If the world can be transformed, so can I…

Source: Işıl Cinmen, “Dünya dönüyorsa ben de dönerim!”(“If the world can be transformed, so can I), Haberturk, 14 January 2014, http://www.haberturk.com/yasam/haber/912441-dunya-donuyorsa-ben-de-donerim-

What are you doing to become the person in your dreams?

Sports, botox, diets, plastic surgeries…

Regardless of what you have being doing, İnan has done more than that so far.

İnan was biologically born as a woman.

Yet he is a man now.

As a little girl, he sensed something had not gone right.

He has endured in order to break the endless taboo throughout his whole life.

Finally, he learned to love himself as he is and to combine his body and soul together in harmony.

He said to himself, “If the world can be transformed,  so can I. “

Trans men, also known as those who transition from female to male, are transsexuals less known by society.

Leave your biases at the door and pay attention to what İnan has to say!

912441_detay

We often see trans women but we are just getting to know trans men. Why?

Actually, we often see trans women because we all know that transitioning from male to female has been possible since the 1970’s and we can easily recall similar stories about them. However, Turkey’s acquaintance with the concept of “trans men” has been around for less than a year.

Due to the event concerning Rüzgar Erkoçlar? [Former actress and model Nil Erkoçlar whose transition was outed in 2013]

Yes, we should not call it an “event concerning him.” This situation existed because Rüzgar Erkoçlar’s identity was disreputably revealed without any consideration for medical ethics. I am sure that this incident was very upsetting and tiring for his personal life. His heart was broken and he felt humiliated. We, all trans men, have shared these feelings through him, because what was interrogated, criticized and the privacy that was violated was our identity as trans men.

THERE ARE MORE THAN 1000 TRANS MEN IN TURKEY

On the other hand, this incident has positively benefited the visibility of trans men in society, has it not?

Yes, it turned out to be a public phenomenon, known by many; yet any incident like this does not make us feel happy but angry. Anyway, until Rüzgar Erkoçlar’s incident, people were only aware of the possibility of transition from male to female in relation to the concept of transsexuals. Now it is known that transitioning from female to male is also possible. This is the positive side of this incident.

How many trans men exist in Turkey?

A past scan of the media would reveal that before Rüzgar more than twenty trans men’s stories had been published without particularly defining them as “trans men.” There has been a clinic that has been working on the transitioning process for the past twenty-five years within the Psychiatry Department of Çapa Medical Faculty. It is estimated that there are more than 1000 trans men in Turkey.

You do not have to be visible or out, do you? I mean you do not look any different than biological males…

Because of the physical effects of testosterone, trans men, unlike trans women, have the luxury to choose to live openly with their identities and to be visible or not. Therefore, only a  few trans men accept the frustrating living conditions that come with voluntarily disclosing their identities. Many families stay hidden to protect themselves. I think it is very understandable…

“I HAVE BEEN A TRANSSEXUAL SINCE I WAS 5 YEARS OLD”

What does transsexual mean? What is the exact definition?

Transsexual is defined as someone who wants to completely transform his/her anatomic structure and biological sex to the features of the opposite sex.

Someone who wants to transform or someone who has already done it?

Someone who wants to do it. What is important here is who wants to do it but not who is in the process of doing it or has already completed the process. Therefore, I have been a transsexual since I was five because I wanted to transition since that age.

THE STORY OF A CHILD WHOSE GENDER WAS TRANSFORMED WITHOUT HIS WILL

I see. What does being transexual depend on? On family? On trauma? On the brain? On hormones or on social learning or on all of these factors?

The medical community is still researching this. Not long ago they were defending the claim that the most important factor specifying one’s gender identity is upbringing. In other words, they were saying a child’s gender identity would form in a certain direction based on how she/he is being raised. Yet, through long duration follow-ups of patients, it has been shown that the most important factor determining one’s gender identity is the brain.

How?

The most well known example in the literature is the incident of “John/Joan.” The twin male siblings, born in 1965, had an accident during circumcision. One of the siblings’ genitalia was seriously injured. Doctors explained the situation to his parents. John Money, the psychologist working on sexuality (this is also the reason for the name of this case) talked to them: “He cannot be happy this way. Let us take his testicles, replace his damaged penis with the genitalia of a female and then treat him through hormones. Social learning is also important; so accept him as a girl and act on it. All expenses will be paid by the hospital.” The parents were convinced.

