Friday 31 January 2014

Interview with Deja Nicole Greenlaw

Monika: Today it is my pleasure and honor to interview Deja Nicole Greenlaw, an inspirational American transgender activist, and advocate. Hello Deja!
Deja: Hello Monika!
Monika: Could you say a few words about your activism and yourself?
Deja: I have lobbied in government buildings in Washington DC and Hartford, Connecticut for trans rights but I believe that my biggest and most important activism is being out at work and having many people interact with me.
I deal with many people from several departments in a manufacturing environment and with hundreds of manufacturing plants all over the globe. Anyone who interacts with me can say that they know a transgender person and working with one is not an issue. If someone they know says something negative about transgender people they can refute it because they have the first-hand experience with working with me.
For the majority of the people I work with, I am the first transgender person that they have ever met. A few of them may have had issues with me in the beginning but now they are all very accepting of me.
The same goes for the community that I live in, the stores that I patronize, the doctors and staff that I interact with. They all know a transgender person. By being open and out and about I am helping to change people’s thoughts about transgender people. I believe that is my greatest contribution to activism.

Thursday 30 January 2014

Interview with Robyn-Jane

Monika: Today’s interview will be with Robyn-Jane, inspirational woman, blogger, transgender artist, and leader of the band "Robyn-Jane". Hello Robyn!
Robyn: Hi Monika, it's so great to have the chance to talk to you.
Monika: What are you doing these days?
Robyn: Having undergone my gender reassignment surgery last year on April 10, I am finally getting the chance to be the woman I was always meant to be. It has meant that work on our new album 'Bitter Honey' has been somewhat delayed but it has been a beautiful and life-changing experience.
Monika: You are a member of the band named "Robyn-Jane". How did you start playing together?
Robyn: We started playing together some years ago to back another artist who has since become part of our lineup. Our sound evolved from playing straight Blues and Country into the more sassy cabaret blues style we have today.

Wednesday 29 January 2014

Interview with Jamie Roberts

Monika: Today it is my pleasure and honor to interview Jamie Roberts, an American transgender activist, a graduate of the University of Georgia School of Law, a public defender in LaGrange, former Chair of the Board of Directors of the Atlanta based organization called Georgia Equality, Treasurer of Atlanta Gender Explorations. Hello Jamie!
Jamie: Hello Monika!
Monika: For many years you have been involved in transgender advocacy and activism. What are the current challenges for the transgender community in Atlanta?
Jamie: I believe the biggest challenge for the Trans community in Atlanta is to create stable short-term emergency shelters as well as longer-term supportive housing for Trans people. The shelter and care system we have to deal with now in Atlanta is private and faith-based, which means they think that their god does not approve of Trans people, and any Trans person who seeks shelter with them must be housed according to the sex or gender assigned to them at birth and that your clothes you wear in their shelter must reflect the same.
This policy, universal throughout the city, presents an untenable choice to Trans women in particular, who must be housed with abusive men and wear male clothes to get shelter. This intolerable situation leads some Trans women to commit suicide and others to rely on sex work to survive. If no one is going to give us shelter that is safe and respects our dignity, then we as a community must figure out a solution ourselves.

Tuesday 28 January 2014

Interview with Stephanie Battaglino

Monika: Today it is my pleasure and honor to interview Stephanie Battaglino, an inspirational woman, transgender advocate, and activist, working with a number of LGBT organizations, serving on the Board of Directors of both the LGBT Community Center of New York and the Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund (TLDEF), Out & Equal Workplace Advocates’ Transgender Advisory Committee, Corporate Vice President at a major life insurance company in New York and the founder and owner of Follow Your Heart LLC – in which she delivers to companies and organizations educational workshops, training, and motivational keynote speeches focused on personal empowerment and how to create transgender inclusive workplaces. Hello Stephanie!
Stephanie: Hello Monika! Thank you so very much for the opportunity to be a part of your website. I’m truly honored to be included among so many inspirational women.
Monika: You transitioned in October 2005 and were the first transgender person to do so at your company. What kind of challenges did you face then?
Stephanie: Well, there were a few. First of which is that there were no specific protections in place for transgender employees in my company at that time, specifically with regard to gender identity and expression.
Secondly, the culture of the company is quite conservative and male-dominated, so I was very concerned that, as is the case with so many transgender and gender non-conforming individuals, I would lose my job the moment I came out.

