Sunday, 5 October 2014

Interview with Kathryn Camfield


Monika: Today it is my pleasure and honour to interview Kathryn Camfield, a blogger, writer, former radio announcer, and transgender ally from Reno NV. Hello Kathryn! 
Kathryn: Hi Monika, and thanks for your interest in me.
Monika: Could you say a few words about yourself?
Kathryn: A few words? I laugh because my wife Cindy would be saying “be careful what you wish for.” Anyhow, I’m a transgender ally. An experienced cross dresser since 1957, I have lived and worked as a woman, on and off, since 1998. I reside in Reno NV with my wife, Cindy. I was a radio announcer for about 34 years in Ohio, Michigan, Texas and Florida. In addition, I have written four published books and I taught people how to write books, on America Online, for 7 years. I have played guitar, bass guitar and djembe (a hand drum) and have worked on a various computers since 1986.
Since I came out in 1998, I have worked as a woman. First, (1998-2005) as office manager and workshop coordinator for Mark Allison Acting Workshops in Pasadena, California. Secondly, (2005-2013) Supervisor of store operations for Las Vegas HQ, a chain of souvenir shops in four Las Vegas casinos (Tropicana, MGM Grand, New York New York, Excalibur).
We moved to Reno NV in March 2013. Cindy is a nanny, caring for four babies for three different families. I am semi-retired writing my books from my home office and occasionally teaching other seniors like myself how to ballroom dance. (I used to teach at Fred Astaire studios in the 80s.)
Monika: You have been living and working as a woman, on and off, since 1998. Have you ever considered living as a full-time woman?
Kathryn: I spent five months in 2011 discussing that with Sandi, my VA psychologist, and we finally decided that I have been a cross dreamer (one who dreams of being a woman) but that I am not actually a trans woman. We decided since I have a supportive wife, have successfully lived and worked as a woman, and because I cannot afford either hormones or the operation and am now 68 years old, I should just let well enough alone. Going through the physical transition, at this age, would really not improve my life more than it is, so I am channeling my efforts into supporting the trans women who KNOW they are women trapped in… well, you know.
Monika: In the 70s you enlisted in the US Navy but you were booted for dressing in women’s clothes...
Kathryn: Yeah, horrible isn’t it? (Yes, I am being sarcastic.) I had been dressing on weekends from 1957, through high school and college, to 1969 when I enlisted to avoid being drafted and sent to Southeast Asia. Luckily, I was sent to Southwest Texas, instead. 
In the Navy, I learned to really write, and I edited the weekly base newspaper. My experience in college radio gave me the opportunity to work off-base, nights, at radio station KSIX in Corpus Christie (40 miles from Kingsville). Then, in 1971, I had the only run-in with the law I have ever had.
I had secretly acquired some women’s clothes which I wore during my 7pm to midnight radio job, since no one was ever there. One night, I kept the clothes on while I drove home to Kingsville. I checked my post office box, and came out the door to what looked like the entire Kingsville Police Department, guns drawn and lights flashing. I guess no one had ever gone into the Kingsville Post Office at one in the morning. They did their best to embarrass me while waiting for the Shore Patrol to pick me up. Fingerprinted me. Took pictures of me. Inventoried my clothes. Called in other officers to see me.
Back on the base, the Patrol let me sleep on a bench in the waiting room until the staff psychologist showed up. He asked me if I was gay. I said, “No.” He asked me if I had ever attempted to have sex with other men. I said, “Yuck. Never.” He looked through his Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Then he enquired again if I was gay. I said, “Not only do I not love men, I hate men.”
Three weeks later, I was drummed out of the U.S. Navy with an Honorable Discharge under “general conditions.” That meant, in the event of war, I’ll be a hostage. No actually, it meant I could never enlist again.
Cindy and Kathy Camfield
Backstage after appearance on TV show To Tell
the Truth, 2000.
Monika: In an effort to become a man, you got married three times ...
Kathryn: It’s true. I was married in Lansing, Michigan in 1972: I was 25 and I told her about my cross dressing. She thought my dressing as a woman was fun. After we were married, not so much. She sought a real man. She found him. We agreed to an amicable divorce and I moved to Sarasota FL in 1975.
For the next nine years, I worked as creative director of an advertising agency, dressed on weekends, and dated a bunch of different girls, not becoming close to any of them because I didn’t want to share my deep, dark secret.
Suddenly, May 15, 1984, my dear Aunt Audrey, died from a brain aneurysm rupture. Just like that, the only woman I had ever loved, the sweet lady who had raised me in the absence of my mother from the time I was eleven, was irreversibly gone.
I went into a yearlong decline. I gave my female clothes to Goodwill. I swore this time I would shake my horrible abnormality for good. Ridiculously, I decided it was my fault that Audrey died. If I had not wanted to be a woman, she’d still be alive. At this point in my life, I couldn’t figure out who I really was or how I had become so screwed up. I was consumed with guilt. I took a friend’s gun in order to kill myself. However, I was too scared to do it. I began to think that the only way to combat my desire to be a woman was to force myself to be a normal man. Then, at this crucial, confused, desperate time in my life I made a most significant, nearly overwhelming mistake.
