It turned out the main subject of this edition became a fairly delicate and complicated topic: sexual minority problems. Unfortunately, there are a lot of problems indeed even because they were originally due by the word СminorityТ. At least, being being different to the norm causes social incomprehension and prejudice, self- identification difficulties and depression are often the result, and this is just a short top list.
Words by Maria Mokina
The first time, we met Amanda when she was picking up her daughter from school. After we asked if she would tell us her story Amanda answered straight away: IТm up for anything that puts us, trans, in a positive lightТ.
Later, Amanda's wife Jane and daughter, lovely Connie, joined the conversation.
We tried to present this material in a true, objective and open-minded approach.
Amanda, from the beginning I’d like to warn you that I may ask some inconvenient questions because our conversation is going to be full of different details. So if I cross the appropriate line, please, let me know!
Oh, god! That’s absolutely ok! I’m very open-minded; that’s why I’m here.
I had a long busy day at the Genetic Clinic at Charing Cross yesterday. My parents live in Kensington, so I stayed in their place, and I ain’t got any make-up with me for today. I used some I found there. I hope my make-up is not over the top, is it?
No, it’s not, don’t worry! In emergency cases, places like Boots, could be used as ‘walk-in make-up and perfume centers’. It’s a secret, but everybody knows it – women have to be smart.
So, Amanda, let’s start from the simple questions like what do you do, what’s your age, how is your current life, and how did you come up to be a woman? Just tell whatever you want.
Ugh, you never ask a lady how old she is, do you? Well, ok, I’m 43.
Well, anything will be brought up to transgender subject anyway. It’s gonna be some kind of educating that assholes out there who call us freaks and think that something wrong with us.
This is impressing! Where did you get this from?
I’ve done it! I was in the Army.
Being in the Army usually takes time for three years minimum; for how long have you been there?
For ten years; and I loved it, it was fantastic.
This is actually something so masculine. How did it work for you?
It was an attempt to prove myself I was a man, because when I was younger there was confusion with myself. I needed a proof and I did it. Moreover, I also proved that I still loved to wear woman’s clothes.
So, that means you were dressing in the Army as well? What about your friends there and when did you do it?
Yes, I was dressing. They just simply didn’t know. I was doing it at night when I was on my own.
You were never ‘caught’ during 10 years?!
I was caught just once. It was Carnival time in Germany, I was trying a skirt and top on, in my room, in the Barrack Block, and some of the other lads had been drinking all day, and burst into my room. But due to the room layout, they would have to come right in, to actually see me, only one of the lads came in completely, a lad called Jimmy Lyons. He never seemed to be bothered, and never heard anything further, but if there was, I had the perfect excuse, everyone knew how many German mates I had, and how I would normally go to the bars that weren’t normally frequently by Squaddies, so if anything was said, I was getting into something I had to wear at one them for a Carnival Night.
When did you start to try woman’s clothes?
Oh, god... I was eleven.
What was the intention? How did you find out that you liked to do it?
I just started to do it.
Were they your mum’s clothes? Shoes, lipsticks?
Yeah, all this stuff; and she never knew it. I was 23 when I told her.
What was her reaction?
She just said ‘Don’t do it at this place anymore and don’t tell me in case you are going to keep dressing’.
And what about your father?
He found out in 2010. The fact is I was going to tell him but he found out by seeing some official paperwork about me being transgender. I left it on the table by mistake. He was surprised but he didn’t say anything.
He might notice that something was going on with you and your body, mightn’t he?
No, at that time I looked ‘normal’, there were no changes with my body. In addition, I stopped dressing for a few years – it was in those years when I was married. However, later that actually made me dress again. Long nights of discussions with my wife began. A long tearful night, a lot of crying, a lot of screaming when I told her.
Let’s stop at this moment – so, you’ve been married. When was this?
We got married in 2001. She knew I used to dress but she was ok because it was not happening, it was a past of my life. And at that point I thought it was.
How did you meet?
We met one week after the 2001 FA cup final, where Liverpool beat Arsenal, there was a breaking joke that got us talking, it was that Jane was wearing an Arsenal shirt, and during the game, an Arsenal Player, Freddie Lungberg scored the first goal, in Arsenal’s goal, was David Seaman. Then in 2003 our daughter was born. At that moment, Jane was working for the national company, and I was a house-husbant bringing up our daughter. That was how my previous feelings came back – I began to feel girly. She came over one night and at that night I told her I started to dress again.
For how long were you like an ordinary couple?
For 3 years.
So what happened after you told your wife you began dressing?
