Gabriel's journey: A transgender Spaniard makes the change

by Reuters
Tuesday, 22 January 2019 07:00 GMT

Transgender teenager Gabriel Diaz de Tudanca, 17, hangs out with some trans friends at a park in Madrid, Spain, August 3, 2016. "My friends, both cisgender (people whose gender identity matches the sex they were assigned at birth) and trans are really important to me. They helped me overcome my fears of coming out to my parents," Diaz de Tudanca said. REUTERS/Susana Vera

Image Caption and Rights Information
Gabriel Diaz de Tudanca has undergone surgery and hormone treatments, changed his name and renewed his identity documents to reflect what he feels is his true gender

By Susana Vera

MADRID, Jan 22 (Reuters) - Gabriel Diaz de Tudanca is a 19-year-old Spaniard who, although born a girl, identified as male from early childhood.

"When I was three years old I came back from school and said to my mother that when I grew up I was going to be a man called Oscar," he says.

Transgender young man Gabriel Diaz de Tudanca, 20, and his girlfriend Ruth take part in a protest to stop transgender pathologization in Madrid, Spain, October 20, 2018. REUTERS/Susana Vera

Supported by his family and friends, he has undergone surgery and hormone treatments, changed his name and renewed his identity documents to reflect what he feels is his true gender.

Reuters photographer Susana Vera accompanied him for three years through his process of change.

In terms of lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans (LGBT) rights, Spain ranks relatively high in surveys. But authorities require a mental health diagnosis before allowing gender change on official documents, as being transgender is classed a mental illness.

This is the case in the majority of European countries.

Transgender teenager Gabriel Diaz de Tudanca, 17, shows a friend a picture of himself with the sentence "I'm trans" as part of a public campaign to fight hate crimes at a metro station in Madrid, Spain, July 1, 2016. "After I did the LGBT phobia campaign some guys started writing hate comments on my Instagram account. Things like, after we finish with you, you won't need a sex change. I reported it and we are waiting for trial," Diaz de Tudanca said. REUTERS/Susana Vera

"I didn't take it that badly, being diagnosed as 'mentally ill'," he says. "But I feel angry that you have to get that diagnosis to be able to change documents, get hormone treatment or surgery."

The World Health Organisation ruled in June that being transgender should no longer be classified as a mental disorder. It now considers "gender incongruence" under sexual health conditions.

At 17, Diaz de Tudanca started with hormone treatments aimed at developing secondary sex characteristics such as voice deepening and a masculine pattern of hair and fat distribution. Around two years ago he underwent surgery to remove his breasts.

"It was a huge change in my life," he says of no longer having breasts. "It's a great liberation."

Transgender teenager Gabriel Diaz de Tudanca, 17, shaves his face to grow more hair two months after he started taking testosterone in Madrid, Spain, February 15, 2016. "I took hormone blockers for three months and was soon started on testosterone. My period stopped right away and that made me very happy, I really disliked it," Diaz de Tudanca said. REUTERS/Susana Vera

He is now accepted socially as a man, although he has received rejection from some. One childhood male friend said he would not consider him a man as he didn't have a penis.

Now dating a girl, Diaz de Tudanca is proud of his transgender identity and has taken part in a Madrid council awareness campaign to prevent hate crime, putting his face to a series of posters that appeared around the city's metro network.

"The hate and intolerance of others comes from ignorance about trans people," he says.

Click on to see a related photo essay. (Reporting By Susana Vera, Writing by Sonya Dowsett. Editing by Patrick Johnston and John Stonestreet)


Openly is an initiative of the Thomson Reuters Foundation dedicated to impartial coverage of LGBT+ issues from around the world.

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Update cookies preferences