Agender in Estonia

Liza Langa (Estonia) writes about their experience as an agender person living in Tallinn. This piece was previously published in Estonian on Müürileht


For as long as I can remember, I have been agender. Of course I didn’t know this word when I was a child.

I was raised as a girl. There were times when did I try to fit in with the other girls, but it was always pretending. I didn’t understand why I wasn’t like them. When I started learning more about my gender, I tried on the role of a boy. That didn’t fit either. So then I just existed.

For a long time, I tried not to think about it. Finally, when I was ready to focus on myself, I realized that I am just me and I don’t have to fit into any category.

I am not a girl, I am not a boy: I am just a human. And that’s all I need.

As I became more active in foreign trans-communities, I found that I wasn’t alone: there were more people like me. I also realized that if I didn’t try desperately to fit in anywhere, my place would find me. And now I’ve reached the point where being ‘agender’ is that place.

Family is the most difficult aspect. I’ve learned that the people from whom you expect the most selfless love and support are not always unconditionally loving.

My mother was the first and last family member I told about my gender. Her answer hit me in the face like a proper concrete block. I got threatened, blackmailed, hit with different variations of the statement “don’t you think about how difficult this is for me?”

There were tears, raised voices, the silent treatment, the whole package. I will probably always be haunted by her saying: “If you were to take hormones, then for me there’s only one option: a piece of rope and a strong branch. I will not bear this.”

The more time passes, the less I let it affect me. I actually feel like I’m handling it quite well, but sometimes I just get sad if I let myself overthink about it.

I have great friends. Some of them understand me completely and actually think of me the way I am, and for that I am the most thankful. Others make mistakes, by accidentally using words like “girl, “she” to refer to me for example. Even if they correct their mistakes, it shows they still think of me as a girl. It hurts, but at least they have enough respect to correct themselves. That’s why they’re still my friends. I hope that one day they will understand me, but everything takes time.

With strangers, sometimes it’s fun, sometimes it’s scary, and sometimes it’s just sad. The latter happens less and less often. Recently, one weekend in front of a night club on a smoke break, I got a great laugh out of a situation. A gentleman, in a bit of a drunken state, shot a comment at me: “damn, that’s a pretty woman!” To which I replied that I was not a woman. This simple phrase was the cause of even more confusion on his face than what you can see on mine in maths class. There have been many cases, even to the situations online, where my gender has provoked anger or disgust in people. I just try to not take it to heart.  Since I use the word “transgender” on my social media a lot, it’s not uncommon for me to receive unpleasant messages, in different variations of “ew, you freak”, “don’t try to be special, there is no such thing as transgender people!” and “so what does that mean you have in your pants?”

All this talk about family, friends and strangers is for a reason. In Estonia, transgender identity is thought of badly, if at all. It’s a taboo. Estonians just don’t know about it and from that ignorance comes negativity. There is no strong public trans community here, and there is simply not enough information available. People are always afraid of what is foreign to them. Of course, the situation in Estonia is not the worst. In my other homeland of Egypt for example, trans people have an even harder time unfortunately, but there is a lot of room for improvement.

Juridical and medical processes that relate to transgender identity and people in Estonia are rather unpleasant experiences. When I began on the long journey to receive hormones, my doctor took out a book of mental disorders and pointed to where my “condition” is, as if I am mentally ill. They made me describe how I have sex and even justify the way my nails look. This experience scared me off so badly that I haven’t dared to go back. It would be so much easier, and probably a lot more pleasant, to just get my hands on the hormones illegally. And, for fuck’s sake, maybe I just like my nails long and sparkly nails. You jealous or something?

In Estonia, the people whose job it is to deal with the health, wellbeing, and legal matters of transgender people have no proper idea about transgender identity. They have reached some kind of understanding about binary transgender people, they understand trans men and trans women, but non-binary genders are still a mystery to them. I have been told that I’m confused, that I’m faking it or that I’m rebelling against the system, and that ultimately I’m not trans. Non-binary genders aren’t legitimate to them. They just don’t believe they exist. That poses an important question: how can the people who are supposed to help accurately decide on the future of transgender people if they don’t understand?

At the moment it is hard, but I have faith that it’s going to get better. Even if it takes a long time. All over the world, the lives of transgender people are slowly improving, even if those improvements are tiny. Estonia has no other option than just to go with it. And there will always people who oppose. We just have to remember that they are not important. They don’t deserve any attention. If somebody just wants to hate, then there’s nothing one can do.

Those who mind don’t matter. Those who matter don’t mind.

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