Written By Musa Al-Shadeedi
Photographed by Abdullah Dajani
Creative direction by Fadi Zumot and Alaa Abu Qasheh.
Translated by I. K. Q.
Styling and Set design by Fadi Zumot with the assistance of Jude Khalili
Makeup by: Ghadeer Bandak
Editor: Khalid Abdel-Hadi
Sitting editor: Eliza Marks
(Warning: This text includes some violent and aggressive content that might be considered inappropriate.)
He told me that he was a spoiled child, likely because he was the first child to his family and there was no one competing with him, and he remained the most loved child in both his nuclear and extended family. “Until now, my aunties and grandma keep telling me stories about my childhood, and how I used to spend a lot of time with them at my grandpa’s home. I was a very happy child, and they would bring me a new bicycle every one or two years. I would ride the bicycle along with the other children in our neighborhood. I also had a doll that I named Flona.” In his childhood, Rashed was never a fan of watching cartoons.
Punishment: the failing attempt to impose control
However, home wasn’t always easy for Rashed. “I remember when my father would return from his work [as a policeman], and would ‘forcefully’ teach me. My mum would give me sugar rock candy and make me sleep without a pillow under my head to prevent my voice from being so hoarse, and they even wanted to remove my tonsils at some point.” All these were attempts to soften Rashed’s voice and make it more “feminine,” one that was high pitched and soft.
As for bullying at school. “School was very hard; they never liked my way of walking or my voice.” Rashed told us that, “After returning to school from a long holiday, the teacher would ask each of us about what we did during the holiday. She would be addressing each girl with her name, except when it was my turn. Then, she would address me as if she would address a boy ‘how about you Abu Elshabab (tomboy), what did you do?” At such a moment, the whole class would begin to laugh at me. Whenever there was any trouble caused by us in class, I would be the only student punished. Once, I was forced to stand on one foot against the wall. Another time, I just stayed in the toilet for a whole class to avoid being punished.”Even if Rashed could escape his school troubles when at the end of the day, for he would face a new set when he arrived home. . “My father used to beat me to make me eat. He would beat me because of how I dressed for school. He would open the school bag, scatter the books and notebooks on the floor, and open each one by one. He would beat me if I couldn’t answer a question he had asked me. Sometimes, I would be sitting near him and suddenly I get a slap on my face with no previous warning.”
Why aren’t you like the rest of the girls?
His father’s violence was not only related to school and education, but was also an attempt to impose and forcefully manifest the femininity in Rashed’s body. Rashed recalled a birthday when, “All my friends (girls) and my sister’s friends (girls), along with my father, were at the party. After the party, he started shouting in my face and asking me why I had hair on my arms and legs. “Why aren’t you like the rest of the girls?” He fetched a shaving machine and started removing my hair while I was in tears.” Isn’t it ironic to use such toughness and violence to make a victim softer and more tender!
Similar to the strict monitoring of female bodies, that are told what to wear and what was prohibited. “I was forbidden from wearing caps because they are for ‘boys,’ but still, I kept wearing one that I would take off and put inside my school bag before returning home. I had this sort of problem with my family on a daily basis. We would even fight while shopping, which almost caused my mother a heart attack. Strangely, my father used to beat my sister when she fixed her fringe.”
Questioning by a psychological institution
“I realized that there were girls in love with other girls. I once heard the term ‘boya’ in an Arabian Gulf drama series. I felt then that such naming speaks for/describes me. Since then, I learned that there is a major community of lesbians, but at the time, I would hear the word ‘tomboy,’ especially by those lesbians who identified themselves from the high class, but be too shy to ask about its meaning.”
When my family realized that all their attempts to change me failed, they decided it was time to seek medical help. “They took me to a gynecologist to have a virginity test. It was humiliating. They even asked the doctor if I had a penis, which he negated. Then they took me to a psychologist who said that I should be admitted to hospital, and so they did. The hospital was more like a prison. Each room had either ten or four beds; they put me alone in a four-bed room. Fearing a scandal, my parents warned me not to tell anyone about my name or family name. I became the object for the nurses’ mockery and ridicule as they asked me very embarrassing questions. They would give me lots of sedatives and take me to a huge room where the doctors would begin questioning me while I was in tears, unable to look in their faces.
Do you like girls?… What do you do with girls? … How do you sleep with them? … We, men, thrust the penis in the woman’s vagina. … How about you? … What do you do?
The doctors would sometimes speak in English, so I wouldn’t understand what they were saying.”
A month later, Rashed was released from hospital and his condition was diagnosed as ‘immorality.’ So, he returned home. “In the beginning, I decided to dress up like a girl. I would be going to places with my mum, and she would be happy when the young men in the streets would harass me. She would tell my aunties that young men are flirting with me, and by that we became a ‘happy family’! After a while, though, I decided to resist this style of dressing and to instead dress in the way I felt most comfortable, which made my parents observe my behaviour more closely. They tried to prevent me from using the phone, so I would hide it in my bra and the charger in an empty space behind the bathroom sink, charging my phone battery there. Once I got caught by my sister. who told mother, for which my mum stripped me of all my clothes in search of it.”
Resorting to the system of criminal justice
Rashed decided to leave home when he could no longer endure the situation. But his father caught him soon after, tied Rashed’s legs and hands together, inserted a wooden stick between his hands and legs, and leaving him hanging between two chairs, and beat him with a leather belt. “The beating I took that day made me give up on the idea of leaving home. I would hear the sound of the belt snap before it whipped my body. I was beaten for a whole hour, and I was screaming so badly.”
