"I'm a woman with a penis and I'm happy!": lives outside the norm
The coming out of the closet of people who break the mould of heteronormative norms
"I accepted myself", "Everything fit", "I discovered myself for the first time": LGTBIAQ+ people have very different stories, but most of them agree that their lives changed the day they met someone they could identify with. They remember it as a "liberating", happy moment; which at the same time contrasts with the disapproving looks, insults and aggressions that many of them also report having suffered for not fitting in with the norm. In this report we make visible some of their lives at the moment of expansion of the collective.
"Discovering that I am a non-binary person has made me freer"
For the first time in many years, she saw herself naked in front of the mirror without one of the symbols of her femininity: her breasts. Groupie had just undergone surgery and had her breast implants removed because of a crack in one breast. "Because of financial problems, I couldn't afford new implants", she recalls. As a trans woman, seeing herself without breasts was a very hard psychological shock for her. That moment, however, also sparked a second discovery about her identity. "I saw myself in the mirror for the first time, now as a non-binary person", she explains, using the term for people who are neither male nor female. It was a slow process that began a year and a half ago and during which Groupie has realised that you don't have to fit into either imposed gender or put on prosthetics again. "Before in the networks it felt like I had to play a character and today I feel freer. It has changed my life and my mental health a lot", says this Brazilian who lives in Barcelona.
She says that there are days when she feels more feminine and wears a skirt. Others, she connects more with her masculinity and wears a red tracksuit: "some people think that non-binarism has to do with being androgynous, but for me it's not like that". She is also clear, however, that going through this process goes far beyond aesthetics: for example, it has helped her to clarify aspects she didn't understand about her sexuality and to feel more comfortable in relationships. Reading about other non-binary lives on the networks was key to drawing new conclusions about her understanding of gender identity. "It's very important that information is accessible. Now, if you're not curious enough to go in, you'll never get there", she warns.
It's been two years since Groupie arrived in Barcelona from Brazil, where the life expectancy of trans women is of 35 years. She is now 37. That's why she considers herself not only a survivor, but a "political fugitive" who has escaped from a country where violence against the LGTBIAQ+ collective does not cease. "I was afraid to take the subway or go out on the street alone. I felt totally unprotected, I couldn't live in fear to go downstairs to buy bread", she recalls. From her flat she says that in Barcelona she has found an "oasis" through Acathi, the Catalan Association for the Integration of Immigrant Homosexuals, Bisexuals and Transsexuals. "I have felt very welcome. It has allowed me to meet non-binary people, agender and also migrants who are in the same situation as me", she celebrates. In Catalonia she has not suffered any physical aggression, the discrimination she suffers for being a non-binary and black person is more silent: "You get looks and behind closed doors the prejudices are still the same".
"I had surgery when I was nine years old and nobody told me why"
Today is not just any day. Jordi Suárez, 52, has decided to come out of the closet as intersex. An extraordinary fact considering that he has only known he is intersex for a year. Until then he felt like a weirdo and lived "with a certain darkness", which thanks to the witness of Iolanda Melero in the program Tabús on Tv3, he was able to turn into light by helping other people through the Kaleidos Association. He would like that by reading this newspaper someone could go through the process, that they could say: "This happens to me". "I would like the parents of intersex children to have references because I feel that my mother had to face it alone and in silence", he explains.
He has a condition called bilateral congenital anorchia, which means he was born without testicles and a smaller-than-average penis. "When they tell parents they don't know if their child is a boy or a girl it's very hard because it's still the first thing we ask", he says. His is just one of about 40 intersex variations that differ from binary sex characteristics, but to which society assigns male or female sex. According to experts, 1.7% of the population is in this situation. "Almost like redheads", exclaims Jordi, who claims that it should be made visible that there is diversity of genitalia with multiple variants to depathologise the group and avoid unnecessary and traumatic surgeries like the one he himself suffered.
When he was 9 years old, they opened him up without explaining anything to try to find testicular mass and caused him some embarrassing scars. He remembers perfectly "the coldness of stainless steel" when he woke up from the operation tied with straps: "I didn't understand why they were operating on me. This silence is what marked me the most". Later, he was fitted with two testicular prostheses, which look like "ping-pong balls", he explains amused. This marked his relationships to the point that he was scared: "If I liked a girl I prayed that she would say no, because what would I do if she said yes?"
In his case, an added difficulty was having to accept sterility as a heterosexual man. In fact, he believes that it is harder for intersex men to say it openly because not having testicles defies all the patterns of hegemonic masculinity: "Men have to have them well placed and very fat".
The lack of information accompanies him to this day, when he still wonders what it would be like if he had not been given testosterone since he was a child, aware that hormones not only affect libido but also growth and mood.
A music teacher at a school and with three adopted children, Jordi has not only moved forward but also enjoys his sexuality beyond coitocentrism and talks openly about his body with a great sense of humour, which has helped him survive, just like the piano, his music therapy.
"I wanted to say it, but I had no referents and no one to embrace"
Sixteen years is the time it took him to answer the question that burned inside him since he was in school; more than half of his life. "Who am I?", he kept repeating to himself, but he didn't quite know. The first "strong" thought of this kind he remembers from when he was only eight years old and still living as a girl: "As if in a magical thought, I told myself that when I turned 18 I would be a boy". But it was still many years away, all the years until he was 24, before Eiden Marin got to feel the release of knowing who he was. "I kept these doubts quiet for many years; I hid them for fear of rejection, I kept them inside", he explains over the phone with the relief of someone who already knows the answer he was looking for but at the same time aware that all that silence could have been avoided. "How can you know you're a trans guy when you've never seen a trans guy?"
