Saturday, 12 August 2017

Interview with Aleana Robins

Monika: Today it is my pleasure and honour to interview Aleana Robins, a former skier, grave digger, performance car driver, small business owner, farmer, artist, radio announcer, blogger, parent of 7 children from Riverside, California, and the author of the biographical book titled “The Shadow of Ally” (2016). She lives in Launceston, a city in the north of Tasmania, Australia. Hello Aleana!
Aleana: Hello and thank you for taking the time. I promise you can ask anything but I will not promise you will like my answer (((smiles))). Though I would love to say that the start of my Journey’s began in California but I have lived all over the western side of the US. I moved to Australia in 2002 to be with my former spouse.
Monika: Could you say a few words about yourself? The number of your talents and jobs is really awesome …
Aleana: I grew up in a middle-income family with a mother who did not know how to care and a father who was lost in his battles with PTSD from Vietnam. I think in some ways my teenage years while dysfunctional was also a place where I gained so many talents. I have enjoyed playing several musical instruments learned to have a love for music and the arts that has only grown in age. I love skiing and the sound of fresh powder under my skies. I am a proud parent of seven children, I know people think wow a breeder, lol. But I would not change their love and the experiences that come with them in my life for all the Tea in China.
Monika: Why did you decide to write your autobiography?
Aleana: I am very different than from a lot of people when they start Transitioning. I don’t dead the past. I am very thankful for what Allen did, I know it sounds like I have two lives in one shell. But to me that is the only way I can make sense of why I am like I am. When I started my transition as an adult; I say in my book it was an experience to have Allen protecting Ally. I don’t think I would have made it to this point in my life if it would not have been for the amazing strength of Allen. He went through hell several times in just protecting me. So, killing him off was not right but saying thank you and here is his story was. It also allowed a chance to heal from all the past pain that Allen had to suffer in protecting Ally (me).
The book available via Amazon.
I also wanted people to know that while Allen went through so many issues to get me to a safe point where I could live he should not be forgotten and nor should his struggles. As with a lot of the Trans community we all face some form of backlash at one point or another. His struggles show that it can be worth it in the end. So here I am writing my own book in my own life thanks to him. Even now as I write this tears flow in thankfulness for him.
Monika: Which aspects of your experience can be useful for other transwomen?
Aleana: Believe in yourself, this is so very important as many will not. There is a Latin quote that was told to Allen so many years ago and I have kept it close to my heart as well “Illegitimi non carborundum” which loosely translated means “Don’t let the Bastards grind you down”. Yeah, we as the Trans community will face huge hurdles but we need to hold our heads high, we are worth it.
I don’t really want to plug my book too much but “The Shadow of Ally”. The experiences that Allen and I went through are far too many to list in such a short time. I encourage people to take the time and have a read. I also took the time to address questions that so many people have about being Trans and a bit advice for younger Trans as well.
Monika: At what age did you transition into woman yourself? Was it a difficult process?
Aleana: My Transition is not one of simplicity Allen tried so many times to allow me to come to life (so to speak). But every time it was met with some sort of violence. The final time that it happened resulted in a large amount of violence towards Allen and the last of the children at home. It was so bad that the choice to flee was made in the dead of night fearing for our safety. It was at that point that Allen said enough is enough and stepped aside. Allen was 45, I never thought I was going to be able to come out of the shadows. I made sure to educate myself on all the psychological and physical issues surrounding my stepping out of the shadows. I don’t feel like I was in a closet as I was always with Allen and even to this day Allen is with me. BTW, I don’t have Multi Personality Disorder, it is just a way to describe what my life is like. Two sides of the same coin so to speak.
Monika: At that time of your transition, did you have any transgender role models that you followed?
Aleana: When I was young and questioning what the hell was going on in my head and body I saw The Renée Richards story and it all clicked. It made sense I was not a freak or anything else derogatory. But in my little town I could not find any resources so I started to research the term “Transsexual” and at a point I hit a wall of knowledge until the age of 20ish. But by then Allen was in full protection mode. I wish there would have been body positive role models but they were in the shadows as well. But as I teach my children we must be very careful who we choose as role models. There are so many different vipers in the tall grass of life.
