Transgender Life

I don’t want this site to be solely about being transgender. From my experiences so far, it’s not even something I could write about every week – being in the closet is far more intense and frustrating and writeable. However, there are moments when things happen, unique to trans people. I’d like to share those moments with you, and let you into the mystery.

Saudi Female Drivers


Saudi Female Drivers 30.09.17

They're three words I thought I'd never use, but this week in the oil rich Kingdom, Saudi female drivers were given the green light to drive in their own country. Not all will want to, of course, just like in the West, and it's also worth noting another barrier, that the Kingdom is a macho-fuelled, computer-game simulation of a place to navigate by car.

I know, from having lived there. From 2011 to 2015, I experienced first as passenger then as driver the tail-gating, light-flashing fury of the great repressed; there's nothing in the Quran about driving like an arsehole, and God, don't they exploit it in cities like Riyadh and Jeddah. Favourite memory? Perhaps it's of the pre-pubescent children driving foot-down, slaloming, while texting to a friend, and coming right up to your bumper at 120 kph, beeping you with an indignant outrage to get out of the way. If you didn't, they'd find a way to get in front of you eventually, and then they'd put the breaks on, sometimes slam it on, just to scare you. Don't fuck with me or I'll kill you, Inshallah.

I often wondered what would happen if Saudi women were allowed to drive. Would the men be offended by a female over-taking? Would they put the foot down, even on a bend, or bump against the woman's car, to remind them who's in charge? Honour is so much more valuable than life in the land where It's Written, where life indeed is almost as cheap as petrol.

Of course, one reason why so many boys drive in Saudi Arabia is the prohibition on women driving. Now that's gone, I hope the highway police will do the decent thing and police the roads and highways, rather than just focus on the wreckage of the accidents that occur from their neglect.

There are bigger implications, too, for the sexes. Women, at a stroke, will get more independence, assuming they don't need a family chaperone when they drive. In a land of scarcely any public transport or pedestrianization, your ability to travel by car is no extravagance. Perhaps men and women will find it easier to meet each other – this has been a fear of the clerics, I suspect – and in turn, a better understanding will grow between both sides of a pretty substantial gender divide.

I wonder too about the clerics, those like Saad Al Hijri who last week proclaimed Saudi women's brains much tinier than men's, which therefore precluded women from driving. I wonder what Saad Al Hijri will think if he's ever collected in a taxi, and the driver is a woman.

The clerics and religious police aside, I should emphasize I knew people who lived happily in Saudi Arabia, Muslims and non-Muslims – many that I worked with who are still there now, and will continue living there happily for a long time after I've left Edinburgh. The salaries are good in Saudi Arabia, but comfortable too are the compound lives of Westerners, including compound pool and barbecues and satellite TV, the free gym and the convenience of the compound shop, the compound nursery and tennis court, and meanwhile the children are free to roam around the compound's handful of streets. You have your community of friends, your car, your desert trips, you have Dubai and Bahrain for weekend breaks. I felt I was slowly dying there, but for many men and women, Saudi and non-Saudi alike, it's got everything you need, if your needs can be met within compound walls.

Outside those walls, though, a country will clearly go through changes. The de-mystification of women begins apace, and perhaps in turn, the myth of male superiority into decline, a welcome de-pressurizing of false expectations for men and women.
Come Die In Dubai
What happened to the thing I loved?


No comments made yet. Be the first to submit a comment
Friday, 25 September 2020

Captcha Image

What's On This Week

My Latest Posts

July 01, 2020

Silenced by The Scotsman

​ On 11 June, The Scotsman published a deeply hostile article against transgender rights and activism in an opinion piece about the JK Rowling furore by its deputy political editor Gina Davidson. After much distress, I wrote a counter article which The Scotsman quietly ignored, after they had offered to pass it on to their Comment Editor. I experie...
May 11, 2020

The Book of Queer Prophets, curated by Ruth Hunt

in Books

  The Book of Queer Prophets: 24 Writers on Sexuality and Religion The historically fraught relationship between Abrahamic religions and LGBT+ identities provides the backdrop to The Book of Queer Prophets , a collection of twenty-four meditations by public figures who identify as both religious and LGBT+. The book's curator, the for...
May 09, 2020

Queer/Transgender short film: Mesmeralda

Joshua Matteo's short film, Mesmeralda , merging horror with esoterica, is now out on youtube . As with his previous work Metanoia , we see youthful trans actors racing through the empty streets of a moonlit New York, haunted by symbols and stalked by a masked figure of violent intentions. Mesmeralda , as described by Matteo, is the companion ...
March 08, 2020

Sterile like the moon: the joys of transgender healthcare

Sterile like the moon: the joys of transgender healthcare Summer, 2016: Gina's Big Bang, as transitioning begins A bureaucratic question in a sun-lit room. My medical practitioner asks me if I intend to have children. The question lingers, but the self-loathing is instant. No, I won't be having children. The practitioner nods. She moves on to the n...
November 10, 2019

General Election

General Election 12 December 2019 I spent the last election in an office, alone but for the company of a colleague. We watched the BBC's coverage while I drank wine, downbeat and expecting austerity and the absence of hope to triumph. Then we saw the exit poll and hung around, disbelieving at the sight of the kindled embers and lukewarm glow of a f...
October 05, 2019


October 05, 2019


Joker The trailer did its work, flashing images of anomie and fury perfectly pitched for these unstable times of precarious working conditions, grievance and institutional indifference. For these same reasons, Joker , directed by Todd Phillips and starring Joaquin Phoenix as the protagonist, has attracted pre-release criticisms like few other recen...
September 29, 2019

Resisting Whiteness event 2019

Resisting Whiteness one-day event, Edinburgh Returning for the second consecutive year, Resisting Whiteness came yesterday to the Pleasance Theatre in Edinburgh, providing an intense and inspiring series of panels, as well as a wonderful spoken word section, and a final segment based around the documentary short Invisible by internationally-acclaim...
August 21, 2019

Hearty by Emma Frankland

Hearty by Emma Frankland Raw and dripping with punk aesthetic, this one-woman-show's one-woman emerges in ripped tights and a T-shirt that paraphrases loudly the words of anti-trans theorist Germaine Greer: Lop Your Dick Off. My first impression of Emma Frankland is edgily uncertain and in awe, her Lady-Gaga-looks combined with Heath Ledger's mesme...
August 21, 2019

Pronoun, Pass, & Amnesty International

Transgender drama: Pronoun To be clear at the outset, this was the production of a youth theatre group, not a highly resourced team of experienced, professional career actors – although some of the performances left a powerful impression, and the show as a whole achieved some remarkable moments. Pronoun , written by Evan Placey, follows the transit...