magazine_ Interview

“It‘s also my home”

And interview with Tobias Stampfer about his transformative journey

© Adobe Stock | nito
by Daniela Mezzena

He was the first person, and to date is still the only person, in Val Badia to undergo a sex change. Tobias Stampfer talks about his journey, what‘s changed in recent years, and how he is working to ensure that even in a small valley in South Tyrol, diversity is not perceived as a danger.

Can you briefly tell us about your experience? What was it like as a girl from Val Badia, to deal with a change of sex?

Tobias Stampfer: I started transitioning eight years ago, in 2016, and I must say that the situation was very different then. Things change quickly even without us noticing, however in Val Badia to this day I am still the only trans person. It was especially difficult to understand why I was this way. I didn‘t have any other examples of people like me. I lived as if I always had this shadow, I was sad, there is something wrong and I knew it but I couldn‘t name it. I was very masculine as a girl and I was aware that I liked girls and even that alone ten years ago, was a problem. It was hard. Then one day a friend of mine sent me a video of a girl who had transitioned in America or Canada, I don‘t remember. I realized that was the problem, only then the solution to the problem became a problem itself. I was very happy that I had found the solution, but also scared. For a year I didn‘t want to know anything more about it because it was too scary for me. I was aware that I would hurt my parents, so I waited. But at a certain point I could no longer stay inside that body or be treated as a woman when I felt that I was different, so I sought psychological advice from a service in Bolzano and found out about this team there: a psychologist, lawyer and endocrinologist. Back when I made the transition, you also had to go to a psychiatrist. Later on, it was no longer necessary, for the past few years it has been a judge who determines whether to also require a psychiatric evaluation or not.

So even in the South Tyrol of several years ago it was possible to receive proper counseling?

Stampfer: Yes, absolutely! It wasn‘t yet such a widespread situation, not everyone was an expert, but everyone was very helpful. They showed themselves to be very understanding and, when they didn‘t have the information I was asking for, always tried to find someone to refer me to.
However, in terms of a legal and bureaucratic point of view, the transition was a very long process. When I started you had to ask the judge for permission to change your name on the birth certificate at the registry office, and to be able to do the operation. That is, without permission from the judge you could not do surgery to change sex, this is because you cannot 'maim' a healthy body. Now a single request to the judge accompanied by the various medical reports from the psychologist and/or psychiatrist is enough. I also had to ask my friends to write a report in which they explained how they saw me, how I behaved when I was with them and to relate how bad I felt. The process was much more cumbersome then, since there are many and many more of us, we‘ve sped up the process.

For me, it is very important to make people understand not only what I did, but the whole journey; if you don't understand the pain and drama behind such an important life choice then it‘s easier for certain people to belittle it, make fun of someone or even turn against them.

Tobias Stampfer

You say things are progressing quickly and so much has changed in recent years. Is it the same in your valley?

Stampfer: Yes, I see more openness. I have to say that in Val Badia I try very hard to put on information evenings, a short documentary about me in Ladino even came out. The TV crew asked me to do it when I started the transition. I accepted but not right away. The fear was always so great. I did it in the end because for me it is very important to make people understand not only what I did, but the whole journey; if you don't understand the pain and drama behind such an important life choice then it‘s easier for certain people to belittle it, make fun of someone or even turn against them. So I‘m very keen that Val Badia learns to be more understanding and open-minded a little bit at a time. I also think that if all the people who are different in some way, go away the valley will be empty with respect to all this diversity and it will never have a way to confront all the different in the world. It doesn‘t work because the world is not made that way. Someone has to stay in the valley and the valley has to accept what is around. Then Val Badia is also mine, I don‘t need to go anywhere. They have to accept me as I am, because I am part of the place, I was born and raised there. I care a lot about my people and I would like them to evolve as the world is evolving as well.

You are part of the steering committee of the South Tyrol Centaurus Arcigay Association, what kind of requests do you receive? Who reaches out to you?

Stampfer: We receive different inquiries: there are those who tell us that they have suffered abuse, a situation of physical or verbal violence. We report it to the press or seek legal advice. We act as a liaison. We also have a counter that offers counseling: if you feel you don't fit into a common stereotype of gender identity or sexual orientation or you are hurting and being laughed at or targeted by your surroundings for discrimination, you can find assistance from us. Today, fortunately, families are following the path of their sons and daughters much more closely. For example, all the trans people who were with me in the group also brought their parents to the sessions. We are going in this direction; the parents are very much behind their sons and daughters. These parents don‘t seek to understand their kids, because understanding them is not easy, but at least to support and accept them as they are, and that definitely shows and makes a difference.

When you wanted to and were transitioning, you didn‘t know other people in the same situation, how do you see young people today compared to how you were?

Stampfer: They are much more informed, I think because of the Internet, and they are much, much younger. Adolescents can take so-called puberty blockers: tryptorelin drugs that block the development of that specific gender. So if you‘re 12 years old and you take blockers, of course after a full evaluation by professionals, your voice doesn‘t break, or if you‘re a woman you don‘t get your period. This then makes it much easier to procced with the intervention: when a person is of age, they can then choose for themselves which path to take. The government wants to prevent the administration of these drugs to minors, because they say that it is a form of violence and that you put the lives of underage people at risk, but there are mothers who are fighting back, because they recognize that gender identity is strongly linked to discomfort on a social and cultural level, and if their children can‘t take this path, the dysmorphia becomes so unbearable, in a very short time, that kids get sick and may even go so far as to commit extreme acts.

What would help improve the condition?

Stampfer: In my opinion it would be very important to be able to take blockers, because having to make the transition after the primary characters of a specific gender have already developed is much more difficult. For me who was a woman, the change of voice was, let‘s say, a natural consequence. But if you as a man want to become a woman and you have a low voice, it's very difficult for it to go up, you have to have speech therapy sessions. So if you could intervene earlier it would be much easier and the path would not be so tortuous. Then if you intervene early, when you start socializing your friends already recognize you as not belonging to a specific gender and your life is more fluid.

What would you ask of the political world in South Tyrol?

Stampfer: What I would love is for everyone to raise their hand to defend these minorities who unfortunately don‘t always have the tools to defend themselves and are not always old enough to do so. And very often they are afraid. It would be very important for everyone‘s growth for each of us to make a commitment to speak up when they see injustices, regardless of whether they are directed at a trans person or a woman who is ‘underdressed‘. This is precisely where politics can step in, because when we no longer have the tools to enforce things for ourselves, then it is up to politics, the law, the government. These institutions should be able to mediate to make sure that everyone‘s rights are respected.

Is the possibility of having the third gender on documents an important claim for you?

Stampfer: For so many people, it would be important not to always have to identify as black or white. If I don‘t feel black or white, it is important that I am given the opportunity to be recognized as gray, and I want society and the community to recognize me as gray as well. It is important to know that I have the freedom of choice.

About the Interviewed

Tobias Stampfer was the first person from Val Badia to publicly address the path of gender reaffirmation. He is an activist for the LGBTQIA+ community, a member of the steering committee of Centaurus Arcigay South Tyrol and of the ARCI -Diverkstatt- club in Bruneck. He has been living permanently in Bruneck since 2015, where he works as an accountant at an insurance agency. He is a mountain enthusiast and in addition to hiking, in his spare time he enjoys acting in the theater company of his hometown, La Villa in Badia.

Related Content

Eurac Research Magazine