The Renée Richards story.
Monika: Are there are any transgender ladies that you admire and respect now?
Aleana: In 2014, I was watching YouTube and stumbled upon Laura Jane Grace. Don’t really recall how or why but listening to her story at the time I started to feel a kindred spirit. Then as time rolled on I met a real Hero who to this day I have even had the chance to chat with a few times Cate McGregor. The Strength that these wonderful women showed me is that I could do it if they could so I am working on it.
I make no excuse for my views on Caitlyn Jenner. But I feel that even to this very day I say “No thank you” for her help. I was so very hopeful when she stepped out of her shadows that she could have been a power force for change. But in the end she turned out to be a festering sore that pops up time in again.
So, I say this to every young trans person out there choose wisely. There are some amazing role models to listen to like Janet Mock, Cate McGregor, Jazz (there is a beautiful young lady, wise beyond her age), Renee’ Richards, Laverne Cox, and the list goes on and on. But choose wisely to whom you listen to and follow. Choose those whose character is above reproach but even heroes have flaws. Just make sure those flaws are ones that you can live with.
Monika: We all pay the highest price for the fulfillment of our dreams to be ourselves. As a result, many trans women lose their families, friends, jobs, and social positions. Did you pay such a high price as well? What was the hardest thing about your coming out?
Aleana: When Allen was 12, 14, 16, 18, 35 and at 45 he told his mother how he was feeling and it did not go well and in fact it opened up a huge amount of neglect and abuse that was always hidden from the public eye as well as his Father. Allen tried so many times to win her acceptance but in the end, it never happened. I have even had a run in with her while she was on her death bed. That was not only the only cost Allen and I had, we lost our sisters who followed the hate of their mother. In fact, one of them fanned the flames of hate to great extents. Allen and I lost contact with two of our Daughters. I also lost a small number of friends though looking back that they were not real friends. Though I am very blessed that a core group of friends “Leaves” that have hung in there and shaded me from a lot of pain and empty times.
There is a huge cost to be true to oneself that is not always able to be seen at the planning stages of coming out of your shadows. But you can buffer the harm they cause but making good choices in those to whom you called friends and loved ones. Don’t be afraid to cut off those who spill forth their hate. Being True to yourself is above all, is the wisest choice, I am not the first to say this. I would rather have a friend who knows who they are and are honest than a person like Donald Trump.
Monika: The transgender community is said to be thriving now. As Laverne Cox announced “Trans is beautiful.” Teenage girls become models and dancers, talented ladies become writers, singers, and actresses. Those ladies with interest in politics, science, and business become successful politicians, academics, and businesswomen. What do you think in general about the present situation of transgender women in the contemporary society? Are we just scratching the surface or the change is really happening?
Aleana: Wow, I am sorry but I disagree with those who are saying we are thriving. The Youth suicide rate is still hanging in there at about 40%. Governments are actively trying to harm the Trans community, example the US and bathroom bills. In less than six months 17 transwomen have been murdered. What we are seeing is a popularity contest for acceptance. Meaning that if you are a perfect beauty, rich, extremely talented or just plain lucky you’ll make it.
Allen talking to Son G.
This is not reality; the truth is that no matter if you are MtF or FtM hormones play hell on body. So not everyone can look 100% the way they feel inside and some have to learn to come to terms with it and in current society this pressure is very difficult. Some countries don’t support the health programs with assist the Transgender community. Gender affirming surgery is not covered in healthcare programs and it is considered cosmetic. So, costs to assist the Trans community are out-of-pocket expenses.
What would be Thriving would be that health care is fully covered, that governments stop passing bills that harm, we stop seeing job discrimination, and we stop being compared to the Cis-gendered. Then let’s look at the topic again….
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?
