Posted on 25/06/2019 by kathrin
Potsdam, Germany, September 2014
‘When you write about me, you use my name, too, don’t you? Then you can write about how the name came about right at the beginning. A court had not yet approved of a compound name, like Felix-Felicia with a hyphen, consisting of a male and female part. I was able to convince them with my authentic presence as well as the fact that Felix had to live first so that Felicia could do it now. My life as a man was a part of me and I can’t just throw this time away. Without it, I would never have become exactly the person I am today. Then they approved it.’
Felicia, born of Felix. ‘My friends call me Felicia.’
I loved my life as a man. When I look at pictures from back then, I look happy, too.’ A positive recollection of ‘life in the wrong sex’. I had not heard anything like this in my previous conversations with transgender people. Grinning, she continues: ‘And now I love my life as a woman. I love to walk the streets in women’s clothes and I would love to change five times a day.’
Felicia and I are strolling through Potsdam’s Dutch quarter on a sunny day. It’s pretty here, many small cafes with full tables and chairs on the sidewalks. Felicia makes her way, without looking right or left.
It turns into an almost two-hour walk, during which we stop again and again because Felicia thinks of something new from her life, which cannot be told while walking because it has to be expressed with gestures. Accompanied by a wonderful laugh.
‘I never adapted, I always did what I thought was right,’ is one of the first sentences I hear from Felicia. ‘In former times, in the GDR, I brought families of prisoners to Bautzen so that they could visit their relatives.’
Felicia’s childhood was marked by security and parental love, ‘yet, I was always the problem child of the family. It started as an infant when I almost died of a nutritional disorder. I simply refused to eat. They had already emergency baptized me. I barely made it.’
Felicia grows up as the son of a pastor in the GDR. Starting early in life she was humiliated at school, because she was weaker than others as a result of her illnesses in her childhood as well as later in vocational school, because she did not belong to the prescribed GDR organizations. ‘I am used to being hurt emotionally. Today nothing can knock me down.’ The fall of the wall was Felicia’s salvation.
‘The Christian faith was frowned upon in the GDR. And I was a believer, I also had my Bible lying on the cupboard in the apprentice dormitory.’
In class, Felicia distinguished herself with ‘outstanding ideas’. A bit of recognition to escape isolation? Once she uses her blackboard duty during recess to give away the answers to an upcoming test – the teacher had left them on the desk.
During another test, Felicia connected an intercom system and relocated it to the classroom to be networked with a smart friend at the other end. ‘I invented the internet,’ grins Felicia.
‘The only problem with this invention was: you were always ‘online’ and so the friend continued to animatedly talk, even though my teacher was standing behind me in a white coat. I pressed the box against my stomach so I wouldn’t attract attention. He then asked me if I had become a ventriloquist.’
Felicia couldn’t find much interest in the world of boys. ‘I stayed in my world by myself, once built a wooden booth out of planks. That was a cool thing. But when I made the place look really nice with pictures on the walls, carpet, and plants, the other guys didn’t find it quite as exciting. It got really ridiculous when I asked them to take off their shoes so the place wouldn’t get dirty.’
Felicia laughs her cheerful, loud laughter.
After school, Felicia trained as an agricultural engine fitter. On the one hand, a good time, because Felicia here was also popular for her ideas.
‘We weren’t allowed to watch West German television. These stations were locked on the GDR sets. I simply put a fork on the sensor keys, activated two TV channels at the same time and turned them with another fork until the West German station was visible. That worked. I had secretly hung an enamel dustpan on the outside of the door handle of the youth educator’s room. When he pressed the handle down, the sheet metal rattled as it hit the tiles and we were forewarned. Then we removed the fork in a flash and the GDR station ran when the educator came in. We looked completely innocent. We sat in front of the GDR television as if spellbound when the educator had left again, the fork was inserted again and we continued to watch the west German ‘ZDF’ station.’
We stop so I can take a few pictures of Felicia.
She grins: ‘Is my crooked nose in the picture now? When I was a boy it got crushed a few times. I really didn’t want to fight, so I always ran to my big sister and hid behind her. I just don’t fit into this world.’
They happened, these bad experiences, the attacks, especially during the time in the apprentice residence.
‘Not enough that I was the son of a pastor and a Christian. On top of that, I wasn’t a member of the Free German Youth or the Society of Sports Technology. As a result, our group was left empty-handed in socialist collective awards. One day fellow apprentices kick Felicia until she hits the floor; they spit on her and insult her calling her a Christian pig. ‘I did not defend myself, just as I didn’t in school! Felicia gets lucky: The director of the institution, party secretary of the company, witnesses the events and intervenes: ‘I want to have nothing to do with Nazis. Get in my office!’
Any vocational training in the GDR included military training by the GST.
‘There, one had to shoot sharply with MG fire. I only aimed at stones.’
At the end of the training the suitability for the National People’s Army was determined, and Felicia knew that military service would be her downfall. ‘I would have collapsed.’
For a conscientious objection, she would have ended up in prison. ‘I wouldn’t have survived that either.’ Felicia is very lucky. A lung doctor examines her. He had been in a concentration camp.
‘We had a lot to say about fascism, the Hitler Youth and my experience in the GST camp and we both shared the same opinion. It just fit. The doctor, like me, was a war opponent and knew what would happen to me if I resisted the GDR convictions. He actually managed to get me taken out of service, normally that did not happen.’
