المقال بالعربي هنا

 

Written by Hiba Abu Taha*
Translated by Ayyam AlSafadi

 

Muna never accepted herself, the feminine features bothered here the more her maturity became visible. She spent years lost between violence and ostracizing.

When she met with the reporter, she started by describing bitterly the difficult days she had filled with fear, humiliation, frustration and insults, as she was discussing her gender identity.

She struggled with the little community surrounding her, starting with her school and friends, and then with her officer father, who did not separate his work in security and his role as the head of the household. He extended his influence and power from his position at work to his home, where Muna was subjected to the worst kinds of torture, including extreme physical beating.

Muna – who preferred to change her name – is not the only one who suffered on her journey of passage from one gender to another. There are many people like her, who are unable to seize their right and determine their identity fate due to religion, social norms, and more recently, the law.

 

Social Struggle

“Why should be lose the people we love just because we are different than they are, why do they stand between us and the fulfillment of ourselves and our freedom” wonders Reem, the girl who would like to sexually transform to a male.

Reem was not speaking randomly, what she was saying was the result of society’s rejection of her and her peers, standing between them and their right to determine their gender. Reem told us with sadness that we are not morally loose, and we are not causing society’s destruction. We are part of society, and by entrenching freedoms we will build it together.

Human rights activist Lina Jazrawi attributes the negative views of society towards transsexuals to prevalent social heritage. The Jordanian society is conservative and does not accept any form of behavior that is not the usual behavior. Anything outside the usual is considered a violation of religion and traditions. This is sufficient to reject and fight them.  

Advocate Leen Al Khayyat agrees with Al Jazrawi on society rejecting transsexuals, and Al Khayyat says “We are faced with a case of failing to respect the privacy of individuals and their right to choose their gender, because we do not keep up with the developments in sexual life. The society is generally religious and conservative, and therefore not all individuals can enjoy their full rights, such as their right to choose gender, as most groups in society do not believe in this. The acceptance of transsexuals cannot be imposed on society”.

The founder of My.Kali Magazine, specialized in the LGBTQ community, Khalid Abdel-Hadi, rejects this point. He says, the “LGBTQ community is an integral part of the Jordanian society, they are citizens and they must be treated equally with others, and they must be granted their rights”.

The individual alone does not enjoy the decision to change gender, as this goes through a full series of steps. First, one has to find oneself, and then social considerations will play a significant role, followed by the physician who will not perform the operation until he reverts to the medical constitution and the laws regulating his work in such instances.  

Ideally, it should be up to the individual himself to make the decision, according to psychologist Basel Al Hamad, “as he is most suited to determine his needs, and has the right to determine his sexual identity and the means of expressing it”.

Al Hamad notes there is a misunderstanding and ambiguity regarding the circumstances of transsexuals, which reflects on their acceptance in the Jordanian context, as well as the acceptance of physicians to perform sexual transformation or “passage”.  

Writer and editor at My.Kali, Mousa Shadidi, believes that the rejection of the LBGTQ community and interfering in the individual’s body, is an interference that can be described as “physical colonization”. Sexual transformation is recognized by science, but the rejection restricts the individuals’ freedom inside his body. “We live in a patriarchal society that gives its members the power to control us, which we consider real colonization. Thus, we will struggle to liberate our bodies”.      

 

Egregious abuse

Muna was forced to wear girls’ clothes and to paint her fingernails. The problem grew when her father discovered her relationship with a girl that she loved. Her father beat her, which led to her deciding decision to flee her parent’s home, to “escape from hell”.

Maya is going through the steps of transforming from male to female, while her family has not accepted her decision nor have they understood her suffering. “Ever since I was a child, I rejected myself as a male. For years I was silent and did not express my feelings, until I got to the point where I had to express myself. I got to the point where I either die or face everyone and start the transformation process”.  

Transsexuals face oppression, especially from their families, according to Shadidi. “The initial perpetrator of the abuse of their rights is the family, as most of them suffer beatings, torture, and eviction from their homes”.  

Shadidi offers the example of a female that wishes to transform to a male, and was threatened by her brother who said he will kill her if she does not change her mind. She resorted to the Family Protection Directorate, who mistreated her. He stressed that there are repeated insults against the members of the LGBTQ community, especially the males wishing to transform to females. They are ridiculed and the typical response that they are met with is “let’s imprison you”. He stressed that there are repeated cases of detention for those with sexual identity disorders, especially those who are poor and do not have the money to consult with a psychiatrist to give them reports describing their case that can be used with police officers. This report guarantees them legal protection.  

Muna escaped with her lover from the governorate in which they lived to Amman, as a result of the abuse and oppression by their families. Because they were minors, their families were able to report them to the competent authorities. After 22 days of tracking them down, the security forces were able to detain both of them, and the police officer at the (..) police station refused to refer them to the Family Protection Directorate. They were even abused and insulted while in detention, according to Muna.   

She adds “A day after they took us to the police station in the governorate where I live, and then on to the administrative governor, I decided to surrender and go back home for a simple reason “It is easier for me to accept insults and beatings from my father than from a stranger”.

Transsexuals suffer from a violation of many of their rights, which is against Article 7 of the Jordanian constitution which guarantees personal freedom. Article 8 also prohibits the detention or imprisonment of any person in violation of the provisions of the law. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights stressed the above in its articles, with Article 7 stipulating “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”

Psychological War

Muna complained to us that in spite of the oppression by her father, she agreed to conduct medical tests which did not reveal any hormonal problems in her. She then moved on the second phase, which was the psychiatrist, and she agreed to go, “I do not know who I am, I want to know if I am male or female, why I am not attracted to males, who I am”.

