Interview with a Kuwaiti transsexual
Q: Firstly, what does it mean to be a transsexual?
A: I don’t even know. I am what I am and yet this is what you call me.
Q: What else can I call you?
A: My name is Alia, can’t you just treat me normally and call me by my name?
Q: I call you Alia, despite your actual name being Ali. Now I need to describe you.
A: I’m a woman. A loving, caring, honest, brave, beautiful woman. That is how you should describe me.
Q. I know that, I appreciate and respect that, but Alia, you’re actually a man. This is an obvious fact that everyone can see. Why do you love to hide and ignore it?
A: Because I hate this mistake.
Q: What mistake?
A: The mistake of being born a man when I am actually a woman. It’s not a decision I made. This is something I know.Q: When did you act upon this realization?
A: What do you mean?
Q: I mean when did you realize you’re a woman, and when did you decide to start talking, dressing, behaving, and dating like one?
A: Since I was 2 or 3 years old.
Q: Wow! That early?!
A: You can ask my parents. They don’t ever remember me acting or dressing like a boy. They would buy clothes for me and I would sneak into my sister’s room and wear hers. It has always been my ultimate dream to be a girl.
Q: Speaking of your parents, what do they think of this?
A: They hate it.
Q: What did they do about it?
A: They tolerated me as a child, thinking it was a result of growing up in an all-girls family. Eventually as I got older, they kicked me out of the house, but agreed to pay for my education abroad. They said what I’m doing is extremely shameful, and while they love and care about me, they can no longer be seen with me. They don’t like the embarrassment.
Q: What was your reaction?
A: Anger. I left right away, it was very hurtful. I was very dependent on my mother. I was also hurt because my sisters didn’t help me when I thought they would. They are also embarrassed with me because students used to make fun of them at school, when they would pick me up from class.
Q: What did your teachers say about it?
A: Nothing but funny looks of ridicule. They never helped me when others teased me. They treated me like I was a mentally ill child whenever I’d request their help. I would play with the girls in the playground and the girls used to complain that it’s a “just for girls” game. Teachers would pick me up and throw me out.
Q: Did many people tease you because of what you wore?
A: I wish it was just teasing. I was beaten and very humiliated. After I came home with a broken arm and nose, it was too dangerous for me to go to public school, so my parents forced me to switch to home schooling. Q: Was it better?
A: It was a nightmare because I felt like I could never be accepted.
Q: Are there many transsexuals in Kuwait?
A: What is a transsexual? Someone who defines his or her own gender?
Q: Someone who fully acts like the opposite gender I guess.
A: I wouldn’t know then. I hardly see any.
Q: Do you have a boyfriend or a girlfriend?
A: Boyfriends, and no not at the moment, but I’ve had some in the past.
Q: Are they Arab?
A: Yes Kuwaiti. I never dated anyone outside the country or any foreigners here.
Q: Also transsexuals? Sorry, this is for lack of a better word! I don’t mean to insist that this is what you are I just don’t know any other word for it.
A: No, they are men.
Q: In the sense that they act and dress like men or that they too are men who um… cross-dress (can I say that? I don’t mean to be offensive)
A: Act and dress like men, yes. You wouldn’t be able to tell that they have a different sexual orientation just by looking at them. Our relationships are normal.
Q: By societal standards it wouldn’t be normal, especially not in an Arab-Muslim country.
A: I realize that, I don’t give a flying fuck.
Q: Okay. So how do you deal with it?
A: By not caring what anybody else thinks.
Q: Are you Muslim?
A: The only thing I believe in is myself. I don’t subscribe to any religions. I don’t need religion to get me by in life.
Q: Why did you agree to do this interview?
A: I was kind of surprised that anyone would be interested in me and my lifestyle. I like that your team is curious enough to give us a representation.
Q: We have written a bit about homosexual/transsexuals in the Middle East but we never approached the topic of transsexuals, just because it seems to be so off limits. It’s a huge taboo that not even the blogosphere cares enough to address, I think everyone just dismisses you as “mentally ill.” It’s sad. I don’t agree with your lifestyle but I don’t think you should be laughed at/discriminated against either, I find it disgusting when people resort to that.
A: I’ve dealt with that treatment all my life… It might be very weird for me not to experience it in the region! Society is trying to make people like me hate ourselves, but we don’t. We are very proud of who are we, and if people can’t accept that, fuck them.
Q: I hope you will always stay this strong. You are actually the only transsexual I know in the Arab world, and after much thought I really thought you ought to be represented, so that whoever relates, doesn’t feel alone.
A: I really appreciate that. I apologize if I was very harsh or rude in the beginning. I’m sure you understand why people like me are bitter. We get so much shit from people.
Q: And I’m sorry about that, you don’t deserve to be treated like this. I thank you for agreeing to do this interview.
A: Thank you for including my voice in your work.
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