Sociohistorical project
Sovushka from Russia
Sovushka, Omsk
23 years old
Tell us a little about yourself. About your gender identity, sexual orientation. About yourself as a person in general. Anything you want to say about yourself.

Good afternoon. At the moment of the interview I am 23, I'll be 24 in 1,5 months. I am a bisexual woman with the experience of two FtM transitions and one unsuccessful detransition – right now I'm in the process of another one and I hope that it goes more smoothly than the first one. Luckily this time there isn't anyone breathing down my neck and saying that it's all my own fault.

I have borderline personality disorder which has strongly affected me having this whole FtMtFtMtF-path, as well as the development of my personality in general – it is downright hard for me to characterize myself even now, when I'm already in a more or less decent state and have been living in reality, not in my own daydreams, for over 1,5 years.

At some point I desperately grasped at the identity of a "painter", but now I don't think I'm as interested in that – me understanding what I want from this life still lies ahead.

Do you remember your childhood? What was it like?

I have a strange relationship with childhood memories – on the one hand, I sometimes feel nostalgic and melancholic about those times, on the other hand it's very clear to me that it was fucking hell.

I didn't have any real friends till I was 14. Till I was 9 I had some other kids as friends, but a part of them only kept me around for their self-esteem (they were older); and some (my classmates) cut me off because it wasn't prestigious, because I was the local outsider at my small school (200+ people) since first grade – first because of my height and lack of socialization, then because of gender nonconformity.

What was your relationship with your parents like?

In the family, it also wasn't all cheerful – they bought me everything I wanted when they could, but there was never any respect for me or my feelings. "Dimwit", "psycho loner", "you just need to get some friends", "I'll send you to the psych ward", "you need some shit with pepper on your nerves" were the things I heard most often from my parents and their parents when I felt like absolute shit and when I had nervous breakdowns. Thankfully my father bailed when I was 13, and in 3 years my mother's father (a homophobe, a Stalinist and all in all a very violent person) kicked off, so it got calmer, there were at least 70% fewer fights and brawls.

Have you ever come out? (told your parents/friends about you sexual orientation, gender identity)

Yes, I've told my mother both about my sexuality and about my transitions and detransitions, and of course the people who are really close to me (my friends and buddies) know about that.

What is your relationship with your parents like now?

I don't have one – I haven't talked to him since I was 19, (since I said I wanted to change my documents), to her – since June 2020, when she started drinking herself to death, acting f...ked up, and shit almost got to a physical fight. I haven't seen her or talked to her since, and I have no desire to.
If you have come out, how did your parents/friends react? Can you remember the most positive and the most negative reaction? What arguments did your friend/parent have in both cases?

Since I've had to come out about my gender identity to the same people several times, I got them quite confused, and my friend still can't figure out how to address me, and another friend aka ex-partner addresses me interchanging genders all the time.

The most negative reaction to me coming out about my gender identity was probably my mother's attitude to it as something she didn't control enough, "you just have no shit to do". The most negative reaction to me coming out about my sexuality – her father saying "during Stalin's rule they shot people for this" with clear approval. Arguments? Never heard of them, why think at all?

The most positive reaction both about sexual and gender identity is still the one I got from my very first friend Rihard who transferred to my school in 7th grade – he identified as bigender at that point, so for the first time I met someone who treated me with understanding and as a person. Despite all of my misconceptions about myself leading me to a huge mistake more than once I'm still glad I got supported back then – if it weren't for Rihard, things could probably end not in a transition, but in suicide because of self-hate and loneliness.

How did you grow aware of your gender identity? Please tell more about it.

Signs of BPD started showing already in childhood and teenage years. At 9 I started developing gender dysphoria - I hated myself, couldn't bear reality and escaped into my own and other people's worlds, imagining myself as a character even in ordinary life. Shit is bad with representation of gender nonconforming women, so the characters were male, and it started leading to resentment towards my female body. I started developing gender dysphoria, my personality began to fade - after 16 I was only fueled by the dream of Fute Me as a Man who would be a completely different person. I think I lost myself at around that time, because I still feel like in development and perception I am around 16.

At 19 I spent a year on testosterone, cut out my uterus and ovaries and at 20 changed my documents to male. After changing the documents I suddenly had some important questions - what's happening, what does it change? Why am I doing this? After the original joy of reaching my goal I started to realize I didn't understand what was happening.

I climbed out of characters, for a short while I felt enlightened and even accepted myself somewhat.

In July 2018, at 21, I made new documents and for a few months was on estrogen hormone replacement therapy. I have to say, the detransition turned out to be a lot harder than the transition - I'm one of those people for whom it's very hard to admit their mistakes. Besides, I became a girl who looks like and is perceived as a trans girl at the beginning of her transition: my voice had become completely masculine, I had a stubble that many trans guys would be jealous of, male pattern baldness, there had been fat redistribution and my figure was closer to a male one apart from my breasts and lack of a penis.

