Monika: Today it is my pleasure and honour to interview Sheala Dawn Reinertson, an advanced patient care technician, happy wife and mother. Hello Sheala!
Sheala: Hello, it is a pleasure to be with you.
Monika: Could you say a few words about yourself?
Sheala: Yes, thank you. I am 33 and came out as transgender at 31. Before then I had spent 8 years in the US NAVY, and am very proud of the time that I spent in the service. I am now making a great advancement in my career and in nursing school.
Monika: Your name hit the headlines in connection with The Name Change Project, which expanded to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, a year ago and connects transgender people with volunteer attorneys. How did the project help you?
Sheala: That was honestly the only way I was able to complete my name change. In PA I had to go in front of a judge, I would have done the papers all wrong, they were also able to minimize the cost to me. Without that I would not have been able to afford the name change.
Monika: How important is legal advice for transgender people?
Sheala: it is very important legal advice is needed for many things from a name change to basic civil rights.
Monika: What do you think about the present situation of transgender women in the American society?
Sheala: That is a very difficult question to answer. There are many factors that lay into how a trans woman is treated. The largest being just location, however in general I believe that there is becoming more acceptance.
Monika: At what age did you transition into woman yourself? Was it a difficult process?
Sheala: I began my transition at 31 after I finally found out what the feeling I had always had really meant. There were a lot of emotional challenges. But it was honestly easier to transition then to continue to live the way that I had.
Monika: At that time of your transition, did you have any transgender role models that you followed?
Sheala: I can’t say that there was any one in particular. I watched several YouTube videos and feed off their strength.
Monika: Are there are any transgender ladies that you admire and respect now?
Sheala: There are so any, we all have our own individual stories to tell. We have all fought our own battles. There are a few names that I would like to recognize. Diane Schatz she is a local transwoman that helped me realize my potential. Then there is Autumn Sky Dirnberger her and her wife Pamela has help me and my wife with this challenging time.
Monika: What was the hardest thing about your coming out?
Sheala: I would have to say fear of rejection was the hardest part for me. There is also the constant fear of violence.
Monika: What do you think about transgender stories or characters which have been featured in films, newspapers or books so far?
Sheala: The stories recently have been getting much better in portraying us in a more positive light. We used to be shown as the hookers or the mentally ill. Now the shows are showing that we are not those people, we do not have a mental disorder and not all of us rely on sex work for a living.
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?
Sheala: It is difficult to do that without separating our self’s from them. And to be honest I question if we really belong. But I do recognize that we have faced the same discrimination and in many cases still do.
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?
Sheala: I am honestly not sure. I know there are a couple people that have came out nationally that I believe will help bring awareness to trans issues.
Monika: Are you active in politics? Do you participate in any lobbying campaigns? Do you think transgender women can make a difference in politics?
Sheala: In the short, no I am not.
Monika: Do you like fashion? What kind of outfits do you usually wear? Any special fashion designs, colours or trends?
Sheala: I don’t fallow fashion trends I just wear that looks good and makes me feel good. I would be the girl to wear a dress every day if I could. I just know that practicality wise I just cant…
Monika: Could you tell me about the importance of love in your life?
Sheala: If it wasn’t for my wife Megan Reinertson, the love of my life I would not be here now. She has been my rock, the one that I can turn to when times get rough and we face it together.
Monika: Many transgender ladies write their memoirs. Have you ever thought about writing such a book yourself?
Sheala: I have thought about starting a YouTube blog; I just can’t bring myself to go anywhere with it.
Monika: Are you working on any new projects now?
Sheala: Well right now I am working on getting my insurance provider to cover transgender related care. In hopes to be able to complete a couple surgeries completed in a year or so.
Monika: What would you recommend to all transgender girls struggling with gender dysphoria?
Sheala: It gets better. Do something that will distract you from the moment. Something that will take you from the situation that you are in and allow you to forget for a moment. Having another person to talk to after you had calmed down helps greatly as well.
Monika: Sheala, thank you for the interview!
All the photos: courtesy of Sheala Dawn Reinertson.