I got married again.
I decided not to tell my second wife about my horrible secret and for a few years, I tried to be a man. But, after a six month long bout with lymph node cancer and a successful five hour operation in 1986, I had become acquainted with my own mortality. I made some choices that my wife did not accept.
I decided to start writing books and I began working midnight to six at a local automated radio station, just for the money. This simply demonstrated what we already knew; our marriage was in name only. We were two people living in a house with five cats and a mortgage. Two people who rarely saw each other.
I hid my clothes and dressed at the radio station, because no one was ever there. (Sound familiar?) Occasionally, I’d dress at home when she was not around. But after 12 years of marriage, she finally caught me. Although she absolutely refused to discuss the problem, she decided that I was sick and depraved. She divorced me but kept the house and our five cats.
So, now, I was fifty-two years old consumed by my desire to be a woman but still wanting to love a woman and have a life. Twice divorced with no family and precious few friends. One thing that had kept me going was that, since 1993, I had been working for the America Online Campus. Two early evenings a week, I had been teaching students whom I had never met, in states I had never visited, how to write their first novel. Three of my own novels had been published in 1990, which is what had attracted AOL.
We did the classes via the early form of chat rooms and with text libraries and e-mail. My classes had become very popular. When I stopped teaching in the winter of 2000, AOL told me that I had taught 4,735 students in seven years. Notably, the novels I had written featured a female main character (protagonist) named Veronica Slate. Interviewers asked, "Why did you choose to write from a woman's viewpoint?" I told them that I like women. In fact, I love women. What I did not have the courage to say was that “I wanted to be a woman.” But writing the Veronica Slate novels from the viewpoint of a woman kept me sane.
In 1997, I established a long-distance relationship with a California middle school English teacher who was taking my writing classes. Soon we struck up what became a year-long daily e-mail correspondence. Cindy Petersen had recently divorced her husband after 25 years, because he carried on an extended affair with a girl half her age. Cindy found out about it by opening the phone bill. Her two children were grown; one a high school assistant principal, the other a nurse. We both had no siblings, both had no dads (her dad had died young), we both loved old movies, reading books and were both Virgos, just a two years and two days apart, I was born on August 27, 1946 and Cindy born on August 29, 1948.
After a year of daily emails and late night chat room sessions, we finally met in person in February 1998, when Cindy flew to Florida to see me teach at a writer’s conference. Inside of 24 hours, we both knew we had finally found our soul mates. I was as sure as the day is long that this was my last chance at happiness. Thirty days later, I drove my purple Saturn, packed with some meagre possessions and my computer, across the country. We moved in together in Pasadena, and I did something I never thought I would ever do again.
Because of the deceitful nature of our exes we had agreed when we got together that we would have no secrets, that we would tell each other everything. I admitted that I had wanted to be a woman my whole life. As one would anticipate, she asked me if I felt I was a woman trapped in a man’s body. I said, no. All I really wanted was to dress like a woman without having to hide.
Kathryn Camfield
Transgender Ally in Reno NV USA.
As my Danish friends called it, I was a cross dreamer. Since Cindy is a Danish-American, she immediately got it. Clever girl that Cindy is, she researched transgender topics on the internet, joined an online support group for transgender wives and bought me a dress. I could scarcely believe it. Someone finally got me and apparently loved me in spite of myself. Actually, as Cindy told me, “Many of the things I love about you are what some people would consider feminine traits; your consideration, your warmth and the fact that you are not competitive or mean.”
“I love that I can talk to you about anything, that you actually care about what I think, that you are gentle and kind. You make me feel beautiful and adored. Besides being in love, we are good friends, as well.” As if she needed to, she concluded, “I love you exactly as you are.” We’ve been together for sixteen years.
Monika: You are a writer. Could you elaborate on your writing, including your new non-fiction book “Your Gender: Your Choice! which will be published in paperback in 2015?
Kathryn: Writing under a pseudonym (Lary Crews), I wrote 3 published mystery novels. The first two, Kill Cue and Extreme Close-up were republished and are still available in trade paperback from Amazon. My 3rd novel, Option To Die, is out of print. I wrote a nonfiction book on writing called Novel Secrets, also out of print but occasionally found on eBay.
