An Egyptian LGBTQ rights group has just honored the late Hanan al-Tawil – a renowned Egyptian transsexual actress who was known for playing various roles and challenging stereotypes.
In a video posted by “No Hate Egypt”, the life of al-Tawil – who died in 2004 in mysterious circumstances – is celebrated. Her achievements, roles and contributions to the art scene in Egypt are listed, as well as the hardships she encountered throughout her life.
Though she is remembered more for comedy, especially in her iconic role as Korea the dancer (El Set Korea) in the 2003 comedy flick Askar fi el Moaskar, Tawil (née Tarek) was more than just an entertainer. She is credited with being the first openly transsexual Arab – one who fought for equality and progress while in the limelight.
Tawil inspired many others to come out. Here are some of the other inspirational women who did not let society stand in the way.
Morocco's most famous belly dancer, Nour Talbi, is a legend in her native country. The 1.85 meters seductress describes herself as a fully integrated woman.
She left for Europe at 18 as Nourredine and returned years later as Noor. She began her career in dance and hasn’t looked back since. It hasn’t always easy. In an interview with the Associated Press, Nour describes her 10-year battle to get her gender change officially recognized on her state ID as an ordeal that almost tipped her over the edge.
"If I wasn't such a strong woman, religious, humanly and social, another might have killed herself," she said.
Nour has made international television appearances, including one on Tyra Banks' America's Next Top Model back in 2011. On it, she taught the aspiring models to dance with a tea set on their head during an episode filmed in Marrakech.
Bashayer Hussain is a Kuwaiti actress and director. She has revealed her sex reassignment surgery as one that was necessary, but not hardship free.
Bashayer says she obtained legal documents from the Kuwaiti government to undergo the sex reassignment surgery in Thailand, after proving that she was 'psychologically female'.
“In my nature, I am a woman, but on paper, I am a man … I now avoid all military points so as to escape any judgment that may arise from that situation," she told MBC after an incident involving a checkpoint.
However, she insists that such incidents only make her stronger.
This one’s a little different. Haifa MJK, whose name and looks are inspired by Lebanese diva Haifa Wehbe, has made a career out of emulating her favorite star.
She’s now also created her own makeup brand, Haifa Mjk, and offers beauty tips and makeup tutorials to all those interested.
Sally Mursi (née Sayyed) sent shockwaves through Egypt and the Muslim world after she went under the knife to become Sally in 1988.
Her case caused an uproar that even led the Grand Mufti to intervene.
Muhammad Sayyid Tantawy, released a fatwa, making it spiritually legal for a transgendered individual to change to his or her appropriate gender.
"Tantawi issued a fatwa that recognized that Mursi’s change was necessary for her health,but required her to dress, behave, and comply with all obligations of Islam for women, except for marital obligations, for one year before the operation. The fatwa was the first positive Sunni ruling about sex changes, allowing them in cases where there is a clear medical condition, which a GID diagnosis would seem to constitute," Human Rights Watch wrote.