Rashed did try to escape home again, this time with some success. He slept in a public park for 22 days in the capital city, Amman. He slept under the trees in the cold weather, until he finally could find a job at a café. During this time, his family reported his disappearance to the police, and Rashed was arrested. “There were three people interrogating me. One of them was shouting at me, and when I asked to speak to the Family Protection Department, they refused. They took me to the jail, stripped me from my clothes and forced me to crouch and stand more than once so they would make sure that I was not hiding anything in my body.” At the end, Rashed’s parents collected him.
The religious institution
In an attempt to control Rashed’s body, Rashed’s father forced him to wear a headscarf, while also wanting his ‘daughter’ to look more feminine and grow out her hair. “I was acting. I would put on the head scarf once I arrived at the house door. He even came in my room once, and started shouting at me while I was sleeping: “Where is your headscarf?” He was hitting me and saying, ‘I don’t want to see you take it off unless you want to take a shower.’ He left me alone for half an hour, and during that time, I put my head scarf back on and stayed in bed. He came back to my room later and beat me for three to four hours. My nose was bleeding, and I began vomiting all over my body.” Rashed’s father simultaneously used the religious discourse by saying Hadith while beating him, such as the one mentioning “the shaking of Allah’s throne,” which according to Islamic scholars, is groundless.
Once again, Rashed’s mother went to a psychologist, who told her that the situation would never change, and that there was only one solution: acceptance of her daughter’s feeling as a man. The doctor told his mother that her “daughter’s” gender DNA fingerprint is that of a man, and that such a case is identified as Gender Dysphoria. Rashed said that, “since my mum told the family what the doctor said, they changed the way they treated me.” His family finally stopped trying to control his body and force a more feminine lifestyle upon him.
“At the time, I realized what ‘trans’ means, and I knew then that I could take hormones to help. I began to consider if I were really trans.” He tabled the issue, but faced it again after a bout of depression. “I went to a doctor and I told him that every morning I look at my arms to see if there is any hair growing on them, and I told him about me crave to have a beard and a moustache. The doctor told me that the solution is the hormones and transition. I told my whole family that I wanted to take hormones, and though some of them rejected the idea, and some accepted the idea but were concerned about me. My father did not object to the idea, though he always had hope that I would return to who he thought I was before. My mum supported me and the decision I made. My grandma said the important thing, that I seemed happy and that they loved me however I was.”
Rashed eventually decided to remove the breasts. “When I went to the hospital, a nurse asked me what my condition was. I told him that I wanted my breasts removed. All the people in the room looked at me in shock, while another nurse seemed to disapprove of the idea. Before that day, I had consulted another doctor who said he wouldn’t do it for me, to which I responded by pointing out that if I were a woman who wanted to uplift her breasts, he wouldn’t have minded. It is a plastic surgery, but instead of making them bigger, I want them removed.”
Rashed succeeded, “On the day of the surgery, I had the whole family standing by my side. I was very excited, and when I woke up, I found all the family surrounding me. Even the hospital staff were very kind to me. Now, I feel more comfortable. In the past, I was forced to accept a body that wasn’t mine, but now, I can comfortably wear anything. I don’t have to wear a corset that restricted my movement, and was too difficult to wear on hot days. Now, I am very happy.”
Rashed said that the difference between the experience of a female and the experience of a male is like that between the earth and the sky. “Everything is different, even the breath that a girl takes is not the same as the breath a boy takes. A young man can readily voice his opinion, but a girl’s opinion, even if she was the eldest among her siblings, does not matter, and her younger brothers would be able to control her. I am the eldest among my siblings, and when I was a girl, my did this. But since I have become Rashed, the man, I have gained the right to punish, hit, and control the biggest among them. When I was a girl, I was not allowed to look from the window. Now, whenever we have a male guest, my grandma would warn my sister but not I against arguing with him.”
“I lived the life of two people, and despite its great difficulties, it has been such an amazing experience.”
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(عربي? تحت) . My.Kali’s September/October 2018 issue features Rashed – @rawashdeh.rashed – on the cover whose story tells us his journey in claiming his gender and body. Also throughout the issue’s period we’ll be publishing an article on the subaltern media’s postcolonial break from the trap of the “gay international” discourse, and another piece cataloguing (and critiquing) the non conformist performances and characters used in Arabic pop music videos. . Photography by @a.s.dajani Creative direction by @fadifzumot and Alaa Abu Qasheh. Styling and Set design by Fadi Zumot with the assistance of Jude Khalili. Makeup by: @makeup_ghadeerbandak Editor: Khalid Abdel-Hadi Cover designed by: Atef Daglees . عدد سبتمبر / أكتوبر 2018 (الالكتروني) و الذي يتصدر غلافه راشد، الذي من خلاله يروي قصته في العبور الجندري وتحرره الجسدي. و ايضا خلال فترة العدد سيتم نشر قصة عن الأدوار الجندرية غير الخاضعة لبنات الحارات في الثمانينيات والتسعينيات، و مقال آخر حول الشخصيات غير معيارية الجنسانية والأداء الجندري في تاريخ الفيديو كليبات البوب العربية خلال الأسابيع المقبلة. . تصوير: عبدالله الدجاني مكياج: غدير باندك اخراج: علاء ابو قشة و فادي زعمط بمساعدة جود خليلي تلبيس: فادي زعمط تحرير و اشراف خالد عبد الهادي تصميم الغلاف: عاطف د.ï