My second non-fiction book, Your Gender: Your Choice! will be out in paperback in early 2015. It’s main reason for existing is best expressed by the subtitle: “For the first time in your life, finally be who you really are.” Cindy had always told me that I should tell other cross dressers not to be ashamed of who they are.
Using my life story as a matrix I explain to everyone under the “transgender umbrella” how they can fight for their rights, how they can be proud of the unique individuals they are and how they can learn to be happy not matter what gender they are. I’ll also get into information about how others can be transgender allies like myself. 
Monika: What do you think about the present situation of transgender women in the American society?
Kathryn: Right now, I’m watching the rest of the world begin to understand the trans community that has become my home, and it is incredibly exciting. Time magazine called this the "new civil rights frontier." After all, the cultural Right Wing has largely lost the argument against homosexuality. Those who argue against gay marriage and gay adoption are increasingly at odds with social norms, and the pseudo-religious homophobia that was common, sounds more and more bigoted.
However, the Right Wing still feels the need to police gender. If they can no longer call gay people sinful and expect to be taken seriously, someone else has to be the scapegoat, the "other" against which "normality" is defined. Guess who is the new target? Yep, us. The time is here when everyone who believes in equality and social justice must decide where they stand on the issue of trans rights, whether that be the right to equal opportunities at work, or simply the right to walk down the street dressed in a way that makes you comfortable. If we believe in social justice, we must support our own trans community as it makes its way proudly into the mainstream.
Monika: Do you have any transgender role models that you follow?
Kathryn: The role models I follow are varied. Top on the list is Kimi Cole, President at Nevada Stonewall Democratic Caucus and a founding member of the Transgender Allies Group (TAG) here in Reno. Cole, 59, transitioned five years ago and she is a real mover and shaker in the trans world.
Also TAG President Brock Maylath is a wonderful man who accepted me with open arms and immediately put me to work speaking at our annual open house this week. Of the folks who are role models but whom I don’t see every week are Eddie Izzard, the famous “executive transvestite” comedian and actor and Kristin Beck, the ex-Seal whose documentary was on CNN recently.
Monika: What is the hardest thing about your coming out?
Kathryn: Coming out was remarkably easy for me in 1998 because of Cindy’s support. Perhaps because of my “secret” I have never been good at making friends so there were few people to be told about my new status. I have no children and Cindy has two grown children who are lost in their own world and only tangentially interested in their stepdad. 
My mother and step-father, who are now divorced, do not speak to me at all and haven’t since 1998. I have no other family. The only difficult thing for my coming out as a cross dresser living as a woman is my perceived feeling that trans women look down on me because I am ONLY a cross dresser. That’s one reason the book I am writing is so important to me; I want them to know that I am tirelessly on their side.
Monika: What do you think about transgender stories or characters which have been featured in films, newspapers or books so far?
Kathryn: I cringe every time someone like Venus Van Dam, the transgender prostitute, shows up on Sons of Anarchy. It’s enough that Venus is played by a man but his “breasts body suit” makes him even more ridiculous. Although transgender characters have appeared in such films as The World According to Garp, Second Serve, Boys Don’t Cry, Normal and Transamerica it was not until the TV show Dirty Sexy Money in 2007 that a real transgender actress played a transgender character; Candis Cayne as Carmelita. Now of course, transgender actress Laverne Cox plays Sophia; a transgender inmate in Orange Is The New Black.
Although some trans people are upset that cisgender man Jeffrey Tambor plays Mort who is transitioning to Maura on Transparent, I do not agree. He is perfect for the part of a cisgender man who becomes a trans woman because he is a cisgender man and a great actor.
Tambor will likely make America understand trans women much more readily than the glamorous Laverne Cox has. Most trans women who come out later in life are not as sexy and hot as Cox is. Unlike Cox, most of us are not, without effort, conventionally beautiful.
Monika: Have you recently read or watched any interesting book or event/film about transgenderism?
Kathryn: Without a doubt it would have to be "Lady Valor: The Kristin Beck Story". Kristin lives her life truthfully as a transgender woman. Kristin came out publicly on CNN, taking many friends and family by surprise. She encountered more bigotry than she ever expected. After a lifetime of service, Kristin has learned that her fight for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness did not end on the battlefield.
Promotion for Kathryn Camfield's
2015 paperback book.
Monika: The transgender cause is usually manifested together with the other LGBT communities. Being the last letter in this abbreviation, is the transgender community able to promote its own cause within the LGBT group?
