Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Interview with Sophia Gubb


Monika: Today it is my pleasure and honour to interview Sophia Gubb, a writer who is British by birth but living in Germany, the author of the biographical book titled “Stubborn Soul” (2015). Hello Sophia!
Sophia: Hi there :)
Monika: Could you say a few words about yourself?
Sophia: Um, I have lots of identities, but I'm not sure what to say that really speaks about who I am... I'm a writer, a speaker when I can manage it, and am very passionate about trying to help the world however I can. I'm into spirituality, personal development, animal rights (including vegetarianism/veganism) and LGBT topics. That said, right now I'm recovering from the most intense part of my gender transition and trying to find some kind of stability in my life, so I'm not working at full capacity.
Monika: Why did you decide to write your autobiography?
Sophia: Well, I had an opportunity for a year to be supported in my living expenses while I wrote a book. There were lots of things I wanted, and still want to, write about, but this project made sense as the first one simply for the pragmatic reason that the longer I wait, the more of my memories I will forget.
Asides from that... well, I've told my life story at least four times, on an internet forum, on my website, in an email to two friends of mine, and finally out loud to an audience of around forty people. Each time, it was a way of processing, releasing my shame about the darker events, and connecting with people. I ended up writing the book simply because it was a story I had, and I thought it needed to be told. Of course, I have ideas about how it could be helpful in different ways too, but my original plan wasn't so specific as that.
Monika: Which aspects of your experience can be useful for other trans women?
Sophia: I guess I'd like to be a role model for someone who can do cool stuff (my writing and talks) that aren't directly related to being trans. Being plunged into transition, I felt disoriented and like life would never be the same again. It's nice to remember that we are still people, and we can live a normal life, or a pleasantly abnormal life, and oftentimes forget completely that we just so happened to have a little genital mix-up that we had to respond to at one point.
More about the book - here.
Monika: At what age did you undergo your gender transition yourself? Did you have any support from your family or friends?
Sophia: I started at 22. My girlfriend of the time was a big support, listening to my obsessing about the topic quite patiently and giving me the basic recognition I needed at that point.
We later broke up, and I moved to Berlin and found a new partner, who was genderqueer and was one of the first people to really understand me on this level. My family wasn't a big influence on my transition though.
Monika: At that time of your transition, did you have any transgender role models that you followed?
Sophia: Not really. I was pretty much clueless when I started. I had almost no information at all and basically threw myself into living as a woman with minimal preparation. It took me quite a while to build up a transgender community around myself. 
Monika: What was the hardest thing about your coming out?
Sophia: Losing friends. I lost my old best friend from high school, plus several others who either outright rejected me or just became more distant. I had this horrible feeling of abandonment.
Monika: What do you think about the present situation of transgender women in the British society?
Sophia: Can't really answer that question, as I haven't lived in Britain while identifying as trans. I lived in Spain when I started my transition. As for Spain... it's not a bad place, at least where I was (Barcelona), but there's definitely a lot of room for improvement. I hear the south of Spain is tougher though.
Monika: You are living in Germany now. How is the transgender movement developing there?
Sophia: People often say that Berlin is like its own country, and well, it's the only place I can comment on anyway. The trans community is very strong there, with lots of support groups and resources. People in the leftist/feminist scenes tend to be aware of trans issues, expanding the areas where I feel comfortable. I think Berlin is just right for me right now. Unfortunately the healthcare system hasn't caught up; there are still really ridiculous requirements for trans people who want to access healthcare.
Monika: What is your general view on transgender stories or characters which have been featured in films, newspapers or books so far?
Sophia: I think we have a looong way to go as far as representation is concerned. When a trans person is featured, they are almost always primarily a trans person, like that is their main interest in the story. Movies with trans protagonists are all about the protagonist being trans; you can never forget it for a moment. Newspapers put "transsexual person did this or that" in their headlines, as if their being transsexual was the news itself.
My favourite trans representation so far is Sophia in Orange Is The New Black. Not because she is an amazing character, but simply because the fact she's trans doesn't seem to be the absolutely central element of how she is shown.
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?
Sophia: Frankly, most LGBT organisations are LGBT in name only; in truth, they stand up for Lesbians and Gays only. This is improving a bit though; I was happy that the British charity Stonewall started expanding into advocating for trans rights, and doing it in a fairly sensitive way.

http://www.sophiagubb.com/

Monika: Are you active in politics? Do you participate in any lobbying campaigns? Do you think transgender women can make a difference in politics?
Sophia: I can't say that I am very much at the moment. I vote for the green party which is about the best option as far as LGBT rights are concerned (plus a load of other things). Everyone can make a difference if they make a contribution... of course, trans women have it harder in politics, but... well, change is still possible, and happening.
Monika: Could you tell me about the importance of love in your life?
Sophia: I love love. I'm polyamorous and currently have a boyfriend and a girlfriend and a lover besides (who also can't be classified as "just sex", even if she's not a full partner). It keeps me going; in particular, I get very hungry for physical contact if I go a long time without someone to cuddle.
Monika: Do you like fashion? What kind of outfits do you usually wear? Any special fashion designs, colours or trends?
Sophia: I'm not hip enough to be able to name trends... I like long skirts and summer dresses... I wish it was always summer so I could always wear my favourite dresses. I love white and bright colours, and cannot wear black. My favourite style is what they call in Spanish "Ibicenca", as in, the Ibizan style. Very flowy, romantic, kind of hippie, and all in white, topped with a summer hat.
Monika: What is your next step in the present time and where do you see yourself within the next 5-7 years?
Sophia: Self care is key for me right now, as things have been very hard recently. I need to secure a stable income for myself, which I've neglected till now and paid the consequences. Really for the next year or two all I can think of is resting and improving my financial situation and not getting into too many adventures.
From there on, I'd love to expand my writing projects, and eventually earn a full living from them. I also have a board game I want to design. There's so much to do, I just need to find the energy to do it!
Monika: What would you recommend to all transgender girls struggling with gender dysphoria?
Sophia: That's a big question. Hold on, I guess. Take care of yourself. Ration your energy. Transition is going to take a lot out of you.
Monika: Sophia, thank you for the interview!

All the photos: Courtesy of Sophia Gubb.
Done on 17 March 2015
© 2015 - Monika 

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