Egyptian actor Hisham Salim appeared with his transgender son Nour for the first time on TV on Tuesday to speak about their experience; a move that is unprecedent for an Egyptian or Arab celebrity.
Salim sat down for an interview alongside his 26-year-old son Nour on the show ‘Gaafar Talk’ on Berlin-based DW channel, three days after speaking publicly about his son’s situation for the first time on an Egyptian talk show.
Salim said in the DW interview that he had not planned on speaking about Nour’s transgenderism on the Egyptian show, but responded truthfully when asked about it because “there was nothing hide.”
According to Nour, at the age of 18 he spoke to his father about how he felt he was in the wrong body and that he wished to transition from a woman to a man.
“Since the age of three, I felt that I was a boy, not a girl” Nour said.
“When he was a year-and-a-half, we went together to the toy shop and he chose toy guns and refused to get a doll. When I asked him about it, he said that he was a boy, not a girl,” the popular actor said, adding that Nour had always had more “boyish” features like a masculine bone structure.
Nour revealed that his feelings of not being normal drove him to thoughts of suicide, and that he felt lonely with no one to speak to about the issue, especially in a country like Egypt.
“But I learned to love myself,” he said, adding that he had met only two transgender people in Egypt after starting his hormones treatments.
Nour also had a message for other transgender people in Egypt.
“Do not commit suicide, be brave because this a hard phase, but if we stand together we can reach a level of understanding with society,” he said, stressing that awareness will be raised with exposure.
“If anyone sees me now, I do not think they would say that I have to remain as Noura.”
Although Nour has seen acceptance from his family, he still faces legal problems as have other transgender people in Egypt, including that his personal ID card still identifies him as female.
“I can’t really work because I do not have an official ID that identifies as Nour, a male,” he said.
Salim revealed his son’s situation publicly for the first time three days ago on the talk show ‘Sheikh El-Hara’ in response to a question from the host, saying that is was “God’s will.”
The announcement by the actor was met with sympathy by many social media users, who expressed admiration for Salim for supporting his son and publicly discussing this controversial topic in the conservative country.
Lebanese pop stars Carol Samaha and Elissa, who are known for supporting LGBT rights, expressed on Twitter their respect and admiration for Salim.
Egyptian transgender activist Malak Khashef also expressed support for the move.
“This is a great move, a noticeable development in the transgender cause and one step forward towards public acceptance and forming a supportive base,” Khashef wrote on her Facebook page.
Several LGBT rights organisations also welcomed the move and seized the opportunity to shed light on the situation of transgender people in Egypt.
Salim has been the first Egyptian celebrity to announce publicly that he has a transgender child.
Nour’s is a prominent family in showbusiness. His grandfather was legendary Egyptian footballer and president of Al-Ahly Club Saleh Salim, and his uncle is director Khaled Salim, who is married to the film star Youssra.
Despite being a conservative society, Egypt has had acknowledged cases of gender dysphoria since the late 1940s, when the first sex reassignment operation was conducted.
Egypt’s main religious institutions Al-Azhar and the Coptic Orthodox Church have said that sex reassignment operations are religiously permissible if there are valid medical reasons. Transgender people can legally change their gender status in Egypt, but rights activists have said that this is usually an arduous process.