Monday, 21 December 2020

Interview with Danielle Marie


Monika: Today I am going to host a special guest. Danielle Marie is an American transgender woman that documents her transition on Reddit.com. We are going to chat about her transition journey and inspirations. Hello Danielle!
Danielle: Hello Monika! Thank you very much for reaching out to me. I appreciate the opportunity to share my story with others and I love that you're helping provide a platform for people to share their journeys with others.
Monika: Could you say a few words about yourself?
Danielle: So I am a 33-year-old trans woman. I'm coming up on a year of HRT in January of 2021. It's definitely been an interesting year to start transitioning during, for sure. I am pretty geeky, and have a passion for entertainment. Whether that be movies, television, books, comics, or video games, entertainment has always been of interest to me.
Monika: Why did you decide to share your transition details on social media?
Danielle: Incidentally, a meme on Reddit is what got me to start questioning in the first place. My exposure to transgender people in general had been very limited prior to Reddit. My own misconceptions about what it meant to be trans and lack of knowledge about the transition process prevented me from actively questioning earlier in my life. I want to help educate people, both cis and trans, about what it means to be transgender so that it makes it easier for those who come after me.
Monika: Do you get many questions from your Reddit readers? What do they ask for? 
Danielle: Surprisingly not as many as I would hope. Occasionally I will get questions from other trans women about how I do my makeup or where I got my glasses. For those wondering, I recommend Stef Sanjati's makeup tutorials for trans women and I get my glasses from Zenni Optical.
A lot of people do like to ask if I've always known that I'm a woman and the answer is... kind of? I grew up lamenting the fact that I was stuck in a body I didn't want, but I didn't think there were any viable alternatives that would address my underlying dysphorias. HRT alone has addressed the bulk of my dysphoria, and I think there's a genuine lack of knowledge among cis people as to how HRT affects people.
"I want to help educate people, both cis and
trans, about what it means to be transgender
so that it makes it easier for those who
come after me."
Monika: What was the strangest question that you answered? :)
Danielle: I'm a pretty open book when it comes to questions about my personal life and my body, so I don't get a lot of questions that I find strange. The one recurring question I do get though that I find frustrating is "Do you enjoy RuPaul's Drag Race?" It always makes me cringe when people assume I enjoy drag because I'm trans. Pro tip to cis people out there: trans women are not men wearing makeup. It's pretty offensive to get that question as regularly as I do.
Monika: We all pay the highest price for the fulfillment of our dreams to be ourselves. As a result, we lose our families, friends, jobs, and social positions. Did you pay such a high price as well? What was the hardest thing about your coming out?
Danielle: I will be honest... I have been very fortunate compared to others. I have a wife who is pansexual, so my transition was not a deal-breaker for our marriage. I have in-laws who have been extremely welcoming and loving towards me from day one. My work (especially my direct manager) has been absolutely incredible and accommodating. With only two minor exceptions, it has not changed my friendships in any way.
The biggest price I've paid has been my direct family. My sister (and by extension, brother-in-law and nephews) are unfortunately no longer a part of my life. For several months, my parents (who I was previously extremely close with) also were not part of my life. They are slowly coming around and I'm hopeful that things will get better with time.
Monika: How did your wife feel about your transition? Was she surprised?
Danielle: My wife was definitely surprised. I didn't tell her until I was sure, so it kind of blindsided her. It's not like I had some long history with wearing or having interest in women's clothing or makeup, or even having many interests that leaned historically feminine. The first time I wore a dress was after coming to terms with being trans, rather than before. The same can be said for makeup as well.
My wife's immediate response was acceptance, followed by fear of what this could mean for our relationship with my family. She took it in stride, and immediately helped show me how to do my makeup, joined the mypartneristrans subreddit and bought me breast forms. I'm indescribably fortunate to have her as a wife, and I cherish every day that I spend with her.
Monika: Are you satisfied with the effects of the hormone treatment?
Danielle: I am! HRT has been a wild ride for me. I'm a weird edge case where the effects came much sooner and stronger than I was anticipating. This has come with its own set of issues, such as it has been difficult on my body to undergo such a rapid change. Additionally it greatly accelerated my timeline for coming out publicly. That said, other than marrying my wife, going on HRT is the best decision I have ever made.
Monika: We are said to be prisoners of passing or non-passing syndrome. Although cosmetic surgeries help to overcome it, we will always be judged accordingly. How can we cope with this?
Danielle: I come at this question from a place of privilege. I am a white, cis-passing trans woman. Part of the reason I don't intend to go stealth is because it's my responsibility to leverage the privilege that I have in order to advocate for others. You should not have to be cis-passing to be accepted for who you are. You do not need to be cis-passing to be beautiful. You do not have to have dysphoria to be trans. Everyone is deserving of love, community and validation.
Monika: Are there any transgender role models that you follow or followed?
Danielle: For all of her faults, I came to terms with my gender identity while following Natalie Wynn. I understand the controversies surrounding her, and do not condone any of the problematic viewpoints that have understandably upset the non-binary community. I do believe that people can learn and grow, and I hope that the backlash that she has received continues to have her reflect on how her actions can affect others.
As previously mentioned, Stef Sanjati's channel helped me to learn make-up techniques specific to trans women. It also gave me glimpses of various types of surgeries that can be involved in transitioning.
Currently, the Gender Rebels podcast has been a sort of therapy outside of therapy for me. It's helped provide me with insights into gender and helped push me to become a better person.
"The first time I wore a dress was after coming
to terms with being trans, rather than before." 
Monika: I must say I am a big fan of Stef Sanjati’s vlog. Which of her make-up techniques did you find most helpful?