We had a long night talking and screaming... I went for a walk. When I was out she phoned the Gay and Lesbians Help Line. That was everything she could find in the Yellow pages. People still refused such a problem – being transgender; they didn’t know how to deal with it.
So, you’ve got a daughter. Who is she living with now? How do you share days being with her?
Oh, we are still together! I see them regulary.
It means she accepted you as you are, didn’t she?
When she made that phone call all the people from the Help Line could suggest was just to lay down some rules for how I behaved. If I was willing to stand by her rules it should work. I was always gonna do what she wanted.
Why we are still together? Because you have to work on relationships.
From the beginning was it a big love?
Oh, god, yeah! It was a big thing for the a person like me.
Let’s come back just a bit to that moment when Jane found out you started to dress. How did you start to deal with each other?
After we made some rules, things became a bit easier. If I would refuse them everything would be broken.
Dressing - how does it feel?
You can’t resist it. You feel like you were born in a wrong body. You are fighting with yourself every day. I needed to dress. I was fighting with myself because I had to be what I didn’t want to be. Now I’m a woman and I’m happy.
Before I was a complete asshole. I was not a nice person. I was fighting and getting drunk all the time.
That’s when you were in the Army?
No, it was after. I was hurting people I loved. Not physically, but emotionally. Those who knew me when I was a man and now see me as a woman – they all say I’m an absolutely different person. Now I’m a calm person.
My strengthful wife Jane gave that strength to me to become a woman. Which is what I’m doing now.
Tell us more about those rules?
I could dress only at home not going outside in woman’s clothes and make-up. Also, I could do it when she was at work. Slowly she allowed me to dress for longer, so that finally from time to time when I was picking her up from work I was still dressed.
What did your friends say?
I got just very few anyway. The only friends I got were transgender anyway.
Then slowly after a while I did it step by step. She was getting used to it. In spite of this, the one place I was not allowed to be female and I had to be completely male was obviously in bed. However, one day when we were shopping she bought me girly pyjamas. It was extremely important to me because it meant she accepted me as a woman in bed.
Talking about that shopping day how much time did pass by after that night you told her you started to dress?
It was around two years after.
At that time, in 2010 we came to London when my parents found out that I was serious about becoming a woman.
I found a doctor; he arranged a psychiatrist who I needed to see to be referred to the Gender Clinic. Jane came with me to meet the psychiatrist. The psychiatrist confirmed that I had the medical condition of Gender Dysmorphia – that’s the official definition of gender confusion.
What was happening in bed then? Were you still a man between the sheets?
Yeah, sex happened like it usually does between people.
Jane has a low libido anyway. I have a very high one, but at that time it was going lower.
Was it some kind of disappointment for you to do it as a man? Did you not mind?
Yeah, I just didn’t enjoy it at all. Now I’m a woman, and this began a very joyful thing to me, especially because I started to take hormones. See, I got breast! IThey are going to be even bigger.
What size do you want?
At my age it’s not gonna be bigger then size B. Anyway, I like it like that and it helps me to feel more feminine.
Do you still have your manhood?
And you are going to...?
Yes! It’s not removed yet. I will have surgery in 2,5 year. I’m inverted partly.
How does it happen?
It’s inverted into the vagina. I got the video on here how they do the surgery: the penis’s head is being cut a half and made as a clitoris. The flesh is taken out. Another part is put inside, so that it looks exactly like a woman’s vagina outside and it feels the same as a woman inside. So we can feel orgasms.
What it’s shown on this video – it seems quite complicated. Are you afraid?
No, I’m waiting for it desperately.
How many times have you seen this video?
It should be expensive. How much does this surgery cost?
It’s supported by NHS, so it’s for free because it is recognized as a medical condition. Up to commercial surgery it would cost about 20 000 pounds.
How long does the surgery last?
It is about 7-8 hours.
I heard in the news recently that one man in UK got pregnant! It seems like it is incredible bullshit, otherwise it must be some extraordinary phenomenon.
Yeah, it happened in the US actually, and it was not exactly a man-man, he was a woman before so that it was still physiologically possible.
You have been already in two skins - can you compare a man and woman’s orgasm? Are they different?
Ooh, god, yeah! The female one is much stronger. It goes from inside. Man’s orgasm is a purely physical one.
Since I started to have sex as a woman, the previous experience feels like nothing to me.
So, what are going to do during these 2,5-3 years before to do the operation?
During this time, I am still going to take hormones, and also to have some injections once a three-month to kill testosterone.
Do you have erections?
No, it’s dead. It’s because of the hormones partly and because of my mind – I don’t need it anymore.
Do the hormones and operation cause some changes with your voice?
