Johanna, a deaf lady in Pasto

(Johanna has read and approved of this blog)


I had wasted a couple hours this morning going with my Colombian host father into town to see if they could repair my blasted travel luggage. The traffic had been unbelievable, and when you have a bit of a bad back, the multiple stops and halts on the brakes really frustrates you. The handle was doing my head in (see previous blogs) and the bottom part was starting to really badly erode away, worrying me about what happens when it finally splits. We went to this downtown market to a market stall where they seemed to excel in repairing luggage. They examined my luggage, giving sighs of despair and were reluctant to say how much it would cost to repair. The overall message I sensed was to let it go and get a new one. My parents had kindly offered to buy this for Xmas. I gave up and agreed I would look for a new one tomorrow. We hurried back home in order to meet you, Johanna.

You were introduced to me by a mutual friend, and you kindly offered to meet and take me to the wonderful Laguna de la Cocha, about half an hour’s journey away but only if you know where to get these lovely collectivos where people effectively share cabs at the last minute, no pre-bookings necessary.

As I greet you in the lobby of my host family’s casa, it is quite clear to me you are a little nervous. I try and reassure you, coming across as positive and kind as I usually do. I can see how unsure you are about how I will greet you, I kiss you on both cheeks and smile. I then excuse myself to get my bag ready for our trip.
Being a transexual in transition is not easy. I can only imagine it to some extent, but I would not want you or anyone going through the process to be nervous about meeting me. As a gay deaf man I can only try to understand how one has fear, how one is going through such a journey for acceptance but then there is all of the medical side of the transition. I just want you to feel safe and content with my company and hope that I give this to you by being my normal friendly and caring self.

We set off and talk about common things, about Pasto and how religious a town it is. We also talk about my love of coffee and how I really needed a coffee – its Colombia for heaven’s sake. We walk quite a fair bit to arrive this not-so-bad-a-café and have a quick coffee each. We then dash off to a collectivo stand and we are told to wait 5minutes for the next car ride to La Cocha.

We talk and learn more about each other. I tell you about my travels insofar and also what is ahead of me over the next few months before I go home. I am impressed with your international sign fluency and I tell you that you should consider training up to the level of an international sign interpreter. You share with me that the University in Pasto is on strike (again) and that many young people in Pasto are disillusioned with the escalating costs of education and the chaos it means for completing your degree. You are doing some small paid work as an observer of newly trained sign language interpreters, giving feedback for their professional development.

The car speeds ahead all the way to La Cocha, riding pretty quickly across the huge bends from one side of the mountain/volcano to the other. We try to remain seated upright with some difficulty! We talk to each other the whole journey. It is nice to know you more and about Pasto, the first city of Colombia for me to visit.

I am conscious to allow you to raise the subject of being transsexual, rather than me. It is never certain what’s the right thing to do; to raise it or not, but my maturity tells me to let you raise it. And you do. I had pointed to a picture of some elaborate nails painted, you seemed to like this subject and we laugh about different nail styles. You tell me how hard it is for you and how things used to be. I admire your honesty and openness but also how brave you are being.

I learn that you used to identify as a gay young man, and how you fell in love with men only to be rejected again and again with the same reasons; you were too feminine for their liking and that they wanted a masculine guy. You went through a lot, and from lots of consideration you recognised that you were a transexual and decided to come out at 22yr, seeking support from the Health profession as well as the Deaf community and your family. Your parents did struggle initially but quickly turned to support you after your siblings strongly stood up for you. The Deaf community was a different thing, with many unsure how to support you and a mix of reactions across individuals. Those you had grown up with were divided between positive and hostility. There are men who grew up with you who still shake your hand and refuse to kiss you as an identified lady. There are others who have been more positive.

You tell me how you really want to work with deaf children in education but transexuals are banned from doing so in Colombia. I share with you my huge annoyance with this and how things are far more open in the UK, I know of at least 2 deaf transexuals who are working in deaf education and pretty open about it too. You appear amazed to learn about this, positively envious to some extent.
I learn that you are in touch with a few deaf transexuals across South America, but in Colombia you feel you are the only one that is open about it.

You share with me that your Mother and you both pay for your hormone replacement therapy medication, she paying a large part of it. You are still thinking about removal of your penis, it is very difficult a decision and you have two years to think about it.

I positively ask you a few questions out of curiosity. You confirm you always use the female toilets. You also confirm you want to be referred to as she, her.

In our wider conversations about love and men, you repetitively share your deep desire to fall in love and have a boyfriend. It is very difficult you acknowledge, for men to treat you just like a woman, especially whilst transitioning. I also say its difficult, men are rats sometimes 🙂

There is a slight confusion when we are riding in the taxi back. Wearing shorts, you can see some of my hair on my legs are blonde. You say you really wish you had this, which confused me as I thought you were going to no longer have hair on your arms. You explain to me that you mean blonde as my sun-tanned hair had turned much of my leg hair blonde. It makes sense, as it can make hair less obvious on your body.

We later meet a group of deaf friends for coffee in a shopping mall, it is clear to me how this group totally accepts you and treats you like a lady. There are times when you come across as unsure of yourself, times when you give the impression that you want to be ultra feminine but not yet.

You ask me to show you photos of the deaf transexuals I know in the UK and I gladly show those I have from social media. It is really clear to me how important it is for you to meet, know and identify with other deaf transexuals or people going though the experience.

It’s the identity, the shared experience and the numerous questions each person has. It is the same for the rest of the lgbtiqa plus community, although finding each other I would say is much harder for transexuals who are deaf.

(Just in case its helpful for UK readers, have a look at this website for some support

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