Friday 23 August 2013

Interview with Lynda Oudenhoven

Monika: Today I would like to introduce to you Lynda Oudenhoven, an American mechanic and video blogger that documents her transition on YouTube. Hello Lynda!
Lynda: Hi Monika and thank you for inviting me to be part of your interview series, it's a pleasure to meet you.
Monika: Could you say a few words about yourself?
Lynda: Sure, I'm a 51-year-old Denver Police Fleet Mechanic. I have another 3 years, 9 months until I retire, after 27 years of service, and pursue other employment interests. I have a beautiful 29-year-old daughter and I live with my two dogs and one cat near the foothills of Denver Colorado.
Monika: Why did you decide to share your transition details on YouTube?
Lynda: Probably for a couple of reasons. I wanted to have something for my daughter to remember this time. Something she can look at long after I'm gone. I also wanted to share with other women in the community, that might be contemplating transitioning/surgery, so as to provide some comfort for them. If I can overcome my fears/anxieties... anybody can.

At Muir Woods National Forrest, California.

Monika: At which stage of the transition are you right now?
Lynda: I like to think that my transition is finished. I still have a ton to learn, don't get me wrong, but medically and legally(name and gender marker all updated), my transition is done.
If we put a timeline to it, I am 4 weeks post-op. I made sure all name and marker issues were dealt with before presenting full time and I'm glad to not be dealing with that during this somewhat difficult recovery process.
Monika: Are you satisfied with the results of the hormone therapy?
Lynda: Well, yes and no. Starting as late as I did, 49 years old, Testosterone had a huge head start on my physical development. I took pills the first year and was very diligent in my blood work so that we could monitor results. The numbers were OK but not great. Breast tissue was sore along with some development. The skin was much softer but fat redistribution was almost non-existent.
After a year my numbers had reversed. More T and less E was not something I wanted to hear after a year. So we decided on injections, .8ml Delestrogen shots once a week. Wow!!! You could see my numbers go off the charts!! Testosterone was non-existent after 3 months and my Estrogen level was that of a woman trying to get pregnant from what I have been told. It peaked at over 600 on one blood draw.
The amazing thing was, in photos of me, I noticed huge changes in my face at 3 months post injections. My face was finally losing its old masculine appearance and rounding out, getting mush softer. My only regret is not using the injection from the start. 
Monika: Could you describe your childhood? When did you feel for the first time that you should not be a boy or man?
Lynda: My childhood was that of middle-class, white America in the '60s and '70s. I was active, excelling in multiple sports, and did well in school without trying as hard as I maybe could have. I always 'knew' something was wrong... even from my earliest memories, say around 3. I didn't have any knowledge at that time regarding what I was feeling. And there was nobody to talk to...
I was far too afraid to relay any emotional thoughts concerning this to my parents. So, I basically fought and fed the issue. I spent most of the time being in denial and far less time raiding my Mom's closet on the rare occasion that I could. I did that for years, even after moving out into my own life.
But I have found, for my journey at least, that it has been an evolution of sorts. At a young age, the clothing was enough to satisfy, then the urge to get out and be seen, then to transition fully, then to have surgery. That's a very brief summation of the timeline but I think you understand.

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?
Lynda: I transitioned at my job of 23 years. I was already well known in my place of employment and known as a hard worker. I think that made it easier for me. But the truth is that there are in place laws, in the state of Colorado to protect individuals such as myself. I am very, very fortunate for that.
Add in that I work for a City entity, and all the protection was in place for a smooth and successful transition. I only had to overcome my own fears. Now that is not to say that everybody welcomed me with open arms. My co-workers, fellow technicians, parts dept, etc., were all on board and supportive. The Police officers we serve were a different story. Old school cops living in old school times. Probably 80% are supportive, the others are just quiet. They have no choice but to be quiet, thankfully. 
Monika: Are there any transgender role models that you follow?
Lynda: Maybe Dr. Marci Bowers. Being Transsexual, she understands as well as any, and she has dedicated her life to helping others that suffered the same as her. That's an amazing thing in my mind. I don't think I've ever considered anyone a role model, but I have a lot of respect for her.

Hitting a bucket at the driving range.

Monika: What was the hardest thing about your coming out?
Lynda: Two things come to mind right away. First, facing my truth was the most difficult aspect, and then acting on it. My daughter encouraged me to explore 'Lynda' more. She introduced me to the principles of Buddhism, which in turn taught me about fear and alternative measures to take when facing fear or anxiety. Without Buddhism, I probably would have never found the strength to do what I have done.
The second was the Cops whose cars I had been fixing for 23 years. Everyone that I had come out to that I knew personally, I did with a short letter. I would deliver the note and wait while they finished reading it, then answer any questions. I didn't have that opportunity with the Police officers.
Monika: What is your general view on the present situation of transgender women in American society?
Lynda: I think there are far more people accepting than the T community realizes. I have been out for two years now and I have had only one negative incident. That's it, just one, and I do not frequent 'gender friendly' establishments. I will not allow the small part of society that wants me in that 'box', to keep me there.
I'm not saying everyone accepts but in the circles that I travel only one verbal incident in two years. Several factors are involved in that result, however. My presentation has never been about sex. I do not dress promiscuously and I dress age-appropriate. That is a very important aspect of my success. Second, I stay away from places that can be trouble. Bars for example... not a good idea.
Monika: We are witnessing more and more transgender ladies coming out. Unlike in the previous years, some of them have the status of celebrities or are really well-known, just to mention Lana Wachowski in film-directing, Jenna Talackova in modeling, Kate Bornstein in academic life, Laura Jane Grace in music or Candis Cayne in acting. Do you think we will have more and more such women?
Lynda: I would think so, yes. As the number of individuals coming out overall increases it would make sense, to me at least, that the number of high profile individuals coming out will increase as well. I guess it depends on their own balance. What, if anything, will they stand to lose by coming out? Being under the radar myself, it's difficult for me to put myself in their shoes... the fame, the money... whatever it is that makes them high profile could be jeopardized by coming out. That's not a factor I had to deal with.

