Saturday, 4 March 2017

Interview with Savannah Burton


Monika: Today it is my pleasure and honour to interview Savannah Burton, a Canadian actress, and accomplished athlete, the first out Trans athlete in Canadian history to compete in team sports internationally. Hello Savannah!
Savannah: Hi Monika! It’s wonderful to talk with you.
Monika: Could you say a few words about yourself?
Savannah: I’m originally from Corner Brook, Newfoundland Canada and moved to Toronto in my early 20’s. My 2 biggest passions would have to be acting and participating in sports.
Monika: When did you decide that acting would be your vocation?
Savannah: I’ve loved movies from a very early age. They have the ability to inspire and elicit incredible emotion. After my first acting class in my 20’s I was hooked. Having positive reactions to scenes I was performing made me want to continue this joyful experience we call acting.
Monika: Operation Fake Date (2014), Beauty and the Beast (as Cashier, 2014), offered you new opportunities …
Savannah: Landing the role on Beauty and the Beast was a big step for me. It was my first role on a major network as my authentic self. I was between agents at the time and this certainly helped with my credibility as an actress.
Savannah in "Killjoys" (2016)
Monika: And finally your recent role in: “Killjoys” (as Itchy Woman, 2016) ...
Savannah: It was such a thrill to work on Killjoys. It’s a fun Sci-fi space action adventure show by the amazing showrunner Michelle Lovretta.
I’ve always been a huge sci-fi fan and I think that my look is well suited for this genre in particular.
Monika: You are a member of the Canadian National Women's Dodgeball team. This sport is not known well in Europe. How did you start practicing it?
Savannah: Baseball was something I had played most of my life and Dodgeball has similar skill sets with respect to throwing and catching.
My early experience certainly helped develop my dodgeball game at a fairly quick pace and allowed me to reach the International level.
Monika: There are more and more positive examples of transgender women doing well in sports, just to name a few: Fallon Fox in MMA fighting, Gabrielle Ludwig in basketball, a group of golfers: Lana Lawless, Bobbi Lancaster, Mianne Bagger, RenĂ©e Richards and Andrea Paredes in tennis, Terri O'Connell in car racing or Michelle Dumaresq in mountain bike racing. What do they have in common that they were or are always criticized for having the advantage of “male muscles”. Did you face the same opposition?
Savannah: They are all great athletes who don’t get the credit they deserve. Michelle Dumaresq in particular is a hugh hero of mine. I think what she did while competing was absolutely incredible. While facing such horrible discrimination from all sides including having fellow competitors actually getting petitions together to try and stop her from competing.
I’ve never faced anything like that in Dodgeball but you don’t have to look any farther than the comments section of a sports article featuring any Trans female athlete to see the ugliness of transphobia that still exists in the world.
Monika: At what age did you transition into woman yourself?
Savannah: I tried to transition in my early 20’s though lack of support and lack of social understanding delayed my transition for over a decade. 
Monika: At that time of your transition, did you have any transgender role models that you followed?
Savannah: I don’t think enough can be said about the positive contributions by Trans video bloggers from YouTube during the late 2000’s. Sharing so many of their personal stories and experiences to the world via social media. I’m certain this was a big inspiration to many of us to take the important first steps of transition.
Savannah in "Beauty and the Beast" (2014).
Monika: Are there are any transgender ladies that you admire and respect now? 
Savannah: There are so many. Laverne Cox, Janet Mock, The Wachowski’s, SarahMcBride, Zachary Drucker, Shadi Petosky, Alexandra Billings, Erika Ervin, Jen Richards, Angelica Ross, Michelle Dumaresq, and list goes on.
Monika: What was the hardest thing about your coming out?
Savannah: Fear of losing everything. This is a legitimate fear as it’s still incredibly difficult be Trans.
Monika: The transgender cause is usually manifested together with the other LGBTQ communities. Being the penultimate letter in this abbreviation, is the transgender community able to promote its own cause within the LGBTQ group?
Savannah: One of the problems we have is that our numbers are not as big as the other groups in the acronym. We certainly need more paying jobs in many of these LGBTQ organizations which will help with the staggering numbers of us that live in poverty.
Monika: What do you think in general about transgender news stories or characters which have been featured in films, newspapers or books so far?
Savannah: Authentic positive portrayals of Trans individuals is vital to improving the quality of life of our community. Something the media almost always gets wrong is saying a Trans woman was a man before transition. We don’t have that problem when a gay person comes out, the writer doesn’t say the person used to be straight and then became gay. The Same respect should be given to Trans women. They were always women, even before transition.
Monika: Are you working on any new projects now?
Savannah: The Kiss is a short film that I am extremely excited about. It’s an important LGBTQ story, as it takes place in the 1950’s but still relates to things that are happening in the world today. Coming to a film festival near you in 2017-2018.


Monika: What would you recommend to all transgender girls struggling with gender dysphoria?
Savannah: Nobody knows you better than yourself. Trust in who you are and what you believe in. Find allies that support you and believe in you. Focus on the positive and keep moving forward on the goals that you set. Life is worth living, and show the world how beautiful and amazing you truly are.
Monika: My pen friend Gina Grahame wrote to me once that we should not limit our potential because of how we were born or by what we see other transsexuals and transgender people doing. Our dreams should not end on an operating table; that’s where they begin. Do you agree with this?
Savannah: I look at being Trans as a gift. All the hardships and difficulties I have gone through in my life have made me a stronger and more driven person and I look forward to the unknown adventures to come.
Monika: Savannah, thank you for the interview!
Savannah: It’s been my pleasure.

For more information about Savannah Burton, visit her website.

All the photos: courtesy of Savannah Burton.
Done on 4 March 2017
© 2017 - Monika 

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