Written by Eliana Kanaveli
This article was presented at the conversation with title: “Changing Lives: Experiential Approaches to the Lives of Trans Subjects” which had taken place at B-Fest (International, anti-authoritarian festival of Babylonia magazine in Athens, School of Fine Arts, at 22-28 of May).
As the lives of all or most of us are in a process of transition, change and instability, the sharing of experiences between different subjects can help to create meeting places. This fluidity in our lives, on the one hand is binding and tough, but on the other it is also liberating, and that’s why I think it is important to point out why this uncertain place can be a meeting point for all those subjects who are in a transition process.
In this context of liquidity, gender should not be perceived through the male / female dipole, but rather as a spectrum where there can be many more, a variety. In the last few years this has become visible through the variety of language in identifying gender identity. For example, we are increasingly hearing the terms cisgender, transgender, non-binary, agender, genderqueer. Of course, in the bigger part of the world these terms sound unfamiliar (foreign language used to make them look more academic and less socially grounded) and therefore often underestimated. There is a tendency in the conservative context in which we all live, often due to a lack of understanding and lack of education, to raise only the known era of man and woman.
I watched a documentary, it’s name is “Spectrum”, and it is about the lives of transgender people. It gets interviews from three transgender subjects, who in bliss and immediacy describe their lives as a trans. Particularly for transgender people, daily issues such as the receipt of a parcel from the post office, the opening of a bank account or, moreover, the submission of a job application may be a source of problems and a cause for exclusion if the external expression of the gender does not match as it refers to police identity. Beyond the very important daily difficulties and the humiliation with which they are mainly dealing with administrative issues, the difficulty of finding a job, I was interested in the interview of a young trans
He describes briefly the confusion that he initially felt about his sexuality – he thought he was a gay – at school-age was victim of negative events towards his sexuality. And I point out this because school and education can contribute to the acceptance of these people – unfortunately from personal experience I notice that violence, intimidation and exclusion are well held in educational system. Continuing with the documentary, Denis, as he is identified with the male genus, but others are addressing him as a boy and as a girl. In high school he tells his parents – his parents are reacting intently – his mother tells him to solve the problem with the help of a psychologist to diagnose if it is a phase or something genetic. The psychologist pushes him towards a gender correction, something he’s not sure about, as he feels somewhere in between, he does not feel either a boy nor a girl. Somewhere here I leave the story. The medical discourse that we observe through this case, but also from others is used in the direction of the imposition of the predominant regularity. Since you are a boy and you are “disgusted” by this, the medical term is “gender dysphoria”, which automatically means gender change – you will become a girl. But things are much more interesting.
More I wanted to show through this story that lives move beyond the male / female dipole, femininity-masculinity, that dominates this conservative framework we live in. Luckily, there is a complexity that makes us interesting as beings, and which challenges this dominant framework of values where men and women are projected as the only, essential and indisputable elements to eliminate diversity in order to continue to exist the conservative framework.
Difficulties, exclusions, rejections are just some of the aspects of the lives of those subjects who, often in order not to feel outside the social context and be the others of that society, stifle what they feel. The high suicide rates of 40-60% among the transgender population, the low life expectancy, high levels of exploitation, high levels of discrimination mean that we must not remain silenced or inactive. I remind you of the incident with Emily Vukelatou, a transgender girl who did not stand the pressure and committed suicide. But steps have been taken, both at the legislative level but mainly at the social level, and in this the activist action has helped to highlight the complexity of gender identities and sexual orientation. There are an increasing number of groups dealing with such issues and contributing to awareness, more people understand diversity regardless of whether they accept it. This means that steps have been taken, but the road is long and difficult. The sharing of experiences from the lives of subjects who are in the process of change or have already changed from their given at the birth gender gives the ground to show that the gender spectrum is wide, not at all restrictive, that everything can change and each person can find what fits and expresses him/her better, mainly because we have a life to live. Always because I grew up in a village and I know how it is, my thought is to people living in the Greek province. There the limitations, the difficulties are doubled and enlarged. There the boxes are really tight and the chances of escaping are few. It is important to have groups, to organize events that bring these subjects into sight.
The road has been opened, from all those subjects who have been struggling for years in the shade, in the light, those who have not endured the cruelty of this world, those that are fighting at a cost. We walk along this road together, it is difficult, inconvenient, sometimes closed by landslides. But we are there, together, overcoming obstacles and moving towards to freedom.
 It was on May 17, 1990, when the World Health Organization removed homosexuality from the International List of Diseases.