By FELICITY DARVILLE
Christmas time is a time for family and friends to gather and spend quality time together. It’s a special time of the year. No matter whether you celebrate it or not, you will find that those celebrating will probably still buy you presents or ask you to come by the house and enjoy a meal with loved ones.
Often, you will see loved ones who you have not seen in a long time. In my case, there’s a childhood friend of mine that I haven’t seen in many, many years. They live in another country, so it is not uncommon for distance to cause people to lose touch. Last week, I made extra effort to find out where they are and how they are doing. I didn’t want the new year, and a whole new decade, to roll in without hearing from them. So, I did some searching and some asking… and I found them!
I was in shock. Why? Because the person I grew up knowing as a girl, now identifies as and looks a man. It’s only by looking carefully at the eyes that I realised that it was indeed my friend. On social media, others say ‘he’ when referring to my friend. For me, this was a shocker. I have never known anyone who is a transgender.
Because of how close we were, because our families are very close, and because I know how smart and talented they were growing up, I could not just decide to cut this person off and move on with my life. I knew that it was necessary for me to accept them for who they are. I am even more sensitive to their plight because I went through a time when my life choices led me down a road where I was not close with family and friends.
I was growing locks, wearing long clothing and eating vegetarian 25 years ago – a time where it was no where near as popular and commonplace as it is today. Back then, it was considered bizarre. There was also a lot of misinformation about the Rasta movement back then and therefore, I felt even more ostracised. I know how it feels to be discriminated against based on my beliefs and my appearance. It didn’t matter how neat it was – it was too different from the times. Back then, I couldn’t find many examples of women like myself to follow. It was definitely an unpopular identity. Today, it seems to be the ‘in’ thing, and many people in today’s black conscious movement have only heard about the struggles that people like me faced in order to pave the way.
With this background, there was no way in my mind that I could ignore my friend. With all my perplexity about the transgender topic, I decided I needed to find out more so that I could meet my friend where they are at. I know many people can’t do that. They want to judge them and immediately point out their wrong and try to force them to look at life from their perspective. But for me, I prefer to meet people where they are at. I try to live in such a way that my light would shine just by me staying true to myself. I try to come from a place of understanding, and I keep my mind open to learning at all times. I always believe there is something I could learn from another human being, and so I keep avenues open for me to learn.
I decided to reach out to Alexus D’Marco, a transgender and president of the Alexus D’Marco foundation. Honestly, it is only because this situation reached my own doorstep that I am addressing it in my weekly column. The opportunity never presented itself before, and I had not gone out looking for someone like Alexus to interview in the past. Even as I write this story, I keep mixing up the ‘he’ and ‘she’, because it does take some getting used to. Alexus helped me to understand her world – born male, identifying as female. She even did a legal name change and has undergone medical procedures to go with it. She is a transgender: a person whose sense of personal identity and gender does not correspond with their birth sex.
“I felt like I was a girl from as young as I can remember,” Alexus shared.
“I remember when I was in the third grade. When the teacher would line up the children by girls and boys, I kept going on the girls’ line instead of the boys’ line. Every time they put me on the boys’ line I would say, ‘I’m on the wrong line’ and I would try to join the girls’ line. I remember that my teachers called my parents in and told them that something is going on.”
Alexus ended up being referred to Sandiland’s Rehabilitation Center for treatment. As a child, he was not subject to pharmaceuticals, but he did undergo psychic evaluation and counselling.
“I can remember them sitting me down and showing me the (black paint splashes on the white cards and asking me what I saw. I would see flowers, butterflies and things like that.”
It was hard for him as a young boy, because so many people simply did not understand why he wanted to be a girl. He felt that his brain and his body did not match.
“They took me to see Dr Matthew Rose at St Luke’s Medical Center,” Alexus said. “Dr Rose was way ahead of his time. While all the other counsellors and doctors they took me to could not understand what I was going through, he showed them (medical reasons based on his testing and examinations) why I felt more like a girl than a boy.”
As Alexus grew, he began to identify more and more with his feminine side. By the time he was in high school, his schoolmates were calling him “Queenie”. Alexus says she didn’t experience a lot of bullying in high school. He would perform well in classes and mates would say, “Queenie is smart!”
When Alexus completed high school, he decided to go to America in order to make the transformation and become the female he always wanted to be. Alexus underwent counselling, hormonal treatment, medical intervention including surgery, and psycho-social support.
She returned to The Bahamas with her new name and identity and decided to set up her own foundation to provide support for people who face the same plight. The Alexus D’Marco Foundation links persons in the LGBTIQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex and Questioning) community with the resources they need to be themselves. She says that they need better access to education, because unlike her, many of them are bullied and even face violence in school. She said they need access to better healthcare. She explained that a trip to the hospital is belittling. Nurses would call one another and make a spectacle of them and would not show them the respect they deserve and in some cases, not offer them proper medical care because of their lifestyle choice. She said that they also need access to justice. Many LGBTIQ community members, she said, have reported that if they go to the police station to report a crime done to them, police officers would mock them and call one another just like nurses do. She said they would tell them that the violence or injustice happened to them because of the choice they made. The cases, she said, would get lost in the system and never make it to court. Jobs, she said, are difficult to find for the community, but she commends Bahamar for changing that by accepting them once they are qualified for the job. Most recently, she says a lesbian couple from Grand Bahama was denied opportunities to rent an apartment because landlords did not want them living in their building.
“Many in the community have migrated from The Bahamas to Canada where they are accepted the way they are,” she said.
She decided to stay, she said, because she wants other young people who may be in the same position that she was as a child, to be able to live in a country that will accept them and not treat them differently from any other Bahamian. Her foundation, she feels, has helped to create a society that is becoming more accepting of them.
Alexus is in a five-year relationship with a heterosexual man. She says that most trangenders choose long lasting relationships. I questioned her about the bathroom issue… which bathroom do they go into?
“They go into the bathroom that is the one they identify with,” she said, “and they close the booth behind them and use the bathroom in privacy.”
She said most of them do not feel the need to tell someone what they are transgender the minute they meet someone. Only if they plan to take the person seriously or take it beyond that setting would they reveal more.
Social media was a buzz this weekend when popular transgender couple Precious and Myles Davis delivered a baby. Whether for or against the lifestyle, as times change, it is an issue that must be addressed and in my case, I decided to take a step by first understanding why they feel compelled to live their lives differently from the way they were born. You can discover more by following Alexus D’Marco on Facebook and keeping up to date with her advocacy or email firstname.lastname@example.org.