I am Amanda, a transgender woman. Forced sex worker and artist.
Childhood, grandmother and family
As a child I was very cowardly and gentle. I loved volleyball and I also went in circles, but there were only girls in the group and the boy was me alone.
I was afraid of everything. I was totally afraid that someone would hurt me. I was scared even when my father came home drunk and hit my mother. In one such case, I took a knife and told my father, hit me, but please do not hit my mother. After that, he did not touch her anymore.
The most positive memories and happy years of my childhood are associated with my grandmother. I had a perfect life until my grandmother was alive. She was everything to me – Grandmother, Mother, Father… Grandma was God to me and her word – the law. From the beginning she noticed that I was different, she always fought for me and defended me. When she died, the ground was swept under my feet and this stage of life ended. I learned a few qualities from my grandmother – she was never unfair, she was a little strict and she never gave up. I will not give up either – even if ten men beat me and even if they beat me hard, I will not give up and I will fight to the end, even if I follow my friends who are no longer alive.
I do not live with my family today, but I have contact with my mother, sister and father. If I need money and I call my mother, she asks me how much I need and if she does not have it, she will definitely find a way to get it. She is my mother still. No matter where you go, no matter who you meet and fall in love with, the price of parenthood is still invaluable. The family has a completely different place in a person’s life and it lasts forever.
Puberty and sex-work
I was 12 years old when I realised who I was. I also had my first cigarette then. I used to be a straight A student at school, but at that age everything changed radically – the teacher told me, you are no longer that child, they changed you. Then I had my first sexual intercourse with a man, at his initiative. He did not force me, but he was older than me – 19 years old, which from this point of view is pedophilia. He was the son of my mums friend, and my mother still blames herself for everything, “if i had saved you, you would not be like that today”.
I got involved in sex work at 12 years old. Pedophilia is flourishing today, an then it was even more – when they learned, I was a child, they paid three or four times more. I was little, I saw that I could make easy money and then I liked it all. Over time, this approval became self-preserving and a kind of job, and then I realised I had gotten into something very bad.
Self-defence and Jail
Generally, where there is aggression, I leave that environment, but if I or my friends are physically attacked, a radically different Amanda wakes up to fight. Sometimes they stand on the other side of the road and look at me, “if you want something, come and get it” i say, but they are afraid.
I first had to defend my rights with the police in 2004. Zizi and I, who is no longer alive, stood at the circus. The police came and told me i could not stand there. “Give me half of your salary and I will not stand here” – I said, I answered. “Why should I give it to you?” he asked and, “oh, why should I leave this area?” — I answered. I made a scene, then was a time when people were being killed at the circus and no one cared about this.. During this period, the oldest transgender woman in Georgia, Maka-Mamuka’s throat was split open. Also, it was a very high-profile case when four boys beat me and it turned out that all four were police officers. After that, the employees of the Ministry of Defense attacked the employees at Ortachala station. On this day, even the ambulance doctors were such homophobes that they did not give me first aid. Then the journalists came and when they saw that I was bleeding, they were shocked at the sight.
In order to protect myself and my rights, I also spent some time in prison – I was out of work when a stranger came and asked for my services, we agreed on a price. when he was supposed to give me the money he swore at me. I became enraged, I took it, I took my money, and i beat him, he had 10-20 GEL more and I took that too. He went and sued for the robbery. Everything was messed up. Then we were one of few trans people rioting they didn’t like that and they put me. away. I spent seven years in prison. I can not say that I felt bad. It was a kind of school and I learned a lot – patience, recognising people, protecting myself… I was locked in four walls alone. I asked for a library, books were brought to me and i read them. I created my world and I was in that world, I had makeup and everything. The most difficult was the first and last year in prison. The first year it was getting used to it, and the last – the expectation for release. Those five years flew by so quick I didn’t process it.
Equality, Women and Queer women
The life of a transgender woman is different from the life of other women, although the life of women and trans people in our country has almost the same price. Women are not valued. This is a country where every tenth call to 112 is about violence against women.
We are told that we have equal rights. How can I have equal rights when I get on public transport, someone will stone me. I am equal in that I pay the same taxes as others. When the policeman is sitting in a car bought with my tax money, should he not help me?!
Freedom for me is living in a quiet environment where I am not reprimanded for being different. I am not looking for a perfect life. It is a shame when the whole world stands proudly on its feet and we have yet to stand. It is a shame when a person is not given a job because he or she is gay or lesbian. Trans people are the most vulnerable group because they can not going to hide their identity. Gays may disguise, lesbians may tolerate, but transgender woman can not tolerate. The case of transgender is completely different. If I lived like a boy, I would not lack anything – I would have a good job and a house but I am this way and I want to be accepted like that.
