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Quest’intervista è stata realizzata nel 2021 e la sua versione integrale, completa di foto inedite, sarà pubblicata sul libro “The Queer Talks”, a cui stiamo lavorando, per restare aggiornatə clicca qui

ragazzo con cicatrici al petto seduto sul letto

Evan by © Clotilde Petrosino all rights reserved

Evan was 25 when he started his transition two years ago. However, what he did not know before starting was that he would have become an info-point for other trans people. A little out of personal necessity and a little pushed by others, even before starting transitioning Evan had begun to collect information on the FtM transition, mostly from famous trans people from overseas for ten years before finally finding the courage to undertake that path himself, despite the repercussions he might have faced from the outside. If on the one hand he feels the remorse of having lost years for fear of the reaction of his own affections, on the other hand these ten years have made him basically an expert on the subject who knows how to navigate between differences in protocols, diversity of hormone therapies between countries and the traps of those toxic biases in which even trans people get entangled.

In this stream of consciousness, Evan leads us through important topics as lack of adequate information useful for people who are starting their transition, the expectations created by the toxic cis-heteronormative ideology that creeps even into the queer community, the hurdles he had to fight within those clinics that were supposed to help him during one of the most delicate stages of his life, the discrimination rooted in the society that made him a victim of violent aggressions and, in general, what has meant for him to face this path when he was already an adult. The morale of this story lies in the hope that sooner or later we will be able to remove the binary glasses through which we look at the world. 

Hi Evan, let’s start by talking a bit about you.

Ok. I’m Evan, I’m a trans guy, I’m originally from Rome but I currently live in Milan. Originally I chose a French name for myself, but in the Italian context it would have ended up butchered by everyone trying to pronounce it. Still, Evan was not a smart choice, as everyone calls me Ivan right now. I’m 27 years old but with hormone treatment, which I started two years ago, I look way younger. Before getting a job in Milan I was studying Marketing and Communication at the Sapienza University in Roma. After some bad stuff happened to me I decided to stop my studies, although I had only the thesis left. Then I found a job opening in Milan and I moved there in only one week. I wanted to, let’s say, have a “change of scenery” as I did not have a nice relationship with my parents, which actually improved when we put some miles between us. What else to say… I love photography, and I love to take photos of elderlies.

When did you realize you were a boy?

I started to gather some infos in 2013, but all the info I could get was from people overseas, especially from the US. In Italy the websites on this topic were awful and provided outdated information, so I started to look up for facebook groups. I was 15 at the time and already possessed an internal awareness of my gender. But, in addition to being confused by the lack of information, I was also blocked by the idea of my parents' judgment. I lived in a village of 6000 people, imagine what they thought about these topics. I didn't even know you could make a FtM (female to male) transition. But actually having all the information out there today would have helped me a lot. After that I started to create informative contents on my instagram account to help those who are starting the journey.

Well, they say everything comes at the right time. It’s normal that nowadays even fifteen years old kids understand what’s happening with them faster than it used to take, with all the extra information they have. Talking about this, what were the problems you had to fight during transition that you hope will not be faced by future generations?

