Τετάρτη 9 Απριλίου 2014

This is my body and I’ll handle it: how much do we, transgender people, know about sex reassignment surgery?

The translation is by Lea Vittoria Uva
This article is inspired by the story published by Elena Trimarchi
Before meeting my partner, a transgender woman, I believed that vaginoplastic surgery, the building of a neovagina, was today a procedure with definite outcomes and very rare complications.
I thought that she could simply “choose” to have one set of genitals attributable to femininity, or find her balance in another way, while I, as a transgender man, had to deal with a “gap” that was harder to bridge, since phalloplastic surgery is at a much more experimental level, with outcomes that are very hard to predict.
I had reached this conclusion by reading books that only talked about sex reassignment surgery for MtF (male to female) in a positive way, describing techniques, interviewing surgeons, bringing testimonies only of the moment of surgery and of its preparation; they made of surgery the arriving point of a hard and “desperate” path, but hard only up until that moment, because after surgery the doors of heaven would open.
Clearly, I lacked of real and honest contacts with women who had gone through this surgery, without catwalks, conventions, without having to convince others and yourself that everything is fine, someone who’d speak their mind about this.
My partner didn’t share this lack of contact with others, and therefore had a much more realistic idea of the situation: she knew people who, after surgery, had urinary infections, clitoral necrosis, or problems with their limbs due to the position kept for hours during surgery.
Now I’m also wiser and I understand that trans women have to take a leap into the unknown when they decide to have genital reconstruction. But what is the information available to these women? What are the expectations and myths within the transsexual community in regards to surgery?
I read on the website of S.Camillo-Forlanini Hospital, under “Complications” in the description given for vaginoplasty, a procedure performed in this hospital:
Even though it’s rare, there can be severe complications. This procedure requires much care since it involves an area of the body where there are particularly vulnerable organs such as the rectum and the bladder. Wounds on these organs can create fistulas (openings between the rectum and the neovagina, or between the bladder and the neovagina) with consequent loss of urine or feces through the neovagina itself, and a number of resulting problems, including severe ones (local or generalized infective processes). These complications require delicate and elaborate reparative surgery and the processing of the complex psychological effects related to said complications.
Less severe and infrequent complications are hematoma, seroma, infection or suppuration; they generally heal spontaneously with proper medications.
Sometimes part of the skin used to create the vagina’s internal lining can be so little vital that it leads to necrosis. In this case, a marked shrinkage of the vagina can be determined, since the dead skin causes a scar which tends to pull back. If that is the case, a new surgery can be needed to remodel and enlarge the neovagina.
Are complications deemed “severe” only if they constitute a danger to the patient’s life, or also if they compromise the outcome of the surgery in the long term, without them being a matter of life-or-death for the person?
Is having to go through surgery again a severe complication, or not?
For example, vagina’s stenosis is when a neovagina loses its depth and therefore becomes inadequate for a sexual penetrative life, or closes entirely: is that a severe complication or not?
Knowing the reasons why a transsexual woman decides to undergo such a complicated surgery I’d say yes, but it doesn’t seem so rare, if we look at the results of a study presented at a national SIA convention, in Turin, in October 2012.
To my surprise, I read that out of forty-two patients who underwent a surgery to build a neovagina between 2005 and 2012 at CIDIGEM in Turin, eight had stenosis, and three a complete coarctation of the vagina itself; that makes it one in four.
Interesting how the same study says there are no statistic elements to predict this complication… patients must simply be lucky.
As a transsexual person, I have to say that undergoing further surgeries isn’t a minor complication, from both a physical and an emotional viewpoint.
How prepared are trans* people to to deal with all this stress, and how much are they, instead, made to believe that surgery will be the end of their suffering, with even tragic repercussions when this doesn’t happen?
A Swedish research, “Long-Term follow up of Transsexual Persons Undergoing Sex Reassignament Surgery”, studied the follow up of people who underwent sex reassignment surgery in that Country from 1973 to 2003, and drew thought-provoking data: higher risk of suicide in the transsexual population compared to the cisgender one, and more resorting to psychiatric help.
The authors of the study advise more post-op psychological support, and more access to body care.

