By Ban Barkawi
AMMAN – 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.