Then, as a teenager, he began to experiment with his sexuality and his head tentatively began to clear: "First I told an older gay friend-my first referent-that I was bisexual because I liked boys and girls, but later I realised that when I was with boys I felt uncomfortable". So he came out as a lesbian. And it was "wonderful". The response was as nice as it was unexpected: "They thanked me for the trust". But his big question was still burning inside him, harder and harder. Googling didn't help him: "I kept reading mental disorder, wrong body, mental pathology and I would turn even further away from myself". He also tried to tell a couple of friends, but they didn't know what to say. "I had no one to turn to and no one to hug", he recalls. He points out: "Even though we still can't live in peace expressing ourselves as we are, without worrying that we will be rejected, loved or abused; luckily today there is much more visibility on the web and teenagers have many more resources and organizations to turn to".
On the table now is the so-called trans law. Marín defends it because it will mean that psychological evaluation and body modification will no longer be necessary for their identity to be recognised. "Living with an ID card that doesn't represent your body image means many difficulties when it comes to travelling, registering to study, looking for a flat, going to the gynaecologist...", he complains. Entering the university was for Marín the final sprint towards the answer he was looking for: he chose philosophy, got to know the feminist movement, queer theory... and at the age of 23 a post revolutionised him from top to bottom. A friend posted that he was a trans boy and that he would transition: ""Me too!!!!!!!!!!!", I ran to write to him".
A few months later, he took the same step. "I finally accepted myself", he says, and pauses. He had found the answer sixteen years later: Eiden Marín is a bisexual trans boy with a "fairly fluid" identity; he moves between masculinity and neutrality, and likes aspects traditionally considered feminine, such as painting his nails or wearing heels. He is a transfeminist activist, has a master's degree in gender, citizenship and women's studies, works at the organization Trànsit and is also a member of the Entenem Santa Coloma association. "The LGTBIAQ+ struggle is not only about LGTBIAQ+ people, it is about allowing us to experiment so that everyone can live more freely: human diversity increases the richness of humanity", closes the young man. During 2020 there were 26 complaints of aggression against trans people in Catalonia, 25% more than the previous year.
"I'm a woman with a penis and I'm happy"
Businesswoman Mar Cambrollé recalls how in the 70s she already visited the "open" Barcelona of Ocaña and defied the Franco regime in the first feminist demonstrations and in favour of the right to one's own body. "Imagine trans women in heels and make-up standing up to the regime". That's why she doesn't understand how part of the feminist movement, especially those of her generation, are now opposed to the trans law. "These are no longer feminists", complains the veteran activist, the singing voice of the Platform for Trans Rights and who already in 2014 promoted in her native Andalusia the first Spanish law that recognized the right of people to choose their gender identity. Like her, who proclaims in her memoirs, "I am a woman with a penis and I am happy!"
Born in a working-class neighbourhood of Seville in December 1957, Cambrollé explains that she was a boy who already at the age of 6 preferred to play with girls and that in pre-adolescence her friends left her some dresses on the sly so as to not upset her father. Incomprehension and rejection made her leave the family nest at a very young age, at a time when trans women had very few job opportunities other than show business or prostitution. "We were insulted during the day and at night we were the most wanted", she stresses in reference to the hypocrisy of the time. That is why now she is excited to see transgender people in universities, convinced that they will be the next to break the glass ceiling.
"I've even been told that asexuality can be cured with good sex'"
When she was 19 years old, a friend told her about the concept of asexuality and Clara Morató-Aragonès' life changed because, finally, "the pieces fit together" and she discovered that her lack of sexual attraction was not due to any disease or disorder. She always identified herself as heterosexual, but since boys didn't attract her attention, she says she began to observe girls, and she didn't feel what the teenagers around her noticed either. "If I had known the word, I would have said I was bi". She says bi because she felt the same with both: nothing.
At 23, the young woman is a member of the Catalan Association of Asexuals and an activist to make visible a sexual orientation that is estimated to form 1% of the population. "Nobody remembers that we are a choice because it is assumed that everyone wants to have sex", she says. And that is not the case. Identifying as asexual, explains this psychologist, means that you don't feel sexual desire for anyone but you can feel other attractions. For example, some people feel romantic attraction - nothing to do with Hollywood's sugar-coated relationships, she says - and want to be with someone who makes them feel good, without necessarily ending up in bed. "I'm driven by other things and the sexual factor is not part of it", she says, but points out that sexual relationships can happen for reasons as diverse as "friendship, love, or curiosity". There are even asexuals who have sex to "have children". Masturbation, however, does enter into the equation.
She says that she has had to justify her orientation a thousand times because asexuality breaks the schemes by "questioning the importance of sex" in relationships. She has had to listen to people telling her that her asexuality "would be cured" when she had "good sex" or met "the right person". She has also been told that her problem is that she is "shy", that sex scares her or that she is "too young" to give up a desire like sex, in an attempt, she says, to "infantilise" asexual women. "We don't lack anything, we feel things differently and we can be just as happy", she exclaims.