SEX-CHANGE FREEDOM - Trapped in a woman’s body, Jamaican ex-cop mans up to future
WESTERN BUREAU: Jamaica’s toxic culture of condemnation of transgenders and transsexuals has been blamed for driving a former policewoman to flee the country to embrace what he says is his true identity as a man. Identified as female at birth,...
Jamaica’s toxic culture of condemnation of transgenders and transsexuals has been blamed for driving a former policewoman to flee the country to embrace what he says is his true identity as a man.
Identified as female at birth, Kevin, who requested that his surname not be published, cited discrimination as the compelling cause for migrating to Canada, where he has undergone hormone replacement therapy and surgery on his journey to manhood.
“I felt I was given the wrong gender at birth due to societal norms in Jamaica where I was born,” Kevin told The Gleaner. “I was born with feminine parts so they gave me the feminine gender.”
Kevin, who as a woman preferred women, faced blowback and was reportedly attacked several times. He decided to leave Jamaica for good after a near-death attack.
“Jamaicans are somewhat homophobic and are not knowledgeable or accepting of trans persons,” said Kevin, who served in the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) as a woman constable. “It was hard to stay there (Jamaica) and live my truth without being discriminated.”
Kevin said that he did not receive therapeutic help while enlisted in the JCF – an organisation known for its machismo and conservative, hard-line views on gender and sexual identity.
Recounting his early life in Jamaica, the 39-year-old ex-policewoman said he knew from childhood that he was different.
“I was always acting very boylike. My family and friends would think that I was just a tomboy,” Kevin, now an LGBT counsellor, said.
Besides hormone replacement therapy, Kevin’s transformation has included mastectomy, chest realignment, and liposuction. Genital surgery is the final step in his metamorphosis. Sex-change procedures have cost him CDN$10,000.
He has also been on testosterone treatment for 20 months. That halted the menstrual cycle within the first 60 days. Facial hair and structural changes have now caused Kevin’s femininity to fade.
“My voice is much deeper and my body is more masculine. I am 90 per cent male, and if I don’t tell someone I was born a woman,” Kevin said.
“They would not know and I don’t care to share unless they are in my bedroom.”
Kevin grew up in a religious family. His transition has not gone down well with his relatives, who have reportedly turned their backs on him. Those who haven’t shut him off completely relay messages through intermediaries.
Kevin said he is attracted to women – a passion, he said, that helped him come to terms with his true identity as a man.
“I was never really into men and I only had two relationships. It was boring, but people knew I liked girls, but didn’t know I was a man,” Kevin told The Gleaner.
The emotional and psychological trauma experienced by lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender (LGBT) community in Jamaica takes a heavy toll – even in dollar terms.
Research has shown that LGBTs in Jamaica are three times more likely to develop a mental illness than non-LGBTs because of the country’s hostile environment.
“It’s very heavy,” programme development manager of the Equality for All Foundation Jamaica Limited, Karen Lloyd, said of the emotional burden at Tuesday’s project launch of a campaign on the economic, social and cultural rights of LGBT Jamaicans.
Dr Diana Thorburn, director of research at think tank the Caribbean Policy Research Institute (CAPRI) agrees.
CAPRI’s research shows that Jamaica spends an additional $175 million a year on mental-health treatment because of discrimination.
“Not only are LGBT people’s mental health compromised, ... but it is also costly to the country in terms of the public health expenditure to treat these mental health costs that would not be there if the discrimination wasn’t there,” she said.
Thorburn, who is also chairman of Bellevue Hospital, the country’s chief mental-health facility, said that there were other costs not captured in the think tank’s analysis that likely have negative impacts on economic output.
The 2019 CAPRI study, The Economic and Societal Costs of Sexuality-based Discrimination in Jamaica, noted improvements in the conditions of LGBT people in recent years.
Lloyd concurs with that evaluation.
“There is definitely fear, but a lot of LGBT people are more empowered today,” Lloyd told The Gleaner.
“From our perspective, there is far way to go but we have seen progress in the last 10 years.”