How is to be a transgender?
It's like the reaffirmation of yourself. It's the birth of the real you, that waited hidden inside. Lots of emotions. But it also is pain. The pain is not from surgery and other body transformations, but from other people, who don't understand us and oppose to us: parents, friends, even ordinary people on the street. I don't know, but maybe we suffer as much as you do, sfenists. The main difference is that you were transformed against your own will, while we decided on our own.
An internet conversation between a sfenist and a transgender, 2011.
I am at the railway station, as usual, waiting a mix, passenger-cargo train, to go up to the mines. It is cold and the mountains that surround us are white. The sky is like waiting to snow again. The train comes and stops. I do my daily work, announcing nearby stations through radio beeps that the train has reached me and is heading up.
I sit in the station to heat myself a bit, when a woman knocks in the window.
"I come for Ana", she says.
"I am", I answer.
"Please, I need your help. My son is no longer listening to me. He hangs out with thugs and I think he is starting to drink". Her eyes look desperate. I know how far a mother will go for her children. "I know you are favored by Actit. Please tell the goddess to help me", she says, while taking two packs of cigarettes from her purse. "One pack for you and one for the goddess".
This why people think I am a witch. I try to help others, in any way.
"Who are you?" I ask.
"My name is Feldish and I am from Telesto", she says.
"Come to the house!" I invite her.
My house has a small room where we take down our shoes. From there, two doors open. To left, it is the 'good room', which is used for guests and where we store things. To right, it is the 'daily room' with two beds, two closets and a table, where we stay and sleep. That's how all houses are built here. Small, with low floors that you can touch with your hand. I take her to the good room and make her sit on the bed.
"What happened?" I ask.
"He was not a bad kid. I don't know when it happened. He started to hangout with two jerks and now he is not listening to me. He runs away from home and comes back late in night. He went with them to Jupiter without even telling me!" she says and starts to cry.
"Actit is a god and the first human, born from the sky and the ground. Her soul is the Altar, the first spirit. But more then everything, she is a mother. She gave birth to Adam and Eve, without mating a man, because she is the goddess of line. More then everything, she is a mother, the mother of all humanity and of us. She suffers for all and give strength to all", I say, while looking in her eyes.
"I know. That's why I came to you".
I kneel on the bed, in front of her and start to move my hands around her head.
"You are her child and you, like me, wear the Altar inside you". Then, speaking hard and slowly, I continue: "You must be stronger then you've imagined. She wants to help, but if you don't do your part, she will not be able to do anything. You must be strong. You can do this. Limits are just an illusion of our mind".
She looks deep in my eyes, as my hands start trembling a bit.
"Is he drinking? Don't say to him 'stop drinking'. Take him to the road and show alcoholics. Show him their destroyed lives. Show him how their families abandoned them, how they stay in dirty houses and dirty clothes. This is the way. Don't argue against the law of freedom, just show him the path".
"And how to take him from those jerks? He is no longer listening to me!" the woman says, crying.
"You shout to him?"
"Yes. What should I do?"
"Again, you fight against the law of freedom. This is why he is not listening to you".
"Then what should I do?"
"Let him se the pain in your eyes. Let him see how much you cry and suffer from him", I answer. This way, the altar inside him will receive light from you".
She is slowly crying.
"Show him what happens to delinquents. How they got into trouble, how they get shot. Their life does not last long and they always end-up in big trouble. Give him examples. Make him think about what will happen to his pals and what will happen to him", I say as my hands shake above her shoulders. "When you speak to him, don't shout. Use a firm voice, with authority. Speak loud and rare, with pauses between words".
"I tried to block the door, but he showed me a knife..." she can speak no more, as tears cover her face.
"No", I say as I gently touch her hair and back. "You should say 'Kill me if you want, but that will not solve your problems'. He won't do it. Say 'You are free to walk that door, to take your life and soul to hell'. Try to be his friend, not his enemy. Try to work from the inside, not stop him from the outside. This is the way. If he drinks, try to give him milk or tea with honey. Honey fights against alcohol. If he smokes, that can be a good help".
