Transgender Emiratis fail in legal bid to have new sexes recognised

The three women underwent operations to become men in Europe and the United States, but now wish to change their legal status in the UAE

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Three Emirati women who underwent sex change operations abroad to become men have failed in their bid to legally change their gender in the UAE.

The Federal Appeal Court turned down the request to have their names and sex changed in the government's registry.

Their lawyer said his clients had grown up with the physical appearance of men and that the surgery had been to correct their reproductive organs to match that.

In September 2016, a law was passed permitting a sex-change operation if a person’s gender is unclear or if a medical examination confirms that their physical features do not match their biological, physiological and genetic characteristics.

The authorities have said that any surgery should be 'corrective' and not 'elective' based on preference.

But Lawyer Ali Al Mansouri, who has represented the three since 2016, said his clients come under 'corrective'.

“I have official government medical reports for the health authorities that recommend that they undergo sex change operations," he said.

Based on that the Emiratis underwent sex change operations, he said.


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However, the report from a medical committee appointed by the court that looked into their case rejected the request.

The court has not released the reason behind its decision.

“I believe that the judicial authorities are worried about opening the door to sex change operations, but this is unacceptable," he said.

"Do you have any idea how difficult their lives are right now?

“I brought my clients to court and the judge himself was shocked when he saw them and asked me if these were the same Emiratis I was talking about. They are male in every sense.”

He said that his clients have difficulty finding employment or healthcare because their official documents states that they are female but they look like men.

“One of the entities made an exception for one of my clients but it has been a traumatising experience," he said.

"They are not and cannot lead normal lives so long as the state recognises them as women but they are in essence men.”

Mr Al Mansouri has challenged the court and will request an appeal.

“All we ask for is that their female names be changed in the government national registry. They have already undergone the surgery so naturally they must have their names and gender changed on their official documents."

When the change in the law was first announced, Dr Isis Badawi, a senior clinical psychologist at the Canadian Medical Centre, said the move was “impressive” and a “progressive outlook” for transgender patients.

"I hope more information leads to more empathy. I’m not sure it’s easy for society to accept, not sure it is easy for parents to accept," she said.

" do not consider myself an expert in the field but I see many transgender individuals in the UAE.

“For them to come to see me is an indication of the level of ­unhappiness and alienation they experience.

“It requires courage and a lot of effort on their part.”