Thursday, 2 February 2017

Interview with Renee Norlander


Monika: Today it is my pleasure and honor to interview Renee Norlander, writer, blogger, the author of the biographical book titled “Life from Both Sides: Deciphering the Transgendered Mind” (2015). Hello Renee!
Renee: Hi, Monika!
Monika: Could you say a few words about yourself?
Renee: In addition to being a mid-forties transwoman with grace and dignity, I am a published author, screenwriter, and co-owner of Risa Tortuga productions. I am recently divorced from a 15-year relationship that garnered two wonderful and beautiful children.
I suffered through the vast majority of my life thinking I was wrong for feeling the way I did. Having thoughts of changing my gender in such a way as to live as a woman, the woman I always felt I was meant to be.
With my writing and production company in their infancy, I am currently employed as an interstate truck driver. Being on the road for up to 11 hours at a time, I have many opportunities to reflect on myself and how I choose to live my life.
I have a wonderful group of friends in the Dallas, TX area and a completely amazing girlfriend in Albuquerque, NM. This cis-woman, who has known me since grade school, knows both the male and female side of me. She accepts both sides with class and a love I thought I would never feel again. I am neither political or religious in my opinions or lifestyle.
“Life from Both Sides: Deciphering
the Transgendered Mind” via Amazon.
My hobbies tend to run towards the infantile pleasures of video games and darts. I am also an avid singer who likes to frequent karaoke bars and will not shy away from grabbing the mic in front of a live band.
Monika: Why did you decide to write your autobiography?
Renee: Growing up, I felt that I was alone in my self-expression. I felt like I was the only one in the world with this “problem”. The experiences in the book were meant to let others in the trans community know that we are never alone. The content was also meant to show others that their own experiences are, or were not strange or perverted. We all discover ourselves and transition in unique ways.
Monika: Which aspects of your experience can be useful for other transwomen?
Renee: Finding myself and accepting who I really am has been a fantastic journey. I have found throughout the years that a main component to transitioning is acceptance of self. Once I accepted myself as a woman I projected that self-esteem to the world. I garnered much more respect and admiration from my peers and friends as a result.
Monika: At what age did you transition into woman yourself? Was it a difficult process? 
Renee: I have only recently made the transition. I began my journey in October of 2015 with a visit to my endocrinologist. During the last two years, I have not only begun to see physical changes, but mental and emotional ones as well.
Monika: At that time of your transition, did you have any transgender role models that you followed?
Renee: In this modern age of social media, it is easy to follow and admire a great number of individuals within the transgender community. I have followed the events of several young women as they have gone through various aspects and stages of transition. 
Monika: Are there are any transgender ladies that you admire and respect now?
Renee: Any woman that has the courage to stand up and proclaim their true identity is a hero in my book. My most sincere and truest respect goes out to these ladies and gentlemen who have thrown off the shackles of gender conformity.
Halloween 2013.
Monika: What was the hardest thing about your coming out?
Renee: Family relationships. My relationship became damaged beyond repair early in my life with my parents. It was the typical reaction and aftermath we have all seen.
My marriage ended late in 2014 due to my desire to transition as well. Both instances were directly related to my desire to be feminine and eventually transition. 
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?
Renee: Our attachment to the LGB community has been beneficial to give us traction. Without this community, we may have never been heard.
From what I have experienced, our cause within the community has not been of major importance. Trans rights are not really along the same lines as gay and lesbian rights, historically. However, we can rely on established activists within the community to aid us in getting our voices heard.
Monika: What do you think in general about transgender news stories or characters which have been featured in films, newspapers or books so far?
Renee: I recently binge watched the entire series of “Transparent” on Netflix. I found the entire series to contain good character development without being “too Transgendered”. Meaning the show focuses on other family dynamics besides the transition. The overall opinion of the transgendered community has risen greatly in the last several years. This, to me, seems to offer more respect and dignity to those in our community.
Monika: Do you participate in any lobbying campaigns? Do you think transgender women can make a difference in politics?
Renee: I make it a staunch policy to never talk politics on any subject. However, I do believe that there are those within our community that can make a difference within the political realm.
Monika: Do you like fashion? What kind of outfits do you usually wear? Any special fashion designs, colours or trends?
Renee: This is one area that I am completely lost in. I am just as comfortable in jeans and a tee shirt as I am in a glamorous cocktail dress. I have also been blessed with a fantastic figure, or so I have been told many times! I can usually be found wearing short mini-skirts during the warm months.
I am also 5’ 10” tall, so a fancy pair of stiletto heels pushes me several inches past the six-foot mark. My trademark colors ran to black for many years, a trend that I have successfully broken. I now look for bright colors when shopping for new clothes. I am also a certified bargain hunter. I can spend hours perusing through the resale racks at my local thrift stores. It usually does not matter if the brand is Versace or K-mart.
Monika: What do you think about transgender beauty pageants? Some activists criticize their value, pointing out that they lead to the obsession with youth and beauty.
Renee: There will always be critics to any kind of beauty pageant, no matter who the constants are. While I can agree to some extent that the participants in these events project an unrealistic body image, it is important to remember their competitive nature. Do we accuse professional athletes such as football players of projecting unrealistic goals for young boys?
Trying to flirt with the camera.
With regard to transgender pageants, the same could be said. How can any individual expect to develop a similar body to these women? Those of us who transitioned late in life, myself included, could never hope to have such a feminine figure. However, in support of these pageants, these contestants offer a glimpse of how glamourous we could all be.
Monika: Could you tell me about the importance of love in your life?
Renee: It is funny that you ask me that at this point in my life. I have recently reconnected with a school friend. She is a genetic woman whom I have known for 35 years. After one year of reconnecting, we are the best of friends and madly in love. I have just recently moved in with her and could not be any happier. So, in answer to your question, love is possibly the single most important aspect of my life. 
Monika: Are you working on any new projects now?
Renee: I am! I am currently working on a follow up to “Life from Both Sides” that will chronicle the influences in my life. From an early age to this moment, I have tried to decipher the influential people in my life. I have also just completed my first science fiction novel. Demons Creed is now available on Amazon. I have always been a sci-fi kind of girl, so it made sense that I would eventually write a fantasy book myself.
Monika: What would you recommend to all transgender girls struggling with gender dysphoria?
Renee: I would have to say never lose hope. Never give up on yourselves. There is beauty and grace in all of you. You are amazing and proud women who deserve respect and dignity!
Monika: Renee, thank you for the interview!

All the photos: courtesy of Renee Norlander.
Done on 2 February 2017
© 2017 - Monika 

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