Danielle: The go-to video for me was her “Transition 101 - Make-up Class for Beginners” video. I had no idea what I was doing when I first started out, so having a video that assumed I knew nothing was very helpful.
As far as specific techniques, I cannot stress enough how important contouring is to helping people who are attempting to feminize their face. Also for those like me who struggle with facial hair shadow, be sure to look up color-correcting concealer tutorial videos!
Monika: She covered different aspects of facial feminization surgery too. I guess that when we contemplate such a surgery we always face two options: to undergo extremely deep changes to be feminine and beautiful or light changes to be feminine but preserve something from our character. Is there any third option?
Danielle: I would love to see non-passing face shapes be normalized in society. Stef Sanjati’s videos on how drastically FFS can change your appearance were inspiring, and I definitely considered going that route for a while. I’ve personally reconsidered it for myself and likely will no longer pursue it. I think everyone’s needs, dysphorias (or lack thereof) and goals are unique to themselves and it’s ultimate up to the individual to decide what’s best for them. That said, I would definitely like to get to a place where people don’t feel pressured to undergo cosmetic surgeries if they do not want to.
Monika: What do you think about the present situation of transgender women in your country?
Danielle: I think that while there is much work to be done in the United States, especially with the large steps backwards that we took during the Trump administration, I'm hopeful that things will improve. I think that there's more dialogue here now than ever, and I think that's a good thing.
I live in North Carolina, which was home to the infamous transphobic bathroom bill. I think what a lot of people don't realize, however, is that the bill was passed in large part due to our corrupt state legislature rather than the will of the people. The majority of the people in the state were against it, and thanks to financial pressure from corporations, celebrities and institutions it was eventually overturned. I think the tide is turning here and we'll get back on track to societal acceptance.
Monika: Do you like fashion? What kind of outfits do you usually wear? Any special fashion designs, colours or trends?
Danielle: I do enjoy fashion! Until I transitioned, I never cared about clothes. Now, my fashion sense changes with my mood. Some days I'll have a cottagecore aesthetic, other days I may rock a witchy look. My makeup and fashion choices each day reflect parts of my mood or what I feel that I'm in need of that day.
Monika: What do you think about transgender beauty pageants?
Danielle: I tend to find beauty pageants in general to be counter-productive towards feminist ideals. Beauty is subjective, and I don't like the idea of women having to be judged by a societal view of what is considered to be conventional beauty. I don't begrudge anyone who wishes to be a part of one, and I definitely understand the appeal of being praised by others for physical appearance. That said, I personally am not a fan.
Monika: Are you involved in the life of the local LGBTQ community?
Danielle: I am not as involved in the local community as I would like to be, outside of my partners. This is largely due to the pandemic, however. My involvement with the community in general has been mostly online, other than a handful of friends who are also members of the community. 
Monika: Could you tell me about the importance of love in your life?
Danielle: Love is extremely important to my life. My wife and I are polyamorous, and I am very blessed to have 3 other partners beyond my wife who mean the world to me. I find that love is not a zero-sum game, and that my love for one person does not diminish my love for another. Having my partners has helped ground me this year during what are obviously extremely trying times.
"Transitioning does come at a price, but
it's a price worth paying."
Monika: Did the transition make you feel attracted to men?
Danielle: Incidentally, just the opposite. I used to identify as bisexual and now I identify as a lesbian. I’ve found that the way I’m treated by men now that I am viewed as a woman has turned me off towards men entirely. All of my current partners are either non-binary or are women.
Monika: Many transgender ladies write their memoirs. Have you ever thought about writing such a book yourself?
Danielle: I'll be honest, I hadn't really considered it prior to this question. Perhaps I will do that someday! I'd been considering hosting a podcast alongside another one of my friends to share our stories and help educate others. Maybe a book will naturally develop from that. 
Monika: What is your next step in the present time and where do you see yourself within the next 5-7 years?
Danielle: I only recently finalized my legal name change, so my immediate next steps are to update my name everywhere that it's applicable. Once that has completed, I will begin the process of discussing gender confirmation surgery with my therapist. A current requirement of GCS for my insurance is to get two therapists to sign off stating they believe it to be medically necessary for me. My ability to do so will largely be determined by the outcome of that process.
As of right now, I’m taking my time and taking each day as it comes. Honestly, I just hope to be happy and healthy in 5 years’ time. If things really go my way, potentially a homeowner!
Monika: What would you recommend to all transgender women that are afraid of transition?
Danielle: There was a lovely saying I remember reading early on in my transition that I wholeheartedly agree with. To paraphrase, it essentially said "You will lose access to people, places and things in order to become the woman that you are. Choose her every time." Transitioning does come at a price, but it's a price worth paying. I honestly don't know how many more years I would have had left in me if I hadn't transitioned. Now life feels full and vibrant where it had once felt hollow and a chore.
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?
Danielle: I absolutely agree with this sentiment. I often have thought of my life as a book. Transitioning is the end of one chapter and the start of another. It's important to remember that there's far more to the story once that chapter has completed.
Everyone's story is different, and trying to compare yourself to others will only reinforce negative things such as impostor syndrome or disappointment. Instead, focus on your own journey and realize that you have a story worth telling.
Monika: Danielle, it was a pleasure to interview you. Thanks a lot!
Danielle: Thank you very much, Monika! It's been a wonderful experience and I wish you and all of your readers well!

All the photos: courtesy of Danielle Marie.
Done on 21 December 2020.
© 2020 - Monika Kowalska  

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