No matter how optimistic I might usually sound, I have never really felt that things are going to be better for us, Jordanian transgender men and women. Deep inside, I always believed that we will never get the chance to speak and say: “hey Jordan, we are here”. But today, I am happy to say that I was wrong, and I have underestimated my brothers and sisters in Jordan. And for that, I apologize.
To explain what is it that made me realize how wrong I was, I will start by saying MyKali. MyKali is “an online conceptual social webzine”, an online magazine that started from Jordan in 2007, focusing on what can be described as taboos in a society like the Jordanian society, and the LGBTQ related topics are the mother of taboos in Jordan. The magazine proudly describes itself as “a leader, not a follower” and this year’s IDAHOT proved that it is a fact, when MyKali joined an advocacy group in Jordan, to celebrate the International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHOT).
Despite the fact that the participants of this event was described as a small crowd, but the hope they had was bigger than any time before, a hope for a future where transgender people can be recognized as vital members of the society, a hope for a safer environment, a hope for life.
Out of the topics that were highlighted in the event, the Challenges of the Transgender Community in Jordan, was a topic by a 21 year old Transgender Activist Dana. I quote here form MyKali’s report:
“The biggest challenge that transgender members of the Jordanian society suffer from today is that the government of Jordan does not recognize them. “If you are a transgender you cannot change your name, ID, driver’s license, or passport,” Dana says. These challenges become evidently straining when, for example, you are applying to universities when your face and gender expression on the outside does not match your name on your ID card. Facing society, family, and friends is even harsher as being born in a different body is not something that you can hide or is easily accepted.
In Jordan, one can only change their name on an ID card if they can prove they have physically changed themselves, but such transforming surgeries cannot be done in Jordan. The Transgender community in Jordan needs to have more support and must achieve their full rights as dignified citizens of this country.”
The participants were joined by the U.S. Ambassador in Jordan, Her Excellency Alice G. Wells, who shared her personal experience, and also by Jana Zeineddine, an Actress and singer. Janna talked about the identity and where do we start to educate the society and change their concepts.
The following days witnessed the online media focusing on the event, but unfortunately, in a negative way, claiming that it is a sort of gathering of LGBT people to celebrate their homosexuality and demanding their rights. The articles went further by accusing the American ambassador to be the actual organizer and motivator for such gathering. They said it as a foreign event that doesn’t belong to a conservative society like the Jordanian. Worse than that was the readers’ reaction, a huge amount of attack by the readers who didn’t miss the chance to show their rejection and hate towards the LGBT community and its members, in another word, show how homophobic and transphobic they are, beside showing their ignorance and lack of understanding of the difference between a gay person and a transgender person.
MyKali sets them straight
MyKali published a disclaimer on their website and their Facebook page, explaining the actual purpose of the event. The post started by “With reference to misleading and recent media articles in Jordan and the MENA region regarding the 2015 Jordan-edition of the ‘International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia’ (IDAHOT) event. Please read carefully to know what factual”, the full post can be found on this link
Finally, the event was misunderstood, attacked by the media and society, but at least, people now know that there are people who are transgender, they know that they are raising their voices, and they know that they have several types of phobia, which was the purpose of IDAHOT in the first place. And based on that, in my humble opinion, the event was a success as a first step.
I want to thank MyKali, the activists, Dana, the U.S. Ambassador, the lovely Jana, and everyone else who took part in this event. It was a big step into raising awareness about transgender people, a step that need to be followed by even bigger steps until eventually we can stop dreaming and actually living.