‘If you could be in my shoes’
A young woman describes struggle to find herself - and her true gender
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.”