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Birth and death

Published on March 16, 2012 by: in: Society

For the past two years Mariola has been seeing her parents only in court. Each time she hears: “You took our Krzysio! You are a pervert! We’ve lost our child!” In front of the courtroom doors I met Mariola’s colleagues. They were called to testify the following: “Mariola always dolled herself up and, well, everybody can do whatever they fucking want with their bodies. We live in a free country. Supposedly.”

Mariola was born in 2010. She is 2 now. She slowly learns how to walk in high-heels. She takes her first steps in the women’s world.

When I first met her, she was wearing pink mini and pink low-neck top exposing breasts. B cup. She was ice-skating. Passers-by were stopping to look at her. At skillfully done pirouettes. At her too.

photo: xlordashx

photo: xlordashx

Two years ago she made a decision: “I can no longer deceive myself and others. I must become a woman”.

The process of becoming a woman took her two years. At the beginning, she was doing subtle make-up. New, unisex clothes started to appear in her wardrobe. Later, more dresses. She started to paint her nails.

Colleagues at work were mocking her. Her kids have broken up with her. The wife cried. She agreed to sign divorce papers.

She has lost everything. A house, family, friends, acquaintances. She was left alone with herself.

This is the price, she had to pay for her decision. For the freedom of choice.

Krzysztof

Krzysztof was born in 1969. He died two years ago.

He was always different. He was hiding a rag doll in a wardrobe. When nobody was home, he would wear his sister’s dresses and put on airs and graces in front of the mirror. He shaved his eyebrows once and he got smacked for it. He had a crush on his male friend. He even tried to kiss him once. It was the end of their friendship and the beginning of acquaintance with Basia.

She was his close friend. With her, he was trying to be a man and not a “womanish” Krzysio. That’s the reason why he married her and became the father of her children. He built a house and planted a tree. Everything in accordance with social expectations. Everything against himself.

Social norms assume that a boy should play with cars, play football and fight at the school playground. He should start and provide for the family. A girl is supposed to play with dolls and be delicate. When she grows up, she should give birth to children, cook well and take care of the house. Since childhood, we are raised in a continuously repeated model… Meanwhile, every thirty thousands births in the world, a baby is born, whose gender is so-called God’s mistake. A girl is born into boy’s body. A boy is born into girl’s body.

We live in a free country

Transsexualism is defined as an inconsistency between individual’s psychological gender and his or her assigned sex which is deeply connected with one’s emotional discomfort.

It’s a disorder. It takes about two years to diagnose it. During that time doctors conduct a detailed medical and psychological examination. When the diagnosis is confirmed, they recommend hormone therapy, after which men who were born into women bodies start to grow beards. Women, who were biological men so far, start to grow breasts. The only effective treatment is an operation on genitals called sex reassignment surgery (SRS). Sexuological and psychiatric methods are ineffective.

However, there is a legal provision in Polish law, which regulates our sexuality related matters. In order to get permission for the surgery, the change of sex on the birth certificate is necessary.

It can only be obtained through legal action. In a lawsuit, a transsexual person is a plaintiff. Parents are defendants, because in order to conduct a trial, a court as a starting point takes fictional justification that, these are parents who are responsible for giving wrong information concerning their child’s gender.

For this reason, Mariola, for the past two years, has been seeing her parents only in court. Each time she hears: “You took our Krzysio! You are a pervert! We’ve lost our child!”

This subversive logic of the trial doesn’t even allow Mariola to try to live normally. Parents aren’t able to come to terms with their son’s condition. “They would rather see me dead, or at least being tied up in a white straitjacket and locked in some mental institution. Yet, doctors have posted a diagnosis – I am a transsexual person. Why is it so, that now about my fate decide strangers?”

In front of the courtroom doors I have met Mariola’s colleagues. They were called to testify the following: “Mariola always dolled herself up and, well, everybody can do whatever they fucking want with their bodies. We live in a free country. Supposedly.”

A body as a continuous realization of possibilities

In 1974 Michelle Rosaldo and Louise Lamphere have publicized a compilation of texts touching upon the subject of women anthropology – Woman, culture and society. Along with the publication, a discussion over the relationship between terms: sex (biological) and gender (cultural) have started. There also appeared a thesis that sex is a culturally imposed construct.

