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These are our lives, they are not a subject for entertainment

Transgender from Macedonia - about how he won a case against a state in the European Court of Human Rights and about his willingness to fight further

Despite the fact that earlier the story X was completely public, now he wants to maintain anonymity for security reasons and because of the various difficulties that he has already encountered in his life
I am 31 year-old transgender man, coming from Skopje, Macedonia. When I was a child, I came across sensationalists stories about transgender people. It was hard dealing with the fact that I felt a lot in common with the people which were described in the stories. They were subject to ridicule and hatred, and at the time it was difficult for me to define myself. There was no available information anywhere. In those rare places where these people were, they were either twisted or abusive. It did not help at all. Somewhere at the end of high school I finally learned what transgender meant and when I looked back in my life, everything made sense. Otherwise, from a very young age I felt that something "did not click". But in a conservative society, there is no word for it. There is no understanding.

Today also there are many young people who do not have information and are suppressed by their families and the environment. After all, I know some people in such a situation. It's very difficult for them. Like all of them, I also thought many times about committing suicide - what else should I think of when I thought I was completely alone here and that nobody understood me and did not respect me? I met the first transgender person from Macedonia when I was 23 years old. It made a huge difference in my life.
Transgender
a person whose gender identity and/or gender presentation does not correspond to cultural and social expectations associated with sex attributed at birth. The term is used to designate a wide range of gender identities.
BEING TRANS - THIS IS NOT A CHOICE
TRANSOPHOBIA - HERE'S CHOICE
I have not decided on anything, this is not a choice. The choice is to be transphobic. I want to be clear - trans people are confident about their identity just as non-trans people. There is no difference. And therefore there is no justification for condemning one to the other.

Fortunately, I did not deal with any physical attacks - but personally I know a lot of people who were often attacked, and they did not report this because of fear of ridicule and condemnation. This is a huge problem in our society. I think that all, or almost all trans people from Macedonia whom I know were physically attacked because they are trans.

On the other hand, I faced verbal attacks almost every day. These sort of things happened with people whom I used to be friends with, with bystanders, basically everywhere. I remember that once, I was in a situation where several people were violently shaking the chair I was sitting in, at a state-owned internet café. They were screaming into my ears. I was afraid to react, and nobody else did anything. There were a couple of guys there and I was sure they would wait for me outside. Fortunately, it did not happen.

Previously, I was also under pressure from my family (X did not go into the details of the conflicts, he says only that there were many "arguments and problems" between him and his relatives, Ed.), But at the end, my family accepted me for who I am. They understood that only in this way I can be happy and lead a functional life.
It is difficult for me to find a word that can summarize the attitude of the Macedonian institutions towards transgender people in the country. Probably the term "catastrophic" is appropriate
In every, literally every institution I have been to, I have been the subject of questioning and ridicule. Every time I have to explain before a room full of people what the "problem" is with my documents. And the problem is the result of the institutions. But I was determined to go through with my case. And I am convinced that I will succeed in changing my documents. It must be clear - a person who due to a medical transition has undoubtedly, a 100% male appearance and a changed name – is unequivocally a male. But the rest of the documents say that he is a "Female" "and the numbers 455 are kept in the ID number…

I find myself in this situation every single time – and a huge part of my time is filled with stress and facing the elementary ignorance of the officials who are being paid to protect my rights. But they are violating them and laugh in my face, thinking that I will not notice this. A great deal of my rights have been violated and limited. And I will not tolerate this. The case in which I am suing the state will go until the end, and our institutions will have to do what they are being paid to do - they will have to protect the rights of the citizens. This means that the case will have to be resolved positively. This also comes with a legal framework for recognition of the gender, and its application everywhere in the country, without exception.
Transgender transition
the process of bringing the gender role and body of a person into harmony with own inner self-awareness - gender identity. Transgender transition can include socialization in a new gender role, change of passport name and legal gender, as well as medical procedures for changing external sex characters.
MY BODY IS MY DECISION
My transition began when I decided to start the medical process
I began to take testosterone, and my appearance changed completely. After a few months, I changed my name. In Macedonia, the Naming law allows this, but there are no procedures for changing the gender mark and the ID number. So when I applied to change the gender marking, the Department in charge of those affairs within Ministry of Justice delayed, made a problem about it, made decisions without a legal basis and gave bizarre excuses. In the end, after such actions, not only in my case, but in others as well, the Department even declined jurisdiction on the issue. It is an entire process that is carefully documented.
Together with the fantastic Natasha Boshkova from the Coalition Margins, we have been running the process from the very beginning. The next step after the Department, was the Ministry of Justice itself. But their decision didn't change anything. After that, the Administrative Court referred the case back to rule again, and I went through the same bizarre situations. How can it be that there is no mention of a surgery, but the excuse for the process is that documents for surgery should be submitted? I also led this process additionally, and it wasn't because of the institutions, but because of myself. Because I wanted to have a better quality of life.
Coalition Margins
the Coalition "Sexual and Health Rights of Marginalized Communities" was founded in 2007 as a non-formal, joint platform and the result of the joint efforts of several organizations: HOPS – Healthy Options Project Skopje, HERA, IZBOR – Strumica and EGAL. Since 2011, the Coalition has been registered as an individual entity, that is as an NGO whose founders are: HOPS – Healthy Options Project Skopje, HERA, IZBOR – Strumica, EGAL and STAR-STAR.
No official has the right to force me to go "under the knife". This is my body, and they don't have the rights to it
The process went on for too long, and the requirement to go to European Court of Human Rights is to exhaust all options and instances in the country. Considering that we passed the Administrative Court, we could file an application with the European Court. I did not intend to quit, and I have no intention to do so even today. The verdict says that the country has an obligation to adopt a legal framework that will enable the document to be changed in a fast, transparent and accessible manner. The state must not seek medical interventions because it attacks the bodily integrity of trans people. I have said it many times, and I will repeat it: the bodily integrity is constitutionally protected and I expect the state to respect the Constitution. There is no compromise here. The Constitution protects my bodily integrity and the state has no right to ask me to go into health risks in order to change a piece of paper. If they did not mind me getting a male name, there is no logic to stop me from aligning the rest. It does not make sense.