Aleana: I think in a perfect world we could see that the Gender issue did not exist and thus the “T” would not need to be a part of the current LGBT+ communities. It is not perfect by any means and we have a lot to benefit from being grouped with others who are fighting for their own rights as well as there is strength in numbers. While they help support us we should support their needs. To also look at the fact that some of us reside in more than one letter of that acronym.
Monika: What do you think in general about transgender news stories or characters which have been featured in films, newspapers or books so far? 
Aleana: Okay I hope your readers are sitting down. I really avoid main stream news, TV shows and most movies. I do however pick and choose what news is important and normally not from main stream.
I love to listen to the Young Turks on YouTube. As for how the Trans community portrayed, I think it is very simple based upon where in the world you are at. In Australia, I feel very safe and secure. Though if I was in the US I feel that the media has a large amount to answer for with its continued fear mongering and how it portrays the Trans community as a whole. When Bathroom bills are being proposed and the evidence says they are worthless the media should help in the squashing of them. But the truth is they fan the fears of the uneducated populace. I also believe that 90% of the worlds religion have a lot to answer for with their passive aggressive stance towards the LGBT+ communities. 
Aleana with Son H.
As far as film I still in shock at the use of cisgendered people in Trans roles. I refuse to watch films that do that. I was saddened to see the loss of Senses8 this year. Though I am still very proud to see Lavern Cox in her roles. But I am a big fan of Doctor Who and Game of Thrones, lol.
Monika: Do you participate in any lobbying campaigns? Do you think transgender women can make a difference in politics?
Aleana: I really don’t get into politics. I pay attention and I raise my voice when needed. But activism is not really my bag of beans. I spend my time raising my children to be good members of the community. I feel I can influence the world directly by first being a good parent. My father once said make sure your own house is in order before worrying about others.
I took that to heart and while I am sharing custody with my Ex on a 50/50 basis I am at school every day to say good morning and at the end of their school day to make sure they had a good day. I speak all the time with the teachers as I feel small changes are easier than big ones when it comes to education. I expose them to all communities’ LGBT+ and otherwise. I also expose them to multi-cultural environments.
Do I think Transwomen can make a difference? Simple Yes. Some people are very good at and it does not matter what gender they are.
Monika: Do you like fashion? What kind of outfits do you usually wear? Any special fashion brands, colours or trends?
Aleana: Gosh I am really bad. One of my close girlfriends points out on a regular basis I am such a Femme. To that I have to admit I am a girly girl. Allen Was a black or black type of person, there is only once colour and that was black. Now I love the ability to wear colours and the way they can make me feel. Yellow is a no go zone I have since found out someone should have told that to a 17 y/o Allen a long time ago. Trends, oh I am in my 40’s trends ha ha ha…… But yeah I do try to avoid clothes that make me stand out. But I sometimes get suckered into very vibrant colours and clothes.
I think once I came out of the shadows I was free and enjoy the colours of life and I am not going to stop. RED mmmm…….lol
Monika: I have read somewhere that cisgender women were liberated thanks to the development of contraceptive pill whereas transgender women are free now thanks to the development of cosmetic surgery, so they are no longer prisoners of passing or non-passing syndrome …
Aleana: No, the Trans community is still a prisoner to so many different issues. I think the passing non-passing is only the tip of the iceberg. Case in point is the issue that some of us feel that to be accepted we have to have facial surgeries, vocal surgery and the like no matter the risk.
Ally and Daughter N.
When you look at ciswomen they come in all shapes sizes and levels of beauty. The more we accept the media classification of beauty the more we become slaves to it. Yes, I will agree that you have a right to shape your body to your level of so called beauty. But where does it end? Also by doing so are we teaching young women that to be beautiful you have to conform?
What lies under the water is the struggles all women face. So are we really free?
Monika: Could you tell me about the importance of love in your life? 
Aleana: Well this is the can of worms’ question, lol. Let’s start off with I am very much in love with being a parent to my children and their lives. They are my world and I show them in every way that they are loved and cared for. I learned that from my experiences that love for your children can make or break their childhood.