This, in my opinion, is also an Italian problem: in our country, transsexual people have to undergo a preventive psychotherapy – which, according to ONIG protocols, can’t last less than six months – in order to access the transition process, even if “only” hormonal.
This may prove to be an oxymoron and a situation that can cause difficulties to both the operator and the user: a forced psychoterapy, effectively a forced medical treatment. This said, when the “gate keeper” (the psychologist or psychiatrist involved) diagnoses GID to the patient, and when the patient is given access to hormones and surgery (after the court’s permission), the transsexual person is left alone. Alone with a body that is changing, alone to deal with a transphobic society and institutions, alone when looking for information on surgery, alone when said surgery doesn’t end up being what they believed it’d be or doesn’t go how it was supposed to go.
How much do the operators of specialized centers inform users about the outcomes of surgeries? Is any attention given so that “patients” have a clear idea of what will be done to their bodies, and so that their expectations are realistic?
I’ve met a psychologist who does post-op interviews to transsexual people at the Cattinara Hospital in Trieste, after I had my top surgery in that facility. He told me that many people have completely unfounded expectations about the surgery they just had, like the “neo-woman” who believed they would “implant” an uterus in her body.

For this reason, he’s trying to strengthen this support service inside this facility.
I’ve personally witnessed the case of a gynecologist who had to call the structure that was following her FtM patient to ask if the boy had or did not have his uterus removed, since he didn’t know. Yet he had his hysterectomy performed not long before!
It would therefore be beneficial to concentrate the operators’ (and the trans community’s) efforts on the support these people need in the hardest moments (like when surgery doesn’t go how it was supposed to), rather than on preventive psychology, which most trans people perceive as hostile and punitive.
It would also be essential that surgeons gave clear and verifiable information regarding the outcomes of the surgeries they perform, regarding possible complications and the numerical incidence of those.
All of this is hardly doable without a follow up on sex reassignment surgeries and if transsexual people do not feel sufficiently comfortable to honestly and calmly discuss their experiences, to the benefit of the entire community.
The transsexual body is not a body that can be mangled, considered doomed and done for at the start, it’s a body to be respected instead, because, as all living bodies, it’s researching its own happiness and its greatest expression of well-being.

Ιατρικό Λάθος, Αμέλεια ή Αδιαφορία ο Θάνατος της Τζούλυ;

