Just Like You is a joint project of Real Stories Production and the United Nations Development Programme in Ukraine financially supported by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark
WOULD NEVER FEEL WHAT IT’S LIKE TO BE
Anastasia Eva Domani — member of TransCoalition, activist, trans woman
- The LGBT community in Ukraine is often confronted with discrimination and violations of the rights of its representatives. In recent years, there have been numerous acts of aggression and violence against LGBTQI+ people, and law enforcement agencies have often failed to investigate hate crimes against LGBTQI+ people.
- Ukraine also has a ban on the adoption of children by transgender and HIV-positive people.
- People of the same sex are unable to register their relationship in Ukraine, which in particular makes it impossible to visit each other in intensive care, inherit the partner’s property after death, etc.
- Sex reassignment surgery has been performed in Ukraine since 1996. Changes to the gender in the documents before or even without the operation have been allowed since the XXX.
Anastasia is an active member of TransCoalition, an organization that brings together activists from post-Soviet countries, involved in protecting the rights of transgender people. At the time the coalition was formed, it included Armenia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Russia, and Ukraine.
The mission of TransCoalition is to improve the living conditions of transgender people by covering their issues in public space, disseminating objective information about transgender people, raising awareness of national and international institutions about transgender issues, working with scientists and physicians researching these issues.
I thought that after the transition (start of the process of changing the sex – ed.) I would do something stereotypically female: start working in a beauty salon, or become a consultant in the department of expensive lingerie. I did not expect that now a significant percentage of my life would be to consult other people who are about to make the transition. The consultations mostly deal with legal issues: how to get the help you need to change your name, how to change your certificate, reissue your documents. I am happy I can help because of my own experience. This is a difficult process, so it is important to me that if a person does not understand something, they will approach me again rather than think, “I’ve been explained everything already, so if I am confused, it means that something is wrong with me.” I feel like this work gives me an extra hour a day, my fatigue just vanishes. I never imagined that it would be like this.
Before the transition, I lived a double life. A faithful man, who appreciates his wife, has a prestigious job and is successful in his business – that was me most of the time. Only occasionally, during business trips, did I host small dress-up parties. I used to wear a wig – the wig reembodies you instantly! I used to wear openwork dresses, heeled shoes and … just loved it. At times, I could go to someplace looking like that and I felt incredible when others were looking at me. Now I understand that those weren’t the looks of delight – instead, everyone paid attention to the mismatch of style and masculine facial features, but back then I did not think about it. Then, more and more people of different preferences, genders, identities started coming to parties, and it was getting more and more difficult to return to the “male” life.
I was a member of the Dynamo fan club, one of the ultras. And this was such an adrenaline rush! There was no meeting without a fight. My friends were all hard-edged, cruel, they burst after any careless phrase against Dynamo. I used to come home after the match, catch my breath, take off my scarf, take a shower and… go to a beauty salon. There they’d make my manicure, styling, beautify me. I’d change into a dress and wait for the party guests. At the time, I was even afraid to think what it would be like if the guys at the fan club found out that I was becoming a girl after our meetings and spending time with others like me. I was keeping my mind off these troubles as much as I could.
My daughter sees me as both her dad and Nastia. She may also call me by name, especially when we spend several days together, as she hears how others call me, how they treat me. I want her to know everything about me so that she wants to spend time with me in the future. That she could tell others about me as a happy, successful woman – and not be ashamed of it. That others in her environment can understand it, be comfortable with it. Fortunately, I think we are heading for a society where people can respect the choices of others, including when it comes to gender.
Sasha was a completely different person. Now everything about me is different, and most importantly – I have a different character and different thoughts. I became much more responsible, organized, and I got some inner core. Sasha had no purpose in his life as such. He was tired, confused, and disappointed. It was difficult because he was wasting all his energy on fighting with himself, hiding his own identity. But the most insulting was the idea that I would live my life and would never feel like being a woman. Not for hours or days, but constantly, so everyone around me would treat me like a woman. I would feel as if I betrayed myself, my own heart. I am happy I had the courage to not let it happen.
Ilana Danevych — Trans person, mom of 18-y.o. son. Ilana was born in a small town in eastern Ukraine with most of the female hormones and male genital organs.
“I am often asked how I came to the idea of transition? But I didn’t “come” to it. I was just born like that. I never felt like a boy. When I was a teenager, I started growing breasts. When I was 20, I decided to talk to my mom about feeling like a girl, she understood me at once and we started planning my transition.”
In order to get permission to have a sex reassignment surgery, Ilana had to undergo more than one medical commission, including one in a psychiatric hospital. There she was placed in one room with future soldiers and was lucky that one of the nurses stood up for the girl and persuaded the doctor to let her spend the nights at home.
The sex reassignment surgery was performed in Kyiv, but the quality was not good enough and later the girl had to correct the mistakes of her first surgeons in Moscow.
“When I came to the passport issuing authority to change the documents, all the clerks ran out to have a look at me. It was a shock to my small town.”
20 years ago, Ilana changed her documents and started the life of a woman.
“I confessed to my future husband that I had been born a boy after he made me an offer. It was not easy for him, but he accepted this information, we got married and had a son.”
Ilana was married for five years and then divorced due to her husband’s aggression. He emigrated abroad, and Ilana was left alone to raise a son.
“Today, my boy is 18 years old, he is seriously involved in sports, studying at the university. I hear a lot of preconceptions about the inability to raise a “normal” child in a single-parent or non-traditional family, but I have.”
The son is unaware of his mother’s surgery. Asked whether she is afraid of him learning the truth, Ilana replies that it is time for her to finally live for herself.
“Sometimes I get asked, ‘How can you prove to be a transsexual?’ I went through humiliation, lack of understanding at school, disrespect, bullying. An ordinary girl will never understand this. I’m not like everyone, I’m stronger. Up to a point, I did not want to talk, did not want my child to know about it. Now I want the people I meet to know who I really am and what path I have overcome”
Ilana says she has never participated in Pride parades before because her son’s upbringing was her number one mission. Also, she did not want the boy to have problems at school because of his mother’s activism. But now he is an adult, Ilana has moved to Kyiv.
“I will definitely go to the march. I want us to be seen and understood for who we are. This is not about theatrics, it is our right to declare that we are people like everyone else, and we deserve a tolerant attitude.
I think it’s important to share my story because it can help other people not to hide. I am still very much supported by my mother and sister. I’m sure my son will also be able to understand and accept me.”