Immigration officials at Dubai International Airport reportedly detained Gigi Gorgeous for more than five hours on Tuesday, and may still have her passport, simply because she’s transgender.
Gorgeous told gossip site TMZ, which was the first to break the news, that an immigration official stopped her after a flight and said, “I was told you are transgender. You cannot come into the country.”
Dubai officials have claimed that the Canadian trans woman YouTube celebrity’s passport had not been updated to reflect her authentic gender identity, but Gorgeous outright rejects that claim, telling TMZ that her photo is current and her name is listed as Gigi Loren.
After she was released Tuesday, Gorgeous shared an emotional photo on Instagram that has since gone viral, even getting shared by pansexual pop star Miley Cyrus.
“Yesterday was one of the scariest moments of my entire life and I wouldn't wish it upon anyone,” Gorgeous wrote in her Instagram post. “How you can be denied entry somewhere just because of who you are is seriously disgusting and also very scary. This further proves the need for CHANGE. I am now on my way to somewhere much more accepting. Safe and sound and happy.”
Out father and blogger Perez Hilton suggested that Gorgeous’s detention should serve as a “warning to all LGBT people: stay away from Dubai!”
Let this serve as a warning to all LGBT people: stay away from Dubai! https://t.co/4t7SJt8dtU
— Perez (@ThePerezHilton) August 10, 2016
This isn’t the first time Dubai has caught international attention for allegedly mistreating transgender women traveling through the United Arab Emirates. In late 2014, a pair of transgender women from Brazil were detained in Dubai for two days, charged with “indecent acts,” which includes a ban on “men imitating women.” Law enforcement officials reportedly confiscated the women’s passports, and refused to return them until the women appeared in court to address the charges more than four months after they were initially arrested.
Dubai is perhaps the best-known city of the United Arab Emirates, and the international airport in the modern metropolis boasts that it is the busiest international flight hub in the world. While Dubai is known for its ultramodern skyscrapers and state-of-the-art business community, Emirate society is founded on Sharia Law, which does include harsh proscriptions against LGBT people, including approving capital punishment for individuals caught loving someone of the same sex. The legal prohibition on “men dressing as women” not only targets transgender people directly — as Gorgeous and others have discovered — but also serves to reinforce the rigidly gendered, patriarchal society that UAE culture is built upon.