Mellanöstern och Nordafrika Tidningen
Published On: Sun, Feb 1st, 2015

Being a non-neterosexual, non-Cisgender in Egypt, Part One

In Egypt, the January 25 Revolution ushered in a new society that is more open to different topics related to human rights. Despite this, the current regime is cracking down on dissidents, both political and on those that don’t conform to the societal and cultural norms of sexuality and gender. 

Survival and drawbacks

Sexual orientation refers to each person’s capacity for profound emotional, affectional and sexual attraction to, and intimate and sexual relations with, individuals of a different gender, the same gender or more than one gender. ‘Gender identity’ refers to each person’s deeply felt internal and individual experience of gender, which may or may not correspond with the sex assigned at birth, including the personal sense of the body (which may involve, if freely chosen, modification of bodily appearance or function by medical, surgical or other means) and other expressions of gender, including dress, speech and mannerisms.


Non-heterosexuals and sexually diverse people are referred to as individuals who don’t identify with the mainstream heterosexual norm and also have many orientations and identities that include and expand beyond the LGBTIQ term. These groups of people suffer great oppression on the hands of the society and the regime in Egypt.

Historically, people with non-heterosexual diverse sexual orientations and gender identities have been present and well documented in different cultures and civilizations. Moreover, in some of them they were even worshiped and highly respected. Family formations have never been the same throughout history as they socially, religiously and culturally constructed.

In Egypt, one of the oldest civilizations, different forms of sexuality were documented on ostraca [editor’s note: ostracon is an archeological term for a piece of pottery] dating from the Ramesside Period which have been found to depict hastily drawn images of homosexual as well as heterosexual sex. Also, the duo Khnumhotep and Niankhkhnum, manicurists in the palace of King Niuserre during the Fifth Dynasty of Egyptian pharaohs, are speculated to have been gay based on a representation of them embracing nose-to-nose in their shared tomb.

European history, Egyptian present

Diversity recognition and non-discrimination adopted by many ancient civilizations was highly influenced and even flipped over by the West which colonized the world in the last centuries. With the support of the western Church conservative and discrimantory social and legal systems that condemn sexual diversity in modern states were introduced, all of which are still present today.

Although modern Egypt has no explicit law criminalizing homosexuality, debauchery, prostitution and blasphemy, laws are used against non-heteronormative sexual and gender-diverse groups. Moreover, in certain cases other charges may also be added by the police as liquor and/or drug trade since the entire social perception of such groups is still associated with sinful acts dating back to the medieval age in Europe.

Non-heteronormative sexual and gender-diverse people have also recently been used as a political tool to undercut Islamist opposition by portraying the state as the guardian of public virtue and distract public opinion from real political and life matters.

The Mubarak regime was the first to crackdown on sexual and gender-diverse individuals; the Queen Boat incident in 2001 – when 52 men were arrested and prosecuted based on their sexual orientation and gender identity – provides a good example of the regime’s constant obsession with its religious legitimacy and people’s continuous support for such extreme homophobic acts committed by the state.

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