Gender Confusion in the Middle East!

Part of the fun of moving here was the process of applying for my visa; the huge stack of passport photos in which I look like I’ve spent the last 2 days on a non-stop drinking binge, the queuing for hours to get my degrees signed by the Dept of Foreign Affairs, a solicitor and the UAE Embassy, the gardai at the local cop shop laughing at the amount of addresses (15!) on my garda clearance cert, and of course, the medical examination at the local Ministry of Health immigration hospital.

I got a text from one of my workmates at 3:45pm telling me to get to a bus at 4pm for a visit to the hospital for our xrays and blood tests. That was my afternoon of writing a long email home followed by a nap after a stressful day of decorating my classroom completely cancelled. Off we went to the most run-down building I’ve ever seen used as a medical centre with my immigration forms. They are all in Arabic, and I assume they have all my details filled out correctly on them.

We all wander through this maze of a hospital, all as lost as one another, when we eventually find the xray department which has been kindly separated into women’s and men’s xray units so <sarcasm> all the men aren’t tempted by the sight of us women in our sexy green hospital gowns. They’re so nice to protect us from the inevitable temptations we impose on men who just can’t control themselves </sarcasm>.

The clerk takes my form and take a long look at me and glances at my form. I wonder if I’m about to be giving out to for today’s small hint of cleavage when he asks me “are you sure you’re female?” Highly indignant and slightly insulted, I say “of course, why?” He circles the sex section on my form (am I the only person who wants to write yes please in that box) and tells me that male is written there and my short hair makes me look like a man! Possibly the most hilarious kick to my self-esteem ever!

That day, I learned that I don’t have TB, HIV or syphilis, and that to Arabic eyes, I look like a man!


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