December 4, 2014
Μαρία Ψαρά

Έμαθα για τον θάνατο της Τζούλυ από μία ανάρτηση στο facebook. «Έφυγε από κοντά μας σήμερα το πρωί μία τρανς φίλη, ιδρυτικό μέλος του ​Σωματείου Υποστήριξης Διεμφυλικών. Νοσηλευόταν επί πολλές ημέρες στον "Ερυθρό Σταυρό", όχι γιατί έπασχε από κάτι, αλλά λόγω ιατρικής αισθητικής επέμβασης που πραγματοποίησε γιατρός σε άλλο νοσοκομείο, που κατά τα φαινόμενα υπήρξε ιατρική αμέλεια... Καλό σου ταξίδι Τζούλυ», κατέληγε το post.
Θέλησα να μάθω τι ακριβώς είχε συμβεί. Πώς είναι δυνατόν ένας άνθρωπος μόλις 43 ετών να μπαίνει στο χειρουργείο για λιποαναρρόφηση και να μη βγαίνει ποτέ. Έψαξα την δικηγόρο που έχει αναλάβει την υπόθεση, την Ηλέκτρα Κούτρα. «Ναι, είναι αλήθεια», απάντησε η δικηγόρος που ασχολείται συστηματικά με τα ανθρώπινα δικαιώματα τόσο στα ελληνικά δικαστήρια, όσο και στα ευρωπαϊκά. «Η μητέρα και τα τρία αδέλφια της θανούσας απαιτούν να διαλευκανθεί τι ακριβώς συνέβη στο γραφείο του γιατρού και στην κλινική, γιατί έγιναν τόσες παραλείψεις, γιατί δεν εκτιμήθηκαν οι σαφείς ιατρικές ενδείξεις για σοβαρή βλάβη στην υγεία της σε χρόνο που θα μπορούσε να σωθεί η ζωή της, γιατί αγνοήθηκαν οι αγωνιώδεις εκκλήσεις της Τζούλυ και οικείων της προς τον θεράποντα γιατρό ότι "κάτι δεν πάει καθόλου καλά", τι διαπίστωσαν οι γιατροί του δημόσιου νοσοκομείου που παρέλαβαν τη Τζούλυ σε συντετριμμένη κατάσταση, και σε κάθε περίπτωση να εξηγηθεί το πώς ένας άνθρωπος μπορεί να βρεθεί από μια αισθητική επέμβαση στον τάφο. Θα φροντίσουν να τιμωρηθούν οι υπαίτιοι του θανάτου της και να προστατευθούν και άλλες γυναίκες από αντίστοιχη εγκληματική ιατρική μεταχείριση».
Καθώς έψαχνα για την υπόθεση, φρόντιζα να μαθαίνω πράγματα για τη Τζούλυ. Έμενε σε ένα διαμέρισμα στην Καλλιθέα. Δούλευε στην Συγγρού - εκδιδόταν, αυτή ήταν η δουλειά της. Είχε καταγωγή από την Κρήτη. Η οικογένειά της ήταν στο πλάι της, την υποστήριζε. Τις τελευταίες εβδομάδες, στο πλευρό της ήταν όλα τα μέλη του Σωματείου Διεμφυλικών, που της στάθηκαν σαν οικογένεια... Η Τζούλυ αγαπήθηκε πολύ.
«Ο θάνατος της αδερφής μου ήταν επί πληρωμή, Μαρία», μου είπε η αδερφή της, η Βαγγελιώ που βρίσκεται σε προχωρημένη εγκυμοσύνη. «Μου είχε πει ότι θα έμπαινε για λιποαναρρόφηση. Εγώ δεν συμφωνούσα γιατί δεν είχε πολλά παραπάνω κιλά, αλλά εκείνη το ήθελε. Είχε βρει τον γιατρό από κάτι φίλες της. Ήταν ένας γνωστός πλαστικός χειρουργός στη Γλυφάδα που την ανέλαβε, την πήγε σε μια κλινική στον Πειραιά, που της είπε ότι συνεργάζεται, της πήρε 1.300 ευρώ. Μαύρα. Ούτε απόδειξη δεν της έκοψε», διηγείται.
Στις 7 Οκτωβρίου, η Τζούλυ υποβάλλεται στην αισθητική επέμβαση λιποαναρρόφησης στην κοιλιά. Μαζί της, έχει την Ελευθερία, φίλη της που θα την σταθεί μέχρι τέλους.
Ιατρικό λάθος, αμέλεια ή αδιαφορία επειδή η Τζούλυ ήταν τρανς γυναίκα; Είναι ένα ερώτημα που μένει να απαντηθεί, όχι μόνο στο δικαστήριο, αλλά και σε ηθικό επίπεδο
