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Bahraini woman wins battle to become a man

Zainab to Hussein legal name-change is next

A Bahraini man won his three-year legal battle to have his sex change officially recognized by the courts, press reports said on Thursday, in a culture where such topics are seen as taboo.

Formerly known as Zaineb, 34-year-old Hussein Rabei, was only the second Bahraini woman to successfully undergo sex change surgery and be recognized as male by the courts.

"I'm so happy and relieved that they (the court) ruled in my favor because this has been a long journey and it's finally over," he told the Gulf Daily News after the High Civil Court issued its verdict yesterday.

Rabei must now wait another three months to legally change his name to Hussain, as the courts are about to break for summer, the paper said.

"There's no point attempting that now because the court holidays are soon," he said of the formality that must be completed at the Lower Civil Court.

Rabei was raised as a girl after being born with genitalia that more closely resembled a vagina than a penis. Doctors ignored growing signs that Rabei may in fact be male and she was even briefly married to a man.

Rabei underwent successful sex change surgery in Thailand -- a $13,000 procedure paid for by the Bahrain Health Ministry and approved by both Sunni and Shiite clerics.

Most Muslim scholars say changing one's sex is forbidden unless it is related to an intersex condition such as Rabei's.

But life has not been easy for him – Rabei was forced to leave work, psychiatrists refused to counsel him and he was shunned by his peers.

"I'm not saying I'm not under intense pressure, but as long as what I'm doing is right medically, religiously and legally, I don't care what people say," he said earlier this year. "Praise God, I feel like I'm a man, I feel like I'm myself."

Rabei's is one of a range of relatively rare conditions in which there is a mismatch between the body's sexual genetic code and its physical make up. Instead of having two X chromosomes -- the female pattern -- he has an XY or male configuration.