‘If you could be in my shoes’

A young woman de­scribes strug­gle to find her­self - and her true gen­der

7 Days in Dubai - - NEWS - By Nawal Al Ramahi @nawal_ramahi nawal@7days.ae

From the age of just five, Reem knew she was dif­fer­ent from other chil­dren. Born into a con­ser­va­tive fam­ily in Abu Dhabi, the Emi­rati said she loved play­ing with boys’ toys and would dress as a boy.

De­spite be­ing an in­tro­verted girl, she said the real cri­sis came when she hit pu­berty, and she be­gan to de­velop as a woman.

“When I had my first pe­riod, I was shocked and then later on de­pressed,” she said, speak­ing to 7DAYS after the first hear­ing into her case.

“It was at that time I re­alised there’s some­thing wrong go­ing on in my body. I had grown up think­ing I would be a man.”

She de­scribed go­ing through dif­fi­cult times in her teens.

Reem said she would pen­cil a beard onto her face, long­ing to de­velop as a man.

“I used to sit alone in school all the time,” she said. “I was an in­tro­verted per­son.”

On reach­ing the age of 20, she found her self-di­ag­no­sis matched with a se­ries of con­di­tions, in­clud­ing gen­der dys­pho­ria. Reem said: “I read about what is called ‘gen­der dys­pho­ria’. Many med­i­cal stud­ies and doc­tors ex­plained this dis­or­der.”

Un­til then, she had never told her par­ents of her strug­gle. And when she did, they were not sym­pa­thetic.

Reem said: “I spoke to my fam­ily and de­scribed how I felt.

“I showed them all the med­i­cal doc­u­ments that I had got from med­i­cal cen­tres and doc­tors.

“How­ever, they didn’t ac­cept what I was deal­ing with at all.”

She left her fam­ily home and has lived on her own ever since.

She said that she con­sid­ered sui­cide for a long time.

But Reem, who de­scribed her­self as de­vout, prayed for help.

She said: “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.”

Reem said her con­di­tion is a dif­fi­cult one to ex­plain to peo­ple in the UAE.

To­day, Reem works in a govern­ment in­sti­tute and wears an abaya. Un­der­neath, she wears men’s clothes and keeps her hair cut short.

Through re­search, she dis­cov­ered that gen­der re­as­sign­ment surgery is com­mon in many coun­tries. She said: “I felt the urge to con­tact a lawyer and present my case to him.

“I told my lawyer, Ali Al Man­souri, to look into my med­i­cal doc­u­ments and then to de­cide whether to ac­cept the case or not. He ex­am­ined the doc­u­ments and he ac­cepted to carry on.”

Reem said that she would not un­dergo any kind of surgery – which is likely to be abroad – with­out per­mis­sion from a court in Abu Dhabi.

Aside from her de­sire to be recog­nised as a man in the eyes of the law, she would need a new pass­port. Reem also said she wishes to marry a woman one day, when the treat­ment is fin­ished.

Reem is hope­ful the court will grant her per­mis­sion, which would be a land­mark move.

She said: “Imag­ine if you were a cancer pa­tient and you had to have treat­ment and all those around you are pre­vent­ing you.

“I wish if peo­ple could put them­selves in my shoes and imag­ine how I wake up every day wish­ing if I am a man.”

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