Beaten, Burned and Confined: the Misery of an Intersex Girl in Egypt

Wednesday 30 May 201801:58 pm
"With both hands she pulled me towards her and hugged me, as I have always wished to be held. She reassured me that everything would be okay, that I would be okay. The very next day she opened the door for thugs to get in and pointed at my room. She paid them money to beat me up until I bled in front of her, him and all of them. I am talking about the woman and the man who brought me to this life." This is what Isabella El-Hadidi, an Egyptian intersex woman, said during an interview with Raseef22, revealing assaults and humiliation she was subjected to at the hands of her family throughout her life.

"What Did I Do to Have a Hermaphrodite Child?"

Wearing a loose fitting outfit in an obvious attempt to hide the shape of her body, "Bella" who is now 20 recollected years of misery, with expressions on her baby face reflecting fear and distraction. She was born a boy, on paper at least. As a child, she used to share her sister's clothes. Her parents initially thought her behavior was a manifestation of affection for her sister and that she would turn manly with time. Growing up, violent and contact sports repulsed Bella. Her mother used to burn her body with heated metal spoons as a form of corporal punishment, and that was nothing compared to different shades of torture Bella endured for being a intersex girl. She used to tell her elder sister that she strongly felt like a female, and voiced fear over how neighbors and friends were ridiculing her for her feminine appearance and soft voice. Her sister advised her not to tell her parents about her feelings, yet Bella tried to more than once. Her parents would often refuse to listen to what they thought was utter nonsense, until she became a teenager. Hence, the father decided to take her to a doctor to see what was wrong with his "son". "The shock was overwhelming when the doctor told him that his son was not a male, but was born with intersex conditions," Bella recalls. The next morning, she continues, "I put on my school uniform as usual, and hid my hair under a cap so my colleagues would not pick on me. But suddenly, the man who brought me to this life -- and I won't use 'my father' or 'my mother' -- stormed into my room holding a big knife. He held me down to slit my throat while screaming 'Oh God! What did I do to have a hermaphrodite?' My elder brother saved my life that day; he pushed him away from me and sustained a serious wound to his hand." "The woman who brought me to life was standing at my door, watching silently as if I'm not her daughter. I only heard her warning him, 'Don't destroy your life over this thing'." In other words, do not go to jail for killing this child.

Jailed at Home

"Instead of killing me, he and my brother took turns beating me, trying to force me to completely forget my desire to become a female. Not one centimeter of my body was left unhurt. I was bedridden for two weeks then prevented from continuing my education, even though I was one of the good students despite the harassment of classmates and female teachers." "In a society that celebrates the male and shame women in different ways, it was expected that my father would change the course of my education from high school to [the lesser] handicraft and technical education so they can pay off the school [in order for her not to be expelled for missing classes]. Maybe the situation would've been better for my father and the community had I been a girl who wanted to became a male." "For a whole year I was locked up in my house. I had been an animal activist; I used to wander the streets looking for stray animals who people persistently hurt, and look for a place for them at facilities of animal welfare commissions. I also worked at an atelier, I was good at drawing and hoped to take classes at the Faculty of Fine Arts to boost my talent with education." By the end of the year, Bella and her body gave in to constant physical assaults and decided to do as her family told her. At this point, they took her to a doctor who injected her with testosterone to elevate the male hormone in her system.

Turning Down Testosterone

Bella's health was going from bad to worse as a result of the injections. She first suffered acute abdominal pains and then she would throw up blood. When she saw a doctor, he told her to immediately abstain from the testosterone intake, saying her body was completely rejecting it. It had already caused serious health problems, including severe inflammations of the liver, stomach, gall bladder and colon. The damage was severe to the extent that she had to undergo surgery. "Of course that didn't satisfy my family who cared about nothing but what other people would say," Bella went on. "We get married and deliver babies to please the people and stop them from talking about us, we even sacrifice our children or throw them in the street -- like what happened to me -- to make them happy." "My family was totally against stopping the medications and started to oppress me once again. From their perspective, the beating would make me either leave the house for good or comply with their wishes. When they gave up, they hired thugs who kidnapped me after I was beaten up and passed out. I regained consciousness tied and locked up in a room in some psychiatric hospital."

More Harassment

According to Bella, workers at this hospital molested her on different occasions. They would sneak into the bathroom while she was showering to see her naked, and invade her room at night to grope her while she was asleep. She insisted on proving her sanity to the doctor supervising her condition. She visited him daily, telling him about how she ended up where she was. He eventually decided to contact her parents to come and pick her up, vouching that she did not suffer psychological or mental disorders. But when her mother came to the hospital, she said in front of everyone, "I don't want her, put her anywhere away from me". "I decided to receive the right medical treatment to be who I really am, not what others want me to be," Bella said. "The problems between me and my family got worse. One day during one of my treatment sessions, the man who brought me to life phone me up to tell me that they had moved to a new house that I would never know where it was." "They took everything, even my clothes and the fridge where I put my insulin ampules, which I use every day because I'm diabetic, otherwise I will go into a coma," she said with a sarcastic smile. "I still dream to be an artist, a human rights activist and an advocate for weak people from minorities and outcast groups. I will not give up on my dreams despite the circumstances." "My current problem is that I don't have the right to change my identity. I cannot continue my education and I have no family. My family refuses to hand me over my identification documents so I cannot work or study. The law is on their side because I haven't turned 21 years of age yet."
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