I take my hands away and say "Done! You do have all the strength you need, only that you don't know your way yet. Do you smoke?"
I give her a cigarette as I light one for myself.
"Does he smoke?"
"I never caught him, but I think yes".
"Make him smoke. Share cigarettes with him. This will open a path to his soul. And it will help you keep him away from alcohol, because alcohol is the blood of Satan".
She stands up and cleans her tears. She thanks me for everything.
"No need to thank me. Thank Actit, because she put the words in my mouth and gave you strength through me. I am just a human, like you".
She moves away and heads back home, by foot, on the railway. I watch her go. Things like this happen about once a week. People think I am a witch, but I am not. I take the two packs in my hand. One is for me, alright. But the second one, I have to give to someone. To who? As I think about this, I see Natasha. She is about 40 and has a strange look. She is insane and has been like this ever since. When she is in a crisis, she can attack you. Her life was destroyed by a violent incident, just like mine. A rape. But she could not recover at all. At least I ended-up as a sfenist. Many people recover completely, but some, never. And there is also another category of girls, who after such an event become whores. I guess I will never understand why this happens.
So, I say 'hello' to Natasha and give her the pack of cigarettes. She takes it, mumbles something that I don't understand and lights one.
"May your soul be happy", I say as she moves away.
I never believed smoking can do anything harmful and I will never believe. It is part of the treatment in everything and can cure many problems.
He returns home from the mines with the evening train. I wait him with the table set: a soup with handmade spaghetti and cornmeal with cheese. I also have a few cookies and milk as usual. We eat, then we make ourselves comfortable on the bed, watching stuff on my laptop.
I am dressed with a green blouse, that he bought for me, a small black dress, black leggings and sheer pantyhose. He has a grey light sweater, a black and white skirt and grey opaque tights. We with our backs rested on the wall and the feet in front of us, with the heels beneath us. The laptop is on a big pillow.
He shows me some of his favorite videos on YouTube. There is one, with a woman standing on a rotating glass platform. The camera focuses on her feet, with nude pantyhose and no shoes. Then, we find one, with two women, sitting on a coach, smoking and wearing opaque white tights.
"I never showed my favorite videos to anyone", he says.
"I am happy that you shared with me", I say.
Then we find one, with two women smoking and wearing leggings. One of them is coughing.
"Looks a bit like us", I say. You still are not a complete smoker", I say, changing to a video named "Still learning" after the previous one ends.
"You've been watching smoking women?" he asks surprised.
"Yes. I did and I do, to improve my smoking style".
As we say so, we look for 'smoking' and 'pantyhose' tags at the same time. A video named 'Smoking with pantyhose' appears and we watch it.
"Amazing!" he says. "I never were into smoking, but combined with pantyhose, it takes all to a completely different new level".
As we change from video to video, we find another woman with tights and smoking. Only that this time, the video has a different tag: crossdressing.
"Wow! That doesn't look like a woman", I see. "Even if she has breasts. But still is a man".
"I've seen many similar videos and stood at these people", he answers.
"Do you like them?"
"No, not like that. I like the idea of cross dressing. But all of them are inside a room or very close to the house, never on the street. Well, some just wear women clothes, while others go to extreme measures, like breast implants, castration and an artificial vagina".
"And do you like that?" I ask again. "Do you want to be like that?"
He keeps a bit of silence, then says:
"Depends. Sometimes, I want to be a woman, but in the same time to change back to a man. It's like in some cartoons I watched as a child, Little Dracula. There was a guy, Coach dr. Frank, with two brains, with two personalities. I want to be more feminine... well not quite a woman, but then to push the button and become a man. Just like Coach dr. Frank had two brains, one with a rude and evil personality and one filled with love and compassion".
"I see..." I answer. "You have two different personalities that don't fight with each other. Not like two souls in a single body".
"Yes. You always see through my eyes before I can ever speak", he remarks. "But not quite like those guys on You Tube. I won't go to surgery and implants. And I don't want an irreversible transformation. When I am with you, I am some sort of hybrid between a man and a woman, but when I am out, I am Atan, the Geological expert".