Yeah, it causes body hairs growing less, my skin becomes softer, facial hairs stop to grow intensively also.
The voice... I have to learn how to talk in a girly way, in a low one... THIS ONE IS ORIGINAL – did you feel the difference?
Oh, yes! Is it hard to talk like that? Are you thinking about it all the time to control it?
No, I’m already used to it.
Bernie! (Bernie is one of my friends here). Bernie, hi! Tell me exactly how girly am I?
Bernie: Oh, you are more girly then me, hun! Probably 9 of 10 you are girly.
Since I started to meet people, new ones or some of them I already knew, - they asked me about this stuff all the time... and then began to defend me.
With who did you start to have sex?
Only with men.
What reaction did your wife has when you started to meet different men?
In the beginning, of course it was very hard for her. Now since she is getting used to me as a woman it became a bit easier.
Your daughter – how old is she? How does she take all this situation in your family?
Connie, she is 8, and she is completely ok about that. Сertainly, she knows and understands the main thing about that, but of course we try not to get her too much involved into details, because she is still small.
What does she call you?
She still calls me ‘daddy’.
Are you ok with it or is it some kind of disapoinment for you?
I’m fine! I can understand that of course; it’s very unusual for her. But sometimes nevertheless she can call me ‘mummy’, and then I’m absolutely melted.
I have actually made у a film about transcender people and peoples’ reactions on it.
Do you feel special?
Well, I’m special to myself.
People stare at you in the street, don’t they?
Oh, yeah! And it pisses me off. Every single time I’m risking being abused. The lowest thing is I know why. I scare such people sexually.
What are you doing in your everyday life? Do you work?
I’m working hard trying to find a job – this is the hardest part of my life at the moment.
What kind of job are you searching for?
A bar job. It is amazing how people seem to think that I’m not a shy, quiet and retiring girl. It’s actually so hard to be shy in my situation making your own life harder and fighting with people who try to abuse you verbally.
How often does it happen when people are rude to you in the street?
It’s about once every two months; it’s not that often. They usually call me ‘poofter’ or ‘wimp’. Me?! They are men and they are calling me a wimp! The lowest thing is the angriest ones want to fight, but I wouldn’t fight them because I know if I would hit anybody there is a very high risk of me killing him. It’s about the Army, and also before the Army I was doing karate.
Do you wear heels?
Not today, but usually I do. It’s easy for me because I used to walk like a girl being a kid trying not to step on my back side of feet.
What was your name before?
Oman. I was Oman Abdulla. I was Muslim. I converted by choice.
When and how did it happen?
It was 1994. I was stationed out in Germany, met Rose while I was out, as a guy, and she had just finished a major business meeting. She was a muslim. We got married – that was the reason I converted. First, I did it just for her, but after reading the Quran, I realised so many islamic believes were my personal believes, such as being aware of life on other planets, talking about water being the source of life.
What happened after?
We were married for 51 weeks. We divorced after I saw her in some porn video film.
Did you really love her? I ask about that because it’s not a secret people can be married because of the different reasons.
Yeah, I know! Love is also very important to me. Yes, I loved her, but actually, she was a very rich woman also. She was one of the richest women of Malaysia.
Do you love Jane, your current wife?
Oh, god, yeah. She is just the one in my life. it’s a relationship based on trust and love.
Are you going to spend the rest of your life together?
Yes, we intend to stay together. The law at the moment though, does not allow for two people of the sex to be married, yes they can have a civil partnership. But that isn’t the same, if the law is changed, that means that Transgendered in loving relationships, do not have to have their loving marriages anulled.
What about your passport?
Oh, it’s done. I’ve changed it. And also look at my driving licence – I’m Amanda Maroulis.
Where is that surname from?
My family is originally Greek, which is why I have such eyes, such nose, and hairs like that. I’m like Alexander the Great, ha-ha!
Excuse me, which toilet do you use?
There is no British law – man’s or woman’s – I have to use. I use the lady’s room. There is only one rule: transcender women use woman’s room, transcender men go to the gent’s one. Most people do not know about all of this problems connected with the trans subject.
Jane and Connie joined the conversation.
Talking about peoples’ reaction and prejudice how is it in the UK generally? For example, Germany is meant to be one of the most sexually open-minded places, isn’t it?
Jane: People are quite ok about this in this country. In this situation, you have got to look at the status quo, and you’ve got to say ‘What if I got to expect people to accept me then loyalty has to be understanding of them which means ‘I have to accept everything about that; understanding that at the moment they don’t accept me. If they do not, then maybe I should wait for the time they will’.
