Confessions of a Trans Person From Moldova: „I thought I was a girl while they considered me a boy.”
T. was born a boy, but he always felt like a girl. This led to a number of problems – misunderstandings in kindergarten and school, intimidation, violence, depression, discrimination, and an acute sense of exclusion.
According to a 2020 report by GENDERDOC-M (GDM), an organization that defends and promotes the rights of LGBT + people, the situation of trans and gender diverse persons in Moldova remains complicated.
A transgender or trans person is an umbrella category that includes all persons whose gender identity or gender expression is opposite to their assigned sex at birth.
T. is from Moldova, she identifies as a woman, and currently, she is in the stage of physical transition, which gave her a reason to live, she says. However, she had to go a long way before she got here.
T. sensed her identity from an early age when she was around four years old. Her mother used to buy her many toys, mainly genderless, while others were more for boys. However, she never imposed the idea that her son could only play with cars and robots.
T. liked the cars and the robots, but most of all – dolls. As a child, T. befriended only girls and, even though he was a little boy then, he looked like a little girl.
“I was fragile, gentle, and skinny,” says T. today.
The boys in the yard were always ready to defend T. They avoided playing together, as they did with other boys. They said they were afraid to hurt him with a blow.
On the other hand, T. was not interested in rough games, where the little ones pushed or fought. So, as a child, he played with the girls.
T. received her first and last doll as a gift from her mother’s cousin. She was a four-year-old boy then and Nătălița (the name of the doll received as a gift) had become a favorite toy. But this did not last long, because, shortly after, his mother’s sister saw T. playing with Nătălița and said angrily that boys do not play with dolls. T. didn’t understand then why she reacted like that.
“I thought I was a girl and I didn’t know that people considered me a boy.”
The next nudge was at the first kindergarten, where the teacher did not let T. use the girls’ toilet, forcing him to go to the boys’ toilet.
“But I felt uncomfortable going to the boys and tried to avoid it as long as I could. My mother didn’t understand why my pants were always wet as she took me home, and I think the educators never told her why.”
The most painful period, however, began at puberty, when hair appeared on the face, the voice thickened and the back widened. T. was terrified of these physical changes. At the same time, the problems with the boys began. As a little boy, no one touched him, but things changed when he turned 13. “I was already a scarecrow and I was beaten wherever I went.”
For his feminine way of being, the boys considered him gay and T. went through a lot of bullying. But all this was nothing compared to the pain in his soul, which intensified as his body changed physically.
“Of course, I didn’t know about the existence of transgender people, but I was sure I wasn’t a boy and I never was. I found out late about the medical possibilities to change my sex and the moment I found out about it, I didn’t hesitate,” adds T.
In Moldova, GENDERDOC-M Center is the only entity that provides information and other support to trans persons.
Coming out and relatives’ reactions
For T., mother has always been the most important person, so only her acceptance mattered. “If she doesn’t accept me, then there’s no point in living,” T. spoke to his mother on the phone and was pleasantly surprised by her reaction, benevolence, and moral as well as financial support.
“Mommy said that she always suspected it and that probably not in vain I was born on March 8.”
Later, T. talked to her sister, and from her sister, the news spread further, without T.’s consent. Otherwise, she does not hide his identity from relatives.
So far, T.’s mother is the only person who supports her.
“My mother loves me more than all the relatives took together. For them, I am just a sick person.”
Maxim Cuclev, the coordinator of the GENDERDOC-M Information Center support group for trans and gender diverse persons, emphasizes that family support is crucial for transgender people, especially when they decide to go through the transition.
“Many people, who lack support, do not find the courage to go through it alone and therefore their health and mental well-being continue to deteriorate. This, coupled with severe feelings of loneliness and isolation, could even lead to suicide,” says Cuclev.
According to the World Health Organization, the new International Classification of Diseases, ICD-11, redefined gender-related health, replacing ICD-10 diagnostic categories such as “transsexualism” and “gender identity disorder in children” with “gender incongruence of adolescence and adulthood” and “gender incongruity of childhood”.
