« Being Trans in Cameroon »
» My name is Chanelle Kouankep, I am 30 years old and a Cameroonian transgender woman coming from the Great West region. I define myself as a heterosexual woman because of my internal feeling and sexual attraction to men. I currently live in the city of Yaoundé where I work on a daily basis as a human rights activist and defender, particularly for transgender people. I am the eldest sibling of two, raised in a single-parent family that later rejected me because of my gender identity.
For 5 years, I was involved in the religion of Jehovah’s Witnesses. I was baptized and made a permanent pioneer. Tired of all their misleading speeches, I detached myself to take refuge in another more welcoming religion: known as the revival, evangelical religion. I have a master’s degree in psychopathology and clinical psychology. I am a learning writer and passionate about reading.
I have always had the feeling that I was born into another person’s body. I grew up questioning my own identity. One of the questions I asked myself was why Nature had created me differently from other women who had been lucky enough to be born with their own biological sex. I had male genitalia but my gender identity, my tastes, and what I was attracted to corresponded to those of the opposite sex.
As a child, I suffered. Even though deep down I had feminine features, a pretty girl’s face, I felt cramped in my body. My life as a schoolgirl was not easy. The teachers at school told me I could not play with the girls with that I felt comfortable with. When I was forbidden to play with girls, I found refuge in drawing and reading alone. The only things that gave me any pride were the excellent grades I had in school. I was brilliant and it drew attention to me. It was one of the only positive things I had throughout my primary school years and it followed me to high school and university. This was the only positive point that attracted teachers and sometimes my parents to me. I blossomed more in university than in high school, where I was more and more compressed with the school uniforms that were imposed on us from grade 6 to 12. Physical and verbal abuse had been my daily life as a child. I was so beaten, insulted, and denigrated that I sank into neurosis, a psychological disorder. My parents beat me everywhere, privately at home, and publically. They beat me at school to show all my friends who doubted that I was a boy, and in the streets, in front of bystanders. Today the violence I am subjected to is psychological and verbal. Through social networks or places of reverence where I worship the Lord, people continue to speak harshly and derogatory words to me.
Living as a transgender person in my country is difficult; difficult because you can’t have access to hormones of substitution, which is a big handicap.
This is problematic both from the point of view of well-being and from the emotional perspective. What we want most today is to see all these articles of law repealed and a system put in place in Cameroon to access hormones. We want mentalities to change considerably and transgender people to be considered as people living in the wrong body. We want to reduce discrimination and stigmatization and we want transgender women to be valued in all aspects of life. Certainly, there are cisgender women who understand us and with whom a great friendship is created, but so far, many transgender women have had difficulty being fulfilled in love with cisexual men. Many of them served time in prison because it was forbidden to leave the prison dressed according to their true gender identity. In court, it fell under article 347-1, which prohibited relations with persons of the same sex, or another article criminalizing the offence of facies.
I know many transgender women here in Cameroon with whom I share the same values. I met most of them through affiliations, more precisely when I was working at the HUMANITY FIRST CAMEROON association. In the context of my work and in my association « TRANSAMICAL » I continue to meet them. I met others at carnivals and at pride nights organized each year in Cameroon by LGBT associations. I enjoyed talking to them and some of them have become great friends with whom I share the same passions and hobbies.
I have not yet started my transition as such, but for the past three months, I have been practicing self-medication by taking contraceptive pills freely; it slightly feminizes my body and considerably reduces my libido. Expressing my sexuality has been a difficult thing. As a transgender woman, I sometimes have partners, but the relationships we have, are never long-term. Every time we are close to having sex, I put an end to our relationship for fear that he will really discover who I am. For me it’s a hard ordeal. I had only one relationship where my partner knew in advance who I was, we had met on my association’s Facebook page and he was the first one to make advances to me. He had taken my Trans identity well and he admitted to me that he was attracted to this kind of person but the relationship was short-lived.
One of my dearest wishes today is to become published as a transgender woman, through the themes I address by writing in my books.
If I ever have children (my other dearest wish) I simply hope to make them understand, with all the notions acquired in psychology and neuropsychology during my years of higher education, that Trans identity is just a handicap and a mistake of Nature that can be repaired thanks to the advances and achievements of science and medicine.
« Being trans in France »
I am 43 years old and live in Saint-Denis, the suburbs next to Paris. As I am now disabled, I no longer work, but previously was in the helping industry working with people who had multiple disabilities. I was not raised by my family but by a host family beginning at the age of 10 months. I have a 20 year old daughter and a girlfriend of two years who identifies as a lesbian.
When I was in kindergarten, I was attracted to girls but never had a girlfriend. I have always been masculine and was most comfortable with the « tomboy » appearance. Around the age of 12, my chest started to grow and I began to feel uncomfortable in my body. As soon as I could make my own style choices, I began dressing as a boy. I grew a mustache, shaved my head… and the more I aged, the more I accentuated looking like a boy. I had many girls as friends because I was living in a girls’ home. With boys, my relationships were often filled with a rivalry. It seemed like a competition would form every time they learned about my sexual orientation. When I was 16, I started going out with a girl, I knew this was me. That I was in tune with myself. I did not want sex-change surgery, I felt good in my body.
I avoid putting myself in difficult and confrontational situations. When I introduce myself, I give my last name, I avoid the titles of « Miss » and « Mister ». In person, I am not asked the preferred title but am assumed as « sir ». However, once people read my name on paper, they apologize or do not believe my identity. Then I have to justify myself. In the end, I let them choose what they prefer to call me. I did not know that we could change the name on our IDs until recently and decided I do not need to do it anymore. In my earlier years, this used to matter to me, but everything changed with my new girlfriend.
Before I only had straight girlfriends, so I was interested in changing my sex and title, in the interest of them. Two years ago, I registered on a lesbian site. They welcomed me warmly and I felt integrated and accepted in my identity with them. I do not feminize more than before and my desire to please my girlfriend is stronger than my desire to change my sex. I still define myself as trans, even with that being said.
« In 2014, I did a hormonal test and it turned out that I have a lot of male hormones in me, hence my strong hair, deep voice, etc … »
What I would like to change? Me, in relation to my own experience. When I present myself as « Sir », I do not want people to impose « Madam » because my papers say so. When people apologize I tell them « No, if I wanted to be a girl, I would have been a girl. »I did research on trans identity and for an operation.
For those who want the surgery, I believe that the operation must be taken into account by social security, or for it to be less expensive than the 10,000€ that it costs in France.
There has been an increase in awareness especially since the legalization of gay marriage (Note: Legalization in France in 2013) and in recent years the conversation has opened up. This year was the first LGBTQ meeting of the 9.3 (Note: Paris suburbs deemed difficult).
What I would say to a trans child? « Live your life. Do not worry about what people have to say, as long as you feel good about yourself, live it ». What hurt me the most as a child was when I was pointed at and told: « You’re not a boy, you’re a girl »
What I like being told: « Do not worry. I accept you as you are, you are a good person.
« In regards to my daughter, I was made PMA in Holland. It was me who wore it and had custody. She always saw that I was who I am, I did not hide the truth from her. She calls me neither dad nor mom, but by my nickname.It is possible to have children and to carry a child even if we are trans. There are transgender people who are very masculine. They identify as men and do not accept the feminine in them. What pleases my girlfriend and me is that I have both.
My daughter never questioned me, she did not feel the need to see a psychiatrist, she is balanced and well-adjusted… The only reason I state this is because so many people have asked this and believed there existed this conflict, when in reality, it is just the opposite!