Everything. Every little thing was a problem. In addition to the lack of information, it was difficult to understand where to start. Even when you reached out to trans people on facebook and asked them, everyone provided different information based on the clinics they went to. Also because transition does not have a specific start and a specific end, despite what the media likes to say. Everyone decides where and how to start and where and how to “end”, based on one’s own needs. There are people who decide to not get surgery because of the limits that science still faces or for a personal choice, others prefer to go through microdosing.. and so on. 
For example, one thing that I find antithetical is the obligation, in the public sector (as in Italy you can decide to do your transition in the public sector or in the private sector), to do 6 months of psychological therapy. Not everyone wants or feels the need to undergo 6 months of psychological therapy; just think of middle-aged people who can't really delay the transition anymore. Moreover, theoretically in a psychological path one should not impose a duration of therapy, but it should be based on the person's need. I think that the path should be on a voluntary basis, that there should be no obligation to go to the psychologist. This imposition from above to do therapy makes no sense, because I am convinced that most people would still feel the need to do therapy, because the transition is not easy to manage and the interaction with society is always complex.
I understand the idea that "everything comes in its time", but I can't help but feeling a certain discomfort at the idea that I "wasted" years of my life in a body that did not reflect my identity. Those are years wasted for me, which I will not get back. I haven't had many “training” experiences as a male and I find myself having to do them now, at 27. I would have rather avoided facing the adolescent and prepubertal phase at this age. It was something that was difficult for me to come to terms with and I hope it won’t happen again to other people.
The other problem, at least in my experience, are public gender clinics. In Italy, most of these centers that deal with transition follow the ONIG protocol, created by transgender people who needed a law to regulate the transition process at the bureaucratic level, which arrived in 1984. The problem is that these centers follow vague and malleable rules. Being so malleable, and being that the centers somehow have to survive and often need money to do so, as they are not funded by the State, they keep you as a patient endlessly because they need to pay their salaries. Some steps are very expensive, for example, they asked me for 500€ for the final report. And they do it because they have to survive somehow. Furthermore, it is not uncommon to end up in situations where therapists do gatekeeping, holding the patient indefinitely. In the long run, it does not benefit us at all.
In the rest of Europe, however, the clinics follow the WPATH protocols where psychological therapy is optional and the report for hormone therapy is delivered almost immediately. And all other procedures are administrative and are performed with the same ease with which you update your license. In Italy, on the other hand, we are obliged to obtain the sentence of the court in order to rectify our gender and only then having the change to undergo surgery, as if we were people awaiting trial, without taking into account that while this happens our body changes and we find ourselves to walk around with IDs that differ completely from how we appear on the outside. For example, during the COVID lockdown I had problems because I was walking around with documents that did not match my physical appearance and the policemen stopped me and believed that I had someone else's ID on me. This was another element that caused our community to isolate even more in order to not  incur into verbally and humiliating discriminatory situations. This too qualifies as systemic and institutional discrimination.

Speaking about info sharing, how could we improve?

I believe we have already started to improve. For example, in Italy we recently got InfoTrans, an institutional website created by the Ministry of Health and UNAR, and even this small thing is a form of validation. However, the website would need a more constant update not only in a top-down way but also in a bottom-up direction: it would be nice to have a section where it is possible to leave feedback on the various clinics and hospitals in order to improve the experiences of those who attend them.
In the media, it must be said that the situation has also improved, because the topic is hot, as well as clickbait. Often, however, we end up interviewing or giving importance to people who are either not informed or have a very binary vision of the path. Consequently, if you give credit to these people or to very few elected ones, the information that is given to people is restricted and sometimes even wrong. If you always give space on social media and on TV to the same people who perpetually reiterate incorrect or partial information, even if not necessarily with bad intentions, you are creating misinformation.

Evan by © clotildepetrosino

Evan by © Clotilde Petrosino all rights reserved

"Attraverso i diversi media potremmo arrivare ad una narrazione diversa, priva di stigmi"

(TRIGGER ALERT) You also mentioned that the binary concept of gender is a problem: can you go deeper into the subject? 

Conceptualizing the world as intrinsically binary to me constitutes an obstacle. The greatest difficulties I encountered occurred during the first months of the transition, when it was not clear what gender I looked like. The thing has become increasingly problematic. My dysphoria had skyrocketed because everyone was constantly questioning if I was a boy or a girl. People were constantly whispering around me. A particularly unpleasant episode happened to me on the train when a guy, probably attracted to me, had the nerve, as often happened, to ask me if I was a boy or a girl. In those cases, I always replied that I was a trans guy (and that was usually the point where all the infinite questions started). When I answered like that, the guy just freaked out, completely out of the blue. He kept looking between my legs, asking what I had there and even asking if I had both genitals. At one point he got up and walked over to me. I was afraid because although I was on a subway in Ostia full of people at lunchtime, no one helped me. I thought if it had been at night it would probably have been a lot worse. All because he did not conceive of an identity that was included into his binary mentality.
Through the different media we could arrive at a different narrative, devoid of stigmas. But it would also be important to start serious data collection. If you do not have the data in hand, you become invisible to the eye of the institutions. Without data there is no way to argue and prevent institutions from talking nonsense. For example, fear is often based on the fear of detransitioners when first of all, it shouldn't be a problem if someone thinks they want to detransition. Secondly, the studies carried out so far show that less than 1% of people who start a transition process then decide to stop and detransition.