I will tell queer women living in a hostile environment to be strong, not to give up, to always do what they think is right. Do not be afraid, There are many of us. I recommend that all of them always say what they have to say out loud so that everyone can hear.
Physical and Mental health
If I have a health problem and need financial help, I turn to the organisations that work on these topics and they direct us. They know the doctors who can provide services and consultation. Also, they have psychologists and if we needed to, the organisations that would let us in at its own expense.
The problem for transgender women is funding hormonal therapy, it is very expensive and so far, not funded. It is necessary for everyone who wants to go through the transition.
Motivation, Support and Hope
This is how a they understand transgender women in Georgia – because you are trans, you should be involved in sex work. However, a new generation of transgender women who are not involved in sex work are coming and I am very happy about it. They have the support of the family, when your child is like this, you can’t prohibit them, it makes no sense, on the contrary, you need to help. They used to be ashamed of such children. This smart and strong future generation also motivates me to fight and I hope they will live in a freer country than we do now.
Despite everything I went through, I made a lot of friends during this period and I felt the support of many people. Especially, I will highlight July 6, when i remember that day i still get shivers down my spine. I saw a lot of faces that day who are not trans people, gays, lesbians at all, but I saw them standing there, next to us. They sang the Georgian national anthem with us under the flag and suddenly this emotion and love gathered in one …. It was very exciting.
What should we do? How did we survive?
To change this environment, people need to get more education and information on the subject. Unfortunately, there are many uneducated people living in our country, but it is not the fault of the society, it is the fault of the government – they remember their voters only on election day, and at other times they do not care what they need.
I think that as long as there is this government, nothing will help us, they will sow hatred. Where the church comes out and says, kill in the name of Christ, how can we talk?! Until that happens, people will be oppressed because of their differences.
I think that all transgender people should introduce themselves to the society from a different angle, such as artist, singer, dancer, sportsman, etc. I remember the biggest wow for me was when I heard that a transgender woman was employed by Barack Obama in the White House. All people are equal and whether they like it or not, they will have to admit it.
I am going to leave Georgia soon. Why do I want to go? Because I exist here and I will live there. I have other dreams and plans – I want to get rid of sex work, graduate from an art academy and become a famous artist. Famous transgender female artist.
Now i work at one place, in a distribution where the boss knows I’m in a trans, but the condition is that I do not disclose it at work. I told him that I was going to leave Georgia and I wanted to save money. The staff knows nothing about me, I do not allow them to talk to me about this topic. There is one woman whom I respect very much, she calls me “my girl”. She realises who I am and so she calls me like that, it makes me very happy.
I have been drawing since I was very young, I have no education, I am self-taught. I mastered drawing techniques on the Internet, watched video tutorials on how to draw people, animals, various figures or objects, and added my vision and style to my education. I took painting seriously in 2012, when I had to paint on behalf of one of the NGOs, after that there was a penitentiary where I drew icons and made a living, other inmates bought my icons and I had a small income, along with income, it gave me a lot of experience.
The women I paint depict specific moments of my life, by painting these women I express my inner state and the stage am in. By portraying this character as a woman, I want to remind the public that we, women, are not going to stop, it is true that no one has taught us to fight, but we are ready to fight for our rights the way men do. Gone are the days when women were associated with the oppressed group, in our country and in the world in general, it’s long gone, the slavery of women ended with the years of the rule of our female king, Tamar. Unfortunately people do not remember it and I want my paintings to remind people of this.
I want to include a lot of ideas in my paintings, but what I would probably single out the most is saying no to hatred, no to violence, no to transphobia, and no to oppression of people of different genders, religions, or sexual orientations. It is also common in our community when people of different sexual orientations are intolerant of each other, do not allow each other, develop, become stronger, with my drawings I want to call upon these people to show more acceptance, and the same goes for the rest of society. I want to show that it does not matter whether you are a woman or a man, transgender or gay, black or white, through my drawings, I try to erase the boundaries that are imposed between people and my characters do not have the characteristics that make hate and confrontation so common.
My grandmother used to tell me as a child that life is a huge cake, everyone’s gets a piece of this huge cake, there is no person who does not have their share, but there are people who try to take someone else’s cake pieces. My creativity is based on these words of my grandmother, I want to tell everyone with my drawings to do their part, not to take anyone and at the same time not to allow anyone to steal from others.
My only dream is to graduate from an art academy, I have friends in Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands, they promise to help me get into university. I want to live more peacefully, spend more time painting and create drawings that will give me and others pleasure. I’m not going to stop, and when it comes to queer artists, I always say and urge people – wake up, do what you like! Do you sing – Sing, do you paint? – Paint! If you have something to say, be sure to say i, find your medium, change people’s attitudes towards the LGBT community!
The interview was prepared with the support of the Women in Georgia Foundation (WFG)
Author: Nino Urushadze
Photos: Vakho Kareli