Monday 27 January 2014

Interview with Katie Anne Holton

Monika: Today it is my pleasure and honor to interview Katie Anne Holton, an American photo model, and transgender advocate. Hello Katie!
Katie: Hi Monika. Thanks for contacting me. I’m honored. My girlfriend laughed when I told her that she’s now dating a model.
Monika: How did you get involved with "Visible Bodies: Transgender Narratives Retold" photography series?
Katie: Scott Duane is a dear friend, so when he asked if I wanted to participate, I jumped at the chance. I believe in the goal of Visible Bodies, to let trans people tell their own stories. And, let’s be honest, being asked to model is very good for my 50-year-old ego.

Sunday 26 January 2014

Interview with Christine Burns MBE

Monika: Today it is my pleasure and honor to interview Christine Burns MBE, a British equalities specialist; former vice president of Press for Change; ranked 35th (2011) and 42nd (2012) on the Independent on Sunday's annual Pink List of influential LGBT people in the United Kingdom (a judge in 2013), and author of many books, including the highly acclaimed textbook “Making Equality Work” and her recent memoir titled Pressing Matters (Vol 1). Hello Christine!
Christine: Well thank you for including me in your amazing collection of interviews Monika - I’m most flattered!
Monika: We are having this interview when you have just published the first volume of your memoirs titled Pressing Matters. It touches upon your biography but it focuses primarily on the Gender Recognition Bill. How important was that Bill for the transgender community in the UK?
Christine: “Pressing Matters” is a history of trans activism in the United Kingdom. It is a history which I was initially reluctant to write, as I wasn’t sure whether I was the right person to write such a thing. I was very close to the action during a phenomenal period of advancement in trans rights around the world. As such, I thought I might have been too close to tell such an important story.
My ideal scenario is that such a history ought to be written by others - with the perspective that comes from both physical distance and the passage of time. However, in spite of efforts to encourage that over the last few years I could see that such a history wasn’t going to get written unless someone took the first step.
At the same time, I think such a history is absolutely crucial - especially as a majority of those leading on trans activism in the UK now are quite young and would not otherwise understand how the circumstances they find themselves in came about.

Saturday 25 January 2014

Interview with Juliet Jacques

Monika: Today it is my pleasure and honor to interview Juliet Jacques, an inspirational British journalist, critic, writer, and columnist for The Guardian and The New Statesman. She is the founder and presenter of Resonance FM art discussion show Suite (212). Juliet was born in Redhill, Surrey, and grew up in Horley. She graduated from the College of Richard Collyer in Horsham, West Sussex, studying History at the University of Manchester and then Literature and Film at the University of Sussex. In addition, she completed a Ph.D. in Creative and Critical Writing at the University of Sussex. In 2011, she was longlisted for The Orwell Prize for 'A Transgender Journey'. In 2012 and 2013, she was selected as one of The Independent on Sunday Pink List's most influential journalists. Hello Juliet!
Juliet: Hi Monika!
Monika: Your acclaimed account of gender transition in the Guardian titled “My Transgender Journey” won much praise and recognition and allowed you to have your blog longlisted for the 2011 Orwell Prize. This success made you one of the transgender role models in the UK. How are you coping with the burden?
Juliet: It’s been strange. I had a socio-political purpose with the Transgender Journey series, but my background was as a literature and film critic, and my inspirations were post-war authors who wrote first-person novels that focused on the interior life of their protagonists – people like Nathalie Sarraute, Ann Quin, Rayner Heppenstall and Jean-Philippe Toussaint. I hadn’t expected people to call me “an activist” or “a role model”, terms which carry very different expectations and responsibilities to “writer”, which was how I saw myself.

Friday 24 January 2014

Interview with Kelly Ellis

Monika: Today it is my pleasure and honor to interview Kelly Ellis, an inspirational transgender advocate, lawyer, and politician from New Zealand. Hello Kelly!
Kelly: Good Morning Monika.
Monika: Do you think transgender women can make a difference in politics?
Kelly: I think anyone can make a difference in politics. They shouldn’t be there if that’s not their motivation. I’m motivated by hoping to contribute to a society where our children have better work and educational opportunities. That can only happen with a redistribution of wealth. These views are independent of who or what I am. They are the goals any good citizen should hope for.
Notwithstanding that, visibility for transgender people is important if we are to increase our influence. There are few things that are more visible than entering politics.

