Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Interview with Christine Beatty


Monika: Hello Christine! Welcome to “The Heroines of My Life”.
Christine: Hi Monika, thanks for asking.
Monika: How would you describe yourself? Musician, writer, transgender activist or someone else?
Christine: First and foremost I’m a writer. So far it’s not paying the bills — yet — but it’s the one creative thing I do consistently. I do plan to get back into performing and recording rock music again. Also I started taking film school classes last autumn.
Monika: Are you a feminist?
Christine: Most definitely, long before I knew I was a girl trapped in a boy’s body.
Monika: Where did you grow up?
Christine: In my memoir I describe my terribly ordinary upbringing in a suburb twenty miles south of San Francisco. It was terribly middle class and ordinary; I hated it. I instinctively knew I wasn’t destined for ordinary or “normal.”
Monika: Could you describe your childhood? When did you feel for the first time that you should not be a boy or man?
Christine: Quite honestly I cannot remember feeling like I was in the wrong body until I was well into adulthood. What I felt like, ever since I was four, that I’d been born on the wrong planet.
I’d always been ill at ease, uncertain of myself, terribly shy and I had not idea how to *be* in the world. My parents really weren’t right for each other and divorced when I was nine. 
However only a year and a half later my mom became involved with a terrific man who made a great stepfather, so I can say for certain that I had no lack of a positive male role model.
Christine Beatty's memoir.
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?
Christine: Middle and high school were traumatic because I was so shy and lonely and a huge sissyboy who always ran from fights and was a disaster at sports except for running.
The real problem started in 1985, halfway through my second year of college when I was 27 and I transitioned. When I showed up at college as a woman I was not well received, so after a few times I gave up and only attended in boy mode until I completed my two year digress in Computer Science.
Then I dropped out instead of transferring to a university. I refused to live a double life any longer.
Monika: You served in the US army for many years. Did you want to be a soldier? Why did you end up there? 
Christine: Actually I was in the U.S. Air Force. It was kind of like running away and joining the circus, leaving the middle class life I despised and hoping it might make me more sure of myself as a man.
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?
Christine: I was 27 and I had almost no money and so I was coached by my peers who were also living on the underside of society. I lost all of my old friend and I became estranged from my family.
Also I got fired from my housekeeping job when I said I wanted to work as a woman. That was when I became a prostitute, so I could afford to support myself and to do my transition.
Monika: Did you have any problems with passing as a woman? Did you undergo any cosmetic surgeries?
Christine: It was near-impossible to for me to pass as a genetic woman. There are many transwomen in San Francisco and the locals know how to spot us, so an obvious one like me faced a lot of ridicule and hatred.
In the mid-80s I could barely afford hormones much less surgery, but when I finally got a decent job in 1989 I saved up for silicone breast implants to help me pass a little better. It took a long time before I was able to blend in. 
Christine as a prostitute, 1986.
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?
Christine: Two decades ago I heard of a transsexual woman in her 70s obtaining SRS (sex reassignment surgery). My suggestion is more of a general nature — don’t wait that long!
If you have a genuine gender identity issue, putting it off or sublimating it with work, sex, family, drugs or whatever is not going to make it go away, just cover it up. Maybe you’ll be miserable deep down and maybe not. Maybe you’ll find some way to be happy without it.
However, over and over I’ve heard from later transitioners how they wished they done it a long time before, because they’d missed out on being a young girl. And trying to act like a young girl when you’re over forty will get you ridiculed even if you’re a genetic (born) female, and it will be much worse is you’re a transwoman.
Also, if you’re that old the chances are good you’ll have a family, and if you transition that may well likely leave you and hate you, quite possibly forever for depriving them of a husband and a father.
The bottom line is, if you notice gender identity issues at a young age, sort them out at a young age. Don’t be a later transitioner if you can avoid it. I have known some older transitioners who’ve done quite well, whose families embraced the new them, and who don’t regret waiting. But I know far more who wished they’d done it decades before.
Monika: At that time of your transition did you have any transgender role models that you could follow? What was your knowledge about transgenderism?
Christine: Back when I transitioned, the usual advice to post-operative transwomen was to blend into society, go “deep stealth” and never admit your transsexual status. Until I was forty years old I never knew one of the greatest computer engineers who’d ever lived, Dr. Lynn Conway, was a transwoman.
So my role models were the transsexual prostitutes who made $100 an hour, because they were in charge of their lives and nobody got to tell them they couldn’t be women. The transgender rights movement that gained speed in the mid-1990s combined with the Internet to change all of that.
Christine with her band Glamazon.
Monika: You are a musician. Could you elaborate on your music career? Do you think that the transition into woman had any impact on your artistic performance and creativity?
Christine: It wasn’t much of a career to speak of, yet what I did do was pioneering in a way. I’ve loved music most of my life and in the Air Force a buddy gave me a cheap electric guitar he’d given up on. Because of how much I was partying and my limited attention span I progressed very slowly.
