I don’t remember how, or when all of this started, it was never a major turning point. I could always feel that not everything was right, and that I had to change
I don’t remember how, or when all of this started, it was never a major turning point. I could always feel that not everything was right, and that I had to change something in order to find my voice, my body, and be able to write my own history. That is why, at the age of 15, without explaining anything to my parents, I cut off communication with my family, left home and started an independent life.
Independent life and the beginning of transition
At first it was very hard. I’ve changed houses many times- I’ve lived in nearly every neighborhood in Tbilisi. I got involved in sex work right away. Everything was so new to me. I was young, going through many things, all together- new surroundings, transition, separation from my family. But I am very proud that I chose this path- difficult yet worthy.
I laugh a lot when I look back on the first stages of my transition. I looked terrible, I didn’t know how to do makeup at all. I was probably too funny to look at, but I was so glad that it was finally me. Slowly, things started to get easier. This process is still ongoing; recently I started hormone therapy. Taking care of yourself as a transgender person is very difficult, especially when you are involved in sex work.
The story of the martyr Shushanik
I chose my name, Linda, very spontaneously, but friends call me Shushanik. I always loved hagiography and the martyr Shushanik; her story resonated with me a lot. She too, like us, transgender people, had a difficult path full of obstacles; she had to go through many things, many humiliations, insults, but she stood strong and did not deviate from her path. Life of a transgender woman is like that- we face a lot of humiliation, blood, betrayal, yet we do not give up. We try to survive and grow.
The hardest part of transitioning is how society views it. Transitioning from one body to another is already very difficult mentally and physically; it requires a lot of willpower and effort, and it becomes even harder when society’s negative attitude gets thrown into the mix. You no longer know which one to worry about – the processes you have to go through or people’s reactions.
Stigmas surrounding transgender people
There is a lot of stigma surrounding transgender people; the majority of society doesn’t want to acknowledge that we have the same rights and benefits that the rest of them enjoy. For them, we are unknown beings that no government could find a place for. As if our only function is to provide sexual services. We are seen as some exotic creatures and constantly demonized in the media. Even community members and people who have some kind of sensitivity to LGBTQ+ issues have a hard time admitting that we are women.
It is very hard for me to give any advise to transgender people. I can tell them not to expect the road to be easy— you will definitely have to overcome a lot of obstacles and you have to be ready for it; you have to be very strong and believe in yourself. Even after many humiliations, I do not regret taking this step. Remaining in a man’s body would be much harder for me. I would rather face harsh reality than live a lie.
Before I left my family, I was interested in gardening. I liked taking care of plants. At this point I have no plans for the future; sex work seems to have swallowed up my whole life. I don’t have time to think about the future, make plans and even do the bare minimum to fulfill them. But of course, I don’t always want to live like this. I would like a more peaceful and quiet life, with fewer risks and difficulties. I am only 18, and have my whole life ahead of me.