Monica, 22 years old, Tbilisi / Telavi
Seeking for myself…
It was exactly five months ago I confessed to myself and to my friends I was a transgender woman and couldn’t live otherwise, didn’t find it worth living otherwise. I’ve spent 22 years looking for myself though. My memories start from the age of 6 when I began to grasp I didn’t fit the stereotypes our society has set for men.
This is a thing which you get to know since as a child, you feel it or need to think about it. As we grew up, My sister and I developed our values somewhat on our own. There were no stereotypes which we were weaned on. We grew up and get to know things somehow naturally. I used to do as I please, play whatever toys I liked. My feelings were rather obscure in those days. It was like when you watch your heteronormative peers playing with toy cars, and it’s beyond your understanding what is it that attracts them. I’d rather play hide-and-seek and dodgeball or dress up girls on a computer. These are small details though they lead you to the understanding that you’re different. However, you hesitate to give it a name as you’re unable to explain your behaviour being too young to understand what is it happening to you.
I was rather lucky that no violence has ever taken place in my family. My parents never prevented me from playing whatever games I was into. Even my clothes were not typical boyish – I always dressed in unisex clothing unrestrained by the family. That is why I have no bitter or tragic memories from my childhood or teenage years.
However, it was painful the process of seeking myself, the greatest confrontation within me where more than one personality existed. All the people were confused about my gender. It was especially noticeable with strangers. Cab drivers always mistook me for a woman and addressed me as “Ms”. Such things annoyed me instead of enjoying as I myself couldn’t see my gender. I remember growing my beard intentionally in order not to be mistaken for a woman, but even beard grew sparsely and then they took me for a beardy woman. My voice was also thin, feminine. And I had no answer whether I was a man or a woman.
However, I remember I always had a dream; I used to close my eyes and fancy myself a woman with children and husband. This dream of mine helped me to get over the severe conflict within myself.
All transgender women school stories are quite similar. No exception in my case as I was an object of severe bullying at school. they used to call me names such as “faggot”, “sissy” etc. I can’t help laughing now, but it can be a bitter pill to swallow when you’re 13-14. I shudder even now as I recall it.
Though, thanks to my nature, everybody loved me. What a sweet child, we love him so much, they used to say about me. People have always loved me as they saw kindness in me.
I came out five months ago and told everything as it was to my family and friends.
What coming out feels like? I would express the feeling in a single sentence – this is seeing yourself as a one, whole person. After coming out, when I woke up in the morning with the whole personality. All the worries, ambiguities and troubles disappeared. You know, I felt such a lightness as if I was a butterfly. Out of this lightness, I burst into tears of happiness. Impossible to describe with words the joy it was.
First I told my mom, who’s in Greece, via Messenger. She couldn’t accept it and lost me. Then I told my friends, some of them also turned their backs on me. In a way, I had a guilty conscience about my parents as they never maltreated but always supported me, thoughts that I disappointed them and committed a crime by discovering my own identity made me feel terrible. But then I realized it was worth it, and I had no intention of giving up my life for anybody.
I think people who’re going to come out better visit a psychologist first. Psychologists’ services are now free for transgender people. For if you’re mentally fragile, it will destroy you, this finger-pointing, mockery, hate. I was lucky to have people around supporting me, so I survived.
Endless days of freedom
I dress in women’s clothes now. I don’t think of myself as beautiful, just an ordinary girl who likes to dress plainly. I never wear defiant clothes. I’ve never lived in isolation but walk the streets 24/7, meet new people and enjoy it very much. My freedom is mine, and I’d give anything for it. In the surroundings where hate prevails over love, I, of course, face the threat of physical violence, but I take a risk. I love life, communication and can’t afford to isolate myself. My new name is Monica.
Every door has its key
After finishing my 9th year at school, I got the job on television. My dad, who worked as a driver there, knew about my dream of being a journalist. He helped me to get to the right place. At first, he insisted on me learning cameraman’s craft, so I worked as a cameraman for about a year. After I became a journalist though, “Moambe” reporter at Public Broadcaster. Later, I completed my education and earned a bachelor’s diploma in videography, editing and journalism.
I fulfilled another my dream as well – have taken singing classes at Valerian Shiukashvili school where Sophia Nizharadze taught me singing. Now I’m ready to record a song and going to do it soon.
On the whole, unemployment is a huge problem for transgender women. On the one hand, it is caused by homophobic and hostile attitudes at jobs. Many transgender women have no proper qualifications though. This is often because of violence in their families and surroundings since the age of 13. They have to run away and, therefore, are unable to receive a proper education. Then they had to struggle for the survival, to earn just their daily bread and live in the shelter. Often the only job that turns up for transgender people is prostitution, which is not their choice so that they have to work risking their neck every day.
By the way, I too had to work as a sex-worker. I needed it for the survival. I worked for about 3-4 months. It wasn’t tough period tough, thanks to my nature, as I knew it was temporary. I needed money for old rope in order to save some, improve my foreign language skills and then find a job somewhere else.
It’s been mere two weeks since I’ve got a manager’s job in Equality Movement Telavi branch. I already have two conference invitations. I’m going to Amsterdam for the AIDs awareness seminar.
You may be surprised at my boldness that a person with my identity decided to move from Tbilisi to Telavi. I am confident though that they will see me as I am with all my friendliness and appealing personality.
I don’t find surroundings here that hostile. Seeing that I’m capable of defending myself in a civilized way, they’d even apologize if they did something wrong.
Actually, people don’t have a hunch about my identity. I look so naturally and plainly that no unnecessary questions arise. Once, I met two older women in the street in Telavi. They were inviting me home to meet “Vakhuna” (Son, perhaps). As I refused, one of them said out loud “Leave her alone! Can’t you see? She’s the kind of girl who’ll have Vakhuna under her thumb”. They amused me a lot.
I’m definitely going to have a sex reassignment surgery. The only obstacle I have is money. In Georgia, these surgeries are a high health risk. The safest country in this regard is Thailand, where the surgery costs from 23,000 to 100,000 and above. So, my goal is to work hard to save money. As I always say, I’ll have woman’s body at least when they put me in a grave.
I’m fighting for changing my gender marker on my passport according to my true identity for it will make my life much easier. I won’t be subjected to humiliation and cynical attitude anymore. Change in documents will increase my self-esteem and make me happier. Today, the ministry of justice makes us face the necessity of sterilisation which is unacceptable to me personally.
Currently, I’m all alone. Never loved anybody. Just like in childhood, I often dream about family, a loved one and lots of children. I wish to have at least 4-5 children both my own and foster.
When meeting a man, the most painful is admitting your identity. It breaks my heart when I see how they turn their backs on me or care for a sexual relationship only. That is why I’m still alone.
My name was Misho before. And I’m not ashamed of it, I’ll never be, as the person with that name went through many things. This person made me strong as I am now, so he’s very dear to me.
Author: Maiko Chitaia
Photo Credit: Salome Sagaradze