So, in spite of the fact that I changed my documents, I was scared to go outside, I wore tons of foundation to cover up the stubble and mostly tried to keep silent. The mother also added oil to the flame, saying "it was all my own fault" and that I "ruined my whole life". I literally lay in the bathtub and screamed, my mental state deteriorated drastically - I didn't take antidepressants for several months, I was strangled by fear, the realization of my mistake and that "it was all my own fault". One film was enough for my consciousness to tell me "okay, wait, maybe the transition wasn't a mistake - let's get back in character, it's nice there". Again I stepped away from myself, unable to deal with reality. For a couple of months I looked for solace in calling myself non-binary, thinking I had "internalized non-binary-phobia". About that time I was finally diagnosed with BPD, but I'm smart, I don't need doctors, right? (wrong)

All things considered, I got back on testosterone at the beginning of Novemeber, deciding it was all just denial, which was the easiest. All that was left was to find a commission that would allow me to change the gender marker in my documents back to male. Sadly, it all happened very fast and already when I was going to the registry again (my boss was beyond surprised as fuckI realized both my mistakes and the reasons for them. But I was too scared of the necessity of another one (4th one) hormonal change, and my looks became even more masculine than before, so I decided to try and come to terms with it, get back to characters and get used to the male gender role.

I kept trying for about a year and a half. Sometimes it worked without even trying too hard - sadly due to BPD I always adopt the way other people see me and mirror it, taking up this perception for myself (I'm not talking about gender identity only, but in general about personal qualities and the way I act). It never lasted very long though, and as soon as I went home from my job where I was perceived as a guy, I got back to myself.

I have to say that what got back me to reality was love for a person, because loving someone and being "in character" at the same time turned out pretty much impossible for me.

The relationship grew from one between partners to one between relatives and friends, my state began to grow worse again (I've noticed a tendency of my mental health growing worse in summer) and I understood an important thing: we are all going to die. If we are all going to die, is it that important if I die of cancer because of a bunch of changes to my hormonal balance, get hit by a car, beat up by homophobe thugs or commit suicide? If not, what will I lose if I try to fix everything?

By no means am I justifying my actions or pushing for impulsivity when it concerns HRT, but I was feeling like shit, I was going nuts, my life seemed like hell and I understood that I wouldn't be able to take it much longer, especially if I have to pretend to be someone else for my whole life.

Right now I've been on Estrogel for 5 months - I switched to it from testosterone after consulting an endocrinologist. I will only be able to change my documents in three years after I graduate from the college I've enrolled in, but that sort of calmed me down a little - for too long I've only been thinking about transitions, ever since I was 16, when I started going through doctors for my first commission. Now I'm going to slowly move toward my goal, training my voice and epilating my stubble with a homemade epilator given to my by one genius trans woman.

I actually don't like to use the words "gender identity" about myself - for me it's not about identification, but first and foremost about self-acceptance.
What difficulties have you faced as a member of the LGBTQI+?

Apart from the obvious - like the fact that I can't talk openly about myself, my gender status, the relationships with people with my biological sex, and I have to sneak around? I would say, finding a job. At the time of my first detransition I had huge problems with that because I wasn't perceived as a biological female, but I had female gendered documents.

Are you happy?

It's hard to say. Now that I combine a mood stabilizer with an antidepressant again I have bursts of happiness and even feel quite fine in general but I can't say I'm completely satisfied with life. It's more like I'm learning to be happy in spite of all the fuckery that I've been through.

What are you lacking to be happy and what is happiness for you?

A long and steady remission, solving my mental problems - psychiatric health is the most important thing is this life on the whole, without it even the happiest life can seem like hell.
Close people beside me - right now I'm in a different city from my friends.
Money. Yes, sure, sadly you can't buy happiness, but you can buy comfort, food, medical services and normal clothes.
Overall I would say that happiness is not just a certain state with certain conditions leading to it, but a skill of finding it at a completely ordinary time.

How tolerant do you think the politics of our state and the media are towards the LGBTQI+ community? Are they ready for any positive changes in this direction?

How can we talk about positive changes towards the LGBT community if the situation with general human rights is getting worse and worse?

How likely do you think are positive changes in the state's policies?

Not very likely. What kind of positive changes can happen when it is discussed dead earnestly if you can prohibit abortion and changing you documents, people get prosecuted for likes and reposts, and the church is meddling with politics?

Have there ever been elements of oppression in your life (physical or just because of the lack of protection of the LGBTQI+ rights) because of your sexual orientation and/or gender identity?

Well, apart from the problems with the job, during the first detransition I once got attacked by some school boys who took me for a guy their age and decided to have a go at my earring. Some people at Burger King pulled us apart and took my side. I filed a police report but I was exhausted due to work and a fucked up mental state so I missed the time when I needed to gather medical reports.
How did your first serious relationship develop?

