Trinidadian Transgender sister …… WOW

Should you ask, Jenny Jagdeo will tell you that she’s “a woman who has had corrective surgery”.
She untangles the gender bender from a breezy balcony in San Fernando, while the after-work traffic beeps and buzzes in the background.

(OMG she is FIIIEEERRRCCCCEEE!!!)

“I tell people that I was born a woman in a man’s body,” she explains with a voice of half-husk, half brass. “At no point in my life have I ever seen myself as being male.”
Her hands are soft. There’s no squareness of jaw or suppressed stubble to whisper that she is anything other than her image suggests. Her body and lashes are both extra long with a gentle curve. She’s gorgeous when she smiles. And the 35-year-old pulls no punches while sharing a story of equal parts heartbreak and triumph.
It started in Friendship Village. She describes her childhood as “perfect”. But that isn’t because she had once been a perfect little boy. Jenny now reminisces that neither neighbours nor schoolmates gave her a hard time.

“They could see a difference in me but they never discriminated against me in any way. It was like a little girl growing up in front them. I didn’t play boyish games, wear boyish clothes or do boyish things,” she remembers. “At that tender age it was there.”
But when, around 12, a rush of hormones washed sexual attraction to the surface, Jenny struggled.

“When puberty takes you and you start feeling attracted to a certain sex,” she explains, “that is when you realise: ‘well now trouble start’.”
Jenny had heard about men who had sex with other men. But even as a preteen she knew that her dilemma wasn’t just about who she would eventually sleep with. It went to the core of how she felt who she was. She makes the distinction with halting clarity.
“There are gays who are guys that like other guys. Transvestites are males who dress like females. Being transsexual, though, is being a woman but not having the body of a woman. I could not live in a man’s body and be with a man. If I had to do that I would rather die. I had the choice of being gay. That was so depressing to me that it made me sick.”
Her adolescence was traumatic, culminating with a suicide attempt at 18. The sex reassignment surgeries she’d researched and longed for felt like fiction. One saw the odd cross dresser sashaying around San Fernando. But she was clear that duct tape and eye shadow wouldn’t make her whole.

Jenny guesses that her parents and siblings had long reconciled that she was homosexual. But until she opened up to a psychiatrist after trying to kill herself, she hadn’t let anyone on that her raging, internal conflict was about gender rather than sexuality. She acknowledges that when she started wearing women’s clothes, it was traumatic for her family.
“That went down rocky roads,” she says with a loaded chuckle. “My father sought help from aunts and my grandmother. His friends and people in the public would tell him: ‘your son gay’, ‘your son dressing like a woman’ or ‘something is wrong with your child’. But I had my family’s support even though it was stressful on them,” she says.
By then, abuse from strangers was secondary to the savage war waged between her body and mind.
“I reached a stage where I decided that this is my life and no one is going to take it away,” she says.
Resolve was informed by hope. The psychologist and two psychiatrists who treated her over the course of three years had named her internal war: gender identity disorder.
Jenny also found a friend who understood and inspired her. That friend had had a sex change.
“You can’t just wake up one morning and say you want the operation,” Jenny says. The journey began with the detailed reports of her mental health caregivers. She was then referred to a doctor who performed a “hormone transplant”. This involved removing the testicles and starting a course of female hormones. For Jenny it was a second puberty-just as dramatic but a better fit.
They were subtle, valued changes. Small breasts. Smoother skin. Less facial hair. Mood swings. Two years on she had a surgery to create a vagina.

