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The Suffering of Egypt’s Transgender Community

Letter from Cairo

A woman walks along the sand dunes as the sun sets over rocks in the White Desert north of the Farafra Oasis, southwest of Cairo, Egypt, May 2015.  Abdallah Dalsh / REUTERS

Yara would wake up every day to face the same agonizing question of what to wear. Unlike for many other women, however, this was not a question of picking between a dress, a skirt, or pants. For her, it was about dressing to avoid stares. Yara is a transgender woman in Egypt, and after years of hormonal treatment, she has been forced to live a double life, picking clothing to mask her transitioning body. “I wanted to avoid another beating,” Yara said, explaining how in 2009 a dozen men had surrounded and beat her based on her appearance. Two years later, she was beaten a second time, this time by state security forces.

Yara began her path to transition in 2012, when she was 21 years old, after years of feeling like she was living in the wrong body. Because of the general lack of awareness about gender dysphoria in Egypt, many transgender

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