“What I remember was that the psychiatrist was very nervous, and I firmly believe he needed therapy himself. I will never forgive him for the horrific way he treated my case”.  

The physician referred Muna to (..) Psychiatric Hospital for Mental Illness, and she says: “I felt that I was in a large prison, I could not talk to anyone because everyone here is crazy. Additionally, there were repeated insults by the physician. He made me sit in a room among trainee students and provoked me with his questions in front of them. Then they would mock me.”  

Maya had another experience with a physician that was monitoring her hormones. She told us “The physician treated me with tact and was very nice. After my parents went to her clinic she changed completely, she started to treat me badly, she would even smile back at me”.

Maya attributes the change in the physician this way to the psychological pressure her family placed on her. There are physicians who are subjected to threats by the parents of transsexuals.

There are physicians who follow social considerations, according to Hamad, more than they abide by professional ethics which stipulate providing assistance and alleviating the pain of people as people, without considering any other image, religious or community considerations.  

The physicians do not trust the patients, and some want to impose ready-made formulas on them in terms of sound and deviant behavior. “Thus we are violating the essence of psychiatric therapy which is based on individual freedom, and the importance of the psychological world of the person in the face of society, and the right of people to determine their fate and formulate their lives” adds Hamad.   

In this regard, reference must be made to Article 1 of the Jordanian Medical Constitution which stipulates “The medical profession is a humanitarian, ethical and scientific profession which is as old as mankind. It acquired over time traditions and standards that necessitate that those who practice it must respect the human personality in all circumstances, and that they are role models in their behaviors and honest in their work, protecting the lives and honor of people, with mercy and humility, exerting all efforts to serve them. The medical responsibility between the physician and the patient is based on offering care and refraining from negligence, and not healing”.  

The reporter went to the Ministry of Health, which nominated Dr. Abdul Hadi Breizat, as its representative on this portfolio. He did not respond to our questions, and referred the matter to the requirements of the Medical Responsibility Law, where the interaction with the physicians does not go beyond sexual correction operations for those who suffer from genital birth defects.

The Law

Last April, Parliament passed the “Medical Responsibility Law” which stipulates in Article 22 that “Anyone violating the provisions of paragraph H of Article 8 of the same Law shall be punished by temporary hard labor for no less than 3 years and no more than 10 years”. The paragraph prohibited “service provides to conduct sex change operations”.

Advocate Al Khayyat commented on this saying: “Considering sex change operations as a crime raises an important point relevant to our penal legislation that includes a type of penalty where the punishment can be made harsher. What happens is that the criminalization base is made harsher at the expense of permissiveness. This is very dangerous and does not entrench the rule of law as much as it leads to a vengeful society”.     

Maya believes that there is no difference between sex correction operations allowed by the Medical Accountability Law and the change operations that were criminalized. She added “We want to correct and amend our gender not change it, so there is no difference between the two cases”.

Meanwhile, Breizat tells us that they need the file for each case to determine if the case requires a sex correction operation after the case is studied by a specialized committee consisting of a surgeon, a reproductive specialist, a neurologist and a psychiatrist”.

In the same context, the Court of Cassation in 2014 decided a judicial precedent for case file number 2092/2014, where it agreed to change the name of a person who changed his gender from male to female after the Assistant Civil Lawyer appealed the decision of the Magistrate Judge to correct his gender (..) and his name from the Civil Status records from male to female.

According to the case file which the field secured a copy of, the plaintiff felt ever since he was a child that he was a female more than a male. He travelled after finishing his university studies to Australia, and his case was presented to a committee of specialists who decided to treat him with hormones and then perform an operation on him”.

 

Religions: No Consideration of Psychological Tendencies

The reporter went to the Islamic Fatwa Department, but they did not respond to our questions. They sufficed with providing us with a copy of their fatwa number (245) (14/2017) which states “If someone is afflicted with a dual gender disorder, this disorder must be treated so that things go back to their original order, and so that it is in line with the origins of masculinity or femininity that are clear in the reproductive system, and not by amending gender and changing it with surgery and removal. The psychological disorder in the psychological awareness cannot be used as the judge when the physical evidence is clear. Psychological “tendencies” cannot be considered in this case either”. They referred to verses 117 to 121 of the Surat Al Nisa (Women). They concluded the fatwa by saying “Consequently, reproductive transformation and removal operations are prohibited to treat what is identified as the sexual identity disorder”.  

Moreover, the Director of the Catholic Studies and Media Center, Father Rifat Bader, said that sex change operations “are not permitted” and people must accept how God created them, whether they are male or female, and they should not manipulate God’s creation.

The church respects “psychiatric medicine” as Father Rifat says, and does not stand against it, but it advises helping people with treatment and gradual self-acceptance. We know that theorizing is different than reality but not to the extent of allowing sex change. We agree with presenting the cases to specialists including physicians and men of religion. If there is proof of a reasonable and scientific medical and moral reason then each cases may be viewed individually.

Psychologist Basel Al Hamad views the issue from the viewpoint that psychiatric motives “are stronger than biological and hormonal factors”.

In psychiatric treatment, we assess the problems as viewed by those who are going through them as they affect their lives, and not according to a preconceived social standard”.

Al Hamad added that the psychological battle is personal, and then it is with society. It is not a battle with religion in his opinion, because religion does not determine masculinity and femininity based on established appearance considerations, this is rather determined by upbringing. However, the orientation of the individual must play a role first in the identification of the sexual and gender identity.

The signs of masculinity appeared clear on Muna, including facial hair and the complete removal of the breasts, so that she is moving towards self-fulfillment and transforming to a complete male body, shedding her female body to which she does not belong and a society that rejects her passage.  

 

* Supported by Journalists for Human Rights Organization JHR

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