Sunday, 19 January 2014

Interview with Alana Nicole Sholar


Monika: Today it is my pleasure and honor to interview Alana Nicole Sholar, an American transgender activist and writer, the author of “Hung in the Middle: A Journey of Gender Discovery” (2012). Hello Alana!
Alana: Hello Monika.
Monika: Could you say a few words about your career so far?
Alana: My new found career has been really exciting. I have learned so much by writing “Hung in the Middle: A Journey of Gender Discovery” … all of it good. When I sat out to write my story it was in hopes of bringing help to others so imagine the surprise I got as others opened up and shared their journey. Many have given me an idea or notion that had never entered my way of thinking.
“Hung in the Middle” has sold around the world, which also surprised me. I had hoped it might, I just never expected it to happen as fast as it did. Many people have helped me accomplish as much as I have … including you … thank you.
Monika: What inspired you to write your autobiography?
Alana: I often told people stories about my past, you know, the wild side to my life: drinking, drugs, playing music in bars, fast cars, fast horses, and a confused sex life. Lots of folks said I needed to write my stories down.
However, the one thing I never told anyone was that I had a secret. Many of the risky things I did in life were an attempt to keep my secret hidden. I tried to write my story a number of times but without being able to tell my entire story, it was impossible for me to tell any of my stories.
After I finally faced what I’d been running from all my life I came out as transgender. Just a few years after coming out, the factory where I worked closed its doors and I lost my job which gave me lots of free time on my hands. I just sat down and started writing.
Hung in the Middle via hunginthemiddle.com.
Monika: Which aspects of your biography could be used by other transgender women planning their transitions?
Alana: I hope that one thing others are helped with is by knowing they are not alone. I think things are getting better than when I was young. Younger generations are more open and accepting toward trans persons … at least that’s been my experience.
Monika: At the time of your transition did you have any transgender role models that you could follow?
Alana: The role models I had were friends I made locally. Friendships I built through the Transgender Support Group, a part of the Gay Lesbian Services Organization (GLSO) in Lexington, Kentucky.
There were several members in our support group and I thought the world of each of them. However there were three that I hung out with the most, Kellin, Cassie, and Kaillie.
Kellin became the head of our support group for a number of years. She and I enjoyed many outings together – we grew very close. Kellin was there for me when I was diagnosed with HIV. Her friendship is valuable to me. Cassie later became and to this date is the fearless leader of the support group. She is another person I spent a good amount of time with.
Cassie became a shopping and movie partner for a while. Cassie was also a major role player in my finding the right and perfect wigs.
And Kaillie – There is no way I can ever thank Kaillie enough for all she has done for me over the years. When I was diagnosed with HIV Kaillie would make an hour long drive one way to get me out of the house. Kaillie is a hero in her own right for the kindness that she shows to many each and every day. Kaillie does these things without thought … it just comes natural to her – she is what I call the real deal. Kailie’s kindness helped me through a very difficult time in my life.
Now days there are so many role models out there for young people. However never forget that the best role models you can find are sometimes in your own back yard.
Monika: What was the hardest thing about your coming out?
Alana: The hardest thing for me personally was being able to accept myself. Even after I came out as transgender people around me seemed to be accepting me easier than I was able to accept myself.
Sometimes I just hated myself. I still live my life ‘hung in the middle’ of two genders and still have to be careful with not liking myself at times. I attribute much of the depression I deal with to my difficulty in being happy with myself.
Book signing and speaking engagement
Joseph Beth Booksellers, Lexington, KY
Monika: What is your view on transgender stories or characters which have been featured in films, newspapers or books so far?
Alana: I think it’s getting better and believe it will continue to do so … especially as more and more people begin to see us as we truly are: human beings. The news is something that I rarely watch … it’s just too negative. Bobbie and I try to keep a positive attitude and watching the news can make that difficult.
If I felt I could get the truth from a news source I may feel different but now days it all feels so slanted, at times it feels that maybe they try to brain wash people into their way of thinking.
Monika: Was 2013 a good year for the transgender community in the USA?
Alana: I think we got a lot of positive exposure in 2013 here in the USA. Hopefully such positive exposure will lead to better things for trans persons … like equal rights, protection laws, and insurance companies covering surgeries … just like any other tax paying individual.
Monika: What do you think about the present situation of transgender women in the American society?
Alana: I feel like we still have a long way to go, but, I have to say our situation is good compared to some other countries. I am thankful that we have the recognition and acceptance we do have and that it continues to get better daily.
Monika: Are you active in politics? Do you participate in any lobbying campaigns? Do you think transgender women can make a difference in politics?
Alana: I feel transgender women can make a big difference in politics. This isn’t a role I fit into very well though. I do what I can by way of voting but I am not politically savvy. I have tried a number of times to become involved, but politics just makes me crazy. When I see everything happening in politics I can get frustrated, depressed, and even go as far as becoming enraged. It’s rare that I voice my political opinion, other than voting for the person I feel is the right person for the position.
Monika: Is there anyone in the US transgender society whose actions could be compared to what Harvey Milk was doing in the 60s and 70s for the gay activism?
Alana: Harvey Milk was a politician and I’m not aware of anyone in the political arena who would compare. However, there some trans persons who I believe are bringing positive attention to our community … Chaz Bono, Janet Mock, Camen Carrera, and Laverne Cox are names that come to mind. It’s always been hard for me to compare one person’s actions and good deeds with that of another. Everyone’s contribution is as unique as the person themselves.
And I appreciate those every day persons who are making a difference in their families, their neighborhoods, and their work places. Those people are not in the spotlight like the ones I just named, but it is the actions of those persons who are making the greatest contributions to our community.


