#Talesoftransformation: Starting a New Life with a 100 Gel.

#Talesoftransformation: Starting a new life with a 100 Gel.

Queer.ge presents a new section in which transgender women and men will tell the stories of their transformation. They will share their experience and observations related to the health and self-care issues of transgender people.

The first guest of the column is a 25-year-old transgender woman, Maria Kasenko.

Soap Operas and dreaming of being a woman.

When I was a child, I used to watch a TV show, the main character of which was a bullied, messy housewife that lived in a village and had lost connection with her womanhood. One day she just disappeared from the village and a few months later she returned, having completely changed, surprising everyone around her. I always wanted to do something like that. I wanted to disappear from the city in which I was born and raised, to one-day return as a completely different person. I wanted to wear the prettiest dress and to walk proudly in front of all of my friends and family members, surprising them and showing them who I really am.

I was 10-11 years old when I left my house due to the homophobic environment. The state granted me the status of a victim of domestic violence and I was placed in a shelter. After this I came to Tbilisi and met Bianca, who was the first transgender woman in my life. At first I was scared, I couldn’t tell if she was a woman or a man. However, soon we became friends and I learned so many things from her.

After meeting Bianca, I emigrated to Turkey, when I was 14-15 years old. Here I mat a lot of transgender women and understood that this could be my life as well.

A transformation that began with a 100 GEL and the first gift from a boy.

I lived in the worst part of Istanbul, where there was no electricity, conditions were inhumane and at night drug dealers lit fires in the street. This were the conditions in which the first steps of my transformation took place. I was next to the transgender women and we helped each other, supported one another and knew that we could do anything together. That’s why it wasn’t too hard for me to take that first step there.

I will never forget the day in Turkey, on which I decided to go to the shops with my transgender friend to by women’s clothes and various self-care items. It cost me 180-200 LIRAs there, which, in Georgian money, equals to about 100 GEL. The thing I bought was a brown Wig and a white pantyhose. I was incredibly happy: I liked how I looked, I thought I was perfect.

I will also always remember the day on which I got my first present from a boy. It was 14th of February, Valentine’s day. Until this, I always gifted presents to girls in school. But on this day, in Istanbul, I got a present from a boy and for the first time I felt like a woman.

While I was in Istanbul, I was very confident, I wasn’t scared of anything and I believed that everything would go well. My reality was shattered when I came back to Georgia, where a person  can be standing in front of you and tell you, that they will kill and destroy you.

Health of transgender people, hormone therapy and the path that every transgender woman goes through

In order to change your gender, you first need a psychiatrist’s conclusion that you really are a woman. This process requires about 3, 5 or even 10 years in other countries. However, in Georgia you can get it in a day. After getting that certificate, you have to change your name and gender in your identity card. Until now, it was impossible to change your gender in your ID card, however, today it is already possible.

Following the bureaucratic procedures starts the hormone therapy. Hormone therapy is very different for everyone. In developed countries medical examinations are performed on you and depending on your body and desires, the appropriate hormones are prescribed to you. The duration of hormone intake is also individual. For the first 3 months of hormone therapy you aren’t allowed to orgasm or else the hormones will be expelled from your body. When taking hormones, at first you can feel firmness near your nipple. Soon this spot pops and the breasts start growing.

Unfortunately, in Georgia this field is not regulated and we don’t have any specialists. That’s why transgender women go to the black market to buy hormones and then take them without consulting a specialist, which often has a tragic outcome. Hormones have a lot of side effects, such as drowsiness, weakness and damage to the liver, however these side effects only manifest themselves if the hormones are taken without a doctor’s supervision. Close communication with your doctor reduces the risk of side effects to a minimum.

I have lived in Belgium, where I was actively taking hormones, I had excellent results. Hormones that last for 2-3 months cost about 800 Euros and The state fully covered all expenses. The best scenario is to start hormone therapy at the age of 13-14. If a person is lucky enough to have a good family and to start hormone therapy at a young age, they will not need any kind of plastic surgery in the future.

My transformation process is still ongoing. Every day is a new life for a transgender woman. With each awakening, she tries to fit her masculine body into her feminine soul. My goal is to make my appearance feel like a fusion of both sexes, not to lose the masculine austerity and feminine tenderness that naturally follows me.

What my life would be like if I hadn’t taken this step

If I hadn’t taken this step to begin my difficult path of transformation, today I probably would have been one of those people that were ready to murder the journalists on 5th of July. I would’ve been a person that is mad at themselves, that failed to take the first step to change their own life and is now abusing others.

I would’ve gotten married, made both myself and my wife unhappy. I would be now stuck in an unwanted, miserable marriage, living my life the way that my neighbors, relatives, and family want, not the way I want to.

Advice to the people that are only now beginning this difficult journey

If you feel that you are transgender and you are planning on starting this journey, use the resources from your family to the maximum. Get good education, choose an appropriate profession, get skills that will be useful for your career in the future. I understand, that you want to do everything right now. But you have to wait until you’re stronger, more independent, have your own source of income. Without this the only outcome for you might be to get involved in sex-work.

Do not be afraid of the society and get ready: you will often feel humiliated, excluded, oppressed. Even in developed countries, where, unlike our country, transgender people are protected by law, they still encounter problems, there still is a distance between transgender people and the society. You need to be aware that in our country that will happen twice as much, or even 20 times as much.

Do not get engaged in sex work. I believe that the new generation of transgender women can change the reality and not become sex-workers. Such way of life has exhausted and destroyed me emotionally. I am only 25 years old and sometimes I feel like I’m 45.

My grandmother used to say that God does not put a person in a situation that they cannot overcome. I believe in this and so should you. There are troubles worse than this one, and so don’t be scared of your own womanhood or manhood that people are trying to force you to hide and destroy.

And finally – do not forget about the work that transgender women have put into going through this path before you. Don’t think that the fact that the environment is slightly better for transgender people now is only your achievement. Before going to a hair salon and get various procedures done without a problem, remember the times during which we had to call the salons in advance to close them and then go there together. I remember how hard all of this was the first time we went there – a lot of places refused to even book hair-removal procedures for us. All of those things are now possible thanks to transgenders before you and it is important to appreciate them. There used to be a story of Mamuka-Maka transgender getting beaten up, which has been forgotten by most people, but I remember it very well. For your safety we have spent nights in hospitals: I have been stabbed in my arm, some have gotten their throats cut open, someone has had a gun be put in their mouth, someone was killed in the street. It is a crime to forget about all of this.

Myths and Stigma about transformation

The first myth about transformation is that it is necessary to get vaginoplasty. It is an extremely complicated procedure. In developed countries it takes you years to get ready to have this procedure done. You have to go through extensive medical and psychological assessment and not everyone can deal with the risks of the operation. Do not listen to the society that is forcing you to get vaginoplasty, as if you cannot be a full-fledged woman without it. Listen to your own wishes, and if you do not want to take this step – do not do it.

I am often asked – why don’t you look like a transgender this/that transgender woman? – every one of us is an individual and this individuality is what created our appearance and beauty. It is not necessary for all of us to be pretty in the same way. Another widespread myth about transformation is that you have to get a lot of plastic surgery done and be pretty like a doll. Why is that necessary? As if unless you’re pretty and perfect you cannot be a woman.

Aging of transgender people

I am really curious to see what the aging of Georgian transgender women looks like. Unfortunately, none of transgenders in Georgia were let to reach an old age. Their lives were ended prematurely by transphobia and our state that encourages violence.

If my life manages to reach an old age, I want to have peaceful retirement, to leave far away from the city in a small house, take care of animals, have a garden with flowers and for my past path to be a good example for young transgender women and men.

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