Ενώ αρχικά ήταν να βγει μερικές ώρες μετά το νοσοκομείο, βγήκε την επόμενη μέρα. «Πονούσε πάρα πολύ. Ο γιατρός μας έλεγε ότι αυτό είναι φυσιολογικό», περιγράφει η Ελευθερία, που νιώθει ακόμη πως ζει έναν εφιάλτη που θα τελειώσει μόλις ξυπνήσει... «Ο γιατρός μας είχε γράψει κάποια φάρμακα. Πήγα και της τα πήρα και ξεκίνησε αμέσως να τα παίρνει. Η κοιλιά της ήταν μπλε, όπως και τα πλευρά της. Αντί όμως να βελτιώνεται, η κατάσταση χειροτέρευε μέρα με την ημέρα. Δεν μπορούσε ούτε να σηκωθεί από το κρεβάτι της. Δεν μπορούσε να πάει μόνη της ούτε στην τουαλέτα. Είχε ανυπόφορους πόνους», λέει η Ελευθερία.
«Τηλεφωνούσαμε στο γιατρό κάθε μέρα και του ζήτησα να πάμε να τη δει ή να έρθει σε επίσκεψη κατ' οίκον. Το δεύτερο το απέρριψε γιατί δεν είχε χρόνο. Το πρώτο, συνεχώς μου το ανέβαλε», συμπληρώνει. Στη μία εβδομάδα, η Τζούλυ ήταν ζωντανό συντρίμμι. Την έκτη μέρα πια, η Ελευθερία αναγκάστηκε να καλέσει το ΕΚΑΒ και να την πάει στο Γενικό Κρατικό Νίκαιας, που εφημέρευε.
Εκεί ο γιατρός του δημόσιου νοσοκομείου διέγνωσε ότι η Τζούλυ είναι σε κρίσιμη κατάσταση. Η Ελευθερία αναφέρει ότι τους είπε ότι της σακάτεψαν το παχύ έντερο και πως είχε σηψαιμία. «Ολο αυτό το διάστημα, ο γιατρός που της έκανε την λιποαναρρόφηση αδιαφορούσε. Πριν μπει στο χειρουργείο, μίλησα μαζί της στο τηλέφωνο και μου είπε "Μην έρθεις από την Κρήτη. Δεν θα με προλάβεις ζωντανή". Το ένιωθε. Εγώ βέβαια πήγα. Από τότε που βγήκε από το χειρουργείο, ήταν σε καταστολή. Χρειαζόταν εντατική. Επειδή δεν υπήρχε κρεβάτι, μας έστειλαν στον Ερυθρό. Εκεί τελικά κατέληξε...», εξηγεί η Βαγγελιώ.
Σύμφωνα με την οικογένειά της, η Τζούλυ δεν είχε κανένα πρόβλημα υγείας. Από ένα αισθητικό χειρουργείο βρέθηκε νεκρή. «Γι' αυτό σου λέω κοπέλα μου. Η αδερφή μου πλήρωσε τον θάνατό της... Και μάλιστα μαύρα», επιμένει η αδερφή της.
Ιατρικό λάθος, αμέλεια ή αδιαφορία επειδή η Τζούλυ ήταν τρανς γυναίκα; Είναι ένα ερώτημα που μένει να απαντηθεί, όχι μόνο στο δικαστήριο, αλλά και σε ηθικό επίπεδο.
«Ο άδικος χαμός της φίλης μας της Τζούλυ, μας υπενθυμίζει για ακόμη μία φορά πόσο ευάλωτες είναι οι ζωές των τρανς ανθρώπων. Πόσο απροστάτευτοι βρίσκονται οι τρανς άνθρωποι, και πόσο συχνά αντιμετωπίζονται από το ιατρικό προσωπικό ως λιγότερο ή καθόλου άνθρωποι, δεν έχουν τη δέουσα ιατρική φροντίδα», είπε στο VICE η Μαρίνα Γαλανού, πρόεδρος του Σωματείου Διεμφυλικών. «Έχουμε αρκετές περιπτώσεις τρανς γυναικών (για τρανς άντρες δε γνωρίζω τόσα), που είτε αισθητικές επεμβάσεις είτε άλλες επεμβάσεις επαναπροσδιορισμού, είτε με ενέσιμα ενθέματα, γίνονται ιατρικά λάθη. Δεν θεωρώ ότι τόσα κρούσματα σε μία τόσο μικρή μειονότητα, γίνονται τυχαία. Η Τζούλυ κατέληξε και είχε αυτό τον τραγικό χαμό, έχουμε όμως αρκετές περιπτώσεις τρανς γυναικών που μετά από κακή ιατρική φροντίδα ταλαιπωρείται η υγεία τους», τόνισε η πρόεδρος του ΣΥΔ.
«Αν μία φίλη σου σού έλεγε ότι θέλει να κάνει αισθητική επέμβαση, τι θα της έλεγες;», ρωτάω την Ελευθερία. «Θα της έλεγα να μην τσιμπάει, για κανένα λόγο να μη βάλει τον εαυτό της σε τέτοιο κίνδυνο. Κι αν τελικά το αποφασίσει, να κάνει πολύ καλή έρευνα πριν καταλήξει στον γιατρό και το νοσοκομείο. Εχω φοβηθεί πάρα πολύ...», καταλήγει η Ελευθερία.
Για την ιστορία. Η Τζούλυ, που όλοι την ήξεραν γυναίκα και έτσι ήθελε να αυτοπροσδιορίζεται, τάφηκε ως Γιώργος. Το επίσημο κράτος και η εκκλησία δεν δέχθηκε τίποτα διαφορετικό...

