After breast and uterus removal, and enduring misconceptions and pressure from family, a transman finally has the body he wants.
In 2010, Marat (name changed) had surgery to remove his ovaries and uterus, not long before he had his breasts removed as well. He had to hide the changes in his body to the end, since his parents and close relatives were opposed to him living as his own gender.
(Marat speaks with an activist from Bishkek Feminist Initiatives)
-How have your relatives expressed their opposition?
-During the first operation, the breast removal, they practically fainted. My sisters and parents were completely against it. I think it was evidence to them that I was losing my femininity. Although lots of women go through breast removal. Now I understand how enormously stressful it was for my family. For them, it was a point of no return, and a shock. After the surgery I became much less of a woman to them; until the surgery I was perceived as a woman despite dressing, acting, and identifying as a man. But it was when my uterus was removed that I was suddenly no longer a woman to them.
-They said, “Have a child, for your own sake,” but I didn’t want to. I have medical evidence of a cyst, which showed up after I started taking hormones. They blamed me, saying that it was because I was taking hormones, and that it was wrong. Initially, they wanted me to stop taking them because hormone therapy affects my fertility. When I started taking hormones, I knew what I was doing. I was taking these pills because I consider my body my business. I was taking them because they were helping me to change my body, and certain parts of my body. That is, to look the way I wanted to, to have the voice I wanted, etc.
-So hormone therapy made you sick?
-Yes, the hormones caused me to develop ovarian cysts. They crop up in the ovaries filled with fluid, and cause pain. I couldn’t tell anyone about this, either. If you go to the gynecologist as a guy, you get stared at while you’re waiting, because everyone expects to see only girls and women. When I went and stood in line, they told me bluntly that I was standing in the wrong line. I told them I was in the right line. For the rest of the time, they followed me around with their eyes and silent questions, since they couldn’t ask me questions. But that’s not important.
– Do you regret your choice at all?
– I think that I did the right thing, because it was my choice. It’s a very complicated question for trans people; I know guys who don’t want their uteruses removed, they want to be able to have children. I know at least two who gave birth, and were condemned by society afterwards: “If you consider yourself a man, then why are you giving birth?” For society it’s wild that a trans man can give birth. Men with uteruses and vaginas are unacceptable, incomprehensible, and alien to them. But it’s unacceptable to pressure people. It was my choice to not give birth, and I don’t owe anything to anyone.
-What about gynecologists? How do they respond to your needs?
-I wish we had professional gynecologists so that trans men wouldn’t be afraid to consult them. Because a lot of guys don’t see gynecologists, out of fear of ridicule of and discrimination. And gynecology is considered not for men. “This is a woman’s specialist, how am I supposed to go to them?” As a result, I know that several of my friends had gynecological problems, but they didn’t go to the gynecologist for years. In general, we have a culture of not going to the gynecologist, except in emergency situations.
– Was it difficult with your family, to go against their wishes while fulfilling your own?
-It was hard for me once I made the decision. Before that, my whole life was just about the preparation. All the conversations with my parents about how I was still a woman and needed to get married and have children – those were hard for me. It took time for me to understand that it was my own business. My family actively interfered; the people around me had completely different expectations of me. I still spoke to them for years, trying to find a common language.
-Do you still speak to them?
-Yes, I understand that they’re hopeless and ignorant. I love my mom, and if I try to talk to her about purely women’s issues, it’s “уят” (shameful), since I’m a boy. In her opinion, a woman has to obey a man, even endure violence from him, just because he’s a man. If something happened to my sisters in their families, it would mean that “my sister provoked it herself,” but my mom and my sisters wouldn’t listen to me either. The funniest thing is that I can talk about this with my younger brothers, who’ve supported me from the beginning. I can talk to them, but not to my sisters, since I’m no longer “a girl”. Now when I look at my family, I think maybe I’m lucky that I’m trans.
-Are you satisfied with the changes in your body?
-I’ve gotten to a place of security. If I hadn’t had my breasts removed, I would have started binding them. I’m comfortable now. Now I think about these things with respect to safety. I’m not comfortable in hospitals or in public bathrooms, because I fear for my safety. To the extent that I’ve had the experience of people wanting me to prove I still have a woman’s body. Being trans doesn’t make me less human. People think that it’s okay to invade someone else’s space, someone else’s body; I don’t think any of these women would like being touched against her will. But if someone is trans you can treat him however you like, and he is essentially not a person. And violence is used to degrade and punish people. I believe that reproductive and body rights are directly connected to human safety. It’s an issue of respecting an individual and his integrity.