Gender incongruence was thus generally excluded from the Mental and Behavioral Disorders chapter and introduced into a new chapter, Conditions Related to Sexual Health.
Gender change procedure
The gender change procedure started in November 2019, while in Denmark, but due to the quarantine in March 2020, it was postponed until the summer when T. received again access to special medication. Since then, the situation has been stable.
It was difficult at first when everything inside began to change and felt differently. T. became more emotional. She cried every day for no particular reason, even though she had not cried since she was 14 years old.
In Denmark, everything is funded by her health policy, including sex reassignment surgery.
The aforementioned GENDERDOC-M report shows that it is possible to get free medical services in the process of transition from one sex to another in Moldova; however, in practice, it is not always easy to obtain them.
Currently, according to data collected by GENDERDOC-M, the biggest problem is to identify an unprejudiced endocrinologist.
What is it like to be a trans person in Moldova?
T. left Moldova in 2003 and lived abroad for many years, although she kept in touch with the people here anyway. She has lived in several European countries and concluded that our people are quite conservative.
She has no friends among girls in Moldova as they no longer communicate with T., and the only two guys who used to be in good relations, are afraid to at least reply in writing to messages. So she doesn’t write them anymore.
“Moldovans are afraid to say any word in support of an LGBT + person because in this case, they will be considered gay or something, they will align them with us, and that’s what Moldovans are afraid of,” T. points out.
For this reason, T. states that she cannot find a job in the country. She’s afraid to leave the house, especially now that she’s back due to quarantine.
She rarely goes out for walks anymore, because she already looks androgynous and if she wears boy’s clothes she attracts more attention than when she wears a skirt.
“I prefer to hide in the house as long as I look like this – like hell. When I sometimes go out to the shops or take some air, I usually wear a mask, glasses and a hoodie, so that no one can see me. I am always scared and anxious.”
In Moldova, the process of gender reassignment in documents is still difficult and, at times, humiliating. For this reason, according to GENDERDOC-M, so far, only nine transgender persons have managed to complete the procedure.
At the same time, last year, the GENDERDOC-M Center registered several cases of discrimination against its beneficiaries, such as transphobic materials in some media sources, denial to taxi service, or violence and abuse, including in the family.
In 2020, 350 trans persons were killed worldwide, 22% – in their own homes.
What should be changed to make Moldovan society more tolerant?
T. claims that she feels uncomfortable when she wears boys’ clothes, “but, on the other hand, I risk being killed if I put on a skirt and I am discovered.”
In her opinion, people should understand that trans people are born that way. Otherwise, as long as they do not know the truth, they form erroneous judgments.
“Studies show that the brain of trans people is different from the brain of their sex, meaning I have a girl’s brain and male gender. The only solution is to adapt my body so that it visually matches the feminine image I attribute myself since my birth, in other words, to look the way I feel,” she points out.
T. adds that in the post-Soviet countries, the media did not do its job properly and, together with doctors invited to the shows, “made fun of the trans persons they invited.”
T. says that Moldova needs to simplify the processes necessary to go through the transition, provide access to effective medications, which pharmacies do not import.
“Because of these problems, the transition takes a long time and, in consequence, there are more suicides caused by delayed results,” concludes T.
In Moldova, the fate of each trans person still depends on the Commission for the Identification of Gender Identity Disorder within the Republican Clinical Psychiatric Hospital. The conclusion of this Commission decides on granting or non-granting a person the right to start the transition procedure as well as the right to initiate the procedure for changing the gender in the identity documents.
“As the person starts the transition, she/he undergoes changes in the physique, and if she/he does not manage to change his/her identity documents, then problems begin. Subsequently, it becomes more difficult to find a well-paid official job, and a large part of trans people resort to informal work with lower incomes, without contracts,” says Maxim Cuclev.
International Transgender Day of Visibility is marked on March 31 every year.
Also, annually, on May 17, International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia is observed.