Less than twenty years later, Judith Butler, suggest reversing this thesis – gender is primitive to biological sex, as it is constructed by gender performativity.

In the gender performativity, charms, words said during delivery, are inscribed: “it’s a girl” or “it’s a boy” and they create the reality and begin the process of constructing gender identity. A child interiorizes this statement and then repeats: “so-called gender identity is a performative achievement, which is constrained by social sanctions and taboos”[1].

Sex and the concept of femininity aren’t stable. Certain femininity types are continuously enacted and reinterpreted, as “a human body is not just simply matter but also a continuous and incessant realization of possibilities”[2].

These possibilities are realized in accordance with strictly defined norms and categories – femininity and masculinity. Crossing those lines is socially recognized as deviation. A person’s freedom is respected only when it doesn’t attack the freedom of another person. The core of this problem is to define the scope of the freedom.

Mariola’s freedom ends along with the doorstep of her 20 sq meter apartment. Everyday, when she goes out, she feels the watchful and curious looks of the others. Every day she is exposed to mockery and aggression. Every day she powders and covers up the stamps of the past. On her tall and slender body she puts on a dress.  On her feet – shoes, size 9. Every single detail is finished with meticulous care. Mariola is a very attentive viewer of TV shows dedicated to women. She knows how to hide slightly too broad hips, expose shapely legs but still she differs from the image of femininity promoted by the media, which she is a great fan of. She diverges from the norm, in which she and we have been “trained”.

“How to Train Little Girls”[3]

In 1987 Zbigniew Libera filmed a little girl during family meeting. Then, female hands appear on the screen and give a few years old child a lipstick and a nail file. As in a slow motion we watch the images of passing on and learning certain behaviors and social roles. Young girls are trained on the model of other women. Whereas women cultivate and fulfill the women’s vision of attractiveness. Our personality is being estheticized and particularized by the outfit of social paradigms. What is masculine and feminine is clearly and unconditionally stated. The boundaries between what is natural for us and what is artificially and culturally imposed have blurred. Our identity is conditioned by the context. By the other person.

This other person, in Poland, is (stereotypically) Catholic, homophobe, racist.

In Poland, Mariola has met a priest, who on the question: “Father, am I a sin?” answered: “Nobody is a sin, just because they were born”. Since she always felt woman trapped in a man’s body, she should be a woman and live like a woman.

“Just try not to sin”, he added. “You cannot be with anybody, because you will mess with people’s heads”.

Mariola comes back to the empty apartment. Only a cat and a parrot greet her.

In Poland, during the last elections, Anna Grodzka has won a seat. She is the president of Trans-Fuzja Foundation and a transsexual person.  This surprising result has become one of the main topics of post-electoral analysis. News about unusual and customary transformation of Poland appeared in foreign press. In the Polish media, the attempt of redefining the sex phenomenon as well as understanding the other person was taken up.

The Polish reality becomes stratified.

In the official language, language of the media and political correctness, Mariola and MP Anna Grodzka are women (!), who have won the fight for their identity, the right to decide about themselves, full participation in the public life and in the lives of ordinary people.

In street language, language of neighbors and Mariola’s parents, transsexuals need to be treated and isolated.

Transsexuals live their lives, waiting for the verdicts. They live with the social verdict.  They are waiting for a chance to get treatment, to undergo the surgery. They want to melt into the crowd.

“To be drab and regular woman” with the right to life.

The right to choose freely.

Translation: Piotr Gmitrowicz


[1] Judith Butler, Performative Acts and Gender Constitution. An Essay in Phenomenology and Feminist Theory,

[2] Ibidem.

[3] Title of the movie by Zbigniew Libera

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About Joanna Lopat

Graduate of the Cultural Studies and Photography, fascinated with Bollywood cinema, spent 5 years in Italy. She has published in magazines such as "Nowe okolice poetów", "Femka" and "Promenada sukcesu". Her diploma in photography entitled "In photography dreams come true" depicts a dream of being a woman.

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