Saturday, 14 December 2013

Interview with Bianca Lewis

Monika: Today’s interview will be with Bianca Lewis, a video blogger from South Africa that documents her transition on YouTube. Hello Bianca!
Bianca: Hi Monika, and everybody, glad to share my views with you today.
Monika: Could you say a few words about yourself?
Bianca: Well – I am definitely not defined by transition. Being female has always been a part of me that has experienced amazing journeys. I grew up in Apartheid South Africa, experienced bacterial meningitis with coma, then paralysis in a wheelchair for a year, love, divorce, death of almost all my family, the Middle East, war – and that is just the start of what has made me, well…me.
Monika: Why did you decide to share your transition details on YouTube?
Bianca: For many years just reading and seeing women who had the courage to transition helped me to see tomorrow. I thought I would try and do the same. Not very selflessly though, I have written an interesting book of my life story that I hope will inspire others to reach for their dreams – YouTube is a platform to create some awareness for the book before it is published – it will be virtually free as an ebook early 2014. 
Monika: At which stage of the transition are you right now?
Bianca: My transition is over and it will forever continue. Sorry – I know I am difficult. Socially, professionally and intimately I have been accepted by everybody as nothing but a woman for quite some time. But learning 40 years of life experience so quickly means I will playing catch up in some ways for the rest of my life. Physically – let's say I am "near" the end.

Enjoying my new femininity - going out
to the famous Tel Aviv nightlife.

Monika: Are you satisfied with the results of the hormone therapy?
Bianca: I honestly expected to take a pill and see Pamela Anderson in the mirror the next day. Hormone effects (starting at 39 years old) had a very limited physical effect. Emotionally it made me much calmer, but physically? Thank goodness for surgery!
Monika: Could you describe your childhood? When did you feel for the first time that you should not be a boy or man?

Bianca: Boy? Man? What were those? I never ever from my first memory related to this!
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?
Bianca: Really tough question because I remember how hard – and unique each stage of life was. From kindergarten through professional life it was always an immense struggle to get through the day. I suppose adolescence was most torturous simply because I was a heterosexual female who had no way to discover or develop this, talk about all sorts of confusion!
Monika: Are there any transgender role models that you follow?
Bianca: Before I transitioned I certainly admired Lynn Conway, Andrea James, Marcy Bowers, and the usual suspects as great role models for transition who have given so much to the community.
As I transitioned though I discovered that these women are all so much more than transition and my life is unique so my role models shifted away from gender toward human rights etc. more generally.
Monika: What was the hardest thing about your coming out?
Bianca: Not to be funny, but when you were living as a middle-aged, 125kg bodybuilder guy, married to a woman with a child, and regarded as a real "tough guy" it would be a much shorter answer to describe what was not hard about coming out – nothing. That's why I always say, the transition is such a hard journey that a person should only travel this path if there is no choice. If you arrive at the other side of the gender spectrum in one piece it is truly amazing though.

Monika: What is your general view on the present situation of transgender women in the USA and other countries?
Bianca: As I have been in the States mainly on business, I have never had to deal with American society's views on transgenderism.

My passion: eating! This Mexican restaurant was
part of a fabulous night.

I will say this, though: All transgender persons want is to be accepted as a human being and EVERY Western society I have experienced have a long way to go.
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?

Bianca: Of course. As the stigma attached to being transgendered diminishes, more and more of us will be willing to step into the limelight. It is actually an interesting subject that should be written about more because most trans success stories achieved a level of success despite the great internal struggle. When they make peace with themselves, their true ability is unleashed and I expect more and more great trans people to come into the foreground. We are truly unique in our ability to look hardship in the face and come out on top.
Monika: Are you active in politics? Do you participate in any lobbying campaigns? Do you think transgender women can make a difference in politics?
Bianca: I believe anybody can make a difference in politics. I do believe that we need more representation in governments as we are still seen as "noise from the side" instead of a valuable contributor to society with a worthy voice. I live in Israel – so being active in politics would usually require a language that is often beyond me – but I am happy to make a noise!
Monika: Do you like fashion? What kind of outfits do you usually wear? Any special fashion designs, colors, or trends?
Bianca: I had my Cinderella time… Then I found that people actually stared at a 40-year-old in a tutu! I love clothes, shoes, and makeup. I am pretty senior at work, so usually get to do dress-up a bit – skirts, tights, and heels are usual. On the weekend I am happy in jeans and sneakers – my cool and ugly natural look!

I do not believe that we women drive as
badly as everybody tells me I do!

Monika: What do you think about transgender beauty pageants?
Bianca: For those that want and need it why not? They should have age categories though! Seeing a 60 year flaunt a newly surgically arranged body next to that gorgeous 17-year-old Thai beauty just seems bizarre at times. Let me say, that personally, I have missed the boat. Although my son does say that I look at least a year younger than I actually am.
Monika: Are you involved in the life of your local LGBT community?
Bianca: Not at all. I have met one or two trans girls by coincidence in the plastic surgery ward in the hospital, but I transitioned with friends I had long before and had to educate them. They have stood by me and are truly precious. As far as gay goes in the "LGBT" – well one of these really great friends (and one of my very dearest friends in the whole world) is gay, does that count?
Monika: Do you intend to get married and have a family? Could you tell me about the importance of love in your life?
Bianca: Firstly I have a 12-year-old son who is dear, precious, and my whole existence. Honestly, I would love to find love though, get married, and have somebody hold and love me. But beware, I am stubborn and do not compromise very well.
Monika: What would you recommend to transgender women that are afraid of early transition, discrimination and hatred?
Bianca: Again, the test is not fear – this is normal. The true recommendation is really whether you really have any other real option? If your essence is the opposite of what people see – truly – you will not have a choice and those fears will be overcome 1 day at a time – experience by experience. The people who love you will always love you…but this is easy to say now!
Monika: What is your next step in the present time and where do you see yourself within the next 5-7 years?
I really hope to stabilize my life. It has been such a dynamic and unsettling journey – peace would a great gift to me. If I can bring joy and inspire others from my experiences, this would also give me great pleasure. In 5-7 years I will be just planning my future.
Monika: Could you say that you are a happy woman now?
No. I can say that I am happy being accepted as a woman now. My happiness does not come from being me (although this helps a hell of a lot), it comes from being a good parent and achieving my goals in life. Transition is but a part of it.
Monika: Bianca, it was a pleasure to interview you. Thanks a lot!
All the photos: courtesy of Bianca Lewis.
© 2013 - Monika Kowalska

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