Monday, 1 March 2021

Interview with Lisa van Ginneken

Monika: Today I am going to introduce you to Lisa van Ginneken, a Dutch politician, human rights advocate, and LGBTQI+ activist. Lisa is the President of Transvisie, an organisation that supports the trans community in the Netherlands. This year she is running for a Member of Parliament seat, representing D66, a social-liberal political party in the Netherlands. Hello Lisa!
Lisa: Hello Monika! I feel very honoured to be here today with you and your readers. 
Monika: We are meeting a couple of weeks before the General Elections in the Netherlands. Our whole trans community is keeping fingers crossed for you, and I am very grateful that you have found some time to present yourself to the readers of my blog. Why do you want to enter the world of politics?
Lisa: Politics might feel a world apart from our own daily lives sometimes, but it is not. It affects our lives hugely, not only through the decisions politicians make, but also by the example they set with their behaviour. The tone of public debate really worries me, in the Netherlands and worldwide. In my years of advocating transgender rights in the Netherlands I got familiar and intrigued with the ways of politics. And it felt like this is the right point in my life to put forward this and other experiences I have.

Saturday, 27 February 2021

Interview with Renae

Monika: Today I am going to interview Renae, an American IT specialist and transgender woman that documents her transition on social media. Hello Renae!
Renae: Hello Monika! It's nice to meet you. I must say your blog is wonderful and it's nice to see so many other women like myself, getting great representation. I know it can be a beacon of hope for so many of us that may still be in the closet.
In addition to Reddit, I share my experience on other social media, including Facebook and Twitter as well.
Monika: Could you say a few words about yourself?
Renae: Certainly! I am a mother of 4 kids and I have been married to my wife for 9 years. I work in IT in a moderately sized town of about 43,000 people in the Midwest. It's a fairly conservative town but there is a rather progressive area I frequent about 40 minutes away. That is where most of my friends live.
Monika: It must be a challenge to take care of 4 children. :)
Renae: My goodness, yes. Thankfully one of them is fully grown but just the three that live with us are quite a handful. No rest after work but I love them dearly, and I know that I am contributing to help make the future inclusive for trans folks by just being their parent. 
Monika: Why did you decide to share your transition details on social media?
Renae: I can't reiterate it enough, representation, representation, representation! There is never enough. Whether it's trans-women, trans-men, non-binary folks or anyone else under the LGBTQIA umbrella.

"I feel I have been fortunate in this aspect of my transition
and I sympathize with those that don't. I haven't felt a great need
for cosmetic surgery because I don't get any hate from strangers.
That is my guide post."

