Trans Participants in the Amp Study: Voices From VIA LIBRE


By: Julio Ortiz and Diego Torres, VIA LIBRE CRS, Lima, Peru

Among the participants enrolled in the AMP Study at the VIA LIBRE research site, about 9% identify as a transwoman (about 24 out of a total of 254 enrolled). Five of the women happily gave us their feedback and testimony regarding a few questions we asked them during one of their scheduled study visits.

 

How was the process of acceptance of your gender identity?

One of the women, Michel, found that the conception of their identity was a trauma that could be overcome, and sought the assistance of a psychologist for about 8 years: "I received psychological therapy since I was 4 years old, because at school they realized [my true identity]. It was a pleasure, because it was something that could not be hidden."

Another woman, Zoe, found that the discovery of, initially, a gay identity, gave way to her transgender identity: "In the garden I played with the girls, with the dolls. I felt like I was gay. When I was 12, I felt different. The change started at 15, 16. I let my hair grow and I started taking hormones."

Another woman, Zoe, found that the discovery of, initially, a gay identity, gave way to her transgender identity: "In the garden I played with the girls, with the dolls. I felt like I was gay. When I was 12, I felt different. The change started at 15, 16. I let my hair grow and I started taking hormones."

Jeampi said: "I started to realize that I was gay when I was 5 years old, when I was in the nest. I realized that I liked a child in the classroom. At 8 I had my first kiss with a boy who was from my neighborhood. I think that my taste for being a woman came at 12 years. At 5 [as a boy] he was mannered, he had a taste for makeup, but I still did not see my future like that [as a woman]."

Likewise, the family plays an important support role in this process, or can reject them. Carola shared: "My dad looked at me, gave me a bean on the forehead and said "I cannot do anything." But my mom did not talk to me for almost a year." 

 

Problems with trans identity?

For this question, we heard answers ranging from feeling pessimistic about being trans, linked to the difficulty of being recognized in their authentic gender identity to being able to obtain an identification in which their "social" name is used and appreciated. Michel said, "Study something else, not because the society we live in does not accept a transgender person.... It is not easy to get a job because in a job application they look for male or female sex. You go where it says female, but your documentation comes out as a man."

There is also a difference in the treatment of homosexuals and heterosexuals, especially with trans girls who demand equality. Zoe said, "They need to recognize us as they recognize the heterosexuals, and getting that recognition is in the works. They need to call me by my name if I think about changing it, but that will come later."

On the other hand, there are those who have a more optimistic outlook and the conviction that they can create changes. Jeampi said, "My dream is to be a journalist and work on a newscast. I want to escape the cliché of gossip journalism and do more serious journalism. A trans girl can also be a professional." Jeampi also noted that it is important to recognize the difficulties and lack of sexual education that trans women still suffer, which hinders personality development and the affirmation of their identities.

According to a recent statistic, 70% of the trans population is engaged in sex work. This affects those who suffer stigma for being trans. Shirley told us,  "Most people discriminate against you, treat you badly, sometimes insult you. I try to lead my life quietly. We are dedicated to our homes, I am a stylist; not all trans women are dedicated to sex work.”

Carola along with Jose-Luis Castro (Lead Community Educator, VIA LIBRE CRS (right) and Enrique Avila (Retention staff, VIA LIBRE CRS) (left)
Carola along with Jose-Luis Castro (Lead Community Educator, VIA LIBRE CRS (right) and Enrique Avila (Retention staff, VIA LIBRE CRS) (left) Click for high-res version

 

How did you decide to participate
in the AMP Study?

The participation of these trans girls goes hand in hand with the information they had access to and the good treatment that they say they received when they were invited to learn about the trial, and during their time in the clinic. Zoe said, "I was informed first and I liked how I was treated more than anything. I like the whole site; if I hadn’t felt comfortable I would not have come." Carola felt it was important that people could access information about  prevention and high-risk exposures. "That protected me, as I run risks almost every day."

On the other hand, Jeampi hopes the study will obtain beneficial results. "More than any benefit, it is knowing how to inform people. And to know if it works, if it really works and if it can protect many people."

Four of the women granted us permission to publish their photos. Jeampi’s photo is particularly significant for her, since she published it on social networks for the viral #10YearChallenge, which was shared and generated many comments. Jeampi decided to communicate, with great courage and pride, the change in how she looks now,  different from the earlier child that appears in the first part of the photo.

 

 

 

 

 

Julio Ortiz is the Recruitment and Retention Coordinator and Diego Torres is a Recruiter at the VIA LIBRE CRS in Lima, Peru.