Call me Ari or Ariel. I am Catalan, born in Malgrat, Principat de Catalunya, but my dad was also a Rrom, so I have 50% of gypsy blood (and this is an important half).
I have to be thankful to my parents for having chosen Ariel as my first name, because in many places it is a gender neutral name, suitable for a boy or a girl. In fact I’ve kept Ariel in most of my documents, all my life; but, when I was a kid, people tended to call me Ari after a while – maybe because I looked a little flimsy—, so I identified better with this shorter form (and when I discovered that Ariel means “lion/lioness of God” in Hebrew, I stuck decidedly to Ari). Sometimes I like to think that my dad knew, somehow, that my assigned gender would be put in question quite soon by myself. He lived just enough to see me coming out openly as a girl, and –in spite of some strong prejudices that he had– he was the first person in this world to call me ‘Ari-shej’ (this is Rromani for Ari-girl), and also ‘murri shejorri’ (my little girl) –even if only in private.
My older brother –who was also questioning his own gender, in a different, non-binary way– supported and defended my points and my well-being from the very first second; he confronted the whole world for me, and has always been my hero and my guardian. My mother was almost always more puzzled and worried than annoyed. All in all, I was very fortunate.
We spoke Catalan at home, and my first language was this and still is. I learned some Vlax-Rromani from my father and grandmother, but both died when I was a teen, and then I lost contact with most of my Rroma relatives and friends, because they did not accept me as I was, and rejected my personal choices in life. That’s the reason why I have not a very good command of this beautiful and ancient tongue. (My brother knows it better, having kept more contacts, and having improved it by his own with books and grammars. I’m doing the same now, trying to recover what was rightly mine and I almost lost long ago – part of my roots and legacy.)
As an adult, I studied Catalan Philology at the University of Barcelona, and I got a Master’s degree in Medieval Catalan Literature, but I had to make my living first with a variety of jobs of low social consideration: waitress, nightclub dancer, cabaret actress and stripper; with all the collateral –and sometimes, unavoidable—open doors to the sex market; and in that time the so called “travestis” (trannies, shemales, lady boys) had not the relative consideration and respect they have got now. We were the lowest and worst-treated persons in the trade.
However, I passed very well in normal life as a true girl, and I was lucky enough to get some good jobs as a photo model to pay my studies at UB (it took me quite a long time and some unusual troubles to complete them, anyway). A best friend and colleague during the bad previous years (and soon, my love and my mate) –transgender just like me- was not so lucky and ended up very ill with depression, addictions and other mental issues. She is gone now, and I write this here in her honour, as a due homage, with all my unending love and utmost respect.
Depression and anguish reached me as well; not as severe as hers, and not for so long, but left their scars; so, when I finished my studies, being single and alone, I decided to settle in Andorra, where I began to live in stealth, as a plain, normal, well accepted woman. Transgenderism was to be, definitely, a matter of my past and my memories. Or so I thought… Recently, after nearly twelve years, I decided to come out again, beginning on the Internet, and get again in touch with my peers, make new trans friends and talk trans news and trans issues. I’ve been missing this growingly, with all my heart.
I have lived rather alone in Andorra, and I don’t know of any other trans person in my village (Aixirivall, a quarter of Sant Julià de Lòria, has little more than 800 inhabitants and quite a few live in isolated rural houses –like mine), but I love the country, and I feel it as my own, being a Catalan country, and the only one that has kept its independence since the 12th century and has Catalan as the only official language. Anyway, I hope that this will change and the other parts of my nation –Principat de Catalunya, Franja de Ponent, Regne de València, Illes Balears i Catalunya Nord– will become independent again in the near future. Three centuries being colonies of Spain and France are more than enough; and too much.
I know several languages aside from my native ones: English, Spanish, French, Occitan and some German, and I understand Portuguese, Italian and a few others, and I have been working at home as a translator from Catalan and into Catalan. I’m a poet and a writer of narrative as well; but still unpublished.
With regard to religion, I am animist and pantheist. I believe in an afterlife, in reincarnation and karma. My main earthly interests are classical music, literature in general, philology and linguistics, but, above all, Love and the evolution of my soul (which are also earthly matters).
So Love is my force, my central path and my desired goal; it’s all I need, right now and for every day of my remaining life.
And with Love I leave you, just adding a beautiful love poem (or better said: a devotion poem) by Rainer Maria Rilke, in German, and in English:
Lösch mir die Augen aus: ich kann dich sehn,
wirf mir die Ohren zu: ich kann dich hören,
und ohne Füβe kann ich zu dir gehn,
und ohne Mund noch kann ich dich beschwören.
Brich mir die Arme ab, ich fasse dich
mit meinem Herzen wie mit einer Hand,
halt mir das Herz zu, und mein Hirn wird schlagen,
und wirfst du in mein Hirn den Brand,
so werd ich dich auf meinem Blute tragen.
[Rainer Maria Rilke; „Das Stunden-Buch“ (1905)]
Put out my eyes: I can see you,
deaden my ears: I can still hear you,
and without feet I can come to you,
and without mouth I can as well claim for you.
Tear off my arms; I hold you
with my heart as if with a hand;
arrest my heart, and my brain will beat,
and if you set my brain ablaze,
then I will in my blood bear you.
[Rainer Maria Rilke; “The Book of Hours” (1905)] — Translated by Linus Fontrodona (2012), and shared here with his consent.]
… and in my soul, my love!