This is the article published in Vecherniy Bishkek newspaper which is the largest in Kyrgyzstan with circulation of 700 thousand copies. Alex, FtM transsexual, spoke about his situation in his family and in general about what it means to be transsexual. He has been recognized on the streets after the article publication.
Very special thanks to CXW for doing all the article translations.
Vechernii Bishkek Friday, May 26, 2006
I gazed into Alex’s expressive eyes for a long time, this young being who so passionately wants to change his sexual “affiliation”. And I was still left wondering who exactly was sitting before me?
This “guy” is now 24 years old, and was born in Kant… as a girl. He completed his schooling in Jalalabad, dreams of becoming a sociologist and conducting research, knows English well. He knows all the details of his problem. He found work with Public Association Labrys’ social support project for sexual minorities. Alex has set a goal of changing from Eve into Adam, and intends to achieve this come what may.
For transsexuals, such as Alex, it is insulting to confuse/conflate them with gays and lesbians. They don’t like the body that they were born in, their soul strives to free itself from it. Psychiatrists call this problem “gender disorientation”.
“Ever since my early childhood, as I remember, I wanted to be a boy,” says Alex. “I played with the lads in the yard. My parents didn’t let me wear trousers, took away my toy guns, and I cried… From the age of 13 or 14 I tried to change myself, something broke inside and I understood: something in me wasn’t right, wasn’t as it should be. I tried to dress like a girl. The fight against myself continued until I was 19, but I was afraid to speak openly about it.”
In the beginning his parents didn’t put much pressure on him, they thought it was just an adolescent phase that would pass soon enough and he’d turn out to be a normal girl. However, problems arose when Alex, who was by this time already a third year student, left his studies at Bishkek Humanities University. At first the lecturers thought well of him, since this lad, to outward appearances, was getting excellent marks. But then someone mentioned his “non-traditional sexual orientation”, his apparently being a girl who was not entirely indifferent to the female sex, in the dean’s office…
“They didn’t understand that I’m transsexual and called me “lesbo”, announcing that they didn’t need perverts in the department.”
Alex’s sister went to the dean’s office to find out the reasons for her “brother’s” departure from the university. Having heard the claims, she went home in hysterics and told their father everything. And he responded by beating his child. Life at home became unbearable. They stopped thinking of him as a person, constantly denigrated him, calling him… a hermaphodite. Six months have already passed since Alex left home, but even now he’s afraid of retribution from his father. At the same time, he’s prepared to fight for his rights and publicly insist on the freedom to choose one’s sex.
“My father beat me mercilessly, since he considered me to be disgrace to the whole family. But what crime did I commit? I was simply born a little different, but I’m not a rapist, nor a drug addict, not a murderer. My family and parents are the biggest problem. It’s very hurtful that they don’t accept me, that I’m an outcast for my own relatives.
My conversation partner acknowledged that, feeling his outward indeterminacy and physical weakness, he is constantly terrified of sexual violence. I looked at him and tried to listen to my feelings arising from talking to this strange person: despite his independent character and strength of will, hints of vulnerability and helplessness show through in Alex.
Now Alex is faced with collecting a whole lot of documents, undergoing medical examination, getting a diagnosis from psychiatrists, psychologists and endocrinologists, before he can get permission to undergo the operation that he hopes will change his whole life. And change it for the better.
Alex is certain that this is his conscious decision, that all his fulminations, depression and doubts about his gender identity have passed. He thinks of himself only in the masculine gender.
“”But if nature created you as a woman, is it worth going against nature, dooming yourself to moral and physical torment? After all, the operation might not help – one problem is solved, others arise…””
“”Before deciding to take such a step, it is worth thinking long and hard: are all those anaesthetics and medicines that will have to be taken for one’s whole life necessary? I understand that there is little good to come of it from the medical point of view, but after hormone therapy there are serious changes in one’s appearance: the body takes on harder, more masculine lines, facial hair appears, the voice deepens. But the longer I live the more I realise that there is no other way. Just surviving one day is complete torture for me. I am safe only when I am sitting alone at home. I only have to go outside and every minute is tense. Often I’m simply asked if I’m a boy or a girl. I can’t stand it that people think I’m still a child. I don’t want to lay down the gauntlet and emphasise that I’m transgendered. I simply want society to know that people like me exist. They don’t have to approve, just treat us with respect and not insult us.
Alex tried to convince me that he has more than a few male friends, that they accept him as one of them and don’t feel any particular difference.
“”I grew up with boys. I don’t think that there are any substantial differences between us. The only thing is that now I try not to get caught up in any fights or adventures. One needs to have good health with my status. At the moment I go swimming. I’d like to go back to studying karate…””
According to his passport Alex has a female name, and confusion is often caused by this in everyday life. When trying to find a job people cannot understand the special case in front of them: going on appearance a young guy, but according to his documents he’s a woman. Going abroad one time all the passport officers studied his passport photo for a long time and kept on checked it against the “”original”” – wasn’t the photo a fake?
Regarding the problem of visiting public places, especially toilets, Alex openly stated that he uses the men’s, since when he was studying in his first year at university there was a misunderstanding in the ladies’ toilet: some girls started shouting and shoving him. They were upset that some male student had seen fit to come into the ladies’. After that he didn’t set foot there.
“”And in the men’s then everything is very gentlemanly, what sort of problems could there be there?!”” he stated calmly.
Doctors generally treat him if not with understanding, then at least without prejudice. Granted, there was an incident with a female urologist who was in a state of confusion: who exactly had come for an appointment?
Alex knows that he’s not the only one and actively talks with others like him in Bishkek and writes to friends abroad. He was even at an international conference in Geneva held by an international organisation for the protection of the rights of sexual minorities and transsexuals. Of course, Western experience is not comparable with what happens here. There, attitudes to such “”transformers”” is more tolerant.
Alex hopes that his transformation process will be complete in two years. Well then, in a couple of years we’ll meet with him again. But for the time being, good luck, future macho!
And how is it there?
In developed countries many transsexuals have achieved impressive successes in their careers. In the opinion of psychologists, this happens due to the fact that the process of finding their real “”I”” acts as a strong catalyser for people’s hidden personal capabilities. And they try and give these capabilities every possible chance to develop, since for such particular people it is very important that society acknowledges that they belong to the other sex.
In South East Asia, amongst Indians and Buddhists who believe in reincarnation, such anomalies usually attract less attention than in the West. Eastern philosophy teaches not to be a slave to thoughts like “”I’m a man”” or “”I’m a woman””. Gurus consider that these are only roles, while the body is “”a temporary location for the eternal and genderless soul””.
Here in Kyrgyzstan at the moment only two people have undergone operations and transformed from ladies into knights. And only one young man has become a woman.