Wednesday 22 January 2014

Interview with Audrey Mbugua Ithibu

Monika: Today it is my pleasure and honor to interview Audrey Mbugua Ithibu, an inspirational woman from Kenya, transgender activist, Secular Humanist, a role model for all African trans sisters, graduate of Maseno University in Medical Biotechnology, a student in Computer Programming and a Post Graduate Student in Advanced Databases in a Kenyan University. Hello Audrey!
Audrey: Hello my dear.
Monika: For many years you have been involved in the work for the Transgender Education and Advocacy. What is the agenda of Transgender Kenya?
Audrey: First, recognition of our chosen names and correct gender in our academic and identification papers.
Second, we want to be able to access medical services relating to gender reassignment in a respectful and sensitive environment.
Third, an end to discrimination and other harmful practices, procedures, and attitudes in Government departments that preclude enjoyment of the rights and fundamental freedoms of transgender people.

Tuesday 21 January 2014

Interview with Roz Kaveney

Monika: Today it is my pleasure and honor to interview Roz Kaveney, a prolific British novelist, poet, critic, transgender activist, editor of Reading the Vampire Slayer, member of the Midnight Rose collective, and author of Rhapsody of Blood: vol. 1: Rituals and vol. 2: Reflections, and the poetry collection Dialectic of the Flesh. She is a Londoner, sentimentalist, radical, “somewhat disliked by various silly people”. Hello Roz!
Roz: Hello Monika!
Monika: While preparing for the interview with you, I was amazed by the number of initiatives and projects you took part in: a founding member of Feminists Against Censorship (FAC), a former deputy chair of Liberty, deputy editor of the transgender-related magazine META, a core member of the Midnight Rose collective. How do you find energy and time to cover so many activities?
Roz: Well, I didn’t do all of those things at the same time. I learned when I was quite young that I have limited energy and it’s all been a matter of prioritizing and forgiving myself when I need to walk away from something. For example, when I was elected to the Executive Committee of Liberty, I stepped down as Secretary of FAC, because there were plenty of other people capable of doing the work I had been doing.
When my health declined – I had some bad times with gall-bladder surgery – I resigned from Liberty to concentrate on my writing again which is why there is considerable hiatus between the Midnight Rose period of my work and the work I’ve done over the last decade.

Sunday 19 January 2014

Interview with Alana Nicole Sholar

Monika: Today it is my pleasure and honor to interview Alana Nicole Sholar, an American transgender activist, and writer from Kentucky, the author of “Hung in the Middle: A Journey of Gender Discovery” (2012). Hello Alana!
Alana: Hello Monika.
Monika: Could you say a few words about your career so far?
Alana: My newfound career has been really exciting. I have learned so much by writing “Hung in the Middle: A Journey of Gender Discovery” … all of it good. When I sat out to write my story it was in hopes of bringing help to others so imagine the surprise I got as others opened up and shared their journey. Many have given me an idea or notion that had never entered my way of thinking.

Monday 13 January 2014

Interview with Marisa Richmond

Monika: Today it is my pleasure and honor to interview Marisa Richmond, a transgender politician, activist, a member of Boards of Directors of The National Center for Transgender Equality, the Trans Advocacy Network, and a lobbyist for the Tennessee Transgender Political Coalition. She is also an active leader in the Democratic Party in her hometown of Nashville, Tennessee. Hello Marisa!
Marisa: Hi Monika. Thanks for having me.
Monika: Could you say a few words about your career so far?
Marisa: I assume you mean as a trans activist. I don’t really consider that a career since I do it for love, not money. I enjoy the challenges and doing what I can to move our community forward. I want to make everyone’s life easier. I am especially concerned about doing so for the younger generation. BTW, my real career is as a historian. I love teaching, but I need to get back to research and publishing.

Sunday 12 January 2014

Interview with Jasmine Eastall

Monika: Today it is my pleasure and honor to interview Jasmine Sapphire Eastall, an inspirational lady from New Zealand, transgender/transsexual activist, and advocate. Hello Jasmine!
Jasmine: Hello Monika!
Monika: Could you say a few words about yourself?
Jasmine: Currently I am living in a lovely valley called Wainuiomata, near Wellington with my partner and newly adopted kitten Desire. In 2004 I traveled through Europe so I saw other transgender communities. I felt I needed to get away to find myself. It was the only way that I was able to comfortably come out as a trans woman.
I was living as a gay male at the time, but I knew inside it wasn't what I really was. There was something deeper than that. It wasn’t till my trip to Spain when it really clicked that I was trans and struggled a lot to accept myself. I met a lovely transwoman from Portugal in Barcelona who engaged in a huge conversation with me, that is when I first learned of hormones.

