Top Egyptian actor goes public about trans son

by Ban Barkawi | @banbarkawi | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Monday, 4 May 2020 18:11 GMT

FILE PHOTO: An Egyptian pigeon fancier waves on his pigeons with a flag of Al Ahly Sport Club to guide them as the Great Pyramids are seen during sunset in Cairo, Egypt November 19, 2018. REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh

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Hesham Selim divided Egyptian opinion with his public support for his son

By Ban Barkawi

AMMAN, May 4 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - A well-known Egyptian actor has spoken on television about having a 26-year-old transgender son, in a rare public show of support for LBGT+ rights in the conservative Muslim country.

Hesham Selim, 62, made the revelation on a Sunday night television talk show in which he spoke of the difficulty his son had faced.

"One day ... she came and told me, 'I'm living in a body that's not mine'," Selim said on the show, using the feminine pronoun before switching to "he".

"As his father, I have to help him to be able to live the life that he wants."

Selim said Egyptian society made it difficult for those who struggled with their gender identity.

"The problem in Egypt is we have either female or male, we don't have anything in between," he said.

Egyptian trans activist Malak Elkashif described Selim's announcement as a "wonderful step" for transgender rights in a post on Facebook.

"It's a step forward toward societal acceptance and establishing a supportive foundation," she said.

Reactions on social media were mixed. Some Egyptians praised Selim for supporting his son, but others said the actions of both went against their religion.

Human rights groups said there was a lack of awareness of the issue in Egypt, where many people conflated gender identity and homosexuality.

Although homosexuality is not specifically outlawed in Egypt, it is a conservative society and discrimination is rife. Gay men are frequently arrested and typically charged with debauchery, immorality or blasphemy.

Rasha Younes, a researcher on LGBT+ rights at Human Rights Watch, said gay and transgender people had faced instances of assault, torture and arbitrary detention in Egypt in recent years.

Egypt stated this year in a United Nations review of its human rights record that it does not discriminate against any citizen, and that it guarantees freedom of expression.

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(Reporting by Ban Barkawi @banbarkawi; Editing by Claire Cozens. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly. Visit http://news.trust.org)

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