“When I was about to give my very first interview to the media, I was worried that people might start attacking me in the streets after it goes live,” says 30-year-old Christian Havlicek, a trans man and one of the founders of TransFuzia, the first NGO working with trans people in Slovakia. “But in reality, the only thing that happened is that almost 500 trans people have contacted us, asking for help and support.”
TransFuzia, the first NGO raising awareness to transgender rights in Slovakia, was founded by Christian Havlicek and Romina Kollarik in 2010.
“There was almost no information about the topic when I decided to transition in 2004,” Christian says. “Thanks to our NGO today, we do our best to bring the latest scientific research news to the public and institutional discourse, and we are also trying to get rid of all the obstacles that trans people still have to face.”
Other than institutional violence, trans people also sometimes encounter violent attacks in the streets. “I have been attacked in the street myself while I was in the process of transition,” Christian says. “I was on the bus and two men started insulting me. When I got off the bus, they started stalking me. They attacked me physically, and punched me in the head. I was unable to react. I didn’t even think about calling the police – it didn’t occur to me that I could actually do something to protect myself.”
Through his work with the community, Christian has come across different difficulties trans people have to face. “This includes bullying in schools, forced surgery for legal gender recognition, a lack of medical care, the inability to find work, or being rejected by family and friends.”
“There was a lot of disinformation, common misconceptions and myths about transgender and non-binary people in all the Post-Soviet countries,” Christian explains, “which was one of the reasons why we wanted to start an initiative that would help raise awareness and make a difference in our region.”
“After we have founded our NGO, we have received a lot of emails coming mainly from older people telling us that they had wanted to transition a long time ago, but it had been almost impossible during the Soviet Era, and still very hard in the Early nineties. In Czechoslovakia, it took 5 years on average for a person to accomplish the process of transition, and very few people had found the strength to face all the difficulties it implied at the time.”
Given that there was a lot of stigma, many trans people in the country didn’t know that transitioning was possible. “Some of them still feel like they have to find a justification when they first go to see a doctor about this, because they presume the doctors are going to say that it is too late for them. But we try to explain to everyone that there is nothing to feel guilty about – it is their right to gather all the relevant information and make their own decision whenever they’re ready.”
When TransFuzia started running in 2010, there was very little media awareness to trans rights in Slovakia. “We were inspired by TransFuzja, an organization in Poland that was already up and running, but Slovakia is a much smaller country and we wanted to make sure that the media communicate about this topic the right way — up until then, there was a lack of general awareness in the public discourse, and we were afraid that people were not going to accept what we were trying to explain.”
But Chris and his colleagues found out that in reality, there were many trans people in Slovakia that have been suffering in silence for many years. When TransFuzia was launched, it started running a peer counseling initiative, and trans people from all over the country started seeking its services.
So far, there are some good results of the work of TransFuzia in the region. “We have managed to bring positive change and good practice to the social and medical community. We have also built a network of activists and trans people in the country. And even though there’s still a lot of work to do, the outcomes so far have been great.”
“The ultimate goal is that our organization doesn’t have to exist anymore – by this we mean that trans people should be a perfectly normal part of life and society and should not need specific counseling, simply because they shouldn’t face any discrimination at all.”