Monday, 11 May 2015

Interview with Mey Rude


Monika: Today it is my pleasure and honour to interview Mey Rude, the Trans Editor at Autostraddle, a writer, blogger and transgender activist. Hello Mey!
Mey: Hi!
Monika: Could you say a few words about yourself?
Mey: Well, obviously, my name is Mey. I’m a transgender Latina who lives in Idaho in the US. I’m also a lesbian, and a comic book nerd and a writer. I work as the Trans Editor for the website Autostraddle.com.
Monika: As Trans Editor at Autostraddle, you follow and comment on all the trends related to the visibility of transgender women in the media. Thanks to the success of “Orange is the New Black,” “Transparent,” “New Girls on the Block,” and “True Trans With Laura Jane Grace” and other TV productions, we have faced an increasing visibility of trans characters. Is it a stable trend?
Mey: I really hope so. I think that all the awards that have been going to “Orange is the New Black” and “Transparent” as well as the recent Emmy win for Laverne Cox’s TV documentary “Laverne Cox Presents: The T Word” will encourage more people to take a chance on trans stories and trans characters. And we’ve been starting to see that. There are going to be a bunch of new shows featuring trans characters this year, including several with fictional trans characters played by trans actresses, so I think that’s a very good sign.
Monika: In one of your editorials you highlighted the growing fascination that the public has with real-life stories of trans women. Where does the fascination come from?
Mey: I think that a lot of people just have a fascination with things that they see as being “different,” and trans people often fit into that. Although we see it as just living our lives, a lot of cis people struggle to wrap their minds around it.
Also, I think there’s a particular fascination with trans women because society sees us as men, who were at the top of society, who “chose” to become women, willingly sacrificing all that power and privilege. And that’s tough for people to understand. Now, obviously, that’s not a very good or accurate way to describe trans women, but that’s how a lot of people see us.
One of her selfies.
Monika: However, what strikes me is the reluctance of the show business industry to cast trans actors, especially in starring roles… 
Mey: Yes, definitely. Just a couple years ago Jared Leto won an Oscar for playing a trans woman, and then now, when it was announced that a movie was being made about Lili Elbe, a trans woman from history, she’s again being played by a cis man in what looks like an attempt to win an Oscar.
Things are getting a lot better now, I think. We saw Laverne Cox being nominated for an Emmy for her role in “Orange is the New Black” and now she’s going to have a large role in a new TV show on CBS. Although the lead on “Transparent” is played by a man, there are still a lot of trans actors and actresses playing trans roles, including some that are pretty big roles. And again, just like with Laverne Cox, Trace Lysette, a trans woman, has gone from her role on “Transparent” to being cast in an upcoming show on network TV.
Monika: Some critics say that the contemporary film industry does not provide many opportunities for women to show their talents and stories to a wider audience. So maybe this is one of the reasons for a limited number of roles for trans women?
Mey: I definitely think so. Women, both cis and trans, are already given so few opportunities in film, and they often have to fight for the ones they do get. So when you add being trans on top of being a woman, that makes it even more difficult.
Monika: What is your favourite movie with a transgender character?
Mey: Does “Paris is Burning” count? It’s a documentary about the New York drag and ballroom scene in the ‘80s and it features a lot of trans women including the incredible Octavia St. Laurent.
My favorite non-documentary with a trans character would probably be “Gun Hill Road,” because it was the first movie I had ever seen that had a trans woman who was played by a trans woman who was in a leading role. Harmony Santana was incredible in the lead role in that movie.
Monika: The contemporary music has produced a new wave of transgender female artists, just to name a few of them: Mina Caputo of Life of Agony, Laura Jane Grace of Against Me!, Marissa Martinez of Cretin, Amber Taylor of The Sexual Side Effect, Namoli Brennet, Sissy Debut, Koko Jones, Jennifer Leitham, and many others. Are we going to see more and more transgender artists in the mainstream music?
Mey: Sure! I think that largely, the music industry treated Laura Jane Grace with a lot of respect when she came out, and I think that Transgender Dysphoira Blues was their best album to date and so hopefully that will help other artists.
Transgender rapper Katey Red has also worked with some pretty big names in the hip-hop world and I think people like her and Juliana Huxtable are blazing new trails for trans artists.
