Saturday, 16 February 2013

Interview with Diamond Stylz

Monika: Today I am meeting Diamond Stylz, an American singer, transgender activist, and vlogger. Diamond is originally from Indianapolis, Indiana but she lives in Houston, Texas. She is the Executive Director of Black Trans Women Inc, a national non-profit that is led by Black trans women focused on social advocacy for the transgender community. In addition, Diamond is a producer and creator of Marsha’s Plate podcast. Hello Diamond!
Diamond: Hello Monika, darling. I am so glad to be here.
Monika: What are you doing these days?
Diamond: Well I am loving and living life. In my free time, I'm doing videos for my vlog, shopping, and hanging out with my friends. My day job is retail management for a popular body care line here in America. That job is just to pay the bills.
As far as my music, I am still in a space of creating and getting better. I'm honing my craft by writing more and more in the hopes that I will be able to get some financial support to produce an album of my own original work.
I am building my presence as a transgender woman in the social media arena. There are so few examples of non-sexual role models for transwomen. I want to be one of them.
Monika: How would you define your music? Where do you take your inspirations from?
Diamond: Well right now my music is a blend of many acoustic sounds. Songs about love, life, and all things in between. I have influences of R&B, Rock, Folk, and Jazz music. So all of those genres will be infusion and showcased somewhere in my musical art.
Monika: How does your transgender status contribute to your artistic perception of the world?
Diamond: I think it allows me a unique perspective of topics like social issues, love, heartache happiness. We are such a marginalized demographic of people that when it is bad it is really BAD but when it is good it is really GOOD. Another aspect is my vocal sound... I am not afraid to embrace masculine or feminine elements in my voice. I appreciate that juxtaposition layered in one voice It makes me sound unique.

Diamond with her Mom.

Monika: Where did you grow up?
Diamond: I grew up in Indianapolis, Indiana, and Boston, Massachusetts with my mom and two little brothers. I was the only child for 7 years before my mom had another child. So I enjoyed being spoiled in my younger years lol.
Monika: Could you describe your childhood? When did you feel for the first time that you should not be a boy or man?
Diamond: I started to realize I was different around 5 years old. Honestly, it wasn't because I felt different on the inside. I didn't know how anyone else felt on the inside. How could I say I felt like a girl when it was impossible for me to know what a girl feels like.
Yes, I was more prone to things that are stereotypically associated with girls like dolls and dresses. My natural demeanor and mannerism were feminine and also associated with being “girly”. People treated me differently than other boys.
My classmates in school teased me about acting like a girl. My uncle would rough me up when I was young and tell me to stop acting like a faggot. I didn't know what “gay” meant at the time because I was not sexually active. But I know that how I acted naturally was something people didn't like and I knew I had to hide it. So there I was this naturally extrovert type person forced to be timid and introverted.
As I got older things changed. I met gay boys and at first, I thought that maybe the mold that I fit in. I quickly realized that wasn't it. Being gay didn't feel like home. It felt close to home but still not home. I didn't know what transgender was before 12. I didn't even know it was possible. It wasn't in my realm of thought. So if I said I knew I was transgender before that it would be a lie.
Before 12, it didn't have a name. I just knew that based on the two genders that I knew were possible, I was more like what I thought a girl was than what a boy was in my mind. Meeting another trans person living as the opposite sex they were born was the catalyst that allowed me to diagnose myself with it based on my feeling and interaction with the world. It created the possibility that a boy could actually BE a girl. There was something I could do about my situation. But once I learned I changed my mindset and my journey began to make my outside project my inside.
Monika: For most transgender girls, the most traumatic time is the time spent at school, college, or university when they had to face lots of discrimination. Was it the same in your case?
Diamond: I started to realize my social difference in elementary school. Once I found out what transgender was, I started to research it and started transitioning around the beginning of my high school years.
Yes, I had some hassle in high school and in college but overall it made me stronger and the good times outweighed the bad by so much. And at the end of the day, I have my degree in Psychology... So whatever they were trying to do to stop me or stress me out FAILED... Because I still reached my goal.... lol.

Diamond and her friend Valeria Spencer.

