Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Islamic law strikes again 

A Saudi man inherited some money when his father died. Then he got a sex change operation. Now other relatives are demanding a hunk of the inheritance on the grounds that daughters are entitled to half as much as sons. According to Allah.
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.

This is, perhaps, the most powerful anecdote I have ever seen that supports the proposition that people who medically alter their gender do so out of compulsion, rather than out of preference or ideology. While it is a difficult to imagine anybody changing their gender on a whim [but see Steel Beach, by John Varley, for a different view - ed.], if a Saudi man goes through with a sex-change operation, you know he really needed to do it.


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