Monika: The same holds true for literature. There are more and more talented transgender and prolific writers, just to mention: Jan Morris from the United Kingdom, Josephine Emery from Australia as well as the new wave of such writers as Julia Serano, Ryka Aoki, Red Durkin or Imogen Binnie. Do you think that there is a chance for the more prominent status of transgender writers?
Mey: I hope so, but I’m not so optimistic about this. While we’ve definitely seen some great books by trans authors, most mainstream publishers still aren’t publishing their work. We are seeing a lot of new books featuring trans characters, but it seems like if they’re published by a mainstream company, they’re always written by cis people. Hopefully this will change, and I think as long as people are able to self-publish or turn to smaller presses, trans people will keep on turning out amazing work.
Selfie in red.
Monika: At what age did you start your transition? Was it a difficult process?
Mey: I started coming out to friends when I was in my mid-twenties. I publicly came out and started to present full-time as a woman when I was 26. Parts of it were difficult.
Where I live there aren’t a lot of doctors who have experience with trans patients, so it took me over a year to find someone who could help me get started on HRT. I also didn’t know any other trans women in my hometown, so that made things difficult.
Monika: At the time of your transition, did you have any transgender role models that you followed?
Mey: Ever since Laverne Cox was first on TV with “I Want to Work for Diddy back in 2008 I’ve followed her career and her activism, and I’ve looked to her for inspiration. I also read the article written by Annika about being a trans woman on Autostraddle. Just trans women who I met on the Internet in general, really. That was the first trans community that I had, and it helped me a lot.
Monika: Are there any transgender ladies that you admire and respect now?
Mey: Oh man, there are so many! Of course, I still love and admire Laverne Cox. Also Janet Mock. Reina Gossett, Luna Merbruja, Morgan Collado, Shaadi Devereaux, L'lerrét Ailith, Monica Roberts, Jen Richards and Angelica Ross, so, so many others. Definitely CeCe McDonald.
Monika: What was the hardest thing about your coming out?
Mey: When I first came out, I was very active in my church and most of my friends were people I had met at church. I had to leave that church when I came out and lost my community and a lot of friends when I did that.
Monika: You say “I’m both an L and a T and I don’t want to choose a side”...
Mey: Yes. I’m a lesbian and a transgender woman. Both of those identities are very important to me and both inform who I am as an activist and as a person. Often people talk about how there’s a huge rift between lesbians and trans women, but only one fourth of trans people identify as straight, so a huge number of us are lesbians or bisexual women. I’m a complex person and when people try to boil me down to one trait and say that that trait is all that I am, it rubs me the wrong way.
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?
Mey: Here in the United States, it was trans women of color who started the LGBT movement. Black and Latina trans women threw the first bricks at Stonewall and were leaders in the early movement, only to be completely shoved to the bottom. It’s sad and it’s frustrating. I think as we gain more visibility, we’ll definitely gain more power in the overall LGBT movement, but I think it will take a lot of work. We’re not there yet.
Before going out.
Monika: Are you active in politics? Do you participate in any lobbying campaigns? Do you think transgender women can make a difference in politics?
Mey: Yes, I am. I recently travelled to my state’s capitol to testify in favor of adding the words “gender identity” and “sexuality” to our state’s Human Rights Act. While we were unsuccessful, it was nice being able to speak our minds and show our opponents how many of us there are and that we’re not going away.
I think that with hard work and resilience, we will make a difference. We’re already seeing more and more cities pass non-discrimination ordinances and more and more school districts passing trans inclusive guidelines, and I think that soon we’re going to be seeing more things like that.
Monika: Are you working on any new projects now?
Mey: I’m still working at Autostraddle and writing for them. I’m also working on a sort of memoir, but I don’t have a timeline for when that will come out.
Monika: What would you recommend to all transgender girls struggling with gender dysphoria?
Mey: Search out other trans girls and women. There are way more of us than you think. I’d definitely recommend the internet for this (although make sure you’re being safe). Also, make sure that you’re living your truth. There’s no one “correct” way to be a trans woman, just live your life and be yourself and you’re doing everything perfectly. Things won’t always be easy, but it’s worth it.
Monika: Mey, thank you for the interview!
Mey: You’re welcome and thank you!

All the photos: courtesy of Mey Rude.
Done on 11 May 2015
© 2015 - Monika 

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