I listen him very carefully. Many women would run from such a man, I won't. Since I am a sfenist, so I belong to a sexual minority, why shouldn't I understand him? After all, there is something that altered my personality since that violent event that destroyed my life. At that time, I grew with so much hate to all men in the world, except my dad and my brother. At some time, I wanted to become a man, to show them that I am superior to them. But I stopped. Why? Because I am Princess Nicotine and a princess needs to be a woman. It fit much better to my personality. For a woman, to dress like a man, it is more naturally then the opposite. Wearing jeans and shirt with shoes that have no heel, it is men's style already. But as Nicotiana, I have to be a woman.
And this man, in front of me, has nothing to make me anger. Even more. As a half-woman, he understands the world of women.
"So, when you're out, you are Atan. But when you are in here, who are you?" I ask.
"I don't know", he says looking in my eyes.
"Don't worry, I will help you find out who you are. You need to know your both personalities, Two-Face".
He doesn't answer anything, just lights a cigarette, as a new video starts.
"Our souls are like mirrors", I say. "A mirror can reflect anything around it. But there is only one thing it cannot reflect: itself. So, when you look at a mirror, you see everything else but the mirror itself. How do you do to see the mirror?"
"I look in another mirror, to see it".
"No. If you do that, you will see the reflection of a reflection. You look at the world with your eyes, then at the mirror. You will notice that objects are not the same in the mirror then in the world. They are a bit deformed. By looking at the differences, you can see the mirror itself. This is the same about yourself. You are a mirror and the way you transform things surrounding you, is your real personality".
"Once I've seen a picture, called 'the artist and the opera' that shows this well", I continue. "A guy was painting a woman which was sitting near him. The real woman looked like anyone should, but the painting had large breasts and long hair. This shows the hidden dreams inside the painter's brain. The same is for you. Just look at the way you deform reality and you will know your second half better and find her a name".
"I need help", he whispers.
"How would you like your woman half to be?" I ask him.
"I don't know. I built an imaginary girl in my mind a long time ago, but more I was looking at other women. But..."
"Don't be shy. Even if you say a curse, I won't harm you and nobody will".
"I want to be a copy of you".
This is more then a love declaration, more then if he kneeled in front of me with a wedding ring. What guy would do that? It shocks me more so hard that I twitch my eyes over my back.
"Did I say something bad?" he asks. "Do you disgrace this?"
"No", I say, smiling. "You just amaze me. A copy of me? I like the idea. In fact, you just said you love me".
"It is true, I love you", he answers surprised and with a huge tension in his body, "but in a different way".
"I know. In a sfenist way", I answer short, to relief him from his tension and to bring him out of a track he must not follow now. "We are sfenists. Our friendship is going to be a long and strong one, but we need to follow a certain path. If not, it will be only pain for both of us".
He remains almost immobile. It is just like I told him 'I love you'. Yes, I love him, but I know very well where will a passion relation lead to. I've been there. The moment when we will be touching our bodies, the moment he will cross a certain line, my body will reject him and I will hit him again... and maybe kill him. This is the pain of being a sfenist. A sfenist relation is far more different then a classical one. It is like the movement of subatomic particles. Protons are bounded together in the nucleus of an atom, held by a force that might resemble gravity. However, they reject one each other when distance between two is shorter then one's diameter. Not too far, not too close. If you don't respect these rules, the dark energies inside you will rip you apart.
"You want to be a copy of me", I say.
"Yes. The female inside me wants to be a copy of you".
"Does she has a name?" I ask.
"No. I mean, not yet. Do you have one for her?"
"My name, as you know, was not Ana or Nicotiana. Usually, we give girl names from flowers" I say and I type Nicotiana nana on Google image search. A beautiful flower appears. "Nicotiana nana is one sister of Nicotiana tabacum. And I am the other!"
He looks amazed.
"What flower should be, then?"
"Don't know", he answers. "Ana... What if I use something related? How about Alia?"
"Alia? What does this mean to you?"