It is also a nice place to gather experienced and diverse opinions and resources. There isn't exactly a "how to" guide when it comes to transitioning, nor should there be. Each person has different needs and expected outcomes, which brings me back around to my original point. If someone similar to my situation were to google a question I have asked on Reddit in the past they may stumble onto the answer or advice they needed.
I tend to seek out groups on Facebook or folks on Twitter and give advice to my trans-siblings as well. I also think it can help cis people have a glimpse of what it's like for trans people and maybe learn a thing or too. The enemy is ignorance, not people.
When it comes to posting images of myself it can really be a boost in confidence when people comment on nice and encouraging things. Especially when dysphoria is hitting hard that day, kind words have the potential to turn it around sometimes.
Posting images also works like having a living record of my physical transition. I update my profile picture exactly once a month on Facebook so I can look back at how far I have come.
Monika: Do you get many questions from your Reddit readers? What do they ask for? 
Renae: The most common ones. Things like when did you know you were transgender and how, are you getting the "surgery".
Monika: What was the strangest question that you answered?
Renae: I can't think of any that would qualify as "strange". What comes to mind with this question would be more on the invasive side. Things like did you lose breast mass when you de-transitioned the first time, do you use your "penis". All the ones that are nobody's business.
Monika: Did you de-transition the first time?
"Everyone wants to be loved
whether they will admit it or not.
The real trick is loving yourself
enough to be okay with yourself
Renae: Yeah in my early 20's I had a pretty rough go with transition. It caused some great issues with my mental health because of the fairly conservative area I live in. The world has changed a lot since then, and I can't complain about all the great friends I have made this time around.
Monika: Are you satisfied with the effects of the hormone treatment?
Renae: I have been fortunate I believe but there are always things I wish would have more improvements like my hips and butt as well as my cheeks on my face. But it affects everyone differently. So what can you do?
Monika: We all pay the highest price for the fulfillment of our dreams to be ourselves. As a result, we lose our families, friends, jobs, and social positions. Did you pay such a high price as well? What was the hardest thing about your coming out?
Renae: I have had a mix of good and bad that has occurred since my coming out this time. I am not on speaking terms with my father or brother. But one thing you learn when you come out is who your real family is and who you're friends really are.
Monika: We are said to be prisoners of passing or non-passing syndrome. Although cosmetic surgeries help to overcome it, we will always be judged accordingly. How can we cope with this?
Renae: Well, I feel I have been fortunate in this aspect of my transition and I sympathize with those that don't. I haven't felt a great need for cosmetic surgery because I don't get any hate from strangers. That is my guide post. Sure there are plenty of things I wish I could change but on my salary with the number of children I have it's hard to afford.
Monika: How did the children react to your transition?
Renae: My twin girls were very excited because they had another girl in the house and my son was mostly worried that he couldn't be a boy any more. Needless to say we cleared all that up for him and he is super happy that I get to be myself.
Monika: Are there any transgender role models that you follow or followed?
Renae: The shining star of our community would have to be Laverne Cox. Of all the trans women in the limelight it seems she has her priorities straight.
Monika: You have a nice name. How come you chose this particular name?
Renae: It took me a while to settle on this name. I always liked it and thought it was pretty. I know that it's mostly spelled Renee but I like how Renae looked better. I read that it stood for born again and I thought it was pretty fitting. Now I couldn't imagine going by any other name.
Monika: What do you think about the present situation of transgender women in your country?
Renae: I feel like in the US we are in a better situation than some other countries but I believe we have a very long way to go before equality is truly achieved. It is really nice to see trans women in more prominent political positions as of late. Sarah McBride was recently elected to the United State Senate and I couldn't be more proud.
Monika: Do you like fashion? What kind of outfits do you usually wear? Any special fashion designs, colours or trends?
Renae: I love fashion. I have recently been losing a lot of weight so my wardrobe has been cycling out like crazy but I love black and white patterns and tend to wear a lot of red, blues and purple. It has been nice to wear stuff a little more fitted and lower cut. It makes my confidence go way up.
Monika: Do you experiment with your make-up?
Renae: I try to always learn new techniques because I love learning and I really like messing around with make-up. It's fun to be able to use my face to express my artistic ability.
Monika: What do you think about transgender beauty pageants?
Renae: As far as adult ladies are concerned, sure I think it's great but I don't really think kids under 10 should be put in those types of things. I feel like it can put them in a state of mind where they have to be the prettiest to be loved and there can be only one that can claim the title. I feel like it can ruin a child's self esteem and they shouldn't have to worry about that at such a tender age. But I believe this goes for all children not just trans but cis kids as well. By the way, Toddlers and Tiaras is a horrible show and should have never been put on the air.
"When it comes to posting images of
myself it can really be a boost in
confidence when people
comment on nice and encouraging
Monika: By the way, do you like being complimented on your looks?
Renae: Sure, it's quite a confidence booster. ️
Monika: Do you remember your first job interview as a woman?
Renae: My first one was over 13 years ago so not really. But I just had one the other day it seemed to go pretty well. I even made one of the interviewers laugh.
Monika: What would you advise to all transwomen looking for employment?
Renae: Persistent attitude is key. You don't have to tell them you are trans. If they don't hire you because you are trans then you probably wouldn't want to work for bigoted people anyways.
Monika: Are you involved in the life of the local LGBTQ community?
Renae: Yes, I am. There is a local support group for trans folks and we meet twice a month. I have made many like minded friends because of this, and I am very grateful that it exists. I would have a much harder go in my transition without them.
Monika: Could you tell me about the importance of love in your life?
Renae: Everyone wants to be loved whether they will admit it or not. The real trick is loving yourself enough to be okay with yourself alone. It may be a bit hypocritical for me to say that though since I am married. But if you can do that you can achieve just about anything. 
Monika: Yes, you have been very fortunate with keeping your marriage intact. Not all spouses are so emphatic.
Renae: My goodness, yes. I feel sorry for those that haven't that kind of luck but I say to them you will find your one, just keep your head up and love yourself. It will be a beacon of light for who you are meant to be with.
Monika: Many transgender ladies write their memoirs. Have you ever thought about writing such a book yourself?
Renae: I have thought about it a lot but there are just parts of my life that I am really just not willing to share with the whole world. Maybe when I'm 85 or something I will feel differently but only time will tell.
Monika: What is your next step in the present time and where do you see yourself within the next 5-7 years?
Renae: Well, I hope to get one of the jobs I just interviewed for and we plan to move to a more liberal city, which is more welcoming to those under the LGBTQIA+ umbrella very soon. But 5-7 years is way too hard for me to think about at this point. Hopefully enjoying my new town and new job!
Monika: What would you recommend to all transgender women that are afraid of transition?
Renae: Don't put it off any longer then you have to but also don't jump in without a plan and a group of friends who really have your back.
Monika: My pen friend Gina Grahame wrote to me once that we should not limit our potential because of how we were born or by what we see other transgender people doing. Our dreams should not end on an operating table; that’s where they begin. Do you agree with this?
Renae: Wholeheartedly. Operations are not the end of one's transition through life, merely a milestone along the way.
Monika: Renae, it was a pleasure to interview you. Thanks a lot!
Renae: Thank you for having me.

