The Guardian recently reported on what it is like to be transgender in Egypt. The answer will not surprise you.
Since 2014, over 150 trans people – usually trans women – have been arrested in Egypt, according to activist Scott Long. Other estimates, including both transgender people and gay men, put arrest totals at over 200 persons.
Aisha, a trans woman, described the aftermath of the arrest of her and three friends in 2014. Once arriving at the police station, “he [the police officer] beat up my friend with an electric stick. He was hitting her on her head, on her stomach, on her butt, everywhere; she was screaming.”
The raid of Aisha’s home, her arrest, the violence she witnessed, and her three year prison sentence, all are based upon her violation of “debauchery” laws; laws that do not explicitly outlaw being LGBTQ, but in practice are used to harass, arrest, and imprison members of Egypt’s LGBTQ community.
Other recent human rights violations of LGBTQ people in Egypt include:
- Egypt expelled “homosexual aliens” from the country, specifically barring a Libyan man from reentering Egypt because he was gay.
- 26 men were arrested for “debauchery” in what was known as the “gay bathhouse” trial. The men were eventually released and cleared of any wrongdoing, but they all had to deny participating in any same-sex relationships and now face stigma and shame because of the highly publicized and filmed arrests.
- What appeared to be a video of a same-gender wedding in prosecution for debauchery with the one-minute video of the ceremony being referred to as “satanic” in court.
- The Egyptian government has been searching social media sites for evidence of “homosexuality” prompting apps like Grindr to warn members that its use may not be safe in Egypt.
Activists agree that trans women, who rarely appear in public as female, and effeminate gay men are usually targeted and victimized at higher rates than others in the LGBTQ community.
Dalia Abdel Hameed, of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, says that both “the media and the police are more likely to highlight the arrest of transgender women because it means they can release pictures and videos of ‘men’ in dresses” which gains attention and interest from readers and viewers.
Scott Long believes that this focus on transgender women and effeminate men is because “they’re seen as particularly degrading example of men who reject their own masculinity” and that rejection of masculinity is linked to moral corruptness, or, as Egypt often calls it, “debauchery.”
Despite the societal attitudes, the violence, the crackdowns, and family rejection, Yara, a transgender activist in Egypt, is unsure if she would leave Egypt, given the opportunity.
Aisha says she would leave, and maybe go to America: “I want to go to a country that can understand the rights of human beings like us. I think most countries, maybe they don’t like us, but at least they’re good to us. For example in America, maybe they do not like us, but at least they’re not harmful to us, they’re not trying to hurt us.”
Aisha, how I wish that were the truth.