I know I’m lucky when I’m called ‘miss’ by a stranger: Ramona Perera
Colombo (LNW): We in general make conclusions on people by the mere observation from the outside. They may not always be the truth. Maybe, there is truth underneath entangled with the soul rather than the body itself. Feeling it, we try to force them into becoming something they are not for the benefit of our own. People of trans identities, those who expect transition and the ones who are most subject to social oppression, often face the non-scientific reality orchestrated by the people who wish to create one at their own discretion.
Notwithstanding this article being the life story of one such human being, she comes out in her capacity as a person who is able to face these obstacles and winning these social challenges. In a careful approach, she learnt how to gain respect from a society of knowledge and inclusiveness. She is Ramona Hadara Perera, a chemical scientist, a model, and a dreamer who wishes to see her space in tomorrow’s world in her own multi-talented business identity.
“From a young age, I felt a deep connection to the feminine identity within me. Recognising this, I sometimes restrained these feelings, aiming to pursue higher education and secure a good job without drawing undue attention or facing obstacles. I didn’t want any unnecessary disturbances that might hinder my goals.”
She was thoughtful to dodge the social obstacles faced by many who share the same dream of becoming themselves in their journeys.
“Many face challenges in sustaining a conducive learning environment under such circumstances. Facing discrimination from teachers can hinder one’s mental well-being and potential. Similarly, financial constraints often force individuals to make choices they might not have considered otherwise, like resorting to sex work to fund their aspirations. I believe society plays a role in dictating these fates. However, I was determined not to compromise the self-respect of the woman I aspired to become. I chose education as my means to navigate these challenges and remained committed and patient in pursuing my dream.”
People of trans identities become a magic before the eye of the society and are consequently driven to defamation, stigma and ridicule, and even lose their right to education due to the non-existence of an education system providing scientific facts related to gender identity and being transgender, she points out, suggesting that such low standards of society against them can only be changed via the school itself.
Ramona went on saying that the woman inside of her comes from her soul since she was little. Despite liking crossdressing being one step of it, all crossdressers do not necessarily recognise themselves as transgender, she adds.
“For some, dressing up might merely be a form of expression or desire. However, for those seeking to transition, wearing women’s clothing could be as significant as their broader aspirations of embracing their true selves. Additionally, when embarking on a transitioning journey, a psychiatrist often evaluates one’s confidence and readiness to present themselves in society dressed in line with their identified gender. This stage is considered an essential step in the process.”
Ramona explains that her desire of living as a woman is as normal as her finding men’s bodies attractive. But she points out that finding men attractive may have been common for all boys coming of age at the time, and not just for someone like her who was dreaming of becoming a woman. She recalls how she, along with other boys of her age, had crushes for boys who were senior at the boys’ school she studied.
“Sometimes, they may have been gay, or bi. Or they may have been curious with their age. Or they may have been experiencing the initial stage of becoming trans like me. I, on the other hand, got involved in an affair during my AL classes. It was an affair full of respect. To this day, we respect each other. He recently got married.”
In her journey from past to present, Ramona encounters a basket of wonderful experiences during her life in the campus. She entered a private university instead of dawdling over state university entrance.
“It was a bold decision I made. I often thought that if I had attended a state university, my unique identity might have faced considerable challenges, especially during initiation rituals. For instance, I feared they wouldn’t recognise and respect the woman I identified as. The mere thought of being asked to remove my shirt felt like a deep violation of my feminine identity. Thankfully, I didn’t face such issues at the campus of my choice, and I was fortunate to find a supportive group of friends there.”
Ramona spent her school times in a boys’ school, so she befriended with other people in her campus. It was a time in which she had been pursuing her dreams, the ones she had once lost the opportunity to pursue. At home, she learnt how to play the piano, but her dream of learning Latin and Ballroom dancing became a reality during her campus days. She became a dancer at the height of her dream of transitioning, in a backdrop where her social status considered dancing less.
“I spent time with girlfriends most of the time then. My opinions and desires tallied with theirs. I might have looked like a man, but they weren’t afraid of close association with me because of the woman inside of me. Sometimes, they went out shopping to buy clothes with me. They showed their fit-ons to me. Their strong confidence in me helped me grow as a woman.”
Driven by patience and bound by discipline, in the end Ramona managed to make more than just one expectation in her life a reality. She finds blessing to continue her journey in search of womanhood, with a sound educational background and as a person with knots with the higher standards of society.
“I gradually achieved my goal. While establishing a successful career, I managed to fund my aspirations. Many individuals face barriers in their educational journey, making it challenging for them. However, if we commit ourselves to acquiring the knowledge that society values, it might not be as daunting as it seems. For my colleagues, this wasn’t magic. They welcomed and continue to accept me for who I am.”