In the mid-1980s I formed an all-transsexual hard rock band with some friends but there were too many addicts in the band, including me, so we never amounted to anything.
In 1994 I formed Glamazon with a brilliant female guitarist, but by then the Heavy Metal scene was dying out, and even though we had the novelty of being the only working Metal band with a transsexual lead singer we never got signed.
Monika: You were married once. What was the reaction of you wife when you came out as a transgender woman?
Christine: Let’s just say we got divorced. All of the twisted details are in my book; there are too many to recount here.
Monika: What do you enjoy most in being a woman?
Christine: Not having to pretend to be a man.
Monika: What is your general view on the present situation of transgender women in the American society?
Christine: It’s a hell of a lot better than it was when I was coming up 25 years ago. We have an organizing community connected by the Internet and starting to make social and political gains. The transgender kids of today have a much better chance of succeeding in society without settling for underworld jobs.
Christine at Play, 1993.
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?
Christine: Definitely. It’s always the leaders who show other it can be done and encourage others to take a shot. The more of us who try, the more who will succeed.
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?
Christine: Increased social and political gains. We can take a lesson from the gay rights movement and Harvey Milk’s philosophy: it’s harder to hate people you personally know. 
Monika: Do you think that in our lifetime we could live to the day when a transgender lady could become the President of USA?
Christine: Definitely not. Perhaps some other country but not the USA. The religious right has our nation in a near-stranglehold and *way* too much political influence.
Monika: Do you date men or women? Did the transition change anything in this respect? 
Christine: I am far more attracted to women and essentially identify as a lesbian, though ultimately I want to fall in love with a person instead of a sex or a certain genitalia.
Monika: In 2000 you were distinguished as Transwoman of the Year by the Los Angeles Transgender Task Force. Did you feel proud about it?
Christine: Of course. There are far more trans women playing in rock bands now, but back then it was a very lonely club.
Monika: You established your own publishing company for the TS/TG community called “Glamazon Press”. What publications did it issue so far?
Christine: "Alice in Genderland" plus my own two books. A lot of people are choosing to self-publish so there haven’t been many promising manuscripts coming our way.
Monika: Do you like fashion? What kind of outfits do you usually wear? Any special fashion designs, colours or trends?
Christine: I’m a hippie girl at heart so I’m not very concerned with fashion, though I do enjoy the Heavy Metal and fetish looks when I want to make a statement.
Chicago Be-All Convention 2011.
Monika: Are you involved in the life of your local LGBT community?
Christine: I’m too busy with writing, music and now learning film-making. I did over a decade of LGBT activism and it was time to focus on creating and leave the activism to the newer people. I’ve no desire or real aptitude to be a leader.
Monika: In 2004, together with Lynn Conway, Andrea James, Calpernia Addams and other distinguished transgender ladies, you participated in the project called "The Vagina Monologues". On the basis of this project, 2 years later Josh Aronson produced and directed a documentary titled "Beautiful Daughters". Could you tell me more about this project, your role and how it felt to be an actress?
Christine: It was Calpernia’s and Andrea’s vision from the beginning; they’d be the ones to ask about that. I didn’t come on board until they were casting, for which I thankfully had a small role reading a short monologue.
Unless one counts prostitution I’ve never been an actress, and since I was just reading my monologue in front of a microphone I wouldn’t call myself one. I think many of the other cast members far more deserve the title of actress than I.
Monika: You wrote a book titled "Not Your Average American Girl: A Memoir". What made you write the book?
Christine: Originally I wrote it as a tool to recover from addiction and hopefully to help me be “cured” of my gender issue. Eventually I realized that writing wouldn’t help me understand why I was a transwoman, much less “cure” me, so I began to think it might help others at least know what some of us go through.
Monika: Your most recent project is the documentary movie “Radio Wars”. What is it about?
Christine: It’s the story of some of major conflicts that radio produced: the proper credit for its true inventor, how the print media tried to squash it, how FM radio was invented and then stolen from the genius who did so, and finally all of the drama and conspiracy behind satellite radio.
Monika: Are you working on any new projects?
Christine: I’m finishing a novel titled "Homegirl" and starting a new semester of film school.
Monika: Christine, it was lovely to chat with you. Thanks a lot!

All the photos: courtesy of Christine Beatty.
Done on 13 March 2013

Christine's webpage.
  © 2013 - Monika 

2 comments:

  1. Hi Christine,
    I've read both your books and was able to take some lessons from that and apply them to my transition. I've also enjoyed meeting your in person and spending some time with you. May all go well in your endeavors.
    Beth

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hi Christine,
    I've read both your books and was able to take some lessons from that and apply them to my transition. I've also enjoyed meeting your in person and spending some time with you. May all go well in your endeavors.
    Beth

    ReplyDelete

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