Being born male or female comes with specific gender roles and perceived responsibilities with those roles in both a family and in society. In the eyes of my family and society, I was not the typical male that that everyone expected me to be. Growing up as a transgender woman was very difficult. I was not accepted and was subjected to physical, emotional, and social abuse.
Papua New Guinea is a male-dominated society, and being a transgender woman is not seen as a normal practice that aligns with traditional cultural and religious beliefs. In Papua New Guinea, same-sex relationships are illegal. It is a crime with punishment with up to 14 years in prison. The laws in Papua New Guinea and the lack of transition resources in the country for transgender people make it impossible to expose the person I truly am inside.
At the age of 16, I attempted suicide. I was rushed to the hospital and treated by medical professionals. At that moment, I realized that ending my life would not solve anything at all. The only way to escape the social injustice and pain inflicted was through education and personal empowerment. I began to study hard and seek employment opportunities. Although I continue to seek strength-based approaches to remaining resilient, hatred, stigma, and discrimination are still very prevalent in the country. I continue to remain very cautious and exercise mental strength and fortitude to handle the daily circumstances at home, in public places, and in the workplace.
I was selected for a professional-development experience that granted me the ability to spend four months in the United States to work for DBHIDS. This experience has provided me an opportunity to build my leadership skills, expand my knowledge, and create networks in the U.S. I feel as if I have achieved exactly what I always wanted to accomplish in life. I have met very friendly and culturally competent people within DBHIDS who accept me for who I am. I am proud and pleased that I started hormone therapy. This is what I call the real journey of becoming a transgender woman. I am blessed.