Wednesday 18 December 2013

Interview with Maria Haaning

Monika: Today I have the pleasure of interviewing Maria Rose Löwe Haaning, a Danish young lady setting an example for young transgender women all over the world. She is the youngest Danish transgender girl to undergo an MTF transition. In addition, Maria is the author of "Ham og Mig" (2012) and is known for her participation in many media interviews in Denmark. Hello Maria!
Maria: Hi Monika!
Monika: Could you say a few words about your career so far?
Maria: Well, I am still very young so my career is still in progress, but so far I have done numerous TV appearances on Danish television. I am giving lectures across the country about my personal transition story and I have published my own autobiography titled 'Ham og Mig', which in English translates into 'Him and I'. The book tells the story of how I became the youngest Danish person to ever go through a complete MTF transition.
Monika: What inspired you to write your autobiography titled “Ham og Mig”?
Maria: The inspiration to write a book came very early. In the middle of my transition, it struck me that I would have liked for someone to have done it so young in Denmark before me so that I could get some guidance towards achieving my goal. So when I was done with my transition I started working on that because I didn't want anyone to go through what I went through myself with no advice or guidance from people in the same country.
That is also why I shared my story and myself on national television. I have been featured in almost all Danish magazines, the most recent one is actually an article in Femina where they name the 100 most inspiring and impressive women, and I am proud to say I am one of them.

Pointing at her book in a book store.

Monika: Being the youngest transgender girl in Denmark that underwent SRS, you became the ambassador of all Danish teenagers wishing to do the same? How do you feel about it?
Maria: Being a role model for young transgender girls and boys was a big part of my goal for choosing to be a public figure. I hope that my book and my attempt to show that if I can do it they can do it too. It has been inspiring for some and helped young people with their road to manhood or womanhood.
In addition, I hope I can be used as an example to show to young transgender people’s parents and be a part of their understanding of what their sons or daughters are trying to explain.
Monika: At that time of your transition did you have any transgender role models that you could follow?
Maria: I don’t think I had any transgender role models. I thought that many of them looked very artificial and that was not my goal. My goal was to fit in and blend into society. I did have a person older than me whom I had contact with and helped me with the understanding that what I was feeling was not wrong.
Monika: What was the hardest thing about your coming out?
Maria: The hardest thing about being honest about my gender identity disorder was probably the fact that I was in many ways never going to fit in or be 'normal' and also the big toll this has taken on my friends and family, many of them has disowned me and now I have a small but very close circle of friends and family.

Hugging a tree and loving summer.

Monika: Did your parents support you?
Maria: I grew up with a single mom and she has been nothing but supportive every step of the way. I have someone whom I consider a father figure who has known me my whole life and he is also very loving and supportive. In that way, I am very lucky.
Monika: What is your general view on the present situation of transgender women in Danish society?
Maria: I think that the variety of transgender people in the media worldwide is very different. Some are very 'Barbie doll' like and some are not.
I hope that many transgender girls in particular in the future will turn down the extreme sex appeal they tend to achieve. I think extreme plastic surgery is only a way for them to hide their insecurities and that will in many ways increase the stigma of transgender girls being put in the same box with drag queens because of their over-the-top proportions.
Monika: Are there any other famous transgender ladies in Denmark, apart from you:)? 
Maria: There are some young transgender people in Denmark but I don’t think they have a certain mission with that but I respect all of them for being proud enough to stand forward like I did. After I appeared on television I saw a lot of other young transgender people appearing in the media, which made me happy.

Backstage at a photoshoot.

Monika: Are you active in politics? Do you participate in any lobbying campaigns? Do you think transgender women can make a difference in politics?
Maria: Although I am not active in politics, I know there are a lot of transgender people in Denmark who are. My concern is mainly the social aspect of it.
Monika: Do you intend to get married? Could you tell me about the importance of love in your life?
Maria: Well, I think most girls with or without the 'T' have a secret dream of somebody putting a ring on it as Beyonce would put it, and yes I hope to get married one day but one never knows what the future brings.
Monika: What is the usual reaction of your boyfriends when they find out your transgender history?
Maria: I am currently in a relationship and of course my past was an issue in the beginning but together we overcame it and found a way to love each other.
Monika: A few girl-to-girl questions … What essentials are in your bag?
Maria: Well the essential things in my everyday bag are my computer and some lip balm and often, a few cosmetics to freshen up my look during the day, but I don’t wear a lot of make-up in my everyday life.

At pride square show with friends.

Monika: What kind of clothes do you wear every day? Do you have your favorite fashion brands, colors, and styles?
Maria: It is very important to me to feel comfortable in my everyday life so often I wear jeans and a tank top, but sometimes I style it up and wear something less anonymous like short skirts and heels, but I always make sure that my make-up and hair look nice, which is very important to me. I think that if your face and hair look good, they can often distract anyone from a dull outfit.
Monika: What do you think about transgender beauty pageants?
Maria: When I was younger I had a dream of doing a pageant myself but now I don’t want to do so. I think that if people want to do so, it is their own business and I think that's fine, but I don't need any more judgment on my appearance.
Monika: Being such a beautiful girl, have you ever thought about modeling or being an actress?
Maria: Well thank you so much for thinking of me as a beautiful girl. I have done very little modeling, just for fun and it was not really for me. I would love to do some acting in the future as I love acting and doing bits, I would love to do a comedy someday.

On her boyfriend's bike.

Monika: What would you recommend to transgender women that are afraid of early transition, discrimination and hatred?
Maria: The only thing I can recommend is just staying true to your heart and never doubting your feelings no matter who tries to hold you down. And if it gets too hard, I know that there is always somewhere to turn, in Denmark I would recommend them to contact the LGBT community for some assistance.
Monika: Where do you see yourself within the next 5-7 years?
Maria: Right now I am just taking some classes to get some finals, studying at university, and trying to enjoy my life. I have no idea where I am in 5-7 years and I think I like it that way, it's thrilling not knowing what the future might bring. 
Monika: Maria, thank you for the interview!
Maria: You are very welcome and thank you for thinking of me for the interview.

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The main photo: credit to Kalle Lind Jensen.
All the photos: courtesy of Maria Haaning.
© 2013 - Monika Kowalska

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