A philosopher once said ‘Life worths nothing without a cause to fight for’.
I just heard Jesse on radio saying it while thinking of Sally and Antoinella , the two transgender women who appeared on Rotana last monday with Wafa’ Al kilnai in her last epsiode of the her popular show ‘Ded Al Tayyar’ (Against the current).
For Sally and Antoinella their cause has been fighting to prove their gender identity. Two women as they percieve themsevles fighting the curse that was born with them in a shape of a male body. For years they struggled between their perception of their gender identity being females and the society perception of them being males. They endured a very hard sex correction operations and still they have to prove their gender identity to the public.
I love Wafa’ Al Kilani and her courage as a TV show hostess in facing her guests with the toughest question. This last episode was no different, but it left me wondering about the questions of Wafa’, whether she is really ignorant about the transgenders situation, or trying to ask ignorant questions in order to give Sally and Antoinella a chance to answer the majority of the Arabic public who have no clue what being a transgender mean.
For instance Antoinella claimed that she had no sexual attraction to either males or females before having the sex change operation. Wafa’ asked her: If you had no attraction to males, then how did you know that you are a female?! Ofcourse no one suggested that gender identity is not connected to sexual orientation, and while their might be some correleation between the two, still a person can identify herself to be a woman, while having a man’s body and still be attracted to another woman!
Wafa’ also blurred the line between homosexuality and transgenders when she asked Sally whether she had any homosexual activity before the operation or not. Sally answered sharply that she did not practice homosexuality.
For the public eye, this may not be clear. While Sally had a man’s body, she never percieved herself as a man, and if she happened to had sex with her man’s body with another man, she never considered it a same-sex action because she is a woman in the inside and thus it is hetreosexual sex for her.
She even said that she was proud of her femininity when other boys used to hit on her at school. The picture in my head is for a boy being girly and trying to prove it, while other boys trying to prove their masculinity at that age taking a chance over him, I mean her. Wafa’ was surprised of the pride of Sally with her femininity and her joy of the boys harassing. Sally answered that she is a woman, and any woman loves men’s attention. (Ofcourse they squarrel between the definitions of sexual harassamenet and males attention)
I loved Sally’s self confidence in her cause. Once she had the operation and changed her official sex, the Azhar university in Cairo, where she has been studying medicine, dismissed her in her last year of studying. Sally went to court and fought for her right. She won the case, but the Azhar head manager refused to let her back in as a woman. I guess in Al Azhar there is a sex seperation where men study togather and women study togather. Sally for him is still identified to be a man, and thus can’t be allowed to study with other women! Sally vowed that he would end up in jail if he refused to apply the court order!
A priest and a sheikh were presented in the show. The priest to face the lebanese Antoinella and the sheikh to face the Egyptian Sally. While the priest did not really add anything to the discussion where Antoinella seemed to enjoy the slightly more tolerant Lebanese society with the forgiveness of the lebanese church spirit. The sheikh stood firm with his Islamic definitions that are more derived from a 1500 years old science rather than holy versus of the Quran.
The same problem is discussed before popped up where our Arabic culture is based on the outer touchable sense of things, where in our cultural heritage, there are two types of transgenders. A true and a fake one. The true one is where we can find hidden sexual organs of the opposite sex in the same body and in which Islam agree to have the sex correction procedure (this has nothing to do with being a transgender), and the fake one which is in Sally’s case where sexual organs have a clear indication of the sex of the person and thus her case is dismissed.
According to Sally, the brain the most dominant sexual organ, and there is no science to change the brain, we can change the body to fit with it. For the sheikh, he wants a clear evidence. 1500 years ago, the brain functionality science hasn’t been as advanced as today, and while the physical outer attribute of things helped us drew strong definitions, current science came and redefined the nature of things while highlighted the importance of brain and its dominant role in our behaviour.
whether Sally and Antoinella would ever gain society acceptance is yet to be seen. In Iran sex change operation is accepted. Transgenders are more accepted in the public eye after having the operation because we love fixed attributes of sexes. Those who carry different attributes of males and females are just not welcomed in our societies.
For homosexuals, secrecy is the answer for their problems, and for transgenders, it is sex change operation.
Can’t we just open our eyes and be more compassionate?