We–Isa and I–met each other thanks to a mutual friend on Tinder, with whom she had been on a date and I had a protracted correspondence.
So this Tinder guy decided to share his impressions: “I went on a date with a girl, who did not hesitate to put in her profile ‘mtf transgender’ and I wanted to understand what I would feel.” It was his first personal meeting with a transgender and it seemed he was excited, even still while telling me about it some time since the date. I insisted that he introduce us.
That’s how I met Isa. On the surface, I expected to meet an exalted character fixated on the issue of gender identity, but instead she turned into a modest, sensible 19-year-old girl, who seemed to understand herself and her will more than many of my adult friends, not to mention myself…
Isa is originally from the West Kazakhstan Region, but for the last few years before moving to Moscow she lived and studied in Almaty.
MOSKVAER: Why did you choose Moscow?
ISA: It was a spontaneous decision. My internet friend lives here, and at some point, the realization that I need to change something played a crucial role. I thought “why not?” and at the end of last year, and just arrived.
Moscow is a beautiful, but very complicated city. A city of lonely people, I think. How do you feel here?
ISA: At first it wasn’t easy. I came across the wrong people, had problems with finding work, and it seemed that I didn’t fit into this society… But at some point, when I had lost all enthusiasm, everything dramatically changed. I met wonderful people, who see me as the person I want to be, I finally found a suitable job in a time-cafe, where I also made new friends soon-after. I think it’s just the beginning for me and Moscow. It’s too early to judge.
Do you think about continuing your studies?
ISA: Yes, I want to go to university. In Almaty, I went to college with a degree in Arts. I would like to continue developing within that sphere.
Do your parents know that you’re here? Do you stay in touch? In Kazakhstan, society is fairly conservative. How do your parents, teachers and peers refer to your reincarnation?
ISA: I was raised by my grandmother, as often happens in Kazakh families, and, in general, from the beginning it wasn’t easy for me to build a trusting relationship with my parents. When I was a child, my grandmother secretly bought me dolls, indulging the whims of my childhood (I was quite indifferent to the boyish toys), and then I had to hide those dolls from my mother, because she believed that a boy should play with cars, and be scolded for having dolls. We are now trying to establish contact with my mother, while with father everything is more difficult–he never took an active part in my life.
I also had problems at school obviously–children teased me, teachers did not understand. But I have had a good relationship with the school director, who, I believe, already guessed something about me and tried hard to support me.
By the time I got to college, I had already managed to stop caring what people say and think about me.
Some believe that the difference of gender identity with the original sex is the result of childhood trauma. What do you think about it?
ISA: I do not agree with this. I think that this occurs in the baby before birth. I think it is related to the processes that occur in the womb. That it is, in fact, not even a choice…
And when did you finally realized that you want to be a woman?
ISA: Probably, at the moment when I realized that my body began to change, became more masculine. I didn’t like it, I felt very uncomfortable in my body, and then, perhaps, I clearly realized that I could not be a man. Of course, by that time femininity had quite clearly manifested in my personality, but those physiological changes led me to the decision of transformation.
Tell us a bit about the transition process. What is it really? What stage are you at now?
ISA: I am now in the process of hormonal changes and I’ve been taking pills for about a year. It wasn’t easy to decide. I thought for a long time and was afraid. But when I realized that I didn’t want to live in a male body, there were not many choices, as you can guess. So there’s nothing for me to regret.
What changes have occurred to you this year?
ISA: Lots of changes! Now I stopped noticing because I’m getting used to them. My muscle mass reduced and my body fat is now distributed as it is on a female. I’ve grown breasts and my skin became softer. My emotional background has also markedly changed–female hormones strongly influence the psyche…
There are different meds, each of which provides certain effects. You can change the dosage, combining them depending on what effect you want to achieve.
Are you consulted by experts in this matter?
ISA: Not yet, but I’m controlling the process.
And what is ahead? Are you planning a sex change operation? Maybe implants?
ISA: Of course, I want genitals to be respectively, but it is very expensive and, frankly, now I do not bother too much with this issue. In general, I don’t consider the sexual organ to be super-important… I’m sure this is not what makes man a man and woman a woman. When people meet, they don’t ask each other what’s in their pants.
Some transgender people, indeed, are very obsessed with this issue, and it happens that enduring a surgical procedure in haste, they face serious consequences. In the future, if I have the opportunity and the resources, of course, I will do the operation. Today, this issue is not as acute. Same thing with breasts. I now have some thanks to pills, and I like the naturalness.
And the name? Isa is something that you yourself chose, not what is stated on your passport?
ISA: Isa went from childhood, so relatives affectionately called me–Isa-kitty. Kazakhs have the same name, but with the accent on the last syllable, and it is considered to be masculine. So there, when I introduced myself as Isa, people were confused.
According to the passport I have a different name, and I want to change it. Though there are some difficulties, I need to undergo a medical examination, psychiatric testing, obtain the appropriate certificate – “Form F64.0” and so on.
How do you manage your private life here in Moscow?
ISA: I specified in my Tinder profile that I’m male to female transgender. I chat with people and sometimes we meet. Recently I met a young man from America, who lives in Moscow, and we struck up a warm friendship. This is the first time in my life when I have a normal relationship with a man, while playing a woman role, so for me it is important that they develop sensitivity. In this sense, we found a mutual understanding. Let’s see where it leads.
What kind of man do you like? Do you have a type?
ISA: Yes, I have a certain type–tall blond and blue-eyed guys, but I did not stick to that. I can like anyone. Ultimately it all comes down to the individual.
At the same time, I know that initially my boyfriend liked me right-off because I fit his type–a brunette with dark eyes, and even Asian. I find it flattering, because in a certain sense, it means that I’m interesting as a girl, and not just as a transsexual.
And what about girls? They are not interesting to you in a sexual manner, or …?
ISA: Sometimes I look at a girl and think: “I want to be like her.” Sometimes–I look and think, “Maybe I would have slept with her.” But there’s not any real physical attraction, and I have never had such an experience.
You probably know that Russia maintains a rather unattractive reputation on the international stage now in terms of so-called democratic values. This, in particular, due to adopted anti-gay laws and such. By your feelings, how tolerant is the local community towards people with different sexual preferences? Do you personally feel any pressure, or maybe noise about intolerance is exaggerated?
ISA: I think that in matters of tolerance, Russia and many other countries have room for improvement, but at the same time, I personally, for the time that I’ve lived in Moscow, haven’t felt any pressure. Again, it’s probably because I do not shout about my features on every corner. But why would I? I want people to take me as the person I want to be–how I came to this and continue to proceed–it’s behind the scenes moments. I would never dream of going to a pride parade in Moscow, just because it’s obviously dangerous. And in this sense, of course, I would like the attitude toward sexual minorities to be more peaceful in our countries.
Do you visit some LGBT support group here, or chat with other transgender people?
ISA: No, nothing like that, but if I encounter something interesting, why not? On the Internet there are different forums and communities where you can chat with other transgender people, but it’s more like just chatter.
You give the impression of a very strong and self-sufficient person, in spite of all the circumstances. And how do you feel yourself?
ISA: Well… I just don’t like to dramatize–that impression probably arises from this. In fact, I’m surely not completely self-sufficient, and often need to be supported. Another thing is that I don’t like make a mountain out of a molehill. All, or almost all problems in life are surmountable. I think it’s always worth it to come out of this…