"I heard once, in a movie. And I liked it. It is the closest to Ana and also starts with A, like Atan. Should work fine".
"Alia, then", I say short. "You will be Atan at the mine and Alia when we are together".
We watch another video, about a trans gender smoking and wearing girly clothes.
"Alia, can you go and take some coal from the railway station to put on fire?" I ask.
"I think I need to change clothes. It is night outside, but people might still see me".
"Don't worry", I say. "There is no train at this hour".
He moves out and returns after two minutes with a metal bucket full with coal. He puts coal and a bit wood in the fire, then returns.
"I will be Alia just here, while you, Nicotiana, can walk anywhere. Alia needs to become Atan outside of this house".
"All videos we've seen, show cross-dressers only inside rooms or on empty roads", I say. "I have nothing against you going to the mine in these clothes, but you will have big trouble".
"People will think that I am gay", he says.
"That will mean your death. Gay people have only two options here: run or die. The same applies for polygamy. For child abuse, the punishment is death without questions".
He looks scared, like any time I talk about killing and death. I am so used to this life. People here die all the time. Then, I come with an idea. Wow! Why not?
"Cross-dressing is not directly forbidden. You see, you have to show respect to people around them. In these mountains, you don't think like what will they think about me? Instead, you must think like this: How should I not hurt or disrespect them? The way you look and the way you behave shows your respect to the other people. Not saying hello to someone on the road, means you don't respect that person. It doesn't matter if you know or not that person, you have to show your respect. A man dressed as a woman will be a sign of disrespect, unless there is a reason for this behavior. I know a guy, popular on a TV show in the Land Of Nomads, that was a man and dressed as a woman. He had two reasons for this: The first, there are parts of the world where Muslim women have a harsh an unequal life. And second, in some parts of the world, gay people and trans-genders are killed. He wants to change mentality. But he already was a well-known TV show organizer and had a status".
"I have no status, at least here".
"Alia, what do people at the mine say about me and our friendship?"
"They are amazed that I didn't run away and say you won't kill me yet. But about you, they say sometimes that you are insane, that you are a witch, that you will steal my soul an kill me in a later future".
"A witch?" I ask with interest.
"Yes, they say you are a witch, that you can change people's mind, that you have magical powers, that you convinced the whole village to start smoking. Yes, they say they've seen you doing witchcraft, speaking in languages nobody heard. One man said you did a spell on his wife and the next week she started smoking".
"Yes, people think you are a witch. You know Turgai? He joins me everyday on the rail. At first, he was afraid that you will make me sorcery and you will transform me into a lunatic or God knows what".
"Do you think that I do sorcery?" I ask with a big smile, almost laughing.
"I've never seen someone to practice many religions at the same time. I thought you might, even if I don't believe such things. But well, everything is possible".
"Well, Alia, what if I do?" I say, hardly controlling my laugh. "Here is the point. I know how to talk with people, how to change their minds. The secret is not to fight against them, but to go along them and divert them slowly to another path. I do this to help them. But yes, I let them the impression of witchcraft". I laugh hard, just cannot control me. "But I like people to consider me crazy, even insane. And I love to be considered a witch. Not to mention, a nightmare to guys and their balls". I laugh again. "I make no spells, no witchcraft. If the gods want to help, they always do, but only if you are worth to receive that help. But, to keep the confusion going, one day I was boiling water in a cauldron, to wash laundry. As two fishers came along the river, I started to say: Frog eye extract... and a little lizard tail powder. And this is not all. Once, a drunk man fallen on the bridge. People were arguing what happened. Then, I said: I made a spell on him, to fall if he will ever come drunk to the rail station. So, people think I am a witch".
"So, you are not a witch!", he says.
"No, I am not. But people think I am. But what if... I make you a spell? This is the maddest thing I've ever tried. What if... The radio will beep soon, as the last train will go to the mine. There are a few passengers on it. What if we come to the rail platform, dressed as we are now? You start moving back to the house, so that people will see you. And I will tell them that I made you a spell to look like a woman. How about? Imagine the confusion tomorrow at the mine! When you will go to work, just pretend you know nothing. Oh, this is brilliant!"
