Thursday, 14 February 2013

Interview with Lana Moore


Monika: Today’s interview will be with Lana Moore, a female firefighter, transgender activist and surely a transgender icon!
Lana: I'm not sure that many would consider me an "icon" but I’m flattered just the same, and happy to participate. Thank you very much for thinking of me!
Monika: What are you doing these days?
Lana: Just trying to live my life, most of the turbulence from transition has subsided, the dust is finally settling, and things seem to have returned to “normal.” Running a fire station and a household takes quite a bit of mental and physical energy.
I’m not quite as active in the trans community, however, my daughter, who is a psychology major, is working with me on a workshop presentation for the TransOhio Symposium coming up in April. We want to share our story of transitioning together as a family.
Lana at a gathering of female fire-fighters in Columbus.
Monika: Is it hard to be a female firefighter among so many male firefighters?
Lana: Yes, it does present some difficulties, many of which, I suppose, are no different from the challenges that all women face in the workforce.
When I started, 32 years ago, there was only one other woman on the department, now there are 39 females out of over 1500 members, so in many ways it can seem like a “boy’s club.”
I have seen much progress and acceptance gained over the years. Having been part of our “fire family” on both sides of the gender aisle, my perspective is unique. I am very happy to report that the men treat the women with the same dignity and respect that all good brothers extend to their sisters.
Monika: Where did you grow up?
Lana: I grew up in Columbus, Ohio.
Monika: Could you describe your childhood? When did you feel for the first time that you should not be a boy or man?
Lana: I am the second youngest (by 4 mins) of five children. I have a twin sister, so you can only imagine how gender, and the difference between boy and girl, was played out incessantly.
From my earliest recollections, the first thing anyone wanted to know was, which one is the girl, which one is the boy? I remember always feeling like we were supposed to be the same, and I was sad that I had to be a boy. I didn’t like it at all, but I must’ve learned very early on not to express those feelings and instead I always tried my best to please everyone.
Early Childhood as a twin.
Monika: For most of transgender girls, the most traumatic time is the time spent at school, college or university when they had to face lots of discrimination. Was it the same in your case?
Lana: I was an extremely skinny kid, and of course, not very masculine. I didn’t like contact sports. I was a dreamer, I liked to climb trees, explore, and pretend.
As such, I was bullied. There was a day, back in fourth grade, when I stood up to the class bully on the playground, and I think it was a defining moment for me. That might have been when I first learned to face fear head on and to step up as a leader. 
Monika: At what age did you transition into woman? Was it a difficult process? Did you have any support from your family or friends? Did it have any impact on your job situation?
Lana: I was 48 when I finally transitioned. It was the most difficult challenge I have ever faced in my life. I was fortunate to have the support of my spouse, my siblings, and my mother.
I also had all the complete support of my employer, the City of Columbus, from the mayor’s office, all the way down the fire division chain of command. It’s amazing the barriers that can vanish when key people all do the right thing.
Captain Lana Moore on the job at a training fire.
Monika: Did you have any problems with passing as a woman? Did you undergo any cosmetic surgeries?
Lana: I have been fortunate to blend as a woman even before I had cosmetic facial surgery. Most of what I had done was for rejuvenation to look more youthful and refreshed. It was not a dramatic change, and there were many friends who did not seem to even notice that I had the surgery.
It should be noted that surgery alone, no matter how skilled the surgeon, would make it possible for someone to simply “pass.” In order to blend in, if that is the goal, one must be comfortable in their own skin, have confidence, and put forth “positive energy” as they present themselves in public.
Monika: We are living in times of modern cosmetic surgery that might allow to transition even at late 50s or 60s. Do you think it is really possible? What kind of advice do you have for transgender ladies at such an age?
Lana: Yes, it is possible to transition at any age, as there is no one path. Cosmetic surgery may be deemed “necessary” for some, but not for others, it all depends on one’s specific needs and priorities. Cosmetic surgery can improve one’s confidence and make blending or “passing” easier to achieve, however it can not inherently change what is on the “inside,” and at the end of the day, that it what is most important.
Post-op recovering from FFS. (left)
Wearing Ice-Packs in a scarf after jaw/chin tapering. (right)
Monika: At that time of your transition did you have any transgender role models that you could follow?
Lana: Donna Rose inspired me. I found her web page at a point where I had already started to transition, but I was really struggling with whether or not I could actually do it. Her writings and her example gave me reassurance that, yes it was possible. We have since met and gotten to know each other. I value her friendship immensely.
Additionally, I was encouraged to transition on-the-job by Diane Schroer who took me aside and convinced me that, not only could it be done, that I needed to do it. So many others that I’m afraid to leave someone out, but to name just a few, Julie, Malana, and Daralyn, if you happen to read this, thank you all!
And then, last, but surely not least, of course, there’s Chloe Prince who has taught me so much and been such an important force in my life over the past few years. Chloe and I have traveled so far together. She is my soul-sister for whom I have the utmost love and respect.
Monika: What was the hardest thing about your coming out?
Lana: Having the courage to be honest with myself.
Chloe Prince, Lana Moore, and Donna Rose SCC 2010.
Monika: What did you feel when you were finally a woman?
Lana: Becoming a woman involves much more than just surgery, it is a complex growing process, which evolves over time.
There is no exact one moment when it is simply so, but I can say that once I had transitioned socially, and began living authentically, I felt like I had finally been let out of prison… free from the torment I had endured for so many years, and ready to spread my wings and fly.
Monika: What do you enjoy most in being a woman?
Lana: I think I enjoy being a woman because I am one. I’m not sure a man would enjoy it at all. For me, and this may sound sexist, it involves being softer and gentler, clinging to such things as intuition and emotion, rather than strict logic and brute force. Males in our society have such a narrow latitude of “acceptable” or expected behaviour. As a woman, I am free to express myself naturally and to simply be ... me.
