a radically different culture, different language family and even very different interpretations of Islam, which many Iranians see as having been forced on them by Arabs.

    @Dainna – Of course in a sample of hundreds of millions you’ll find people who are not conservative, especially in universities, but on the original hand these people are in a tiny minority in the Arab world, with the masses and the government being very much representative of people’s attitudes towards sexuality. Yes, we should be aware that there are exceptions, but it is more important to be aware that the exceptions are mostly irrelevant.

  5. Maya Hasan November 24, 2014 at 8:47 am

    Unfortunately, this is the true. Arab transsexuals are suffering from different kind of persecutions. They are vulnerable to violence or they may be killed by those Islamic militant groups in some countries. They even suffer from the obsession of some doctors who try to abuse those transsexuals, because they know that transsexuals need medical report, HRT and surgeries. Now, we are running a project to help the Arab transsexuals to reach their voice to the world. We have a face book page (in Arabic and English) contains a terrible stories of Arab transsexuals, and you care welcome to visit it and support us. Our journalist Maya Isis will try the best to write about us, reach our voice and show the worlds that Arab transsexuals are really suffering. It is the time for Arab transsexuals to be free and get their full right as human in their countries.

    Dr. Maya Hasan

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