Hello! You’ve probably noticed that I’ve changed my sex on Facebook. Were you surprised? Annoyed? Intrigued? Disgusted? Outraged? Did you think it was a joke? Did you perhaps think it was a mistake?
Actually, I’m glad you asked. Today is the international day of action for sexual and bodily rights across Muslim societies: “One Day, One Struggle.” To mark the occasion, I’ve changed my sex on Facebook to raise awareness around challenges facing transgender people everywhere in the world. And I’m going to keep it that way till November 20, the Transgender Day of Remembrance. My message is simple:
1. I want you to know what “transgender” means. It is a term used to identify the many people who do not fit into society’s strict gender roles of “male” and “female.” The term represents a variety of identities that include cross-dresser, transvestite, androgynes, genderqueer, people who live cross-gender, drag kings and drag queens, and, frequently, transsexual. Please take the time to click on these links to learn more about different gender identities and expressions.
2. I want you to know that transgenders and transsexuals exist among us – no matter where we are in the world. They have the same rights as everyone else to express their gender the way they see fit. If a person is born with a female body, for example, but identifies as a male, he has the full right to do so and you have the full obligation to address him as such.
3. I want you to know that transgenders face a lot of crap from everyone: their families, their colleagues, the people on the street, the police, the public, the state – everyone! Transgender identity is still considered a mental illness, and, most of the time, transgenders face severe violence and discrimination just for not conforming to the strict gender roles, although they are not doing anything to hurt anybody.
My friends, there is a lot of awareness we need to raise about transgender issues. We need to break the silences and the misconceptions – starting from the ones in our own selves.
So I ask you to join me by doing the same on your Facebook. If you feel too scared about what people will say, then you can understand – if only for some fleeting seconds – what transgenders have to go through their entire lives. So please, take the bold step and stand up for a community who continue to suffer among us every day. Here’s what you can do to make a difference:
1. Change your sex on your Facebook account by going to Info -> Edit Information. Make sure you check the box: “Show my sex in my profile.”
2. Post a link in your profile to this page, and ask your friends to visit to learn more about your virtual sex change.
3. Join the Operation: Sex Change group on Facebook so we can keep track of who’s joined the campaign.
4. Talk to your friends about transgender identity and ask them to join this campaign. Figure out what local groups are doing to mark the Transgender Day of Remembrance and join them.
This is a grassroots online campaign started by a couple of Meem activists in Beirut. For more information, please interact with the group on Facebook.