Sex-change Saudi battles family to keep inheritance
A YOUNG Saudi man who had a sex-change operation is fighting to save the fortune that he inherited from his wealthy father.
The man's relatives insist that, under Islamic law, as a woman he is entitled to inherit only half as much as what a man would be entitled to.
The man, whose story has riveted the public in the ultra-conservative kingdom, has been identified only as Ahmad, even though he now lives his life as a woman.
Ahmad's relatives accuse him of deception and have asked a court to divide his father's estate again.
"Even as a child I felt that I was not a normal boy . . . I preferred to be with girls and play with them," Ahmad told Sayidaty, a Saudi magazine that has run his story at great length.
He first consulted a specialist as a teenager in the United States, where he chose to go to university, after "some female bodily features had begun to appear very rapidly".
The doctor confirmed what Ahmad had long felt.
"You're a female," he said.
In his second year at university, he was recalled to Saudi Arabia because his father was very ill.
Ahmad told him that he was planning to have a sex-change operation, but his father threatened to disinherit him if he proceeded.
"According to him, I would be bringing shame on the family," he said.
His father died, however, before Ahmad had the operation, so he received his share of the money as a son.
Properties left by his father have yet to be divided.
With his cash inheritance, Ahmad was able to afford the sex change, which was successful.
"I began to live, for the first time, what was a normal life. I felt a huge burden had been lifted from me."
Later he went to France, where he lived and worked as a woman, before returning to Saudi Arabia.
At first, he went back as a man because he had not told his family of his sex change.
"I cut my hair short, wiped off all traces of make-up and once again put on men's clothes," he said.
Soon after he returned, his mother died.
He had been unable to summon the courage to tell her, but, finding it impossible to bear the contradictions of his life, he told his brother and sisters of the operation.
His family spurned him and applied for the father's estate to be redivided, taking into account his new sex.
"They filed a suit even though I am still considered a man and am legally male in Saudi Arabia.
I do not know what to do or how to change my sex legally," he said.
Changing sexual identity is not unknown in Saudi Arabia, where the operation is referred to as a sex "correction".
Cases are studied first by religious scholars, who decide whether surgery is religiously permissible.
It is available only to those with an "inter-sex" condition: people born with some characteristics of the opposite sex. (© The Times, London)