"Trans people are the only group in Europe who are prescribed by law to go through sterilization" (R. Kohler, TGEU).


Con la sentenza n. 412/2013 del tribunale di Siena, sono 4 le persone transessuali MtF che hanno ottenuto il cambio anagrafico senza intervento chirurgico. Nel tribunale romano la prima risale al 1997, dove l'intervento è stato escluso a causa delle condizioni di salute del richiedente, più uno del 2011. Un'altra ha ottenuto la stessa cosa nel tribunale di Rovereto nel 2013.

In un'escalation di "sincerità" troviamo in dette sentenze queste frasi:
“sono descritti gli effetti della terapia ormonale femminilizzante (svolta dal ricorrente a decorrere dal 2003) sulla capacità a procreare nel sesso maschile, la quale risulta enormemente ridotta” (n. 5896/2011 Tribunale di Roma)

“dal 2009 lo stesso pratica terapia ormonale femminilizzante che ha determinato un mutamento del suo aspetto (e il probabile azzeramento del suo potenziale fecondante)” (n. 194/2013 Tribunale di Rovereto)

"La capacità di procreare, che sola potrebbe indurre a postulare la necessità dell’intervento anatomico, è venuta meno, come attestato dal c.t.u., a seguito della terapia ormonale" (n.412/2013 Tribunale di Siena).

Contestualmente un analogo procedimento in un altro tribunale è fermo proprio perché in dubbio la irreversibilità dello stato di sterilità. Eppure basterebbe aprire un motore di ricerca per trovare quanto segue:

"The alterations concerned both the germ cells and the Sertoli cells. The germ cells appeared altered right from the 1st stages of spermatogenesis; spermatogonia and spermatocytes suffered notable alterations to both the cytoplasm and nucleus. Their morphology also appeared altered in that they were smaller and flattened when compared to controls. The spermatids had vacuolesed cytoplasm and they were often polynucleated with acrosomes in contact with 2 or more nuclei at the same time. This phenomenon leads one of think that there has been a change in meiosis with a consequent arrest of cytodieresisThe polynucleated spermatids are destined to total degeneration. The Sertoli cells for the most part showed extensive phagocytosis with regard to the germ cells which were degenerating. Some Sertoli cells, however, show considerable cytoplasmic alterations. Therefore the cyproterone acetate acts directly both on the Sertoli cells and germ cells andcauses a blocking of the spermatogenic activity as seen by the scarce quantity of spermatozoa found in the lumen of the seminiferous tubules" (Link). 

Siamo sterili (o sterilizzate,  visto che il farmaco d'elezione per la transizione è anche tra quelli che provocano più danni a livello testicolare). Su questo non ci piove. Ma perché DOBBIAMO ESSERE STERILI, PER AVERE I DOCUMENTI?

Siamo probabilmente sterili, come tutte le persone che prendono lo stesso farmaco per ridurre l'iperplasia prostatica (per questo è nato) o di chi si sottopone a terapie radianti o chemioterapiche.

Di solito ci fanno firmare un consenso informato ad inizio terapia, che dice "sappi che probabilmente diventerai sterile". Negli altri casi sopracitati, invece, viene sottolineata la possibilità di conservare i gameti, cosa che a noi non viene praticamente mai chiesta e sapete perché?