All the photos: courtesy of Renae.

© 2021 - Monika Kowalska

Thursday, 25 February 2021

Interview with Willow-Jayne Davies

Monika: Today I am going to introduce to you Willow-Jayne Davies, a British makeup artist, nail technician, and beauty pageant queen from Swansea in Wales. She is Miss Swansea Sparkle 2016-2019 and Miss Voluptuous UK finalist 2020. Hello Willow-Jayne! 
Willow-Jayne: Hello gorgeous! How are you?
Monika: Could you say a few words about yourself?
Willow-Jayne: My top three most used words/phrases are: “it is what it is “, “Same to be honest “ and “lovely”. I’m not necessarily saying that my vocabulary is limited, it’s that I don’t need a dictionary to choose from because my top three work in all types of conversation.
Monika: Willow-Jayne is not a common name. Why did you choose it?
Willow-Jayne: When I was around eight I was rushed into hospital for an emergency operation (testicular torsion), and as I was slowly being put under the anesthetic and wheeled to the operating theatre, my mum had said “You’re going to go in as William and come out as Willow“. At that point it wasn’t a laughing matter, and I thought she was being serious.

Tuesday, 23 February 2021

Interview with Ashley-Marie Eden

Monika: Today I am meeting Ashley-Marie Eden, an Australian illustrator, writer, musician, engineer, poet, and thinker. Hello Ashley-Marie!
Ashley-Marie: Hi Monika!
Monika: How are you holding up in the crazy pandemic times?
Ashley-Marie: Fairly well all things considered. I work for a fantastic company in the defense and aerospace industry, and in an 'essential services role' so they looked after us very well and made arrangements for us all to work from home over a secure network. 
Personally at first I found the sudden change from a busy city office working life to one of almost total isolation quite difficult, especially because I live alone as well, but we adapt and move forward as best we can I guess.
Monika: Ashley-Marie is not a common name. Why did you choose it?
Ashley-Marie: Hmmm, to be honest I can't really tell you. Everyone just calls me Ash of course but as to why or where it came from I don't recall.

Sunday, 21 February 2021

Interview with Nadia

Monika: Today I am going to interview Nadia, an American hair stylist and beauty expert, former entertainer from Orlando, Florida that shares her transition story on social media. Hello Nadia!
Nadia: Hello, how are you?
Monika: Could you say a few words about yourself?
Nadia: Well I am 44. I’m a services district educator for Ulta Beauty. I started my transition in 2005. So I will celebrate 16 years in April.
Monika: Nadia is a nice name. Why did you choose it?
Nadia: This name was given to me by my drag mother when I was a performer. It was a name I always loved as a kid. I love the movie Nadia based on the life of Nadia Comaneci. 
Monika: Yes, I remember the movie. Nadia Comaneci was a famous Romanian gymnast. Were you good at gymnastics?
Nadia: I was an ok gymnast. I taught myself a lot as a kid. All the things I wanted to do I was told “no” you can’t because that’s for girls. But that was with everything that I liked and wanted to do. I did enjoy watching the Olympics growing up and always hoped and wished I could do all those things that the girls did.

Friday, 19 February 2021

Interview with Jasmine Anderson

Monika: Today I am going to host Jasmine Anderson, a qualified hairdresser, part time model, and social media influencer from Brisbane in Australia. Hello Jasmine!
Jasmine: Hello Monika! Thank you for the opportunity to share my story with you. I applaud you for all the great work you are doing with this blog.
Monika: Could you say a few words about yourself?
Jasmine: Well I’m a 34 year old transwoman from Australia. I’ve been transitioning for 3 1/2 years medically and have been married to a lovely man for just over 2 years now. I was lucky enough to meet him a month into my transition. I like to live life to the fullest and appreciate every moment I have on this earth. I hope I influence others' lives in a positive light.

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