The transition from woman to man, Egyptian to Glaswegian

The story of Adam is an extraordinary one. Not only did he change gender and country. He used his experiences to discover a passion he never even knew he had. Acting.

His story, like a lot of Trans children, started off with confusing signs that he was somehow trapped in the wrong body. He said: “I dreamt that I was a boy when I was 8/9 years old. In my dreams I was always a boy, I was always confused.”

Even though he did not quite understand his own symptoms at the time he described having gender dysphoria – the formal diagnosis used by psychologists and physicians to describe people who experience significant discontent with the sex and gender they were assigned at birth.

All the while he was growing up in Egypt, where the word Transgender does not exist. And the idea of changing one’s gender is generally considered taboo. So for young Adam it was quite difficult to comprehend his identity and his own feelings.  He said: “I didn’t even know it existed. Even though I am Transgender myself. I didn’t know that I existed.”

As he reached 14 he as a female would start wearing more make – up and more feminine clothing in order to fit in with his other female friends.


Photo credit: Andy Bell

As a woman in Egypt, he still remembers the harassment he would receive from the men back in areas he grew up in.  He said: “Woman are harassed all the time. So, I was by their standards I was pretty so I was harassed all the time”

He recalled a time when he was walking the streets of Egyptian city of Alexandria, when teenage boys harassed him when he was a woman. He said: “They grabbed my breasts and ran shouting ‘it’s a girl, it’s a girl’ and were just laughing”

Adam even recalls trying to convince strange men that he didn’t know in bars and clubs that he was not a lesbian by kissing them.  Other incidents included being followed by men in cars and being groped.

He remembers a time when he took it upon himself to dress up in ‘boyish’ clothes and a big jacket so he looked like a 12-year-old boy.

It was a revelation as that day he did not experience any single form of harassment from any one.

He said: “Generally being a woman in any society is hard. From my point of view, a lot harder than living as a man. Being a woman in the Middle East is ten times harder. “

He eventually had to flee Egypt after arguing with his father and being told to leave home. It was around the same time Adam was fired over the way he dressed. He had no home and no job. He had no money.

We he did eventually fully consider leaving he thought of places like Australia or America, but he did not have enough money to go to either. Besides America was still fairly hostile toward people like Adam and it’s not getting any better. It was then a friend of Adam recommended going to the UK.

His first port of call was naturally, London. However, as Adam didn’t know an awful lot about asylum and such like he stayed with a woman who at the time was friendly enough and kept a roof over his head for some time. Sadly, this arrangement would not last as the woman found out about Adam’s gender identity and kicked him out of the house, after a month.


He was lucky enough to have made a friend, also from Egypt, whilst living in London who took him in. The friend shared accommodation with a few asylum seekers who explained a little a bit of the processes of becoming an asylum seeker to Adam.

When Adam applied to become an asylum seeker he was told to go the Home Office, where he was then taken to a detention centre.

Adam had now found himself in a classic catch 22 situation. The Home Office needed proof that Adam was indeed a Trans man despite dressing like one and referring to himself with male pronouns. Yet he was not allowed to start hormone therapy as he was an asylum seeker.

He spent the next two years as an isolated asylum seeker living in a flat in Glasgow before becoming a refugee. As such, he was allowed £35 a week to live off and would only leave the house to buy things he would need to sustain himself.

He describes how he became depressed and suicidal around this time.  He said: “I tried the suicidal helpline they couldn’t help me. They came to visit me in the house got really depressed even more and I’ve had really interesting challenges with myself.”

What he done next was to seek out his last hope – or so it seemed – of happiness. Testosterone. More specifically Testosterone bought online. For which he bought an insulin syringe as his refugee status would not allow him the access he needed to access a normal syringe.

He describes his first experience of testosterone injections as a positively gruelling process where he even fasted for a while. He said: “So I just ended up injecting myself. I think I was maybe allergic. So, I injected my leg and I would have a tennis ball there and my whole leg and I had horrible fever as well”.

Adam used to commit acts of self-harm like banging his head against the wall until he knocked himself. Something he understandably found difficult to talk about but was included in the play.

Adam said: “I didn’t really want to die. I never really wanted to die”

He added: “My conclusion one day was that I could get a knife and I could try to cut my breast but before I do I will call the ambulance then they will come and see, and they will know how desperate I am. And do surgery. It will force them to do surgery”.

It would be fair to say that at this point Adam was desperate to find some little ray of hope in his world when someone from the Scottish Refugee Council recommended he try out volunteering for a group.  This one basically invited a mix of refugees, asylum seekers and Scottish people all to take part in a small theatre production.

In this production Adam had a small monologue around six minutes long sharing a condensed version of his story thus far. He was somewhat surprised to find that he enjoyed the process of acting yet did not expect what was waiting around the corner.

Cora Bisset the director of the TV show/ theatre production of Glasgow Girls, saw the production and was so moved by Adam’s story she discussed making it a whole thing of its own. At the time even considering making it a film.

Adam was still reluctant at this point to take an acting role at this stage, but would assist with the writing and rehearsal process.

However, this all changed one night. He said: “It was a really funny thing, 2016 I think there was an event called ‘home and away’ organised by the national theatre of Scotland I was invited to it and by the end of the event. One of my friends there speaking about how they couldn’t find an actor who could make justice to the story.”

Adam said: “During rehearsals it was really fun at the start but then it got a little bit dark for me just not thinking about my past for so long then all of a sudden this. I’m talking about and thinking about it and just constantly everyday think about it.  I think that got me in a really dark place.”

He was still nervous about the success for his play. Adam said: “I started to get worried. I am Trans and I am a refugee. I am everything that is hated in the world right now, so I would have thought I would have a horrible reaction.”

Adam describes how working on the play was challenging as he had to separate the ‘real’ Adam from the scripted Adam.

He hoped the play would be inspirational and show how his story ended with happiness.



About Chloe Duffy

I am a student journalist in my second year at college looking for my way in the world. I particularly enjoy writing features, opinion pieces and reviews. I am interested in politics, debates, LGBT culture, activism, art, film, the paranormal, comedy, Harry Potter and books. And my sexuality can be explained with a felixi – ruler.

View all posts by Chloe Duffy →

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