He doesn't like the idea, but follows me. We go to the station, on the bench. It is dark and cold. We light a cigarette. I can feel that Alia is nervous. The radio beeps, telling in Morse that a train is coming. I smoke like always, but now, for the first time, he is smoking faster then me. I even turn on the light on the platform, a thing that I usually don't do.
"Calm down!" I say. "Just wait".
"Just don't put me get dressed like this to the mine!"
"No. Alia will not go to the mine, only Atan will. But in the house and around the house, Alia can freely move happy".
We finish our cigarettes and others, when the train comes. We can hear and see it. And to make things more complicated, a woman arrives at the station, willing to get in the train. Alia looks inside my eyes, then starts smiling. In this time, I start moving my hands around his head, like when I do sorcery. The woman looks at my hands, then at his feet. She sure notices that this is a man with a dress and pantyhose.
The train stops. A few people go down, the woman gets up. The engineer shouts:
"For the holly name of Allah! Ana, what have you done?"
"Witchcraft", I shout. He can't hear you!"
"Atan, what!!!" shouts someone in the train.
"I told you that witch will kill him!"
"Atan, buddy, can you hear me? Can you hear me? Damn it, bitch! I'll kill you if he doesn't come tomorrow to work!"
I say some meaningless words, something that doesn't mean anything in any language. Then, I tell Alia at the ear: "Go back home!" and crack my hands four times. He moves home.
"Look! He doesn't even see us!" shouts someone.
I go inside the station and signal through radio that the train is departing. Then, I return to the platform and signal the train to go.
"I'll kill you if anything happens to him!" shouts a passenger.
"Watch your words, if you don't want to end-up like him!" I answer.
We return to the house.
"Oh mine!" says Alia, looking down to my feet. "Tomorrow, the whole mine will explode!"
"Remember, you know nothing. You don't remember even being on the platform, you never worn women cloths, you were watching a movie!"
He laughs, full of excitement.
"This is the first time I walk out like this".
"And won't be the last time, Alia. I know, tomorrow and for a while, the mine will explode hearing things like this, but in the end everything will calm".
"Nicotiana, so you want me to do this again?"
"As long as you like it. I gave you a boost, to make a forward step that you would never do on your own. It now depends on you how many steps and how far you are going to do".
He waits a bit and says: "But will they kill you?"
"Who?" I ask while laughing. "Only if I kill you first. But that is not going to happen".
"Yet", says Alia with a big smile.
"I have no plans to kill you", I answer, understanding his joke "...yet".
We stay in the room, almost in the same way: with one foot over the other, looking at each other and lighting together a cigarette. It will soon be time to sleep. I just cannot imagine what a bomb will this be in the entire village. Atan will be asked by anyone at the mine. There are no phones or cell phones in these mountains, but news travel very fast. What should I do with my parents and my sisters? I kept some distance between them and him. They will find out and I need to put things in such a way that nothing bad will happen. I just hope everything will go as my plan takes shape in my mind. If it does, there will be a clear path for all of us, here, at the end of the world.
I get fast to sleep, but not Alia. I hear him moving in bed and lighting two cigarettes during the night. Then, the 3 AM train is coming. I wake-up and go to the station. All passes without incidents, even if I recognize the same engineer.
Then, I find him sleeping, while I cannot close an eye. I keep on moving in bed and I light a few cigarettes. But finally I have to wake him up. We eat, he changes clothes into Atan and we go to the station.
None on the platform knows what happen. The train comes. But, in the light of the morning, the engineer (the same one!) shouts:
"Atan, where is your skirt?"
"What skirt?" he says, moving in the train.
"the one you were wearing last night", he answers.
I watch as the train vanishes, climbing along the river. Then, I keep listening its engine and creaks, until nothing can be heard. Then, I go to the house and lie on the bed.
"You know what you've done", says my shadow.
"Yes, I know. But I was wide awake and completely awake about it. And I fully assume the consequences".
"You just lighted the fuse. The explosion will come".
"I did. And I did this without violating the unwritten law".
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