In a couple of weeks the person Alexandria is going to disappear. His passport might survive but he as a Bulgarian citizen will vanish into thin air. He, Alexandria, was born as a She, defined by his biological sex as a female. After Alexandria became a teenager, he realized that something did not feel right. He did not feel like a women – he was living in a different body. First time he heard about transgender was when he finished High School. With the beginnings of his twenties, Alexandria decided to start taking hormone pills which are helping him to live as a man that he always felt like. Prescribing hormone pills in order to affirm someone’s gender is illegal in Bulgaria. Furthermore, without undergoing gender affirming surgery, for which a positive court decision is needed, a person can’t change their gender marker in any official document. While gender affirming surgeries are not available in Bulgaria, as said by the transgender community members, it is not only complicated to change your gender marker in official documents, it is also impossible to live a quality life as a transgender person. Alexandria got his hormone pills from Serbia. He started the procedure some weeks ago. Soon the effects will be visible and recognized by other persons. But how can he travel or been officially recognized as a Bulgarian citizen with his papers saying female for sex if he looks like a man? How will he be able to prove that he is Alexandria, the person on the passport, at the borders or any official institution? The only way for Alexandria will be to start a new life abroad. For Alexandria, there won’t be a way back. What will happen with the female Bulgarian Alexandria? She will still be registered as a female citizen in Bulgaria, but from the day Alexandria crosses the Bulgarian border, she will just continue existing on the papers and not in a real life.
The story of Alexandria is fictive, but it could happen to any transgender person in Bulgaria. The low level of awareness about the everyday life of transgender people is not only a Bulgarian problem; it is a lack of trans-related worldwide. Most people do not know what it means to be transgender and mixing those up with Drag Queens or using the word t**********e instead.
Basically, trans* people are having a gender identity that differs from the sex assigned at birth. Some trans* people desire medical procedures to be performed in order to affirm their gender, some do not. Also, gender identity has nothing to do with the sexual orientation of a person, meaning that trans* people could define as homosexual, bisexual, asexual, heterosexual, etc.
Unfortunately, transgender people are taken as an entertainment or a joke in Bulgaria, as the example of Paris, a transgender person been part of the Bulgarian TV Show Big Brother, displayed. During the TV Show, Paris was sexually abused by other participants. One peak of the show was when Paris was locked into a room with a homophobic person who sexually insulted her.
It is somehow hard to realize that the humiliation of people with a LGBTIQ+ background is seen as socially acceptable and normalized in the Bulgarian society. Even though since 2004, the Protection Against Discrimination Act prohibits discrimination and hate speech on the basis of sexual orientation, and it was extended in 2015, when the National Assembly passed an amendment to the law that forbids discrimination of people who have changed their gender. But reality looks differently. According to some LGBTQI+ rights activist in Bulgaria, cases of hate crimes and hate speech against LGBTIQ+ people are not uncommon in Bulgaria, and are often ignored and remain unprocessed by state authorities. To them, one of the biggest problems of the community is that, for the Bulgarian society, transgender does not even exist and is widely seen as a form of getting attention or provocation.
Nevertheless, of the laws forbidding discrimination based on sexual orientation, as of 2019, Bulgaria’s Penal Code still does not protect LGBTIQ+ people from hate crimes. This is one of the most challenging issues, which the NGOs working for the rights of LBTIQ+ people in Bulgaria are facing. For them, an overall EU regulation prohibiting hate crimes against LGBTIQ+ people would be an option to protect those people of daily attacks.
However, besides all the laws and policies needed, it is most important to hear, to see, to listen and to talk more about and with transgender people not only in Bulgaria, but in whole Europe. This should happen in contradiction to the stereotype which is shown in media and TV Shows, where trans* are often portayed as sexual objects and not as just normal human beings.