HE DID NOT KNOW THAT HE WAS A BOY

So, this child never knew that he was born as a boy because he was raised as a girl. Right?

Yes, because of this he never heard the trauma of his circumcision. Brian, his given name when born, was changed to Brenda.  He was raised with a female identity so this is how she knew herself.

Very interesting. Then what happened?

Right before she turned 10 years old and after going through psychotherapies, hormone treatments, and follow-ups for years, Brenda noticed that she did not feel like a girl and started acting like a boy. In her 20’s she completely rejected her female identity and went through surgeries to biologically become a man and became David.

What does this tell us?

Fundamentally, gender identity does not depend on genitals or hormones but on the brain. Therefore, hormone treatments do not wipe out an individual’s gender identity in their brain and transsexuality does not arise from hormonal defects.

So, if a child is born as a trans…

If a child is transsexual, it does not matter whether you raise her/him based on the biological sex they are born with. This only causes them to feel unhappy and pushes them into loneliness. Like David whose sex was changed without his will… He killed himself at 38.

“MY MOM NOTICED IT WHEN I WAS 3 YEARS OLD”

At what age did you notice that you are a man in a female’s body?

Ever since I could remember… I was a tiny little one.

How did you notice it?

I knew very few things about the world and was behaving as I felt. How could you not notice as you were always warned, “Girls do not behave this way. Do not sit like a boy. Do this, do not do this…”

Did you ask yourself, “What the hell is this?” when you were five year old?

My mother noticed that my biological sex did not keep up with my gender identity. Later she told me that…

She noticed and then what did she do?

My mother is a strict and super idealist teacher. There is no limit to her efforts for doing something she believes in. She is a protective mother, I often describe her as “powerful.” Of course, she noticed my incompatibility because she knew something about the topic.

In fact, having a conscious mother is pretty good luck…

No, it actually was not because at that time it was taught that transsexuality is a psychological state dependent on social learning about whether you take your mother or father as a model. Now combine these two things: this theory of transsexuality and a protective mother.

By presenting your story, my aim was to explain the theoretical part of this topic without getting deep into the details. Yet I am curious about you as well. What type of a family were you raised in?

There are families with one child who say, “May our child have a better life than us and let’s make sure we take good care of them.” Literally, it was a middle class family with a working mother and father. They met in a circle of friends and then got married. I grew up in a family that always maintained their friendships and their interest in having a social life, eating out or traveling; so we have always had budgetary deficits. I think they were very ordinary.

You described your mother as powerful. How about your father?

He is an easygoing person. He is like someone whose nerves are taken, a little bright and breezy. Inside of him there is just a little place for the past, the future, depth…He loves life and lives it. Seldom, if ever, his stubbornness gets the worst of him but generally he is a harmless man, not rigid at all.

“DEAR AUNT, MY VOICE IS LIKE THIS NOW”   

Based on your blog posts, I understand that you love your aunt a lot…

My aunt is almost the opposite of my mother; fearful, if someone says something, she orients herself based on that. She is very emotional, in so much that you could not consciously dare to upset her. In my childhood, my aunt was really precious to me. It was because I was a weak child who often got sick; I always had canker sores in my mouth. At those moments my mom would say, “Eat, we are late,” and my aunt said, “I know your mouth hurts; but please make an effort for me.” I could see in her eyes how she was frightened that something would happen to me. I still remember her the look on her face…

Did you feel a compassion in her that you could not feel in your mother?

When I was about four years old, I told my aunt, “I wish you were my mom.” To feel a deep and intense love at that age was really important for a child like me. Before I disclosed my decision of starting the transition process, I went to her. At home, in the town, or the bazaar… Where ever we went, they called me a “young man” but were confused when they heard my voice. Of course, at that time my voice was higher because I did not use hormones. I asked her one time when we were alone together, “Do you mind when they call me a “young man?”

What did she say?

She said, “No dear, you have been my niece for years, you have been always like that, I do not care what others say.” I felt as if someone removed a big rock off my chest,although later on things did not go that way.

How come?

I think it happened because she adapted to her husband’s opinions. The last time we talked was on the phone after I began the hormone injections. I was frustrated from acting like I have a cold in order to not upset my distant relatives. Also, I frankly thought that was so stupid. I mean how many times can one catch a cold… I said, “This is my voice from now on.” It is hazy after that. My mom was telling me, “She is very sad,” but we did not talk openly. When she forgot my birthday, which she had never forgotten before, I realized what was happening. I did not insist; I could not upset her.

