Watch What’s It Like For A Trans Woman In Russia To Undergo Transition

Pascal Dumont

This is Vika. She is a transgender woman who moved to Moscow from Novosibirsk in Siberia to find work, and to save for surgery that would help her body match her gender.

Pascal Dumont

Vika is the subject of a four-episode web documentary called Transmoskva by a new online platform called Coda, which brings a sustained focus to pivotal world events.

Now divorced, Vika left behind her ex-wife and son, who is now eleven. She hopes to return to Siberia to spend more time with him after she has fully transitioned.

courtesy of Vika

Vika began taking hormones when her son was only two years old. But it's only this winter that she was able to save enough money to get breast implants and facial feminization surgery.

Pascal Dumont

Surgery would allow Vika not only to more closely match her body to the gender she feels inside, but to feel safer when she's out in public.

Coda

The documentary is part of Coda's first series, called « Russia's War on LGBTQ Rights. »

Coda

Transmoskva follows Vika from the time she begins preparing for her surgery to the time when she returns to her hometown to be with her family.

Coda

It reveals surprising aspects of contemporary Moscow, like when Vika visits a store that caters specifically to male-assigned people who wish to present as women.

Coda

The existence of trans support groups in Russia counters Western perception that it's an unremittingly transphobic country.

Pascal Dumont

BuzzFeed News spoke to the director of Transmoskva, Pascal Dumont, and producer Amy MacKinnon, to talk about how the documentary came about and their intentions in telling Vika's story.

Pascal Dumont

« I first met Vika when I photographed her for The Moscow Times, » Dumont said.

Coda

« From the moment I met her, she seemed really confident and open. And when Coda reached out to me, Vika was willing to embark on this documentary project and have us follow her. »

« Initially we wanted the film to follow several people, » MacKinnon added, « but eventually they all fell through. Because of the challenges they face, it wasn’t possible to film with them. Except for Vika. »

Pascal Dumont

MacKinnon also talked about the state of transgender acceptance in Russia: « The legacy of the Soviet Union still shapes a lot of the way people react here. People retreated into their families, and sheltered themselves from the outside world. There’s a spirit that as long as it’s not threatening your home, family, or immediate welfare, it's all right. »

Vika's old passport photo.

Pascal Dumont

After her surgery Vika will need to go before a judge to have her name and gender changed on her passport.

Vika's current passport, which still has her birth name and gender marker.

Pascal Dumont

It's an approval process that is unpredictable because it's at the judge's discretion, but Vika hopes that her feminization surgeries will convince the judge of her credibility.

As Vika finds her path, Dumont and MacKinnon hope that she will someday feel happiness and satisfaction in her gender.

Coda

You can watch the first episode of Transmoskva below. The second and third episodes are now available on Coda, and the finale, where we learn how Vika's parents and family in Siberia react to her transition, will be available on March 17.

vimeo.com

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