The first step Zaahir Hamid, a devout Muslim, took in accepting that he was actually a man born in a woman’s body was to pray – without a headscarf.
Hamid, 36, a civil engineer in Cape Town, always knew he was different. At primary school he introduced himself to another little girl as “Zaahir” and asked if he could be her boyfriend.
“As a little girl of six I had already given myself a boy’s name. I came from a very religious family. My grandad was an imam. I was at a private Islamic school. “I kept asking myself why I was born this way. It seemed to be a cruel joke. But that was wrong. God knows what he is doing. The moment I accepted myself I became closer to God.”
Hamid is one of four young South African Muslims who feature in Locked In, a documentary about the inner turmoil transgender people face – a situation exacerbated by rejection and condemnation from family, friends and spiritual leaders.
The film will have its first public screening at the Durban Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, which runs from September 28.
The documentary is a project of The Inner Circle, a support group for LGBTQ Muslims who feel rejected by their faith.
The organisation runs a number of programmes offering psycho-spiritual support to help “queer Muslims reconcile their Islamic identity with their sexual orientation and gender identity”.