Grazie alla legge 40, sulla procreazione medicalmente assistita, i nostri gameti sono inutilizzabili dopo l'adeguamento anagrafico. Le sopracitate MtF avrebbero conservato del seme maschile, diventando anagraficamente donne potrebbero usare questi gameti solo con una persona di sesso maschile, perché non è prevista alcuna possibilità di procreazione assistita per le coppie omosessuali. Una donna transessuale in coppia con una donna biologica appartiene ad una coppia legalmente gay, una volta avvenuto cambio anagrafico. Sottolineodopo il cambio anagrafico. Prima, quando i documenti sono maschili, l'ipotetica donna transessuale potrebbe ancora usare il suo seme per la procreazione medicalmente assistita della sua compagna, legalmente sarebbe una coppia eterosessuale.

Stesso corpo, diverso documento. 
Se cambi il documento devi rinunciare alla possibilità di procreare, oltre che al matrimonio.

Come tante persone transessuali, S. è un genitore rainbow, ha avuto un* figli* durante una precedente relazione eterosessuale, in barba a tutto il sistema transfobico che dobbiamo sopportare.




Undocumented citizen: Gee Imaan Semmalar (right)  with a friend in Bangalore
Undocumented citizen: Gee Imaan Semmalar (right) with a friend in Bangalore
I could see a visibly upset passport officer dialling somebody, wiping the sweat on his forehead and gulping water. He had the bundle of documents I had submitted for a new passport as I sat in a waiting room that was separated from his cabin by a glass door. It was an application to re-issue my passport with both my name and gender changed. I was ‘F’ in the old one, but had now become ‘M’ legally and socially after a sex re-assignment surgery. He might have seen many applications for name and address changes, but this was probably the first one for him in which someone was asking for a switch of gender.
The officer did not ask too many questions and just told me that he would process the application. A few days later, a policeman came home on a verification call. His confusion was palpable. He wanted to ask me about the gender change but could not. He had no vocabulary to express his transphobia (a fear-driven prejudice against transgenders and transsexuals). Later, I got a call from the policeman. “In the previous passport, the gender is female. In this application for a new one, it is changed. Is it a mistake or are you an impotent man?” he asked.
I could not resist laughing. “I am perfectly fine; I have submitted all the supporting medical records.”
He was not satisfied. “Okay, so can you have children?”
It was an entirely irrevelant question. India is not a country that issues passports only to people who can have children. No one else would have had to answer a question on impotence for a travel document. Later, I found out that he had sent an adverse report and now my application is stuck.
Even in my childhood, I knew that I was a transperson. For a long time, I used to wear my brother’s clothes and express myself as a boy. Scientific studies show that children become aware of their gender by the time they are three years old. Whenever I was given clothes that were too girly, I would refuse to wear them. I used to play only with my brother’s friends. At the age of 15, my body started changing. I could not deal with the onset of puberty. I had intense dysphoria. I would feel attracted to women, so for a long time I thought I was a lesbian. Transphobia is strong even in lesbian circles, so I was unable to express myself as a transman (female to male transsexual) for a long time.
Gender is not private, it is a public thing. I don’t subscribe to the narrative of ‘coming out’ that has been articulated by gay and lesbian activists. When has this ‘coming out’ happened for me? I have always been ‘out’. The moment you saw me, you’d know that this person asserts a different gender. However, in the case of a cisgender (the opposite of transgender, literally, with one’s gender identity remaining the same as one’s biological sex by birth) lesbian woman or a gay man, more often than not, you will not know her or his sexual identity unless told. There are multiple problems and a diverse range of issues faced by those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transmen, transwomen and so on. The media clubs them together as ‘the LGBT family’ although their experiences of social oppression differ.
Lesbian and gay activists have welcomed the recent Supreme Court ruling that granted transgender people official recognition as a third gender. However, I think there are many questions to be raised along with it. One issue is that this third gender category practically keepshijras or transwomen outside the purview of India’s existing laws, which are highly gender specific. To take an example, how does a third gender person file charges of rape? According to current rape laws, only women can be raped. The Supreme Court should have issued some directives on this matter, taking into account the high rate of crimes against transgenders.