“Transitioning to become a woman requires appropriate medical procedures. Sometimes, individuals might resort to using medication prescribed to another trans person, which can be hazardous and yield adverse outcomes. It’s vital to consult a psychiatrist followed by an endocrinologist for the right treatment. While the government has made provisions for this, the available facilities often fall short of the demand. Still, the current situation is an improvement. Fortunately, due to my quality education and securing a good job, I was able to personally access the necessary treatment.”
Ramona always speaks of the importance of the necessity of good education. Going beyond the point of making one’s dream of becoming a woman a reality, one has to continue testosterone blockers and oestrogen for the rest of their lives, were they to maintain the accomplished womanhood, she points out. This might not be an easy task, but worth committing for the sake of being yourself rather than being called someone who ‘impersonates,’ she emphasised.
“I consider myself very fortunate. I managed to eliminate my facial hair growth with just a few laser treatments. Today, I believe one session costs around twenty thousand rupees, and such treatments need to be done periodically. In addition, there are other medical expenses to consider. Embodying a feminine appearance isn’t straightforward; it demands both physical adjustments and deep emotional commitments. Nevertheless, I was able to achieve a feminine look relatively quickly through treatment and was dedicated to following every piece of medical advice.”
She reiterated that many vulnerable people of transgender identities are compelled to resort to sex work by society, in their inability to complete their education to pursue higher employment standards whilst being true to themselves. People who wish to undergo transition should understand that the only solution to face that social crime and secure their place in the job market is patience and strict adherence to education, Ramona emphasised.
“Societal pressures can be harsh, leading to tragic incidents including death and fatal attacks. Much of this stems from ignorance. However, perceptions are gradually becoming more positive than before. Influences like the drama “Kodi Gaha Yata” have positively impacted societal views. While formal education on this topic might be lacking in Sri Lanka, technology has played a role in broadening perspectives, fostering a more inclusive view towards the LGBT community.”
“The dream of motherhood is deeply ingrained in me, yet the absence of a uterus makes it unattainable. There’s hope that the future might change this reality, and even if it doesn’t happen for me, I’d rejoice for those who might benefit. This longing brings a pang of sadness, but I’m cautious about considering alternatives like adoption – like tube babies. Given the societal lens that often doesn’t see us as entirely normal, I worry about the day a child might discover my trans identity and, despite all my love, might view me differently. Yet, my love for children remains unwavering, and given the chance, I would embrace the role of a mother wholeheartedly, providing all that I can.”
After hours of interviewing, this was the first time Ramona’s eyes became watery. But she did not allow her tears fall and turned her lever to another gear.
“I’m filled with immense pride that I’ve realised my dream of embracing my identity as a woman. It’s an accomplishment I cherish deeply. But the greatest joy comes from being acknowledged and accepted as a woman by society. The simple joy of being addressed as ‘miss’ when placing an order, or hearing my voice as I call for a taxi, reminds me of the profound fortune I’ve found in my journey.”
Going further in her journey of womanhood, Ramona intends to proceed with a vaginoplasty. However, it is her lover who does not wish for her to undergo such a surgical procedure due to the uncertainty and the risks it might pose to her life.
“His love is amazing. It’s a huge commitment that he cares more about the woman in me rather than my genitals. That’s love, isn’t it?”
The tone of her voice was cracking, but not from grief. It was utter bliss.
“I won’t shy away from admitting that I harbour the aspiration to undergo surgery in a reputable and safe facility to fully embrace my identity as a woman. Given the present circumstances, it seems I might need to look towards trusted clinics in Thailand or India. Financing this will be essential. I may need to continue taking medication to maintain my feminine attributes for the rest of my life. My ultimate dream is to carve out a name for myself in the business world with my own brand and live a joyful life alongside my partner.”
This might not be an impossibility, because Ramona is patient enough to pursue her dreams and does not rush herself over her desires. She has enough patience and capacity to tailor the plan of making her dreams a reality. She, therefore, has already become a brand and stable. We wish Ramona wholeheartedly the best for her future endeavours, and all the strength and courage to make her other dreams come true.
She left a closing remark for anyone who wishes to undergo transition, and we quote;
“One should always approach this journey from a medical perspective. It’s crucial not to seek treatment on a mere impulse. Cultivate patience and work towards a position that enables you to afford these expenses. Demonstrate that the term ‘impossible’ can be defied. Strive to integrate seamlessly into society, just like everyone else. Presently, there’s a circular endorsed by the Ministry of Health that recognises gender identity for the transgender community. Additionally, the Registrar General’s office has guidelines in place for actions based on medical recommendations for gender affirmation. Therefore, with the assurance that it’s both medically and legally accepted for you to transition from male-to-female, or vice versa, focus on empowering yourself both intellectually and financially.”
*Adapted from original article “මං කොච්චර වාසනාවන්තද කියලා දැනෙන්නෙ, නොදන්න කෙනෙක් මට මිස් කියලා කතා කරන කොට – රමෝනා පෙරේරා” by Nishman Ranasinghe published on 24.10.2023