Kathryn: I have been asked by gays and lesbians how the T fits into LGBT, and why transgender rights should be part of the larger gay agenda. After all, their fight is about sex and ours is about gender. But the reason we are all in this together is that being transgender is a core part of our identity, just as being gay, lesbian or bisexual is a core part of theirs.
We face many of the same challenges posed by society. Since we were born with an incompatible gender identity, our sociological struggles related to sexual preference and non-conformity fit right in with the rest of the LGBT. Cross-dressers have other equally important conflicts, conflicts which lead them to depression, failed marriages and even suicide.
For cross-dressers, expressing their gender identity causes such a primitive reaction among members of society that they are sometimes attacked, based solely on their appearance, or rejected by their family and friends, or even fired from their places of employment, simply because they want to dress like women.
The cross-dressers struggles in society are based not only on their gender orientation, but also on their gender presentation. The transgender community is vast and diverse, and we all know what it’s like to be excluded. We can accomplish much more when we practice the very acceptance and equality we’re fighting for, with the people closest to us. In other words, trans men, trans women and cross-dressers, we’re all in this together.
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?
Kathryn: Sadly, not that I am aware of. Although Kristin Beck shows signs of heading that way.
Monika: Are you active in politics? Do you participate in any lobbying campaigns? Do you think transgender women can make a difference in politics?
Kathryn: I am only active in politics to the extent of voting, and volunteering in all projects which will result in transgender rights. But I am happy to see several trans women poised to seek election to our congress and many others who are going to get our rights or die trying.
Monika: Do you like fashion? What kind of outfits do you usually wear? Any special fashion designs, colours or trends?
Kathryn: Since I am 68 I tend to go for slightly more conservative clothing. I love skirts and leggings and pretty blouses. I am not fond of five-inch heels but favor three inch heels, wedges and ballet flats. I love violet, purple, pink, blue and denim. 
Monika: Could you tell me about the importance of love in your life?
Kathryn: I value Cindy so much. Being alive at 68 is something I never thought I would be. Living as a woman is my dream come true and I owe it to my wife Cindy, the most extraordinary and supportive woman I have ever known. After all the years I had to hide my true nature, just being permitted to be who I really am is a pleasure.
After four decades of shame and deception, I finally can publicly acknowledge my own identity. I am proud to be my own version of a woman. Cindy is the only person I love in the whole world and I adore her, and tell her that nearly every day. We love being together, we love so many of the same things and we complement each other so well; she’s stronger than I am, I am more logical than she is, she has no sense of direction and I am never lost. But most of all we are kind, considerate and completely in love with one another.
Monika: Many transgender ladies write their memoirs. Have you ever thought about writing such a book yourself?
Kathryn: Actually I kind of am because this new book is about 35% memoir. In order to tell people about cross dressers and their very real problems, I had to tell about my experiences. In order to encourage all of us to support the rest of us under that transgender umbrella, I had to tell what I have learned about the fight for our rights.
Monika: Are you working on any new projects now?
Kathryn: Well, my book Your Gender: Your Choice! is taking up most of my time at the moment and will through the balance of 2014. It will be released in 2015 as a paperback book, a Kindle book and an audiobook.
I do plan another book, How to be a Trans Ally, and a third one called, Cross Dressers in a Transgender World. My agent is also pushing me to update and republish my Novel Secrets book about writing novels and I have an idea for a new writing book called A Movie in your Mind.
Monika: What would you recommend to all transgender girls struggling with gender dysphoria?
Kathryn: Get help and make friends. You are not alone. I’ve only been on Facebook for about six months and I have 1,000 trans friends, without making an effort. Talk to any trans person you ever meet and ask them about their transition.
Read anything you can find about the transgender world. Keep up on the news about all LGBT matters. But above all, be aware that YOU must be the only important person in your world. If others don’t support you, kiss them goodbye and get on with your life. 
Bottom line: we are all alone. Don’t live your life for others at the expense of your happiness.
Monika: Kathryn, thank you for the interview!
Kathryn: Thanks for caring.

All the photos: courtesy of Kathryn Camfield.
Done on 5 October 2014
© 2014 - Monika 

1 comment:

  1. *Thank You* Kathryn & Monika :-)

    Blessings & Joy from another woman of transgender experience!

    ReplyDelete

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