The Woman In Room 811
By: Maha Mohamed
Translated by: Lillianne Elkady
Artwork: Nour Gendy
I wonder what was going on in her head, the curious yet helpless room service woman. While looking at all the stuff that was scattered around the room; Does this belong to a man or a woman?
I wake up in the morning not able to understand anything, red eyed dysphoria staring at me, hating me, wishing me dead and I get it. I make coffee trying to comprehend who and where I am. Coffee makes my vision become less and less blurry. Yes, i’m in a room at some hotel in Beirut and i have nothing to do until the evening, that’s an answer for “where am i?”, though when it comes to “Who am i?” it isn’t easy to have an answer to that whatsoever, even coffee won’t help with that
My facial hair bothers me like it bothers most women. I start removing it, I mean (i start shaving my beard). You might be shocked, disturbed, or maybe you’re laughing, a woman shaving her beard. You can be shocked, disturbed or be giggling all you wish, because that won’t stop me from shaving it. I started getting dressed, I put on simple items, nothing too attractive nor fancy, they’re nevertheless feminine beyond doubt. I won’t go farther than strolling a tad around the hotel after all. Only shopping for some essential needs so i could go back quickly, i won’t dare venturing outside of my safe zone without my friends and if i force myself to go out dressed as male, i will be eaten alive by my dysphoria for the rest of the day. No, I won’t do that to myself. Let them devour me with their eyes, it will be more merciful
I pointlessly tried to conceal my masculine features but i can still see them, i am not ugly i know that and maybe for a second you’ll think i’m attractive but once you look at me closely, you’ll realize that i’m transgender but i doubt that will be the first term that will come to your mind (unless you fully understand what that means which is rare), what will come to your mind is probably going to be an entirely different term, one that is hurtful and demeaning
In fact, that wasn’t the first time for me to present as my true self, as a woman. Though, it was the first time for me to go out fully as a woman .. on the street .. and on my own
I put my sunglasses on, it conceals half of my face, determined not to make any eye contact with any being, I started walking seriously like an infantry soldier, severely anxious, i felt like my heart would jump out of my chest, limbs trembling, however, my thoughts and fears did not have much time to consume me, as after a few steps i heard persistent honing coming out of a car that was passing near me, i looked where the sound came from and there he was, driving slowly by me, while giving me a stare that says “What’s up?”. Right, my dear reader, I received the first attempt to be picked up off the street less than 10 metres away where my life as a woman began. I returned his look with a look that uttered the words “Are you an idiot?”, seemed like he actually was, he kept following me relentlessly, nothing saved me from this except for my arrival at the store.
I had a lot of mixed feelings that I did not pause for long to unfold, as I had to quickly get my grocery shopping done. I forgot what I planned to buy, and I hated myself for not writing that down on a piece of paper. I kept on walking through the aisles trying to remember what i came here for, while not exchanging looks with anyone as i had initially decided, and while i was checking dairy products, trying to tell the difference between milk and yogurt. A little kid walked close to me looking at me with curiosity, then he goofily smiled at me in a kind way, I returned the same goofy kind smile, until his mom came running, quickly removing him away from me looking at me with disgust like she would look at something extremely filthy. Exhausted, i picked what i needed from the store and forgot the most important item, i waited for my turn to the cash register, the clearly disgusted cashier lady started staring at me , but me being serious and polite and with my daring steady looks made her nervous and so her looks at me changed from disgust to shyness. I paid and I left right away without looking behind, and i hurried back to my safe room, with no one trying to pick me up this time around.
Back to my room, an african young woman who works at the hotel came by, the items in it or something of the sort. I was wearing Pajamas that were not specific to any gender, she started to make conversation and she expressed her attraction to me, trying to pick me up as well. I asked to sit down, offered her and myself a drink and sat down by her, introduced myself and so she did, and then I calmly explained my identity and told her my story. Hugging me, she started tearing up, i got emotional too and realized (she wasn’t trying to pick me up this time), it was pure tender-hearted human compassion. She then offered me her friendship and asked that i talk to her if i need anything and she left (not picking me up). Shortly after, one of the asian housekeepers came by accompanied by another asian housekeeper welcoming me to the hotel with chocolate. Although right away I realized what this was about, she invited her friend to come watch this freak show. Apparently we are at the circus, it wouldn’t be that bad of an idea if i start charging people to watch my show, i guess.
Later at night, a non-trans friend of mine took me to a bookshop. Smiling, the wonder welcomed me, he was warm and kept smiling until he realized that I was different. Suddenly, his smiling face turned into a mix of cringing and shock, he must be thinking “What brought this freak here?”, or “Why would he be in any bookshop anyway?”. His shock was doubled and his cringing face cringed less when he discovered that i know a lot about books and authors and that initial shock even doubled when my friend told him that i was a writer. I heard her behind me while I was skimming through the books “She’s also a writer”, repeating “She”, “She is a writer”. By the end of the visit, he became more comfortable and respectful toward me
At night, and while out with my friends at a bar, I stood there with them while they danced to the music of one of the bands. I usually don’t like dancing nor loud music but I didn’t want to be alone on the table while I was standing. I noticed a man and a woman were looking at me and laughing, i reciprocated their look with a challenging stare, the woman felt ashamed and looked away, but the man kept staring, giving me the same contemptible ridiculing smiling look, i kept challenging him with the same looks until i felt drained and i couldn’t anymore, i went back to my table so i could cry alone without anyone noticing
I wonder what goes on in her head, the curious yet helpless room service woman, while she looks at the stuff that is scattered here and there. Is it a woman who stays here or is it a man?. She certainly knows that it is one person, and surely she will think about it a lot and eventually she will reach one conclusion, confusing and sad, that is whoever stays in room 811 is undoubtedly a woman, nevertheless, it seems like there is a man who stays here with her. And obviously she’s not happy with him being here whatsoever