My first serious relationship was with a nonbinary person in the process of my FtM transition.

(S)He saw me at a QueerFem event at the time of my first detransition and took for a trans girl at the beginning of her transition wearing a cheap AliExpress wig (I burned my hair and dyed it blue). We started talking, and when I got back to presenting myself as male - dating. A lot happened - there was good, and there was bad. In the end we realized we had different ideas of a perfect relationship (romance and passion VS friendly gags), there was a clash with my identity (the person is only attracted to people identifying as male) and the relationship grew into more of a friendship with a sibling - even though there were times when it seemed we'd cut ties.

This person is one of the most important people in my life now and (s)he is also the one recording this interview.)

It was a very important experience for me that showed me that until I figure out all of my own problems I am unfit for a relationship. I fall into codependency very easily and appoint my partner with the role of my Favourite Person*. First mental shit - then everything else.

How did your relationships with friends develop? How are they developing right now?

I didn't have any real friends before Rihard who I talked about earlier, after him - there were and there are people who I can call friends. They are all connected to the LGBT comminity in one way or another, so I had no problems coming out or anything. Overall it was like with most people - some of the "friends" turned out to be shit; some suddenly got really close even though you actually met through a common friend who neither of us talk to anymore; some I met through a questionnaire in a "thematic" group online and kept in contact with for years etc.

For me "friend" is a very important word that I can use not nearly about every person who I like and who I keep in contact regularly.

What memories do you have from your childhood (school, college)?

School was hell, like I've said. I hated breaks and tried to pretend I was sleeping every time so that I didn't have to react to taunting.

I'm really glad it's behind me, but it still traumatized me, that's one of the reasons why I only enrolled into college in 2020, at 23. Even now I feel uncomfortable among teenagers and kids, and young people in general - the same mechanism of overtaking their perception of me still works and I feel like I'm 15-16 again, which lowers the already low self-confidence.

Right now none of the students in college know about my orientation, and of course they don't know about any of my transitions back and forth - only the curator and the PE teacher know about that last one, they helped me avoid taking PE with everyone else. I hope everything will go smoothly for three more years.

How did your socialization go and how is it going now? Can you call it successful?

My socialization is at an absolute zero - if not lower. I try not to communicate with anyone outside of my social circle, because 1) I don't know how; 2) I don't want to, it's unpleasant for me to play that role.

Have you experienced homophobia, transphobia? (external or internal) If you are comfortable talking about it, tell us a little more.

Yes, I've talked about it.

There was also internalized biphobia, because I understand that my gender dysphoria was also tied to me being unable to accept my bisexuality. I didn't see any examples of different-sex couples either in life or in media (only saw one in real life, my friend with radfem views and her partner), and I felt disgusted imagining myself as a woman with a man - what I saw was too patriarchal, and I couldn't make myself a lesbian. That only aggravated the gender dysphoria and it was easier for me to accept my bisexuality as a trans guy.

Now I understand that I wouldn't be able to have a relationship with a biological man, but I can see them as a one-night-stand option - I have already tried that during my first detransition, and it was even okay (although hands are still better than dicks).

What is your life filled with right now and what would you change about it?

Right now my life is filled with surviving - physically, studying and repairing ties with my mental health. I would say, apart from the detransition, these are the aspects I would make better, find a normal job, graduate, go into remission. It would also be really cool to move to my friend's city, so that I could be near someone who's close to me.

What would you say to other members of the LGBT+ community? The ones who are younger than you.

Have strength. Get a good education and a profitable job, that will allow you to emigrate not as a refugee. If you decide to stay and fight - don't expect too much, or you won't be able to be happy about the things you achieve.

If you decide to stay and not fight, but survive - please, don't blame yourself. None of this is your fault.

Do you have plans for the future (a vision of it), that help you to move forward?

My main plan is not to drop dead.

After that it would be nice to graduate and to change my documents without screwing it up this time.

Are you free? What is freedom for you?

I can't call myself free - I am constantly afraid of aggression from men for not looking masculine enough and also afraid of the government deciding to stage a full on "orthodoxed" dictature here.

Freedom is first and foremost the ability to do what you want without encroaching on other people's life and safety.

Do you consider yourself a person who is living in their country freely and with full rights?

No. Even saying that I don't think so is scary, never mind the full rights...

How much has your life been affected by the lack of certain freedoms?

Purely official freedoms - so far not so much, but if I was planning a family, I wouldn't be able to register a marriage with a person whose gender marker in the documents matched mine.

*Favourite Person - the person around whom the life of a person with borderline personality disorder centres itself. It can be a partner, a relative, a friend etc. It's not a healthy perception of the person.

Interviewed by Annalis Gerber
November 2020