Transgenderism and Prostitution in Syria

I didn’t know what to expect as I walk with a friend in the dark allies of a certain suburb in Damascus following an effeminate queer guy leading us to his house. It was around 8.30PM, power is cut as part of the saving plans the government is pushing down everyone’s throats lately and I was freaking out a bit. My idea about the transgender society in Syria is built over gossip and hearsays of gay people discussing their scandalous repetition. I never build conclusions on rumors; yet I couldn’t handle but feel a bit uncomfortable about the situation.
I remember meeting Rama, a transgender woman in Lebanon, who was working at Helem, the LGBT NGO in the country, when I met her. She is a sweet and caring woman and I’m proud to call her a friend. however she told me once that the Eastern society leaves no room for trans-people but to work as prostitutes or drug dealers. The same reputation seems to follow trans-people in Syria.
As we go deeper in the neighborhood, I start to question my decision to visit in the first place. I felt insecure and wasn’t totally sure what to expect. It felt like I’m walking into a trap; and I started questioning the motivations of the friend who suggested I visit this transgender woman in the first place.

I remember how other queer people in Syria speak of the transgener-people existence; it seemed to me that it’s some sort of a taboo in the community as a whole: they spoke about them in a tone that reminded me of the way older Syrian women spoke of the scandalous ups and downs of their neighbor’s family affairs; there is a certain enjoyment they feel when they spoke of how this one changed her name to a female name, or that one did the operation to remove her male organs and replace them with female ones. I didn’t appreciate this kind of conversations; I felt that there is a certain type of internal-homophobia to the whole affair and I felt that transgender people in Syria are not only facing discrimination from the mainstream society; but also from the homosexual one as well.
The effeminate queer guy inserted a key in a white wooden door and opened the gate; I was welcomed by darkness and warmth; power is off and only candle lights are used as a source of light. He asked me to step into the house with my right foot as a tradition to bring good luck to the house; I did as asked.

She was sitting in a corner in her PJs smoking a cigarette; she looked a bit old; maybe in her late thirties. I walk towards her with a smile and I shake hands with her. She introduced herself as Natasha and she smiled. I introduced myself and sat silently. My friend, who seemed costumed to visit her a lot, hugged her and the two other queer guys there then sat chatting about social affairs. He asked her about her latest boob job; and without hesitation; she pulls her twins out and show them to us proudly.

It wasn’t long before she, after I managed to break the ice with couple of jokes and tons of politeness, told me that she works as a madam. A lady who opens her house to a number of prostitutes, all of whom are transgender-male-to-female people, and bring men with the right connections to meet the girls and do their business exchange in her house.
“We pretend to be naturally-born women,” Natasha told me with a smile, “in our society, we cannot tell our customers that we are shemales, we hide this information the same way we hide our male organs; and they buy it.”
When I doubted that, she was offended. “Of course they can’t tell we are men, darling,” she told me, “this is our secret recipe that we use to hide our true nature as shemales”. Once, she told me, two men who were a bit educated asked her if she was a shemale, “I stood there and told them with the loudest voice to come and touch it,” she says while pointing between her legs, where I know a male organ hides, as she told me that she didn’t do the operation yet, “that night both of them had sex with me and they went out swearing that I’m a woman.”
“Lucy did the full operation, and now she is working as a female prostitute,” says the queer guy who leads us to the house and who I forgot his name, “may God protect her, she is making lots of money now.”

I couldn’t help but ask about intercourse, “say you managed to hide it, what would happen when the man wants to …” She draws a sarcastic smile on her face and finish my sentence “.. To fuck? Well, we pretend to be virgin women and direct them to our rare ends.”
I started to feel less uncomfortable and shared with her the information I know about transgenderism; which didn’t seem like a subject she is well-cultured in. “What’s transgender?” She asks me, and I was baffled; “umm, you’re a transgender woman!” I point out, and her face is enlightened; “oh, you mean shemales!” She tells me.
The most amazing thing, she says, that she learned that night is that there is also female-to-male trans-people. “That would never work,” she says, “how would they install the extra organ?”
“They will give her yours after you do the operation, someone jokingly says and she gets angry, “I’ll never remove my dick! I’ll keep my center of pleasure forever.” She holds on for one second then her face glooms, “I wanted to, but I saw what happened to my friends who did it, they went crazy on the hormones, sometimes even suicidal! I’m happy enough that I paid my older brother enough money to go to court and agrees to change my gender from male to female on my national ID. I’m a woman in the eyes of the law, in the eyes of my family and in my own eyes. Who cares otherwise?”
I spent the rest of the evening watching videos of her glory days as a belly dancer in a small city in Syria and of her admirers who gather in her house; then she cooked us some really nice food while smoking a cigarette from my pack.

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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. speedzero
    Mar 11, 2012 @ 01:35:12

    dear sama:
    مشكورة هي جهودك بتوضيح خفايا المتحولون جنسيا (لا اعرف الكلمة المناسبة بالعربية)
    انت انسان متعطش لكل جديد وتحب تعلم كل شيءوخصوصا بما يخص المثليين والجنس الثالث
    المهم
    يجب ان يعرف العالم باننا بشر
    ومهما كان شكل او وضع عضونا الجنسي
    فنحن لنا قلب واحد متشابه عند جميع البشر وهو مركز المشاعر
    والانسان هو كتلة مشاعر وليس عبارة عن عضو تناسلي
    بجد اتمنى لك كل التوفيق
    وان كان هناك اي مشروع تثقيفي خيري يساعد على تحسين واقعنا كمثليين فاعلم اني ساكون من اول المؤيديين والداعمين
    صديقك speed zero

    Reply

  2. Arabbird
    Feb 16, 2013 @ 00:28:16

    welcome in arabhomosexual forum , it discus all issue about gays in syria and all arab worlds . we try to help all homosexual people to accept them self at first , then we can go toward to do more . http://www.arabhomosexual.com

    Reply

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