I am Cecile Tsomaia, a transgender woman. I was born in Poti, and I lived in Tbilisi for 10 years. After the events of July 4, I decided to move to Belgium, because I was attacked on various occasions. I had three near-death experiences because I was a civil activist and I participated in the rally of July 5.
Coming out, self-discovery and a fight for independence.
I was 9 when I realized that I felt physical attraction towards men. I was about 12 when I first got the urge to wear women’s clothes, put on make-up. All of this was very strange for me, because I didn’t have any kind of information and I thought I was the only person like this in the whole world. I was very young and I had to figure everything out on my own.
When I was 15 I met a person through social media that was in a similar situation, but they were much older and more conscious. This person encouraged me greatly and helped me to receive this information more easily, without much stress and questions. Thanks to them I found out that I wasn’t alone, that there are others like me; there was nothing to panic about, it wasn’t shameful.
After this I’d been trying to become more independent. I wanted to have my own income and for no one to have any influence over my life. I was getting ready to come out. When I was 18, I came out in my family. I told them that I was transgender and I wanted to start my transformation process. After this I moved to Tbilisi.
I imagine that if I hadn’t done this, my life would be even more miserable than a life of a transgender person. I would live only to be perceived by others, I would get married for no one to get any doubts about me. My life would be doomed without this. I’d probably end my life with suicide, or just live with no purpose, there would be no point in being alive.
First steps, a new world and the needs of transgender people.
At the initial stage transgender people need a lot of support from the society. Meanwhile, I, just like most other transgenders, found myself in a reality in which not only the society doesn’t have much information about trans issues, but neither do other LGBTQI+ community members. There weren’t many organizations back then that took care of needs of transgender individuals. We had to fight ourselves to survive. We shared all information we had the access to with each other. We were in shambles and social good, social platforms were far away from us, the only thing we wanted was to be saved. None of us could think about what we would do in the future. All that mattered was that one day, when we would spend peacefully, without the fear of losing our lives.
I still remember the first time I put on Women’s clothing and I went outside. I realized that my new life had begun and this life wouldn’t be easy. I already knew a lot of transgender people that had to pay a great price for self-expression. I knew that it would be the same for me if I wanted to be who I was. At that time there was a literal hunt for transgender people because of Georgian media. I’m not sure what made me take this steps, but as it turns out I’m a very strong and fearless person and despite humiliation, I am still standing on my feet.
Lack of health-care for transgender people
The Georgian health-care system is practically non-existent to transgender women. There are absolutely no services provided that would cater to our needs. All of us have to fight for our physical and mental health. Using medical services is very problematic for us. No matter how much it shows that you’re a transgender, once they look at your passport, they treat you very differently. That’s why, most transgender people go to medical establishments for help only in the worst scenarios, which is often fatal. For the Georgian government, a corpse has more value than a transgender individual.
The hormones that are prescribed to transgender individuals in Georgian medical establishments are very toxic and can do much damage to the body if used long-term. These hormones are outdated in most European countries and have been replaced by other more effective and less toxic medications. When I started my hormone therapy in Belgium, this process felt much more pleasant and less stressful. Here you have an opportunity to leave a normal life, feel the sunshine every morning, use public transport, move around the city without the fear that someone will attack you.
Transgender people in Georgia are in a much worse situation – the hormone therapy course causes many changes in our bodies. The constant stress from the environment deteriorates the situation – you can’t sleep; you can’t feel at peace. Many people experience depression, anxiety insomnia and other issues after going through the hormone therapy.
July 4, activism and hunting transgender people
When I lived in Georgia I was involved in activism. I talked about our needs through various media channels; I demanded equal rights for everyone; I didn’t avoid being seen in public spaces; I was active on social media and shared my opinions; I tried to show people the needs of transgender individuals.
When the rallies of May 17 were announced, there was a hunt for transgender people. We received life-threatening letters on a daily basis. Many transgender people are involved in sex-work. They received messages from their clients, as if they wanted to receive the services. Meanwhile, violent groups would find out the addresses and go there to murder them. Life became unbearable.
All this was preceded by the statement of the clergy and our Prime Minister, which encouraged violent groups. Transgender people tried to show solidarity to the journalists of July 5 and go to the rally. There, we were faced with harsh reality in which organized groups violently attacked us and the police did nothing to protect us.
Before leaving Georgia, our lives got much harder. I was a victim of violence on various occasions. I was purposefully hit by a car several times. One of my female transgender friends was killed before my eyes in a car accident. They came to our houses and threatened to murder us. Once I was even shot with a gun, resulting in heavy wounds.
The prospect of a happy life in Belgium
Transgender people in Belgium are very pleasant and harmonic. Their behaviors are so radically different from those of Georgia, because their lives are much less stressful. Transgender in Georgia are always tense because they live in a defense mode. They are so used to humiliation that they might consider even an ordinary compliment to be aggressive.
I felt estrangement for the first month after coming to live in Belgium. I thought I was locked in a room. It’s like all the voices in my mind went silent and I acquired the ability to think about my life in peace and quiet, to rest my mind from the constant stressors. For the first time I have the chance to achieve the goals that I want to set for myself. After so long, I woke up without having to think about sex-work and which “client” would call me in order to pay for rent. I have a chance to have a job – a chance to wake up every morning and not have to worry about physical survival.
Dreams and future plans.
I have always wanted to be a journalist. I used to dream of a small house with a garden. I would plant flowers there, live with my partner and pet. I imagined my every-day life and I thought that I wouldn’t have to suffer those things that I went through; I imagined how I would go on dates with my boyfriend, how we would celebrate various holidays together. However, soon I realized that it was impossible. We live in a country where such dreams are doomed to be shattered for transgender people.
I’ve been living in Belgium for over a year. I live in a social house. I’m no longer involved in sex-work, which has always been undesirable for me. Now I’m starting a school – I’m going to learn French. After this I’ll be able to study in a professional college and become a make-up artist, which is also one of my dreams. After I have achieved all of these goals, I’ll be able to get every necessary procedure and finish my transformation.
Transgender medical services in Belgium are very well developed. There are low-interest loans, which can help me get my desired plastic procedures. What makes me the happiest is that I’ll never have to be a sex-worker again and I’ll live in a country that cares for my needs. In a few years I can say that I achieved my goals – all through hard work, independently. I can proudly say – I am a transgender woman!