Because I have had a medical transition and my appearance is completely male, I generally feel safe in the public. There is no difference. However, the biggest problem is with my documents. The bank, post office, at the airport, at the doctor ... wherever I go - the problem arises! My rights in all these areas, and many more situations, must not be violated. There must be justice. For now, the state tolerates such treatment towards trans people, but there are legal mechanisms that will impose appropriate consequences.
STEREOTYPES IN OUR SOCIETY
Something that particularly bothers me in our society is the treatment of trans people by the media
Either we are the main topic of ridicule, or the public spits on us and wants to provoke us – there are many types of comments on social media. And most people have no idea of what trans people look like. They think that trans men look like women, and that trans women look like men. And there is no bigger stereotype than this.
Recently, due to the publicity of my case, I have been counting many news headlines such as "The woman who wants to be a man". This is a blatant disrespect for my identity! I would like to address the public with one information that at first glance might look sensational: my dear, my body is not the subject of your interpretation. Yes, here I am at will, deciding to tell you that I have a male voice, beard, a male body structure, hairiness, medical interventions. But despite all this information, my body is not the subject of your interpretation. My body is my business, not yours.
Every day, you are walking among trans people, not noticing they are trans - because we look so amazing!
Bearing this in mind, I would like to publicly condemn all sensational headlines such as "The Woman Who Wants to Be a Man", to call for a greater respect for my identity as a citizen. I would also like to recommend to all readers and journalists to read the survey "Transcendental experience" by the incredible Slavco Dimitrov, as well as the Transgender Europe Journalist's Guide. I'm explicitly asking for ethical reporting. And in terms of detail - the research will introduce you to the trans community in Macedonia. Here we are, we are determined, and we deserve respect!
Slavco Dimitrov (born 1984)
holds a diploma for Comparative and General Literature at the University of St. Cyril and Methodius and holds MA in Gender Studies and Philosophy, on the subject of: Genealogical Deconstruction of the Confessional Subject: Political and Ethical Implications. He's been teaching several courses at the non-formal School on Gender and Politics at the Euro-Balkan Institute. At the moment he is a teaching assistant for the courses 'Contemporary Cultural Theories', 'Culture and Gender', 'Masculinities and the Balkans' and 'Queer Theory' at the postgraduate Gender Studies and Cultural studies departments at the Institute Euro-Balkan. At the moment he is director of the Coalition for Sexual and Health Rights of Marginalized Communities.
Transgender Europe (TGEU)
is a network of different organizations of transgender, transsexual, gender variant and other like-minded people to combat discrimination and support trans people rights. TGEU was established on the first European Transgender Council in Vienna in November 2005. Run as a volunteer organization for many years TGEU established itself as legitimate voice of the trans community in Europe. TGEU successfully continue to combine advocacy work on the European level with work on the national level in partnership with members with and for local communities.
PROGRESS MINIMAL
BUT CHANGES ARE INEVITABLE
The progress regarding LGBTI rights in the country is minimal. Fortunately, we have an Interparliamentary LGBTI group, but the fight in the Parliament has yet to begin. Change occurs primarily in the community. I've been in situations where I went to be photographed for an ID and I was ridiculed. But I have firmly said that I know what my rights and protection mechanisms are. Then I get an apology.

People are slowly becoming aware, but the main change comes from the community and from friends and supporters. Publications are printed, workshops are held, and trans people are increasingly competent in defending their rights. It will inevitably bring about change.
LGBT (LGBT+, LGBTIQ, LGBTIQ, LGBTQIA)
The abbreviation "LGBT" stands for "lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender". The term "LGBT +" is now considered more correct, because it includes by default all possible orientations and identities that cannot be covered by one abbreviation. Also there are abbreviations LGBTI, LGBTIQ, LGBTQIA, where I is intersex people, Q is queer, A is asexuals.
I expect several things from Macedonia regarding the LGBTI community. First of all, the state must understand that these citizens exist and that it must not neglect them. You have to treat them equally. I expect a legal framework for recognition of gender exclusively on the basis of self-determination. I expect, after almost an eternity, a new law for prevention and protection against discrimination. I expect a lot of work on health issues because the health system is particularly problematic for the LGBT community, and especially for trans people. I expect a higher level of education. I expect the media to stop seeing us as "juicy stories".

These are our lives, this is not the fun section. I expect us to be treated as equal citizens, because we are ones. There is no special treatment here. I expect basic rights, basic access to goods and services, without prejudice, without ridicule and insults. I expect justice!
Text: Victor Jovanov. Photo: Mirsad Bekiri. Editing: Boyan Stojkowski, Anastasiia Sechina. Illustration: Natalia Makarikhina. Translation into Russian: Irina Galina. Translation into English: Bojan Stojkowski.
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