Monika: Today it is my pleasure and honour to interview Reena Gibson, a British writer and author of her new biographical book titled “The Long Road Ahead” (2015), as well as lead singer and guitarist of the Birmingham rock band Milestone Road. Hello Reena!
Reena: Monika, thank you so much for the interview, I’m overwhelmed that you’ve asked me.
Monika: Could you say a few words about yourself?
Reena: How long do you have? Seriously, I could chat for England! I’m just over three years into my second transition as a woman, I first came out when I was 24 which was 21 years ago and a time which was still very unaccepting for people to come out to society as trans. This time around has still met with some rather difficult challenges, I have a family now which has added strain on all sides, there have been times of self-doubt and indeed there have been a few times where I’ve just wanted to give up on life altogether. But really though, I’d call myself just a “normal” woman, trying to find her way through life like anyone else.
Monika: Why did you decide to write your autobiography?
Reena: Initially I felt that I needed it for myself, a book that was never going to be released to the world, but rather keep it as a complex and detailed diary for myself to look through and look back on later in life. But then, as I went along in my transition I realized had a story that needed telling, but I didn’t want it to be a typical trans related story just about transition.
My life is more than just about transition, I am more than just that part of my life. So I decided to include everything about my life in the first 27 years which takes me to the end of my first transition, the highs and the lows, and who I am as a person. I think I also needed closure on those early years too, writing the book offered me a way to come to terms with my past and who I am as a person.
|"The Long Road Ahead" via Amazon.|
I believed that I could, that all of this would eventually go away and I could pretend that it had never happened. The truth is though that it never goes away, it just resides within you, hidden away to haunt you once more when you least expect it to. There’s no cure for Gender Dysphoria nor will there ever be.
In 1997 I ended up reinventing myself and my persona, much like Bowie did in the 70’s and Madonna in the 80’s. Creating a new aspect of myself, I wanted to be the alpha male, someone you could look at and never guess that I’d ever tried to transition as a woman. I suppose I was scared of my past, that it would come back and destroy the new life I’d tried to create for myself, and my new family.
What society needs to understand more importantly though is that we don’t just wake up one morning and decide to be trans, it’s who we are. Many of us, myself especially, will go through long agonizing moments, months and years even, where we try to deny ourselves. The reason? Because the world doesn’t readily accept those people who don’t fit into stereotypical pigeon holes, that’s always been my perception anyway. But as this current journey has proven to me, there are probably more people out there who accept you for being yourself than there are those who don’t.
Tiffany had that youthful raw voice, much like Stevie Nicks that I loved, I was also pretty much into more of her album material too. Debbie came across as probably my biggest inspiration though, she wrote and performed everything she did but as a young girl she was immensely talented too. They were both a year younger than I was but had already achieved much more in life than I had.
|Courtesy of Reena Gibson.|
One of the tracks we perform, “I Want You” which I wrote last year is the first track where I think I’ve musically connected with how I used to write songs, and myself. It’s not so much the heavier rock sound I was looking for but it’s more musically connected to how I felt at the time.
I was 42 when I came out again for the second time, at the risk of losing everything I knew I had no other option but to be true to myself. The following year was a very difficult time, depression and suicidal tendencies born out the need to escape and be true to myself.
|Courtesy of Reena Gibson.|
This time around I still had those as role models but my main focus have been those in music such as Laura Jane Grace and Namoli Brennett. Seeing how they have made a success of being trans women in music.
For their hard work for the trans cause it would have to be Paris Lees for being so blunt and honest, local Birmingham hero Megan Key for coming out from the shadows and showing us all how it’s done. Also to my good friend Kate Hutchinson from Wales and all of the other unsung heroes who work in the background unnoticed.
|Milestone Road Band via milestoneroad.co.uk.|
Monika: Do you participate in any lobbying campaigns? Do you think transgender women can make a difference in politics?
I like to make the special effort whenever I get the rare chance to go out and socialize with friends. Not sure if I’m a fashion freak or even into designer clothes. If it’s affordable, looks good and feels good then I’m happy to wear it rather than pay over the odds for something that I might only wear a few times.
I’ve also started work on the second part of my first book “Becoming Reena”. It’s going to take another three years or so to complete though so please don’t expect anything soon. My new job (I’m a very lucky girl) is very enjoyable but also exhausting so I’m trying to fit everything in wherever I can.
All the photos: courtesy of Reena Gibson.