Outside the closet

Whenever we don’t understand something we look it up, we ask around or find a way to understand better. However, when it comes to certain subjects some people refuse to get informed.

My question to these people will always remain the same:

Why don’t you try to learn something instead of spreading hatred all around you?

Phobia” is being afraid, most of the time it’s something you don’t understand. I’ve been learning about “types of phobias” in High School and there’s still aspects I’m not fully aware of yet.

Being accepting is one but, it’s all about being conscious of what you do and say. I keep learning everyday, because I make mistakes around one of my friends and she corrects me.

Growing up in Canada, I was lucky enough to live in an environment that encouraged me to be more open minded and accepting of others beliefs or lifestyles. What’s “unnatural” to some may not bother me at all.

Our theme this month is very specific, dedicated to our writers and other Haitians in the LGBTQ community.

As a result, I decided to take this opportunity to write about my friend, Eva's “Coming out” story and give her a platform to share her experience.

My whole life since I was about 5 years old I knew something wasn’t right. I spent my whole life ignoring it although I was stealing my female siblings clothes and dressing up at night when everyone was sleeping, it just always felt right to me. Since I can remember, I always wished that this was all a dream and that it would go away but, it never did.

Growing up around boys, especially in the Haitian community being quite un-supportive of the LGBTQ people, I had to hide really hard and couldn’t bring myself to tell anyone my deepest/darkest secrets (except the very few who caught me like my sister and my mom) they were always super supportive of me.

Going through puberty was the hardest of all for me, being around a group of macho men made me feel wrong and not accepted, having to always compare myself and trying to measure up to societies standards. When I saw that my body wasn't developing like I wanted it to was just heartbreaking. I still continued to do my own thing sometimes feeling ashamed of it and trying to ignore it but it always came back even stronger.

In October 2016, my mother on her death bed asked me if wearing female clothing was still a thing of mine, and if I still wanted to be a girl. Feeling ashamed of myself, I lied and told her “no” knowing that I very much wanted it since I was about 5 and she knew it.

A few months had passed after her passing and all I could think of is if only I had told her the truth. After countless times of suicide attempts, I decided to see a therapist who has helped me accept myself and not feel ashamed of who I am. Summer 2017, I told my sister in law that I think I might be transgender, she totally accepted me and even offered to pay for therapy. By late 2017, I came out to about 20 people (looking for validity), I was afraid everyone I knew would discriminate me and not support me. So I decided I would go to Haiti for December, and if I still felt strongly about it then I would be sure.

I spoke to some of my family and friends and explained, some were really supportive while others thought it was a joke. When I left to go back to college I had changed my name and gender officially in the school system and it felt (wow), so amazing to be seen how I am supposed to be.

On January 2018, one of my friends proposed me to make a Gofundme page to help me cover hormone therapy and therapy appointments. Under an hour, the page went viral and I was excited but scared at the same time. It meant that everyone in my Haitian circle knew. People kept calling me, texting me, asking me if it’s true. I lost some very close friends but also gained a bunch.

It now has been almost a year since I fully came out, and while it has been super hard, I have found happiness in who I am and have gained so many awesome beautiful friends that accept me for the woman I truly am.

If I may give anyone some advice, “wherever you are just know that there will always be people who love you no matter what and they will never judge you”.

Haitians do not believe in loving someone that is the same sex as you or being born a certain way and wanting to grow up differently. To typical Haitians, if you want to do something different with your life they either blame it on “djab” (spirits), where you grow up “Canada did this to her/him” or some even say it’s because you didn't get enough “baton” (beatings) growing up. Meaning, if your parents had beaten you enough, you wouldn’t want to be different at all.

Haiti is one of the many countries that needs tremendous help with the “Live and Let Live” concept. Although, the country tries very hard to be open and innovative, they still need some work when it comes to certain subjects.

After she shared her story, I asked my friend what does she think it would take to change our society’s views on the matter and this is what she replied:

I wouldn’t like to generalize but in most cases males are the one who are phobic about these subjects, I have found that women are much more accepting but no one can change someone. The person has to change themselves in order to grow and mature. I’m a really rare case, especially in Haiti, I have heard of only 2 other trans woman in the country, and one of them isn’t even out. I thought being so “public” would bring people to do some research and educate themselves. While many did, most have no idea what it means so, I would say education is the only way to change people’s views. However, just like some kids don’t want to go to school, some people just don’t want to educate themselves and be part of a better world.

You’d think it would be common sense for everyone to have access to basic human rights, dress how you want, love who you want, be who you want even and so on.

It’s sad to say but, if what you wish to do with your life isn’t part of society “norms”, standing up for what you believe in will be the most challenging experience you may have to encounter, especially in the Haitian society.

I applaud everyone of you who decide to fight for your rights and face that challenge head on. I encourage anyone still living in fear, to reach out to the people that lived similar situations and get better advice from them than I could ever give you.

I sincerely hope you guys don’t lose hope because there is always light at the end of the tunnel.

I thank you all for reading this article today and I thank my friend for allowing me to share her story, hoping it will inspire some of you.

Written by Tiffany Gaetjans

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