Ilsa is the name I have given myself. Now that I am eighteen years old, I feel empowered, and my decisions are legally recognized. What I want is to feel fulfilled and productive, in order to take the next step towards becoming a transgender woman.

I wish my family understood me better, but we became distant from each other
when I told them I was gay and that I liked to dress as a woman. At that time, I didn’t want to live anymore, I didn’t take care of myself. That included not wearing condoms, but also not feeding myself. I felt I was just causing problems.

I lost weight until I got sick and ended up at the hospital, where they administered an HIV test. I was sixteen years old. The doctor informed my parents of the diagnosis. To them it was harder to learn that I had HIV than to learn that I was trans, although they think that one thing led to the other.

The first time I dressed as a woman, I felt I was another person. My gestures no longer provoked laughter. I don’t care any longer about the way others react. No matter what I do, I am a person who matters.