Saturday, 24 August 2013

Interview with Ivory Oasis


Monika: Today’s interview will be with Ivory Oasis (Dani Landers), a young video blogger that documents her transition on YouTube. Hello Ivory!
Ivory: Hi there! :)
Monika: Could you say a few words about yourself?
Ivory: Basically I’m an artist / game developer living in LA. My life pretty much revolves around that, and of course in my extra time I try to move ahead with transitioning. Feel free to check out my current project “Bloom: Memories” (www.studiofawn.com).
Monika: Why did you decide to share your transition details on YouTube?
Ivory: When I was first exploring the possibility of transitioning I remember finding transition videos of other people. Just being able to see the effects of hormones or surgeries and other transition experiences helped me get a much better idea of what was possible for myself. Without those videos it would have been a much scarier proposition to begin transitioning. So, I’m just doing my part to help those who are now facing the same challenges I was.
Monika: At which stage of the transition are you right now?
Ivory: Currently I’m at 29 months of hormones. I still have a lot more to do, but I’m patient and tend to focus more on my work than anything.
Monika: Are you satisfied with the results of the hormone therapy?
Ivory: Very much! The effect they have had was more profound than I thought possible. I’d like to go further, but, I’m also very thankful for what the hormones have given me.
19 months of HRT
Monika: Could you describe your childhood? When did you feel for the first time that you should not be a boy or man?
Ivory: That is where I tend to diverge a bit from the traditional narrative I guess. I actually never began to question I was a boy or man. I’ve always been different (since very very young), but I’ve always simply figured I was a man with a strong feminine side.
Over my life I didn’t feel as though I needed to stop being a man... instead, I simply widened my definition of what a man could be. People are so preoccupied with semantics. I just never found a reason to trade one box for another. I prefer to live a bit more freely. I don’t know what is to be “a man” or “a woman”, I simply know what it is to be me. I’ll leave it to others to fight over how that should be classified and stamped ;)
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?
Ivory: Not at all. I never expressed myself femininely in public so discrimination was no issue. To the world I was a fit young white male (which seems to be a good place to be haha). I also tended to stay to myself throughout college, so had very little interaction with peer groups outside of business classes.
Monika: Are there any transgender role models that you follow?
Ivory: Humm, I guess androgynous fashion models or the transgendered characters in anime are things I look up to. The fashion models simply because they don’t let gender (one way or another) define them. They simply do as they please (male or female clothing) and look great doing it.
The characters in anime are also very free in how they express themselves. They don’t try so hard to fit into some preconception of gender. They simply dress and act as they wish, confidently, and those around them accept them for that. Sadly, I see many trans people trading one mask for another... going through periods of trying to fit the stereotypes they feel they can squeeze best into. I also watch these people eventually figure out that it is OK to just be themselves, and let the chips fall as they may.
21 months of HRT.
Monika: What was the hardest thing about your coming out?
Ivory: I think that would be my father rejecting me (he stopped speaking to me for some time after I came out). I actually had a lot of fear before coming out about what my families reaction might be (especially since I was still in school and their support was vital).
Luckily most of my family was supportive (even if it kind of weirded them out for a bit), so my father’s reaction was sad but who knows how that will play out in the end.
Monika: What is your general view on the present situation of transgender women in the American society?
Ivory: I think the present situation is just at the beginning of “coming out” (as the gay and lesbian movement started decades ago). There are very few open trans people (especially in the public eye). I hope my work continues to bring me a platform to represent trans people so that others feel emboldened to do the same.
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. What do you think about this trend?
Ivory: I do think this is happening more here in America. Sadly, it is still very unsafe to be openly trans in many parts of my country. For that reason, it makes me feel as if it is my duty to stand up for those who can’t (since, I’m really in a relatively safer location and field of work, so I should be OK).
Monika: Are you active in politics? Do you participate in any lobbying campaigns? Do you think transgender women can make a difference in politics?
Ivory: I try to stay informed on politics, but generally politics needs far more than simply minority representation. In our country bribery (they call it lobbying) is legal, so addressing the issue of money in politics seems like a much more important step than simply trans women in politics. I believe trans women can make a greater impact by reaching general society (through film, games, and other open interactions with the public). We need to break the stereotypes that we are all sex workers.


Monika: Do you like fashion? What kind of outfits do you usually wear? Any special fashion designs, colours or trends?
Ivory: I like to design fashion for my game characters, but my personal fashion has a long way to go. I can not afford to update my wardrobe very much, so still wear many of my older clothes from before transition. Like I said, my life is dedicated to my work ... and my transition comes second.
Monika: What do you think about transgender beauty pageants?
Ivory: There is already a great pressure for transgendered people to get surgeries and all sorts of extreme procedures in order to fit what they believe they should be. Beauty pageants seems like it would simply put more emphasis on the idea that a trans person must be “passable”. 75 percent of women of normal weight in my country believe they are ugly … is that what we want for the trans community as well? Suicide rates are already high enough. Perhaps we should be celebrating ALL of our beauty, instead of a single narrow aspect of it.
Monika: Are you involved in the life of your local LGBT community?
Ivory: Nope.
Monika: Do you intend to get married and have a family? Could you tell me about the importance of love in your life?
Ivory: I would like to, but dating as a trans person is very difficult. Many trans women end up alone. That is a pretty likely outcome for me as well.
24 months of HRT.
Monika: What would you recommend to transgender women that are afraid of early transition, discrimination and hatred?
Ivory: I would recommend to not rush transition. Patience is extremely important, as transitioning takes a lot of time. Understanding how people see you is an important key to being able to function normally.
Other than growing my hair out, generally people in my life had no idea I was transitioning for over a year (when I posted my first video showing 1 year progress). Basically, be smart about transitioning. Wear things that work with your body and where you are in transition. Keeping more towards androgynous clothing (as I did) means I didn’t “stand out” and I could just live normally.
Monika: What is your next step in the present time and where do you see yourself within the next 5-7 years?
Ivory: My next step is to continue my work on the game I’m creating. Transition wise, when I have money I would like more laser hair removal, more feminine clothes, and eventually some plastic surgery would be nice. But, number 1 in my life is making sure I don’t end up homeless and can support the things I want. I think this is something many trans people forget.
I would love to sit around all day “being a girl” (whatever that is), but if I did that I would be sacrificing my longer term future. Like I said, being patient in the key with transition. Be smart about it. Too many trans people end up finding their options VERY limited and get involved with sex work. There is a lot of discrimination towards us; we have to work HARDER at our careers to make sure we can have a normal life.
Monika: Could you say that you are a happy woman now?
Ivory: Well, that is an issue of semantics again. I’m happier than I was, but still have plenty left to do.
Monika: Ivory, it was a pleasure to interview you. Thanks a lot!

All the photos: courtesy of Ivory Oasis.
Done on 24 August 2013
© 2013 - Monika 

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