Amanda: See? This is why I feel safety! Jane is the guarantee of my stability protecting my rights wisely. Jane, tell them what happened next to our tube station.
Jane: Oh, this was purely just a trick... Amanda got the bus from the station, and I was going off the bus stop, then I heard a woman with a kid talking on the phone: ‘Mum, you’ll never guess what I’ve just seen! I’ve just seen a man dressed up as a woman! You’ll never believe it! It’s disgusting! It’s disgraceful! You’ll never believe it, mum!’. I took my phone from my pocket and started to talk next to her: ‘Hello, mum! You’ll never guess what I’ve just seen! I’ve seen a black woman – she’s got a baby! It’s impossible! It’s disgusting!’. She was shocked: ‘Hey, why are you talking about me like that?’ I said ‘Why you talked about that person who took that bus a minute ago? Does it make you better talking like that?’
You should understand that it’s just about being not educated.
That feeling that you are not accepted by society – it should cause some psychological problems. How do you deal with that?
Amanda: Oh, yes, it brings so many personal problems like you’re scared of everything; especially when you are at the stage of transvestite. Later, you get used to it and begin to be proud of who you are what you are going through a great number of difficulties, and start to think that people who abuse you have personal problems, not me.
Jane: It’s reasonable to think like that. You don’t choose the natural colour of your eyes, for example, it’s already brown or grey. And people – they are just full of clichés; they think in the way they’ve been brought up.
The thing is most of transvestites and transgender people are easily adapted. They must be. They had to choose the second way of life.
What about you, Jane, that day you found out Amanda dressed, how did it feel?
Jane: I was coming back from work; he called me and told he was dressed. It was not the best idea to talk about such kind of thing riding a bicycle, and I decided to talk when I came back home. When I got home there was a lot of shouting, crying and it was not nice at all. The first idea was to throw this away. I just sat there and cried and cried... and then I thought maybe I don’t see practical issues about this. Then in the end I thought I can’t just sit there and cry; this person is gonna come home eventually, and I’d rather gonna face it. There was a choice: I can help or I have to understand what I can personally do. I picked up the Yellow Pages, and I found the Gay and Lesbian Help line. The person I spoke to said to me ‘I can’t actually help you, because we don’t deal with transgender issue, but you are very lucky – I got the transgender friend, so I understand your dilemma. The only way you could get through this is by compromise. You tell your husband what you want. If he is willing to accept that then the most useful thing you can do is to stand by. And after a lot of tears finally that’s exactly what happened.
What did you ask about?
Jane: I told him he could dress when I was at work so that I wouldn’t see him. I asked to do it step by step because of Connie. Otherwise she might be deeply shocked or extremely confused. The same rule applied to Connie also: when the daughter sees you, you are a daddy, when she is at school what you get up to is up to you. Finally, one day when she came back, we spoke to Connie, and she was completely ok with that.
What did you tell her?
Jane: We said Connie not everybody as a man and everybody as a woman. Sometimes they could be changed. Sometimes god gets it wrong, that’s what happened this time – god lord above was just a little bit wrong about your dad from the beginning. She seemed to understand that.
How was your life at that moment?
Jane: As times went on it was absolutely crystal clear that Amanda was very unhappy. Every time she was going to pick up Connie from school, she was using my stuff, and obviously, I’m not the most feminine of the people. Pants have been changed for knickers. Coming back from work, I found out my bra had gone, my make-up had gone. I wanted to see him, but not her.
Our life wasn’t ideal. Let’s just say even the police was called several times. Domestic instance.
Amanda: My aggression. No, I’ve never hurt anybody, but...
Jane: ...very good with the mouth, very loud. He was very loud, very angry, but never ever hurt anybody.
What was that aggression about?
Amanda: It was about my existence confusion, and not going into details, because of the schoolmaster. Connie’s school had to know about our family situation.
I nearly jumped off a bridge.
Jane: So, we went through this because the person sitting here and now is not the same person I met in 2001.
Her dad told me he gave up on Amanda years and years ago.
Amanda: Me and my father... since I became so much calmer, we actually started truly talking just a few years ago. He gave me a big hug on New Year... and he said he loved me.
Jane: Yeah, then we had a very long conversation about all of this, about transgender stuff, about our current life. We sat back and he asked me ‘Why are you still here? After all those arguments, after your life and walls were damaged, after police calls... I said: ‘Because the person I’ve met in 2001 and the person she is now since 2003 – they are totally different. I had to get to the bottom to find out why he was like that’. Then he told me: ‘I’m gonna give you the biggest hug in the world because you’ve given me my son back’.