“I FELT EMBARRASSED, REMEMBERING THAT MY INSIDE AND OUTSIDE WERE NOT IN SYNC”

Did you feel sad?

As a three or five year old child I had to fight almost all the adults in my life to be able to behave like myself. During visits at our home even the most gracious neighbors would talk about how a stranger thought that I was a boy anytime I acted like myself for a brief moment. Everybody laughed at these stories. I felt embarrassed and it reminded me that my external appearance didn’t fit what I was feeling internally. This is a very lonely fight. Socially as well as personally…

Tell me more please…

You cannot fit in with other girls. Meanwhile, among the boys you cannot go further than “you are kind of like us.” Whenever you get on someone’s nerves for some reason, he/she says something nasty like, “After all, it is not clear if she is a girl or a boy.”

“EACH TIME THE AMERICAN HAIRCUT”  

How about your internal experience?

Even more difficult. I thought no one in this world  was able to understand me. When I was child I did not have any hopes about finding any information about this. It is such a desperate struggle as you can see… The only thing I could was to make room for myself to carry out my wishes. For example, I had a hair cut by saving the money that remained from grocery shopping. The American haircut! Each time… Then of course fights at home.

Why did you not like to be a woman?

Because I was not a woman. I could not start my sentence the other way. Ever since I could remember I imagined myself as a grown-up with a male body. I used to tell myself, “This is a mistake. Probably everything will straighten out when I grow up.”

But what did being a woman mean to you when you were little?

At that age I could not understand what being a woman or a man meant, being a woman meant being prevented from the things I was naturally doing and would like to do. So, how could I like to be a woman?

What does being a man mean?

When I was little, it meant to be able to play soccer without wearing my shirt buttoned up. It meant having muscles on my chest instead of breasts. If you ask me what being a man means to me right now, I would say that my inside world and my body complete each other.

THE FIVE STAGES OF ACCEPTANCE

Can you love yourself?

For years I had a hard time loving myself. This was double-layered lack of self-love. The first layer was caused by being seen as a “mistake” or “different” since childhood and therefore feeling less valuable. The second was because in my adolescence my body developed in the opposite direction from the image I had of myself  in my mind. Nothing was more difficult than to love myself, to accept myself and to leave my rage aside caused by all of the struggles I was going through.

Well, how is your relationship with your family now?

I had not told them anything until I decided to start the transition process, so I had not said anything until I was 23. When I decided, I thought that it is their right to know. I explained to them both my feelings and my memories as well as what I knew about the surgeries. I wanted to win their affection instead of becoming a child who would run away.

Their first reaction?

Their first reactions were exactly like any reaction a middle class family would have. They said things like, “We made all these investments for your future. And now, just as we think that you are finishing up school and starting work, you are telling us something that would mean not finding a job or getting married. Nothing will change after the surgery, either.” Anxiety, disappointment, and anger at me because they thought I was the cause…

Maybe sadness?

Right, there was a deep sadness. I guess this is all families’ first reaction. The first three years were very difficult. I always talked to them about why I had to do this and this was not on my control. And then they started accepting me once they noticed that I had no problem finding a job or a partner and was accepted by society. Right now, we have a more natural and real relationship. When my mom wakes me up calling “my son,” I feel on top of world. We do not fight anymore. She takes my arm, we walk together; so we are like comrades right now. My father’s acceptance was more difficult because he personally does not like painful sides of life. Yet he started feeling better too once he realized that all difficulties would be overcome. All my surgeries have been completed, I got my blue ID, what else should there be?

I think the key point in this whole process is “acceptance.” Is there any easy path to acceptance?

Actually this is a general rule. We always go through five phases while facing anything we would like to ignore. I too went through these phases while I learned to accept myself, so did my family.

What are they?

First, denial: “This is not true.”

Then, rebellion: “Why me?” Some rebel against God, others against their destiny, or some against misfortune.

The third phase is negotiation: For example, my breasts started growing when I was 13. I was talking to God, “Dear God, these are growing; but maybe they will not grow anymore if I do feel this way, will they?”

The fourth phase is depression: “I cannot feel happy with this physiology, I cannot move comfortably, I cannot live. I want to die.” For a while I did not go outside, sleep or eat properly.

And then acceptance: “The only thing I could do is to learn if I can transform my sex, at least to try to.” Once I learned that it is possible, my whole world was enlightened.

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