Monika: Could you tell me about the importance of love in your life?
Alana: Love has been very important to me although it took me the greatest part of my life to learn how to love … myself or someone else. If it wasn’t for Bobbie’s love and continued support I most likely would not be doing this interview because without her support I would never have written “Hung in the Middle.”
I sat down and wrote my memories … it was Bobbie who put those memories together resulting in my memoir. Bobbie supports me professionally by handling all my business arrangements and attending my speaking and book signing events.
She supports me personally by going to all of my doctor’s appointments with me and by us simply sharing our lives together. My family as a whole has always been there for me, which is the best way any family can show you love … and that’s a real blessing. 
Monika: Do you like fashion? What kind of outfits do you usually wear? Any special fashion designs, colors or trends?
Alana: I’m a country girl, so I wear jeans a lot … I love my boots and jeans. I don’t follow trends or colors … I just wear what I like, trendy or not. There was a time when I first came out that I wanted to get all dressed up … especially when I’d go out to a gay bar … but with age, I’ve gotten more into comfort.
The only time I wear a dress these days is when attending a book signing or speaking event. Once in a while I might wear a dress to go out to eat but most of the time I like my jeans and boots. Don’t get me wrong … I still like to look good, it’s just that I don’t mess with the high heels and short skirts as much as I once did.
Monika: What do you think about transgender beauty pageants?
Alana: They are great. I feel this is a major way to show people that we are so much more then what some perceive us to be. I think such pageants allows others to see that we are in fact women and should be treated as such.


Monika: Are you working on any new projects now?
Alana: I have a second book, a work of fiction, available in e-book format available at Amazon.com. It’s trans-erotica and my first attempt at writing fiction … or erotica. It was lots of fun writing … the title is “The Horn-Dog Bar and Grill.” It was a fun story to right, and hope people have fun reading it. I’m hoping to write other fiction books, but will just have to wait to see what the future brings.
I do plan on writing another memoir. I want to write my experience of living as a female full-time after my transition is complete, but that will require a couple surgeries first … namely facial feminization and breast implants. I haven’t made a decision about any additional surgeries yet, but will face that when time comes. I hope to entitle my next memoir, “With Head Held High.”
Right now Bobbie and I are putting our focus on getting her book published. She says it’s ‘her side of our story’ and a companion to my book. The title of her book is “My HUSBAND Looks Better in Lingerie Then I Do … DAMN IT.” We have a target release date of February 14, 2014 and folks can read excerpts from her book at myhusbandlooksbetter.com.
Monika: Having transitioned yourself, what would you recommend to all transgender women struggling with gender dysphoria?
Alana: I would beg them to please seek out the help of a supportive informed therapist. Everyone goes through various experiences in life where the help of a therapist is valuable and we as transwomen face more stressful situations than most people. My therapist is a big part of my book because it was with her help that I began to learn how to accept myself. Without her help, I’m not sure I could be where I am today.
Monika: Alana, thank you for the interview!
Alana: Thank you for allowing me to share, Monika. Also I wish to thank you for all that you do in making us a stronger community. You are a Blessing.

All the photos: courtesy of Alana Nicole Sholar.
Done on 19 January 2014
© 2014 - Monika 

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