Monika: At what age did you transition into a woman? Was it a difficult process? Did you have any support from your family or friends? Did it have any impact on your job situation?
Diamond: The exact age was about 13-14. It was a slow process. I did everything gradually. Started to wear tighter more feminine clothes. Grew my hair out. Started getting French manicures. 
Started hormones at 16. Everything started to change over high school ... By the time I left high school, I was a B cup with a full head of hair living my womanhood full-time... lol.
Monika: Did you have any problems with passing as a woman? Did you undergo any cosmetic surgeries?
Diamond: I didn't have a horrible time passing because I started young which was a blessing but I also was not TOTALLY passable... It was more than 70% passable...
As I got older I learned more about blending in society, make-up application, more hormonal changes, and silicone work I had done. I just became more passable over time. Even now... I want FFS to take me to the next level. I think the ability to pass is a process for all of us. Sometimes that process is more difficult than others and that doesn't make any of us less of a woman or less entitled to be the woman we are.
I think as I grow older I'm getting more adamant about the community, NOT stressing pass-ability. I think that passability and surgeries are now used as a marker of trans validation which in turn allows for more divisiveness in the community which unfortunately seems to justify discrimination inside and out the community.
We want the mainstream society to not invalidate our women based on our birth genitalia but then we hypocritically invalidate our own kind based on whether or not they are passable or not...or if they have breasts or not ... or if they have a man-made vagina or not etc. I think it is unfortunate and we need to check that problem from the inside out.
Monika: We are living in times of modern cosmetic surgery that might allow transitioning even in the late 50s or 60s. Do you think it is really possible? What kind of advice do you have for transgender ladies at such an age?
Diamond: If your health allows you, I say GO FOR IT. It is never too late to be happy and walking in that happiness with confidence at ANY AGE.

Diamond and FTM transactivist Louis Mitchell.

Monika: At that time of your transition did you have any transgender role models that you could follow? What was your knowledge about transgenderism?
Diamond: No I didn't have any. I had transgender peers that were my inspiration. We all came out at the same time and just found strength in each other. 
As a matter of fact, the older girl in my area was really fake, mean, and nasty. I think that is why now that I am someone that younger trans girls can look up to I try to be as nice as I can and be helpful as I can when my life allows that.
Monika: What was the hardest thing about your coming out?
Diamond: The hardest thing at the time was getting the information about surgery and hormones. I wasn't very studious at the time and I never thought of going to the library. So the only info I would get was a word of mouth. No hard concrete fact about the transition. That had to be the hardest part for me.
Another hard part was coming to reality about being objectified. When I was younger, the male attention was some weird twisted unhealthy validation of my womanhood. I thought it was hot to be wanted as a woman. Now I realized that that need for validation can be taken advantage of by fetish seekers. It's nothing wrong with being wanted. Just make sure you are being loved in your totality not just loved for your body parts.
Monika: What did you feel when you were finally a woman?
Diamond: It wasn't a big change for me like that. This, in my mind, was the natural progression of things. Think about puberty. It starts slowly and just ends when you are a mature adult. In the puberty process. You are not really thinking about it. It's just happening and your thoughts and actions are adjusting as those changes occur.
That's what I felt about my transition. It happened so gradually that it wasn't some big mental epiphany. This was who I am... This was my path and destiny in life... A young Lil femme boy that grows into a transwoman. I feel happy that I had the courage to follow that path The only time I recollected about it is when I see a miserable closeted trans woman scared to live.

With her younger brother.

Monika: Have you ever been married? Could you tell me about the importance of love in your life?
Diamond: I have never been married. I have been in a 5-year long relationship. Love is very elusive for a normal person but for a trans person even more so.
We have the world against us. The world telling the men that love us that it is not OK. The world ready and willing to do whatever it takes to devalue us and invalidate our marriage and loves. With all that going on I still feel love is one of the most important things in life and I won't give up on it.
I feel love it's out there for me and any other transwomen. I am working on more education, establishing my career, making me a better woman while I wait on love to come. Until it comes, I will enjoy dating and even a casual safe sexual liaison every now and then.
The world is changing because of the groundbreaking that we all are doing right now. And one day, transwomen will be able to love freely, until then we have to keep searching and finding happiness elsewhere until love finds us.
Monika: What do you enjoy most in being a woman?
Diamond: Being a woman, I am allowed to care and show my emotions. I am allowed to birth things... No, not an infant... but other things like feminine ideas and the spirit of mothering people. I enjoy projecting exactly what I feel my body should reflect the outside world. 
Monika: What is your general view on the present situation of transgender women in American society?
Diamond: When I just look at the American society by itself I would say the situation was bad because it is so much more that can be done to make transgender women's lives better.
When I compare to other countries, I say we are blessed, because some countries are soooo far behind when it comes to transgender rights and respect that I can't even imagine living in those areas. Like Uganda, India, South America, and Arab nations these places scare me but the fight must go on and I hope to be a part of the movement to change the world's view of us.


All the photos: courtesy of Diamond Stylz.
© 2013 - Monika Kowalska

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