Now for a different part all together on this question. I was married for 14 years to the mother of our last three children to whom I share equal custody with. When it ended I felt a loss that shattered all my ideals on the term “True love”. In these last few years I have had the ability to reach the understanding of what is important in my life as far as love in concerned. I started to look at what I needed in a partner and tried to avoid the issue of want. I also looked at the issue of misunderstanding of mistaking lust for love. In doing so I am able to know what I am looking for in a partner.
But I would also like to touch on something that is a real fact for the Trans community. That being the issue of finding relationships is so very hard and in a way very new. You see I am still attracted to women and I have no clue how to approach them. Let alone who I can approach so now I am hanging back and seeing what time will unfold. It is a whole new world of dating women who are attracted to women. 
Then you have others like a friend of mine who are attracted to men. There are a huge amount of unforeseen risks there. Some that women have been dealing with since the dawn of time.
But I will also like to stress to everyone there is NO EXCUSE FOR ABUSE! Don’t accept it and think it will change, it doesn’t believe me I have learned.
Monika: Are you working on any new projects now?
Aleana: Oh gosh yes. I am working about 3 books at the same time. I would have never thought that I would ever be a writer after all I am Dyslexic. I would be lost without my editor, I hope she does not kill me for not giving this to her first, lol.
I am hoping by the end of the year to have my second book published called “Leaves”. This is the first book I am not writing in front of the world it is a bit of a top secret until it is out.
My second book is a cookbook I know it sounds funny and if you know my mother she had a very hard time in cooking. Microwaves were the biggest blessing growing up thanks dad. I learned a lot about cooking and some wonderful meals that my kids have grown to love.
Aleana with Son G.
Well I said to the world if that nutter called Trump becomes the President I am quitting. So, I have started my application to become an Australian Citizen. I have had it, to many stupid people ignore the warning signs over there. On top of that Australia has been very good to me. I need to pay it back by being able to vote.
Monika: What would you recommend to all transgender girls struggling with gender dysphoria?
Aleana: When times get hard and we both know they will. Learn to ground yourself and then learn how to take 10 ten minutes to center your energies. Then learn to take one night a week and have a relaxing bath with nice music and bubbles, candles and just pamper yourself.
Just take the time to reflect on nothing but your physical needs. I find that once my physical needs are reset I can then start to reflect upon life based issues and see a clearer path and solution. I was very lucky to have a brother from another mother who is an expert in helping others. Who saw my needs in grounding and worked very hard to teach me how to do it and the benefits. Ever since, I am able to reset when I need it the most.
Yes, I still have my dysphoric times and that cannot be avoided but I now have the power to avoid them from shutting my world down.
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?
Aleana: I think I would like to expand upon her thoughts. This last year I took the time to study Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. I then started to reflect upon my needs more than my wants and once those were met I began to understand the true importance of life. I started to see the blessings that I am surrounded with.
My children and I after we fled from domestic violence we gave our time to doing a bread run. What a bread run is, is taking the left-over bread from a local bakery and giving it to those who are doing it a bit hard. I found that this not only allowed us as a family to grow it helped us see that our problems are not as big as they might seem. We did it for a year we saw so many faces shine in love for our acts of kindness. What was even better is I am Trans and I cared for them without asking for anything in return.
Then I was asked by a friend if I might be willing to take my experiences to a different audience. I was invited to join the Human Library project. I have been so blessed to enjoy talking to others about my life and about being a Transwoman. To others who might never meet me on another stage.
I started my blog about 3 years ago in a way to make money. But as I kept writing it I started thinking maybe it is better to give away the information about being trans. Once I started to look at giving to others it made my outlook on life change.
So, in conclusion I would say this we are more than a bag of bones and blood. We are more than a sum of our parts. We are amazing creatures filled with love, hopes, dreams and kindness. Once we grasp who we really are magic of our souls will truly flow.
Monika: Aleana, thank you for the interview!
Aleana: You’re more than welcome.

All the photos: courtesy of Aleana Robins. 
Done on 12 August 2017
© 2017 - Monika 

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