After the training, Felicia works as a professional driver in Potsdam. She meets her first wife and the twins are born. Her wife cannot look after the children for health reasons.
‘In the morning I got up, got the children ready, did my first tour and stopped at home before the second one to change the diapers.’ Soon Felicia is looking for another job so she doesn’t have to be on the road anymore and can be with the children. So, for a few months, she works as a verger in the church and in the cemetery as a gravedigger.
‘That was a sad job. But somehow also beautiful. We made the graves look pretty as the last resting place.’ Felicia took her children to work. Now she stands in front of me on the sidewalk and pretends to dig a hole. She laughs herself to pieces. ‘You have to imagine that, here the playpen, over there is daddy, who keeps digging into the ground until only his head can be seen.’ Felicia always found herself in the pleasant company of old ladies in the cemetery. ‘If I had to leave for a moment, I always had someone to keep an eye on the kids.’
We continue our walk just a little bit further when Felicia stops again and bends over with laughter. ‘I have to tell you this: one day I couldn’t work during the day because of the family, but a grave had to be dug until the next day. So I did it at night with a flashlight. Suddenly the police stopped by; they thought I wanted to dig up the dead and sell the dental gold. Took them a while to believe me.’
Life in the GDR, with a sick wife and small children, is very difficult for Felicia. She processes this time by writing stories. ‘The regime doesn’t get off lightly here, either. At some point, I gave the stories to a colleague to read. He declared me crazy.’
‘You have to burn this immediately, the Stasi (GDR secret police) will finish you off if they find that.’
‘He was right, of course. I actually did burn it all.’
Today Felicia is writing once again. ‘You must be joking’ (original: ’The chickens are laughing’). Stories about her life.
The sequel will be called: ‘How the cock becomes the hen’. I really love how you can recognize Felicia’s humour from the title alone.
There is much to tell in her autobiographically inspired stories. About the women in her life – ‘I have always loved women’.
Stories from the many different jobs.
Today Felicia has her dream job. She is a teacher in a day-care centre, but in a few weeks, her temporary contract expires. She has applied in numerous day-care centres. The rejection hides in words like: ‘…we also have many Muslim parents here…’
‘Since the reunification I have been working as a nursery teacher. At that time, still without formal education. It was simply my calling.’ The director of the day-care centre, where Felicia was working at that time, also saw this vocation and recommended further education so that Felicia would improve her chances of working in her dream profession. But the LVA (state insurance institution) refused to pay for Felicia’s vocational retraining. So, once again, Felicia took her life into her own hands and, on the advice of an employee of the Labour Office, completed a specialist-training course in Berlin. ‘I, who used to always be at risk of not being transferred, finished here with exceptional grades. In class, I sat on the nerdy side.’
One of the topics during the last year of training was ‘deviance’. ‘Suddenly I had a name for what I was doing: appearing in men’s clothing, but with women’s woolen tights and nail polish was very deviant.’ More laughing. Then seriously: ‘those who sat with me on the nerd side found it fascinating. They even brought me old nail polish from their mothers. With those from the other side, I had real problems.’ Everything was going so well, Felicia was happily married when in 2011 a time of total instability suddenly hit her. That was the time when Felicia lived her femininity more and more. ‘A man’s hairstyle and a woman’s clothes. I didn’t even know where I belonged or what I wanted anymore’.
Felicia breaks down. ‘I didn’t want to be so defenseless. I had to get out of there. But before I could become active, I had to really weep for a few days. That’s what I always do’.
From these days Felicia emerges with the clarity that she has to see a psychologist, but not because she needed psychological advice. On the internet, she had found reports that reflected her situation and read about a hormone that women born in a man’s body get prescribed. The prerequisite for the necessary prescription is psychological support over a period of 18 months. Felicia begins the first session with the words: ‘1. I don’t need a psychologist, 2. I need Gynokadin (estradiol), 3. We will sit here for hours until you can provide me with the medical evaluation for the doctor’.
For a few weeks, Felicia attends the sessions. ‘This was costing me far too much time! ‘That’s enough,’ I told her. ‘I have to get off of work every time and pay the 3€ parking fee every time. And all this even though I’ve known what I want for a long time. I want that piece of paper now!’
The psychologist’s answer is sobering: ‘I don’t have time to write evaluations.’
As always in her life, Felicia helps herself: ‘I called a trans-friend, she handed me her report, I copied it and got it signed. Finally the female hormones! That was July 1, 2013. You remember a date like that.’
With the female hormones, Felicia entered a second puberty, at the mercy of hormones. ‘Like a teenager, I tried everything, including every style of dress. I walked around in short dresses. That looked so weird. Now I know what looks good on me.’
Felicia, what was the happiest moment in your life? The dismissal from military service. The birth of my children. I have seven children. With four of them I was allowed to witness the birth. The wedding with Kornelia, my second wife. The moment I held my diploma as an educator in my hands. And now every day, every hour, every minute and second that I can live as intensively as possible as a woman.’
Back in Hamburg, a parcel from Felicia reaches me. ‘The meaning of life could be to rejoice with the chickens because mankind on its small oasis earth is a large chicken yard,’ Felicia writes in her introduction.
Thank you, Felicia!
Felicia: ‘I enjoy being a woman‘