She has worked for more than 30 years among the shoeshine men of Luxor. She sits with men in coffee shops, prays with them in the local mosque and dresses just as they do in pants or a traditional floor-length tunic known as a galabeya.
Many people believed Sisa Abu Daooh was a man until several weeks ago, when she publicly revealed her 42-year-old secret.
Perhaps surprisingly in a society where many hold conservative notions of gender roles, Ms. Daooh’s announcement was greeted not with condemnation but with curiosity and a flurry of mostly positive reactions from local news media and officials. On Sunday, Egypt’s president, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, personally gave her an award for being an extraordinary mother.
In an interview last week, Ms. Daooh, 64, said she began dressing as a man as a practical matter, to escape restrictions on women’s employment in a patriarchal culture and earn enough to support her daughter, Hoda. But now, whether she still needs to pose as a man or not, she said she had no intention of changing. What began as a way to survive rural poverty has evolved into her preferred way of life and a means of navigating a world dominated by men.
Wednesday, March 25, 2015
The Practical Transvestite
Jared Malsin in the Times: