Vera, a transgender woman who was born Charles Austin Nlewedum, spoke recently to the LGBTIQ website NoStringsNG about her life and struggles in Nigeria.
I am Charles Austin Nlewedum living in Nigeria. I am a transgender woman. My trans name is Vera, and I was assigned male at birth.
I am trained in physiotherapy. My friends know that I am a transgender woman, but my family does not know, as I fear they will disown me if I tell them.
While growing up, I felt different from the sex that was assigned to me at birth. I felt like a woman. My expressions mirrored a typical reflection of what society describes as a woman. Because of this and the stereotype associated with male homosexuality, many see me as gay, but I have always seen myself as a woman.
Experience with the LGBT community, friends and other people
I have experienced a lot of abuses from people. I have been attacked, beaten and tortured. I was raped at age 15, and I have been living a fake life here in Nigeria as a man while I actually feel like a woman inside.
My experience with the gay community has been mixed; I have been partially accepted. Many still struggle with accepting that I am transgender.
When I came out to most of my friends, many rejected me, as I guess it was difficult and complicated for them to deal with. Ever since then, I have been living what I can describe as a fake life. Sometimes I will have to pretend that I am gay, just to fit in, whereas I know that I am a straight woman who loves men.
This has affected and limited me in so many ways, because I can’t express myself completely as according to the way I actually feel. Sometimes I feel like trying on some female shoes, make my hair, and do my make up, but this is hard, because of what people will say, and possibly the reaction it will provoke from people who do not understand me.
At some point in my life, I became very miserable, and attempted suicide twice.
I am hoping that one day I will fully transition into the woman that I was actually meant to be. I do not want to live a fake life anymore. I want to engage in activities that reflect who I really am inside. I feel completely tortured.
I want to go to a place where I will be accepted as me, where I can actually make my inside match my outside. I want to me. I want to be Vera.
Commentary from NoStrings
Transgender people are not freaks or bad people just because they are trans. They are just ordinary people who were born in the wrong body.
- Understanding transgender people — the basics (from the National Center for Transgender Equality, an advocacy association based in the United States)
- Transgender terminology (2014 list from the National Center for Transgender Equality)
- LGBTQI Terminology (Updated version of a terminology sheet created in 2003-2004 at the LGBT Resource Center of the University of California, Riverside)
- Comprehensive List of LGBTQ+ Term Definitions (Sam Killermann, Social Justice Comedian)
- LGBT (Wikipedia — from LGBT to LGBTTQQFAGPBDSM plus SGL, MSM, MOGII, GSM, LGBTTQQIAAP and many more)
- GLAAD Media Reference Guide – Lesbian / Gay / Bisexual Glossary Of Terms (GLAAD)