Many transgenders would not like to go through the legal process of a gender change. In any case, India’s hijra community suffers such social exclusion that its members have almost no access to state-run medical facilities. Sex-altering surgeries within this community of transwomen are usually conducted by a person in the family, a so-called ‘thaayamma’ who depends on traditional knowledge systems. In such cases, there are no medical records of gender change. Transwomen, however, are far more visible than transmen, and so they find it easier to get voter identity cards issued with their chosen gender. Of transmen, awareness levels are so low that even our existence is doubted by many.
I went to Lady Shri Ram College in New Delhi. It was an all-women’s college and I don’t regret going there because it gave me the space and freedom to explore my sexuality. I am probably the only man in the history of LSR to have stayed in the hostel and enjoyed several relationships. When I later joined Jawaharlal Nehru University, I stayed in Godavari Hostel, which was meant only for women. The guard would stop me every night at the gate and say, “Sir, this is a ladies hostel.” And every night I would reply, “Yes, I know. I live here.” But never once could I bring myself to say, “Yes, I know. I am a woman.”
Once I had a bitter experience on a train trip from Bangalore to Kerala. The TTR checked my identity card, an old one. He looked at the photograph and then at me. His expression changed from suspicious to mocking as the interrogation proceeded. He called all the passengers in the compartment, showed them the identity card and said, “Look, this is not his card. This is the identity card of some woman. He is a man. How can he travel on another person’s ID?” Passengers came one by one and looked at me and the photograph. They added their own two bits to his mockery. You might never have gone through such an indignity in your life. This is what people like us go through every day— a constant policing of our gender expression, mocking disbelief, and dehumanising attitudes that strip us of our dignity in public.
Right now, I am an undocumented citizen of this country. This is a struggle, a very lonely journey. You ask me what I feel when I meet another transman? Imagine meeting another woman only after you’ve turned 24; can you imagine the isolation of that experience? It takes years, sometimes even a lifetime, for some transmen to find another like them. My mother has been my greatest support through all these years. It might be because she walked out of an abusive marriage with her young kids and struggled to raise us that she understands the struggle against heteropatriarchy. Or maybe it is the unconditional love of a mother.
After the surgery, I find a lot more male-dominated spaces opening up for me. I find it safer to travel at night, but, as someone who looks like an underage boy, I also feel some vulnerability. I am often grappling with questions of patriarchy. Boys my age crack sexist jokes and expect me to laugh. If I object, then I am a bore who doesn’t know how to have fun. I have in many ways learnt how not to be a man through my father, who was a negative role model for me. Everything he was, I try not to be.
I also feel my exclusion from certain spaces more starkly. For instance, a few years ago, a close friend of mine, another transman, was not allowed to be part of an e-group called Feminist India. This is an email list dominated by cisgender suvarna feminists. The reason they cited was that the group was exclusively meant for women, but they don’t have any transwomen on the list either. I don’t want to associate with such reductionist and biologically determinist feminism. I have also faced exclusion from civil society groups. I was kept out of a fact-finding body set up to look at displacement caused by a road project in Bangalore; one activist said others would be confused by my presence. I didn’t feel so bad because I think such groups are the least civil and do nothing but find facts anyway.
There is no natural solidarity between oppressed groups. On one hand, NGOs use our identities to get more funds, making hijras dependent on them for jobs that give them some sense of dignity. But at the same time, they work to control, police and discipline us through their projects and programmes. NGOs are, in that sense, government organisations. They display a benevolent face and deceive us. In the absence of any other job opportunities, we find more and more transpeople working for NGOs.
In my view, transpeople should not look for solidarity or support elsewhere. Instead, we must work tirelessly ourselves to make our political point, forge bonds of brotherhood and sisterhood, offer one another care and support, and fight systems of oppression together.
(As told to Shahina KK)

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