Dubai has made world headlines many times – for its economic growth, financial prosperity, its buoyant real estate market…and on a less positive note, its lack of tolerance of transgender people. At the end of 2014, two transgender women from Brazil were arrested at Dubai airport and charged with “indecent acts.” They were horrified because they hadn’t done anything wrong. It turns out they had, however – they were who they were.
Dubai follows Islam law very strictly, and the law bans “male imitation of women.” Hence the indecent act charges against the trans women in Dubai. Reportedly, police confiscated the women’s passports and didn’t return them until more than four months later when the women went to court.
In 2016, Canadian star, YouTube personality, model and influencer Gigi Gorgeous, who was born male, was arrested at Dubai airport and held there for many hours. She describes the incident as “one of the scariest moments of my entire life.” She was “scared and disgusted” by how people can be denied entry to a country simply because they are transgender.
The model later told Perez Hilton of TMZ that her ordeal began when an immigration officer told her she couldn’t enter the country because he “was told she was transgender.” Hilton responded by warning all members of the LGBT community to stay away from Dubai.
In response to the Canadian trans woman’s allegations, Dubai officials claimed her passport had not been updated to show her real gender. Gigi Gorgeous is adamant that this claim is false, stating her passport lists her name as Gigi Loren and her photo is current.
Dubai’s international airport is among the busiest in the world. Albeit being famous for its business community and super-modern architecture, Dubai is a city of UAE, a society based on Sharia Law. The legal ban on men imitating women reinforces patriarchal, rigidly gendered social mores. Among other things, the law approves capital punishment for same-sex relationships.
In sum, Dubai is not the best place to be for members of the LGBT community. Trans people are not recognized by law in the United Arab Emirates. Gay men in Dubai risk life in prison or the death penalty. Recently, a British gay couple was detained at Dubai airport and allegedly “treated rudely.” The men claim the staff at the airport made fun of them over their sexuality. In 2012, Dubai authorities jailed a British man on gay sex charges.