A woman's intuition:
"I grew up in a home where it was unacceptable to lie. I felt that I needed to come out as a woman, because I had to be honest with myself and my family."- Sarab
(High Drama! Picture above: Sarab is wearing Karen Millen's summer long white blazer, which makes a breezy come back. Paired with a twisted swimwear top and vintage accessories.)
The entire trip to our interview near the 8th circle I was being prepped for our meeting. We were going to meet with a legend in Amman’s LGBTQ community. Jordan's very own pin-up shemale! This was a big deal, and I had to treat it as such. Sarab is the name behind a thousand rumors. She is also a pioneer in the community, so when Sarab contacted My.Kali for her first ever in-depth interview, we jumped at the chance. Puffs of cigarette smoke and a heavy air of intimidation lingered above us as we sat with Sarab for the first time. Admittedly I was half expecting to interview a diva with a larger than life ego. I was immediately proven wrong. We found Sarab seated in a corner booth with her best friend, hair tied back and a baseball cap thrown on. Sarab greeted us as if we were old friends, and as most Arab women do, she insisted on ordering our drinks as soon as we sat down. Her warm and generous hospitality does not take away from her powerful stage presence. Sarab knows what she wants and will stop at nothing to live her life by her own rules. Our drinks arrive at the table and without missing a beat Sarab pours herself out to us.
My.Kali: We want to know Sarab, from the beginning. Tell us what has brought you to this moment in your life, today.
Sarab: I was 14 years old or maybe 13 years old when I discovered who I was. I was raised in a family full of girls. I always felt like a girl, and I was very spoiled at home. I was very close to my mother. She was my whole life at home. My father wasn't around very much for me.
Do you believe that because you were very close to your mother it made you feel more aware of your femininity?
No, it wasn’t simply a matter of this. For example, when they began taking me to doctors it showed I had a high level of female hormones. I always felt as if I was a girl; however I feel that there were 3 major factors which nurtured my female identity. The first factor being that I was raised amongst women, my sisters used to dress me up and put make up on me. Along with that, I think being so close to my mother and being very spoiled by her at home. Lastly, I have an increased level of female hormones biologically which I believe contributed as well.
Did you feel comfortable in your environment at home?
Very comfortable! I never felt bad because I was this way. I only got upset when I was treated like a boy. I have a brother, but my father was responsible for him. My father used to take my brother to work with him, and teach him things. He was never this way with me. My mother raised me. I remember expressing who I was to my family for the first time when I was about 13 years old. My family’s reaction was to immediately send me to a psychologist. My parents talked to the doctor and the doctor told them what I was feeling is abnormal.
Honestly, I stayed up all night crying because I felt that no one understood me or understood how I felt.
Have you always felt like a female, or did something happen in your life that changed who you became?
My entire life, since as far back as I could remember, I have felt that I am a woman. From my earliest memories, I knew I was a woman. When I saw my sisters put on dresses, I’d want to join them. I never thought anything was wrong with it.
Did you come out to your family about your identity?
When I was in school, I came out to my sister first. I told her bluntly, I am gay. Then I confronted my entire family. The news reached my extended family, my uncles and aunts. My family began meeting to decide on a cure for me and for my life. They never asked about how I felt, their only concern was what ‘people’ would say, how society would react. I began to feel unloved and unwanted. There was no problem with who I was when I was a child. I dressed up like a girl, I would put on make-up and it was normal, no one questioned it. The backlash only happened when I came out. I grew up in a home where it was unacceptable to lie. I felt that I needed to come out as a woman, because I had to be honest with myself and my family.
"...everyone should know the law. However, even if you know the law, you are not living amongst the law. You are living among people and a society that has certain ideas. They have a much distorted perception of gays in society."
You said you were close to your mother. How did she react when you came out to her?
It was a complete 180. As much as she loved and spoiled me, she resented me with the same passion. Her perspective was that she had 9 girls and 2 boys and wanted both of her sons. She was sick of daughters and she wanted me to be her son.
Did your family decide on a cure?
The first decision my family took was that I should be treated medically for my identity. They forced me to go to a doctor and get “treated”.
You did not want to get treatment?
Absolutely not. Not at all. It isn’t like I am a smoker and I want to quit. This is me, this is who I am. This is who I am on the inside. They sent me to an incompetent and ignorant doctor. He didn’t know anything.
His advice to me was, start dressing like a man on the outside so you could change how you feel on the inside. I was about 13, I didn’t understand life, but I knew enough to tell the doctor that there was nothing he could do to me that would change who I was.
Around the same age my family and doctors began making me take testosterone shots. I used to cry and fight every time we went to the doctor. I would beg them and tell them I didn’t want to take the shots. I didn’t want to change or feel any other way.
No one believed me.
There is always the question of is being queer biological, genetic, or it stems from how we are raised, and other similar notions. How do you feel about that, relating to yourself?
Look, I was given testosterone and I didn’t change. If they gave me a million shots, they wouldn’t be able to change who I was. This is something I am, it would be impossible to change who I am.
Once they finally took me to a doctor who understands, the doctor told my family that I would never change. Something that God gave someone from birth does not change.