Nigerian transgender woman Vera, with birth names Charles Austin Nlewedum has spoken out to NoStrings about her life and struggles living in Nigeria.
Read her story below.
I am Charles Austin Nlewedum living in Nigeria, I am a transgender woman my trans name is Vera, and I was assigned male at birth.
I am a trained physiotherapy, my friends know that I am a transgender woman, but my family do not know about this, as I fear that they will disown me if I tell them.
While growing up, I felt different from the sex that was assigned to me at birth. I felt like a woman, my expressions mirrored a typical reflection of what the society describes as a woman. I was never forcing myself to behave the way I did, and because of this and the stereotype associated to male homosexuality, many see me as gay, but I have always seen myself as a woman, even though my outward appearance reflects what the society will label as a man.
Experience with the LGBT community, friends and people.
I have experienced a lot of abuses from people, I have been attacked, beaten and tortured. I was raped at age 15, and I have been living a fake life here in Nigeria as a man while I actually feel like a woman inside.
I will describe my experience with the gay community as mixed; I have been partially accepted as many still struggle with accepting that I am transgender.
When I came out to most of my friends, many rejected me, as I guess it was difficult and complicated for them to deal with. Ever since then, I have been living what I can describe as a fake life, sometimes I will have to pretend that I am gay, just to fit in, whereas I know that I am a straight woman who loves men.
This has affected and limited me in so many ways, because I can’t express myself completely as according to the way I actually feel. Sometimes I feel like trying on some female shoes, make my hair, and do my make up, but this is hard, because of what people will say, and possibly, the reaction it will provoke from people who do not understand me.
At some point in my life, I became very miserable, and attempted suicide twice.
I am hoping that one day I will fully transition into the woman that I was actually meant to be, as I do not want to live a fake life anymore, I want to engage in activities that reflects who I really am inside, I feel completely tortured.
I want to go to a place where I will be accepted as me, where I can actually make my inside match my outside, I want to me, I want to be Vera.
Overall Commentary from NoStrings
Society’s definition of what a real woman should be includes the following: be soft, gentle, petite, tiny feet, tiny hands, pale skin, vulnerable, ultra feminine, high pitched voices, small shoulders and many more.
It should be made clear here that; there is a huge difference between sex and gender.
Sex is natural and permanent; this is a biological definition of a male or female person, meaning that people are born as either male or female and this indication is determined by their reproductive organs. While gender is a social construct. Gender roles and expressions are all social constructs too.
Gender roles means all the different acceptable things [activities and responsibilities] accorded to individuals by the society. e.g the type of career, education, etc.
While gender expressions, refers to how a man or woman is expected to behave or show their masculinity and femininity within the society, e.g. Clothing, hairstyle, makeup, manner of walking and talking.
Gender roles and expressions differ from culture to culture, and are both subject to change, as culture itself is dynamic.
It can now be understood that sex does not determine a person’s gender but rather gender is a thing of the brain.
When a trans person is particularly worried about their physical appearance and how it doesn’t match up with how they feel inside, this doesn’t mean that they are sick, this condition is referred to as gender dysphoria, this is completely biological due to the makeup of their brains.
This is often a difficult period in their lives and they may go through some series of counseling just so that they can be helped to make a better and wise decision, and to determine if they are actually ready for a change.
At this point, some may choose to surgically and medically alter their physical appearance so that it can match up with how they truly feel inside, as this will help them function effectively within the society.
Transgender people are not freaks or bad people just because they are trans, they are just ordinary people who were born in the wrong body.