An Emirati man has taken a brave first step this week and has applied to the courts for a sex reassignment surgery. He is the first to do so in the country, soon after the United Arab Emirates (UAE) passed a bill allowing the surgical procedure in their country.
This bill recognizes gender dysphoria as a medical condition which allows doctors in the UAE to perform sex reassignment surgeries if (1) the individual’s sex is unclear or (2) if the person’s sex does not match their physiological and psychological gender.
The Emirati man’s lawyer told Gulf News, “ever since she was three, the woman felt instead that she is actually a male. She would have an intense desire to have a male body and to be accepted by others as a male and feels her true identity is male.” The article also mentioned that this turmoil in his mind and body caused him a lot of depression and anxiety.
His case will be heard on September 28, 2016. People are hopeful that similar cases in the future will not need legal approval for sex reassignment surgeries after this precedent, but only medical approval.
The man, who chose not to be named, spoke with 7days UAE about his upcoming sex reassignment. He said, “I spoke to my family and described how I felt. I showed them all the medical documents that I had got from medical centers and doctors. However, they didn’t accept what I was dealing with at all.”
Soon after, he left his family home and has lived on his own. He also said he had felt suicidal for a while, but since he considered himself devout, he prayed. “I found a number of muftis who said this operation is allowed for people with specific medical conditions. And I have been undergoing psychological treatment since 2012.”
He knows he will go abroad for the surgery, but wants to be approved by Abu Dhabi courts first as he will need a new passport and hopes to marry a woman some day.
This law comes just a few months after the detainment of the transgender actress, Gigi Gorgeous, at Dubai airport. The law is a part of an effort to modernize medical laws in UAE.
Iran has provided this surgical procedure for decades
Iran holds the rank for the second highest number of sex reassignment surgeries in the world. People from all over the Middle East, and even Europe, come to Iran for the procedure. In fact, a fatwa, or religious decree, was established first by their Supreme Leader of the Iranian Revolution, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, in 1987. Following suit, prominent Shia religious leaders all have fatwas surrounding the topic and legality of transgenders, gender dysphoria and gender confirmation surgery.
Although the stigma is still present, in a government and legal aspect, Iran’s progressive attitude towards their transgender citizens, includes full coverage of the surgeries by insurance. They also provide all legal documents without classifying any behavioral or sexual disorders.
According to a report by gender theorist, Afsaneh Najmabadi, “For legal and medical authorities, sex change surgeries are explicitly framed as the cure for a diseased abnormality, and on occasion they are proposed as a religiously sanctioned option for heteronormalizing people with same-sex desires or practices.” As homosexuality is a crime in Iran, many LGB individuals find that sex reassignment surgeries are their only option.
In the documentary “Be Like Others” by Tanaz Esghanian, a Muslim cleric explains why homosexuality is forbidden and sex reassignment is not: “An action is allowed unless it states specifically in the Qur’an that an act is a sin.”
He goes on by stating the following: “Why is adultery one of the seven deadly sins? Because it specifically says so in the Qur’an. Because it does not specifically state that sex change is a sin, therefore, we cannot call it a sin.”
Some Pakistani Muslim clerics recognize transgender rights
Earlier this year, 50 Pakistani Muslim clerics declared a fatwa stating that transgenders may legally marry. Although this is not through the government or through any political organization, the group of clerics called Tanzeem Ittehad-i-Ummat has over tens of thousands of followers throughout the country.
There are drawbacks however. To qualify one must be fully male or fully female and possess an ID that states their gender. Many are calling on the Pakistani government to include a transgender option on their national ID.
Parveen, who is a transgender activist, stated, “I want to marry a male transgender, but to register a marriage I need a national identity card with mention of my gender, which is not available.” She went on to state, “I was kicked out from my family in my childhood. Now authorities are asking for my father’s card number for my ID, but my family refuse to even see my face.”
The group of clerics also called for an end of discrimination against transgender members of the society, especially after the attacks earlier this year against the community.
When people speak up against the discrimination and fight for the rights of the marginalized members of their society, that is when progress occurs. There is still a long way to go for equal rights, but these three countries have taken their first step in the right direction. Protecting and respecting our neighbors and those around us is a part of Islam that should be practiced.