One of the issues is that we almost never talk about the reasons behind detransitioning

Precisely. If people have car accidents, we can't stop all the cars in the world. Although I would not define a detransition as an accident, rather as a change of course. People decide to change paths because living in this society as a trans person is difficult and they find themselves unable to make it, or they do not have the financial means to carry on the path. But even in this case, we shouldn't pontificate on it. If a person in transition realizes that they were living better before, it shouldn't be a problem or affect other people's transitions. Life belongs to the person and the person must be able to have the right to choose. Among other things, they ask us for these psychiatric reports to make sure that I am capable of understanding what I am doing when I undergo surgery. But then why don't they apply it to everything? Because they don't apply the same rule to cosmetic surgery, which can cause you major problems if they are performed poorly. If you have a rhinoplasty and it goes wrong you could easily have a psychological breakdown, even a big one because we are talking about a central point of your face.
The thing is that the Government, at this moment, holds our lives in its hands but does not know how to handle identity and way of living that differ from the “norm”. A census of the trans population has only recently been carried out. Up until now it wasn't there and the only one was done a long time ago based solely on people with document corrections and who have undergone surgery–which is the smallest percentage of trans people, just think about all the non-binary people. But in addition to this, it would also be useful to properly inform health care on all the protocols that must be used.

 What are the binary expectations weighing on trans people?

It’s a wide topic, that we could separate in two areas: the expectations that we put on ourselves and the expectations that other project on us. In the first case it may happen to take as reference models from overseas or stereotypically binary people who may not have the same physical conformation as you, and might also have hormonal dosages different from the Italian ones (the US dosages, for example, are completely different). The types of testosterone are also different and the results will be different. I also found myself having very high expectations set on the American profile. And it was hard to come to terms with the fact that I wasn't going to reach them. So, as cis people have expectations based on the patterns they see through the media, somehow we come up with these patterns ourselves because there wasn't enough information and the only info we got came from outside, and are totally different from us. And we suffer from this on an identity level, because we always end up being dissatisfied, unable to reach those features that are completely distant from ourselves.
In addition, our binary idea of what a man should look like may also be linked to a kind of internalised transphobia. And I, myself, am working on dismantling it. I realise that many guys do not feel masculine enough because they do not have a beard, because they cross their legs, or because they do not have other physical and/or behavioural characteristics linked to the toxic masculinity they have introjected. I realised that, during the first periods of my transition, when I was facing society I tried to implement “masculine” behaviours almost by way of emulation, because I wanted to standardise myself to what society itself and people expected from me “as a man”, I did it unconsciously out of pain, in order not to suffer more in a society that is not ready to accept me. By interacting with male people, I was in some way squaring off and trying to emulate their behaviour. For example, I often cross my legs, but if I was in a public place I avoided doing it. Or for example I always wore a packer because I was hurt from the first months when people were always looking between my legs to see if I was a man or a woman. Now I only wear it when I feel like it because it's uncomfortable, it makes me sweat and maybe I don't want to wear it. 
I used to do everything to push away those traits that had remained with me after 25 years of female socialisation, whereas now I actually feel enriched from those traits. I have thankfully broken that thread that tied me somewhat to the toxicity of this vicious cycle. Many of us, on the other hand, get caught up in it because it's very difficult to get out of it, regardless of whether you're trans or cis.

What do you mean when you say that you are somehow enriched by having lived socialized as a woman for 25 years?

At the peril of saying something that sounds a s a stereotype, I have to say that I have gained a more empathic approach to people from it, although I do not exclude that any cis man could be as empathetic as–and more–than me.

Progetto e fotografie di Clotilde Petrosino
Intervista e traduzione di Enea Venegoni

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