Pizza in San Mateo, Ca. just
after the first visit with Dr. Bowers.

Monika: Are you active in politics? Do you participate in any lobbying campaigns? Do you think transgender women can make a difference in politics?
Lynda: I am not active myself, no. But absolutely Trans women can make a difference just like any woman can make a difference. I think it's so unfortunate that we even attach the label of Transgender or Transsexual to a person. We are just what we are... women... all of us. Cis-gen or otherwise. There I go, using another label... I really don't like them at all. 
Monika: Do you like fashion? What kind of outfits do you usually wear? Any special fashion designs, colors, or trends?
Lynda: I love fashion and putting together outfits. I'm not glamorous by any means but I am put together. I have to be in my position but I also enjoy the aspect of putting together a nice presentation.
My wardrobe consists mostly of cute Cargo Capri's. White, purple, fuchsia, pink... I wear flats with my capris and tennis shoes with my blue jeans. My tops are mostly pullovers, 3/4 sleeve to full length. Part of my style came about from a desire to blend in. Be 'stealth', if you will. I notice at all the places that I frequent women are wearing basically the same thing as I am. Just not as well coordinated (wink, wink).
Monika: What do you think about transgender beauty pageants?
Lynda: I don't attend them because it's just not something I'm into. They serve a purpose and people are getting something out of the shows/pageants on both sides, entertainers and guests alike. I don't like the assumption, however, that many in the audience make when they connect a performer in the Drag community with what I have done. Shows/pageants can be somewhat sexual in nature, in my opinion, and what I have done has nothing to do with sex. It's about my identity, not what identity I'm attracted to.

Monika: Are you involved in the life of your local LGBT community?
Lynda: I was at first, volunteering at the local LGBT resource center but have since distanced myself from the LGBT community to a point. My daughter and brother and several cousins are gay and they have my full support on whatever cause they take up. Again it goes back to the box society wants me in and I will not conform to that. I am just living my life as a woman now.
Monika: Do you intend to get married and have a family? Could you tell me about the importance of love in your life?
Lynda: I do plan to get married, one day, in Paris. I have a very special partner in my life and that's our plan as of now. No more children though for me. It's fascinating how when I came out two years ago I was resigning myself to the thought of being by myself for the rest of my life. All for reasons that have proved to be wrong. I have reconnected with a childhood friend that had a crush on me way back when and 30 years later still loves me just as much. Without her, my journey would have been far more difficult. She gently pushed me through doors I thought I was not ready for. She has been by my side every step of the way and I love her dearly.

Visiting her Dad in Arizona.

Monika: What would you recommend to transgender women that are afraid of early transition, discrimination and hatred?
Lynda: The best advice that I could offer would be: First to approach your transition with compassion. For yourself and for those around you. Not everybody is going to accept, and that's OK. It's not about them, it's about you.
Second, have a plan. For all possibilities that may arise. That means possibilities with family, friends, and your employment. You have to be prepared for all three possible reactions. The positive, the neutral, and the negative. It's when a person doesn't have a plan, that when something goes wrong or unexpected, it derails or damages the transition process so badly.
Third, Transitioning is not cheap, save your money, you will need it for all sorts of fees you never thought existed. Your new wardrobe will be costly at first to build. And your new surroundings. You'll probably be changing that monster truck poster for a nice framed piece of art. (haha) 
Lastly and maybe most importantly, present yourself with class, respect, and dignity. It will go so far in helping you on your path to success. Learn female mannerisms, be open to studying women and what they do. You will incorporate, along with your own natural instincts, what you observe.
Monika: What is your next step in the present time and where do you see yourself within the next 5-7 years?
Lynda: My next step is to heal up from the recent surgery. That's it... and get back to repairing cars for the Denver Police Dept., retire in 3+ years and then move south to a warmer climate. Arizona maybe...
Monika: Could you say that you are a happy woman now?
Lynda: Yes, but more importantly, I'm a happy human being. I was always a happy woman, I just never had the chance to realize it until now. My genitalia originally grew outward instead of inward. Somewhat easily repaired with surgery but now that mind and body are congruent... my heart and my soul are at peace. Thank you for interviewing me, it was a pleasure.
Monika: Lynda, it was a pleasure to interview you. Thanks a lot!

All the photos: courtesy of Lynda Oudenhoven.
© 2013 - Monika Kowalska

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