The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights publishes scenes from the lives of trans women as part of a series titled “They’re Women Too.”

Press Release

8 March 2017

To mark International Women’s Day, the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights is publishing scenes from the lives of trans women as part of a series titled “They’re Women Too.” The stories’ aim is to spotlight the hardship experienced by trans women in Egypt. It is a fact that in several countries, Egypt among them, trans women face more discrimination than their male counterparts, having voluntarily chosen to belong to the socially inferior sex.

At a time when International Women’s Day is losing its revolutionary dimension, being transformed by official institutions into a content-free day of celebration, we must remember that the day is not only for cisgender women. There are other women who are uncelebrated in official platforms, their daily pain and suffering passed over in silence. These include women who destablise socially constructed gender binaries.

In Egypt, trans women face various problems, they encounter difficulties in obtaining the documents that enable them to access medical services they need, including sex reassignment surgery (SRS). They also face the intransigence of the representative of the Fatwa Office on the Doctors’ Syndicate sex correction committee, which has been out of operation for months now because the representative refuses to continue working on the committee. They face problems associated with changing official identity documents and university credentials. On top of all this, they also suffer the additional stigma of having chosen to become women.

It is important to recognize that trans women are not a homogeneous group facing a single, common problem. They are part of the society and therefore affected by multiple factors, such as their class, age, religion, level of education, place of residence, and more. Some face discrimination in the workplace; they might be suspended, denied re-appointment after changing their official documents, or fired. Others confront their families’ rejection of their transition and they may be kicked out of the house or locked inside it, or receive death threats.

Join us in blogging about the struggles of trans women with the hashtag #TransWomenAreWomen

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Sanaa, 25

I’m a university TA and still haven’t done the surgery. I constantly face discrimination, cruel treatment, and derision at work. At the beginning, the department chair didn’t want to sign my employment form because my hair was a little long. She brought in other doctors from the department to make fun of me. They said things like, “Who’s this cutie who’s coming to work with us?” For them, I’m not trans. They ask themselves how the department could have a gay person.

Every month, the chair picks a fight with me because of my clothing or long hair. Once the fight was so bad that I was suspended from work for a while. My academic discipline and excellence don’t matter to her.

I’m a transfeminist and think that the problems of trans women cannot be divorced from those of other women in society. We all suffer from the same society, the society that tries to limit our choices and determine the shape of our bodies. It’s the same society that tells women to get married and stay at home, the same one that won’t hire women because it says they’ll get married in few months and take leave.

Camilia, 31

As a child, I decided to put my trust completely in Dad and Mom. Even so, sometimes I clashed with them when they would punish me for acting or seeming like a girl. They’d say I was a boy, not a girl, but I was totally sure that I was girl, not a boy. But I believed them, thinking I was wrong about how I felt about myself, and I tried to get along with the other boys. That was really difficult, but I got through it. When I reached puberty, I became horribly depressed as I saw my body take on masculine form. I didn’t know what to do, but I believed that when I grew up and was able, I’d have an operation. After a few years, I realized how difficult that was and what an SRS meant in this country. My world became a dark place. I didn’t know at the time that there was something called ‘trans’—I knew about SRS, but didn’t know that what I had had a name. I started to be convinced that there was something wrong with me. I had to accept that I was a guy and tried to make everything about me perfect, whether it was the way men look or their personality. I started going to the gym and at one point, I weighed 110 kg, most of it muscle. I’d shave my head with a razor, and at the end of every day, I stood in front of the mirror and felt I wasn’t me. I told myself after I got married or had kids it would change for sure, so I forced myself to marry a women I didn’t feel anything for. After my second child was born, all my attempts to adjust to myself as a man had failed, and my hatred of myself and my body grew every day. I couldn’t stand to see myself and I hated the way I looked. I started looking around, and I found a group of trans people and joined a trans group therapy. Then I was honest with the woman I’d married. We separated, I started hormone therapy, and my body began to change.

I still see my son and daughter regularly, and they call me ‘mama,’ even though their biological mother insists they shouldn’t. I feel like they’ll accept my transition because I’m always around them, and I love them and will keep loving them.

Y.S., 25

My whole life, people never understood why I wanted to be a woman, especially my father and brother. They always wondered how anyone could want to go down the social ladder, to be a woman when God made him a man. Over the years, I’ve lost many friends and people who didn’t understand what I was going through. I went to lots of doctors who tried to convince me that this was just temporary and gave me anti-depressants. That’s how it was until I found a good psychiatrist.

In 2014, I decided I’d dedicate myself to helping trans people. I knew how much pressure and persecution we faced, and many people need someone to tell them where to go and what to do. I wanted to help. I know these people are normal and there’s nothing wrong with them. I’m responsible for a webpage for trans assistance, and I try to connect trans people who need help with friendly doctors and lawyers if they need them.

Two months ago, I had my SRS, and it was a period of excruciating pain and suffering. But I feel I’ve started to become at ease, psychologically and physically, in a way I never felt before. I sleep soundly at night. It was a difficult experience, but I came out of it as myself.

All the names used here are pseudonyms
Informed consent was obtained from all the participants

Design: Mohamed Gaber
Photography: Lilian Wagdy