Thursday, 14 February 2013

Interview with Lana Moore

Monika: Today is my lucky day as I have the honor and pleasure of meeting an incredible woman. Lana Moore is a female firefighter, transgender activist, and surely a transgender icon from Ohio. She retired as a captain of the Columbus Division of Fire with 35 years of service. She received many awards and recognitions, participating from 1982 to 2002 on the Division Honor Guard marching and firing squad, being an Honor Guard Commander, and serving 16 years on the Division Awards Committee Review Board. In 2008 she came out as transgender and transitioned on the job. In 2013, Lana joined GLAAD on their national Board of Directors as one of only a few transgender board members. She is the parent of two children.
Lana: I'm not sure that many would consider me an "icon" but I’m flattered just the same, and happy to participate. Thank you very much for thinking of me!
Monika: What are you doing these days?
Lana: Just trying to live my life, most of the turbulence from transition has subsided, the dust is finally settling, and things seem to have returned to “normal.” Running a fire station and a household takes quite a bit of mental and physical energy.
I’m not quite as active in the trans community, however, my daughter, who is a psychology major, is working with me on a workshop presentation for the TransOhio Symposium coming up in April. We want to share our story of transitioning together as a family.

Lana at a gathering of female firefighters in Columbus.

Monika: Is it hard to be a female firefighter among so many male firefighters?
Lana: Yes, it does present some difficulties, many of which, I suppose, are no different from the challenges that all women face in the workforce.
When I started, 32 years ago, there was only one other woman in the department, now there are 39 females out of over 1500 members, so in many ways, it can seem like a “boy’s club.”
I have seen much progress and acceptance gained over the years. Having been part of our “fire family” on both sides of the gender aisle, my perspective is unique. I am very happy to report that the men treat the women with the same dignity and respect that all good brothers extend to their sisters.
Monika: Where did you grow up?
Lana: I grew up in Columbus, Ohio.
Monika: Could you describe your childhood? When did you feel for the first time that you should not be a boy or man?
Lana: I am the second youngest (by 4 mins) of five children. I have a twin sister, so you can only imagine how gender, and the difference between boy and girl, was played out incessantly.
From my earliest recollections, the first thing anyone wanted to know was, which one is the girl, which one is the boy? I remember always feeling like we were supposed to be the same, and I was sad that I had to be a boy. I didn’t like it at all, but I must’ve learned very early on not to express those feelings, and instead I always tried my best to please everyone.

Early Childhood as a twin.

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?
Lana: I was an extremely skinny kid, and of course, not very masculine. I didn’t like contact sports. I was a dreamer, I liked to climb trees, explore, and pretend.
As such, I was bullied. There was a day, back in fourth grade, when I stood up to the class bully on the playground, and I think it was a defining moment for me. That might have been when I first learned to face fear head-on and to step up as a leader. 
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?
Lana: I was 48 when I finally transitioned. It was the most difficult challenge I have ever faced in my life. I was fortunate to have the support of my spouse, my siblings, and my mother.
I also had all the complete support of my employer, the City of Columbus, from the mayor’s office, all the way down the fire division chain of command. It’s amazing the barriers that can vanish when key people all do the right thing.

Captain Lana Moore on the job at a training fire.

Monika: Did you have any problems with passing as a woman? Did you undergo any cosmetic surgeries?
Lana: I have been fortunate to blend as a woman even before I had cosmetic facial surgery. Most of what I had done was for rejuvenation to look more youthful and refreshed. It was not a dramatic change, and there were many friends who did not seem to even notice that I had the surgery.
It should be noted that surgery alone, no matter how skilled the surgeon, would make it possible for someone to simply “pass.” In order to blend in, if that is the goal, one must be comfortable in their own skin, have confidence, and put forth “positive energy” as they present themselves in public.
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?
Lana: Yes, it is possible to transition at any age, as there is no one path. Cosmetic surgery may be deemed “necessary” for some, but not for others, it all depends on one’s specific needs and priorities. Cosmetic surgery can improve one’s confidence and make blending or “passing” easier to achieve, however, it can not inherently change what is on the “inside,” and at the end of the day, that is what is most important.

Post-op recovering from FFS. (left)
Wearing Ice-Packs in a scarf after jaw/chin tapering. (right)

Monika: At that time of your transition did you have any transgender role models that you could follow?
Lana: Donna Rose inspired me. I found her web page at a point where I had already started to transition, but I was really struggling with whether or not I could actually do it. Her writings and her example gave me reassurance that, yes it was possible. We have since met and gotten to know each other. I value her friendship immensely.
Additionally, I was encouraged to transition on the job by Diane Schroer who took me aside and convinced me that, not only could it be done, that I needed to do it. So many others that I’m afraid to leave someone out, but to name just a few, Julie, Malana, and Daralyn if you happen to read this, thank you all!
And then, last, but surely not least, of course, there’s Chloe Prince who has taught me so much and been such an important force in my life over the past few years. Chloe and I have traveled so far together. She is my soul-sister for whom I have the utmost love and respect.
Monika: What was the hardest thing about your coming out?
Lana: Having the courage to be honest with myself.

Chloe Prince, Lana Moore, and Donna Rose SCC 2010.

Monika: What did you feel when you were finally a woman?
Lana: Becoming a woman involves much more than just surgery, it is a complex growing process, which evolves over time.
There is no exact one moment when it is simply so, but I can say that once I had transitioned socially, and began living authentically, I felt like I had finally been let out of prison… free from the torment I had endured for so many years, and ready to spread my wings and fly.
Monika: What do you enjoy most in being a woman?
Lana: I think I enjoy being a woman because I am one. I’m not sure a man would enjoy it at all. For me, and this may sound sexist, it involves being softer and gentler, clinging to such things as intuition and emotion, rather than strict logic and brute force. Males in our society have such a narrow latitude of “acceptable” or expected behavior. As a woman, I am free to express myself naturally and to simply be ... me.

Post-op from SRS in Thailand.

Monika: You were married once. What was the reaction of your wife when you came out as a transgender woman?
Lana: My ex-wife is a nurse, and she is the best one I know. Nurses are special people because, like angels, they care for others selflessly. She was not surprised when I told her that I needed to transition.
She calmly and kindly placed her hand on my shoulder and said, “I know, I’ve seen this coming for years.” We are no longer a couple, but I will always love her, and we remain partners as parents, committed to our children. Through her grace and loving ways, she has shown me what it means to be a woman.
Monika: And how about your children?
Lana: My children had a difficult time at first, which is understandable. They were age 13 and 17 when I came out to them. No doubt I have taken harsh criticism from some people with good intentions, who might assume that my transition was bad for my kids. What they may not understand is that just because something is difficult, that doesn’t make it wrong.
My family has since grown through our transition experience and we all still love each other. The best part is that now, they know me much more completely, and they have learned the value of living life authentically. We spend as much quality time together as we can arrange.

Lana and her children enjoying a dinner show.

Monika: What is your general view on the present situation of transgender women in American society?
Lana: There are many very strong transwomen living openly and with dignity in our society and it seems to become more mainstream.
More and more every day, and with each of us, as we live our daily lives honestly and authentically, we break down barriers of misunderstanding. There is still a long way to go and progress is slow, but we are getting there.


All the photos: courtesy of Lana Moore.
© 2013 - Monika Kowalska

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