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ESSAY CONTAINS EXPLICIT CONTENT
Paul S. Amundsen
A Memoir of a Boy – In Search of a Normal Life
“I was born a boy, but I want to die as a woman”, she says, sitting in a taxi, nervous about the upcoming appointment at a sex change clinic in Bangkok.
It was a true moment of no return. She was nervous, but at the same time ready. “It’s my life and there are no other real options, even though I am sacrificing a lot. But I want a normal life, and people should accept my past, she said.”
Transsexuals, especially from South-East-Asia, are living on the edge. It’s hard to get a normal job. Many are working as prostitutes or in the entertainment industry.
“It is sad to see how people are treating transsexuals as a group, rather than individuals,” she says.
She searched for better opportunities outside her home country and chose to live far away from the Philippines. She moved to Norway in 2008, married a man and began working as a nurse. However, the relationship did not last, and the couple divorced in less than a year.
After the break up, a lot happened in her life in a really short time. She began cross-dressing part time, and a few months later she began injecting hormones. After one year on hormones she got breast implants. The operation triggered her to live as a woman full time. However, after some months she did not like being in between genders and considered sex reassignment surgery. In February 2010 she underwent a sex change operation in Bangkok.
As the journey moved on, from the first pictures were shot in January 2009 until May 2010, something happened with her. An identity, a body and a personality changed and took shape.
After the operation she got her new passport. Her old name was history. Her new name was Aira, and her new life could begin.
However, four months after the sex reassignment surgery she caught pneumonia. Her general health was not so good and her condition took an unexpected turn for the worse. She got critically ill and she died on the 25th of June 2010.
She herself gave the project the title “A Memoir of a Boy”. She wanted me to document her process and her struggles to become a normal girl. I hope this project will give people insight into how everyday life is for persons struggling with their gender identity.
“A Memoir of a Boy” is still the title for the photo essay, but now it is also “A Memoir of a Girl”.
Paul S. Amundsen, born 1976, is a freelance photographer based in Bergen, Norway. He has no formal photographic education, but started photographing very early in his life. He has been producing his own projects for more than ten years and has both an artistic and photo journalistic approach to storytelling. He has been a full time independent photographer since 2004, and his clients include daily newspapers like Bergens Tidende, Dagbladet, Dagens Naeringsliv and The New York Times, among others. He is currently working on several independent long term projects.