It takes time to adjust. At first the rooms that would suddenly go silent when she entered, then fill with hushed gossip, were difficult.
“It was so uncomfortable because you would see the lips moving and not be sure what they were saying. Half way into a session I used to want to leave but then I realised I had to make myself comfortable for other people to be comfortable with me. If I show fear, fear will always be there,” she reasons.
She accepted an invitation to a new church on that premise. Although she grew up Hindu, Jenny was open to Christian fellowship. She assumed the invitation was a gesture of acceptance. It turned out to be a campaign to have her revert. And it ended badly when a group rallied to get her thrown out. Jenny assures that the experience didn’t shake her faith.
“What did I do that was so wrong?” she asks. “What evil have I done to anyone?”
She’s had her share of taunts and they’ve overwhelmingly come from women.
“Men are mostly fascinated,” she says, “but some women have some sort of jealousy that you can transform into a beautiful woman and they aren’t. But why is that? These women do not take the time to make themselves look good because they say they have a husband and children. No, love. That is not true. How hard is it to keep your hair beautifully groomed, wear lovely clothes and put some make-up on your face? True beauty comes from the inside. But these people do not focus on that. They’d rather ridicule you.”
Then there are the men. Screening romantic partners is a painstaking job. She says she “interviews” them to be clear about their intentions. Asked at what point she reveals that she was born physically male, Jenny responds that there’s no need.
“Everybody in San Fernando knows me. It’s no big secret,” she says. Jenny’s pet peeve is that many view her as a novelty. She supposes that the terms “sex change” and “transsexual” create the impression in men’s minds that she has undergone a transformation solely for the sake of sleeping with them.

“It’s not like you’re a woman and they treat you like a woman. They treat you like a sex object and expect you to be some sort of sex siren. But what can I do that a normal woman can’t?” she asks.
What of the sexual identity of men who are interested in her? Jenny denies that they are homosexual and says that she tries to weed out the bisexuals.
“A homosexual is a homosexual. He only wants to be with men and can’t stand the sight of a woman. As for bisexuals, the minute I find out that he may want to see me as a man too, I put a full stop. I express and show myself as a woman and when a man looks at me he is straight to the bone. His friend might tell him ‘boy, I see you talking to that thing. You know that was a man’ and wonder if he is gay. But there is nothing about being gay in that,” she sets out.
Jenny is also resolute about demanding blood tests for Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) when a relationship progresses. It doesn’t endear her to some suitors but she says that she has seen the ravages of AIDS and, besides, has enough on her plate without throwing HIV into the mix.
She acknowledges that many of her transgender peers find themselves either involved in sex work or being supported by men because they can’t find mainstream jobs. Jenny has channeled training in dress making, hair styling and make-up application into a career. She is in high demand, designing and sewing for everything from bridal parties to beauty pageants and working as a freelance make-up artist in “Hair by Jowelle” a high end salon owned by Trinidad’s most famous transsexual.

The positive, if not smooth, trajectory of her life was jolted by a devastating medical condition this year. A pinched nerve that had been wrongly diagnosed as arthritis for a couple years suddenly rendered her paralysed in the lower body. She was told that it would have to heal itself. After a few miserable, immobile weeks, she decided it was time to walk. And she did. Now she uses a stick. To passersby it’s a tragedy. Her doctors know it’s a triumph.
“Through willpower we can do anything,” she says. “The greatest power on this earth is your mind.”
Life has taught her that through hard lessons.

Advertisements

Author: GLBTQ Jamaica Moderator

Activist and concerned gay man in Jamaica with over 19 years experience in advocacy and HIV/AIDS prevention work, LGBT DJ since 1996.

9 thoughts on “Trinidadian Transgender sister …… WOW”

  1. Hey there! This is kind of off topic but I need some help from an established blog.
    Is it hard to set up your own blog? I’m not very techincal but I can figure things out pretty fast. I’m thinking about setting up my own but I’m not sure where to start. Do you have any ideas or suggestions? Appreciate it

    Like

  2. Thank you a lot for sharing this with all folks
    you really recognise what you are talking about! Bookmarked.
    Please also seek advice from my site =). We can have a hyperlink
    alternate agreement between us

    Like

  3. Great goods from you, man. I’ve

    remember your stuff

    previous to and you are simply too

    excellent. I actually like what you’ve bought here,

    really like what you are stating and the way in which through
    which you assert it. You are making

    it entertaining and you still take care of to stay
    it smart. I can not wait to read much more from you. That is actually a

    great web site.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s