Monika: Today it is my pleasure and honour to interview Chelle Padraigin, an American transgender activist and writer, hardware store owner, newspaper columnist, President of a Habitat for Humanity chapter, church pianist, member of many boards and civic organizations, and author of “Finally Chelle: The Musings of an Average Transsexual Woman”. Hello Chelle!
Basically that means that they have to work a large number of hours learning and performing construction tasks and, in return, they get to move into a home with a mortgage that has a zero percent interest rate. They work hard to get into those homes, so it’s not like they get one handed to them on a silver platter. They earn it!
|“Finally Chelle: The Musings of an|
Average Transsexual Woman” (2012),
Most women come out of the womb with their vaginas-- I came out of an operating room with mine. Other than that, there’s no real difference between me and any other woman.
I live a pretty normal life in a small southern town. I’m active in my church and my community, people call me for recipe advice (I love to cook), I bring a pot of homemade chicken soup to my friends and neighbors when they’re sick, and I like to travel with my spouse. The bottom line is that I live an extraordinarily average life. I don’t “feel” transsexual. In fact—I usually forget that I am unless something reminds me of the fact. It’s the most authentic way to live and I hope that every trans woman ends her journey in that same place.
In order to live as the “real me” I ended up traveling a lot and having residences in multiple places. The hardest part, I think, was telling my family, and worrying about how a complete transition would impact my business. Thankfully, my family was enthusiastically supportive—including both of my parents—and my transition didn’t seem to impact my business.
|Enjoying a Spring day in her backyard.|
Whereas gays have finally hit mainstream and are no longer considered unusual, trans people still have a large “freak factor” in the media and are considered newsworthy for no other reason than because they’re trans.
And while I’m not a terribly big fan of President Obama I love that he has at least one trans person in a high position in his administration. If you can pass well, in the gender you transition to, I think that people respond pretty well in real life, even if the media still chooses to poke fun. I think that people who don’t pass well, however, still encounter a lot of discrimination and that’s a shame.
Do I think that transgender women can make a difference? Absolutely—but not necessarily as transgender women. Being a woman should be difference enough. The numbers of women politicians are still small enough that if we start subdividing the group into black, white, Latino, transgendered, Asian, gay, etc., then the collective voice will not be as loud. As women we shouldn’t allow others to divide-and-conquer us.
I think that it’s important for us to be patient as long as steady momentum is in the direction we want. If it starts to wane then we need to kick start things back in the right direction. The best thing that the trans community can do for itself is to live respectable, productive lives so that the rest of the world will see that we’re no different than anyone else.
|An above-the-knee dress and boots is|
about as crazy as she gets, fashion-wise!
I guess that you could characterize my approach as “quiet activism.” I’m content to nudge things along-- but if I hit a brick wall I knock it down like a bulldozer. I feel like I’ve moved things forward with various government agencies who had trouble “seeing the light” until I finally had to shine it directly in their eyes. I hate having to do that but sometimes you have to be forceful to get things done.
As for my personal love life, I’m a little unusual because I’m a straight woman who is married to a straight woman. Each of us is only attracted to men but we love each other completely and made it official by getting married, last year, after being together for 9 years. We met at a business function and she only knew me as male, at first. As she watched me transition she decided that she loved the “inside me” and the gift-wrapping didn’t matter. So if you see two women holding hands on the beach, watching the cute guys go by, there’s a good chance that it’s us.
|Her "biker chick" look, at a motorcycle|
rally with family and friends.
Estrogen is VERY transformative. It took 5 years but it made my face MUCH more feminine. And if you give it enough time you probably won’t even need a boob job. Teenage girls don’t grow their boobs overnight and neither will you. I know trans women who start taking estrogen and immediately have boob jobs. That’s crazy! Give your body time to respond. I’ve been on HRT for 6+ years and I’m STILL noticing changes, especially in the hair that frames my face.
Start facial hair removal ASAP. It’s a long, slow process and the sooner you start the happier you’ll be. There are few things as joyful as leaving the house with no makeup on, other than mascara and eyeliner, and knowing you still look good. When you finally get to throw that pancake makeup in the trash you’ll feel like a million dollars.
Chelle: Thank you, Monika, for bringing our stories to those who might benefit from reading about them. And thank you for considering mine worthy of being on your website!