Post-op from SRS in Thailand.
Monika: You were married once. What was the reaction of you wife when you came out as a transgender woman?
Lana: My ex-wife is a nurse, and she is the best one I know. Nurses are special people because, like angels, they care for others selflessly. She was not surprised when I told her that I needed to transition.
She calmly and kindly placed her hand on my shoulder and said, “I know, I’ve seen this coming for years.” We are no longer a couple, but I will always love her, and we remain partners as parents, committed to our children. Through her grace and loving ways, she has shown me what it means to be a woman.
Monika: And how about your children?
Lana: My children had a difficult time at first, which is understandable. They were age 13 and 17 when I came out to them. No doubt I have taken harsh criticism from some people with good intentions, who might assume that my transition was bad for my kids. What they may not understand is that just because something is difficult, that doesn’t make it wrong.
My family has since grown through our transition experience and we all still love each other. The best part is that now, they know me much more completely, and they have learned the value of living life authentically. We spend as much quality time together as we can arrange.
Lana and her children enjoying a dinner show.
Monika: What is your general view on the present situation of transgender women in the American society?
Lana: There are many very strong transwomen living openly and with dignity in our society and it seems to becoming more mainstream.
More and more everyday, and with each of us, as we live our daily lives honestly and authentically, we break down barriers of misunderstanding. There is still a long way to go and progress is slow, but we are getting there.
Monika: We are witnessing more and more transgender ladies coming out. Unlike in the previous years some of them have status of celebrities or are really well-known, just to mention Lana Wachowski in film-directing, Jenna Talackova in modelling, Kate Bornstein in academic life, Laura Jane Grace in music or Candis Cayne in acting. Do you think we will have more and more such women?
Lana: Yes, I think maybe in the past, highly visible public figures, like all of us, were concerned with losing their ability to maintain a living. And, especially with their celebrity status, any sort of privacy throughout something as personal as a gender transition. The more that come forward, the less sensational it is becoming, so I think it is likely there will be more.
Lana met and was inspired by Kate Bornstein
at the onset of her transition in 2008.
Monika: At the same time sometimes we get horrible new about transgender women being killed or beaten just as in the infamous case of Chrissy Polis that was beaten by two teenagers in Macdonald’s because she used ladies’ toilet. How can we prevent it?
Lana: I think hate crimes come about when people who are prone to violence are afraid of something that they don’t understand. They are also emboldened when they feel as though the ones they hate are considered “fair game.”
So, getting trans* people included as a protected class in hate crimes legislation is one very important step. And then, the best thing is prevention, by breaking down those walls of misunderstanding and ignorance. We do that by putting our selves out there in the public eye as positive examples, by educating, and by speaking up collectively when these things happen, and insisting that justice be served.
Monika: Do you think that in our lifetime we could live until the day when a transgender lady could become the President of USA?
Lana: President? I’m an optimist and a dreamer, but I wouldn’t hold my breath on that one. Some day, yes, but not soon.
Monika: Many transgender ladies write their memoirs. Have you ever thought about writing such a book yourself?
Lana: Of course, doesn’t every transwomen have a book deal?
Monika: Do you like fashion? What kind of outfits do you usually wear? Any special fashion designs, colours or trends?
Lana: I try to be fashion forward, while remaining age appropriate. Purple is my favourite fashion color.
Conducting a workshop at TransOhio in 2010.
Monika: Are you involved in the life of your local LGBT community?
Lana: Yes, I was involved in my local transgender group as it first formed back in 1988 and I remained involved, off and on, over the years, and also with CrossPort in Cincinnati.
In addition to staying in touch with a local peer-led support group, I also assist Chloe in many administration duties at PINKessence.com and TRUessence.org, two on-line social networks for trans people.
Monika: You attend many transgender conferences such as: "First Event", "Colorado Gold Rush", "TransOhio" or "Southern Comfort Conference". What is usually discussed at such conferences?
Lana: In addition to a wide array of social activities, the various conferences offer a variety of seminars and workshops providing information on all types of topics related to being trans.
There are usually many professionals there to demonstrate what they have to offer, voice therapists, surgeons, vendors, activists, you name it, and you can usually find the information you are looking for.
Monika: What is the role of religion in your life?
Lana: I am not a religious person, rather I am spiritual. I am a person of faith. My faith has carried me through some pretty dark times. Many people use religion as a tool to attack others, and when opposing trans people, they will say things like, “God doesn’t make mistakes.” To that, I always say, “Thank you.” Because in my heart of hearts, I know that God created all of us with imperfections and unique journeys. Just because someone is on a different path, doesn’t mean that they are lost.
Happy at home in her kitchen.
Monika: You are also involved in charity activities. Do you like helping other people?
Lana: I have found that the only time I feel truly alive is when I am helping others and it’s one of the best cures for depression. Dr. Jack McConnell, who started Volunteers In Medicine, once said, "It's not where you come from or where you're going but whom you help along the way that makes a difference in your life."
Monika: Could you say that you are a happy woman now?
Lana: Oh yes, absolutely! What’s not to be happy about? I have a loving family with two beautiful children, I work with amazing people on a job where I get paid to help others when they are in great need, I have a multitude of friends and kindred spirits, and above all, I get to experience all of this as my authentic self.
Monika: Lana, it was a pleasure to interview you. Thanks a lot.
Lana: Thank YOU, Monika, you do a great job with your web pages, and thank you for thinking of me, I really enjoyed being interviewed.

All the photos: courtesy of Lana Moore.
Done on 20 January 2013
© 2013 - Monika 

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