Saturday 11 January 2014

Interview with Alexandra Billings

Monika: Today it is my pleasure and honor to interview Alexandra Billings, a fascinating American actress, teacher, singer, and the first trans woman to have played a transgender character on television. She was born in Schaumburg, Illinois. Alexandra is also known for transgender characters in ER, Eli Stone, How to Get Away with Murder, Grey's Anatomy, and The Conners.I must say I am thrilled that I can interview such an iconic person. Hello Alexandra!
Alexandra: Well hi there, Monika. I’m glad we can chat like this. I love this cyber-age. You can do anything virtually. Well…almost anything.
No…wait. Literally anything.
Monika: You come from an artistic family. Is it the reason why you became an artist and your whole professional life focuses on beauty pageants, theaters, movies, and singing? 
Alexandra: Strangely I come from both an artistic and academic family. My Dad was the musical director at Civic Light Opera House in LA for many years, and my mother was a teacher, as was her mother and her mother before her. My Dad also taught as well as flew in the air force and retired as a Lt Colonel. So, I’m half bohemian, half professor. I think that’s why I’ve always had this strange sense of adventure mixed with a need to settle down and nest. I’m like a frustrated Carol Brady… on a dash of crack.

Friday 10 January 2014

Interview with Sherilyn Connelly

Monika: Today’s interview will be with Sherilyn Connelly, an American transgender writer from San Francisco, author of "Malediction and Pee Play”, featured in Topside Press‘s “The Collection: Short Fiction from the Transgender Vanguard”. She writes about movies and television for Medialoper and the popular Gawker Media blog io9 and is the head film critic for SF Weekly. Hello Sherilyn!
Sherilyn: Hi!
Monika: Could you say a few words about yourself?
Sherilyn: I'm a San Francisco-based writer. Most of my personal writing has been memoir, but over the past few years, I've been working professionally as a film critic and journalist for the Village Voice and SF Weekly.
Monika: How did you start writing?
Sherilyn: I'd always wanted to be a writer from a young age. Two things I wanted to be, actually, were a writer and a girl. At the time, the chances of either happening -- let alone both -- seemed impossibly remote.

Thursday 9 January 2014

Interview with Adèle Anderson

Monika: Today it is my pleasure and honor to interview Adèle Anderson, an inspirational British songwriter, actress, and member of the acclaimed British cabaret group Fascinating Aïda. She is a patron and humanist celebrant of Humanists UK (formerly known as the British Humanist Association), specializing in non-religious weddings. Hello Adèle!
Adèle: Hello, Monika. What would you like to know?
Monika: Last year Fascinating Aïda could boast the 30th anniversary of its creation. You joined the group, a year later, in 1984. So you have been singing with Dillie Keane for almost 30 years. (Liza Pulman joined the group in 2004.) How have you managed to stay together for so many years?
Adèle: First of all, I hugely admire Dillie and her extraordinary talent. We discovered that we just “clicked” as a writing partnership. She has made me a much better songwriter than I would ever have been on my own.
Secondly, it is extremely satisfying to perform a show that one has written and to enjoy the reactions of the various audiences up and down the country and, sometimes, abroad. Dillie and I have learned to be upfront about any disagreements and not to be offended if one of us doesn’t like a lyric that the other one has written, or thinks it isn’t good enough.

Wednesday 8 January 2014

Interview with Tamara Adrián

Monika: Today it is my pleasure and honor to interview Tamara Adrián, a prominent LGBT activist and law professor from Venezuela. She is also an international activist, being the current Trans Secretary of ILGA, the Chair of IDAHO-T, and a member of the BOD of WPATH, GATE, and GLISA. Hello Tamara!
Tamara: Hello, Monika. It is a pleasure to be with you today, and respond to your questions. I think young LGBT are needed of positive examples of life, so they may create and fulfill a plan of life that fully responds to their wishes and desires, and promote their abilities and dreams without discrimination.
Monika: Could you say a few words about your career so far?
Tamara: Well, I am a lawyer that graduated with honors in Venezuela; I have a Doctorate in Law with honors at Paris University, and I am a law professor, as well as a practitioner lawyer.
Within this context, I’ve been able to potentiate my activism, by means of both writing and action. Some people are only academics, the others are only activists. I think that when you are able to combine both, you may propose ideas from the academic point of view, and may defend them in the field with your activism.

Tuesday 7 January 2014

Interview with Jula Böge

Monika: Today it is my pleasure and honor to interview Jula Böge, a German transgender activist and writer, the author of “Ich bin (k)ein Mann: Als Transgender glücklich leben” (2009). Hello Jula!
Jula: Hello Monika, I’m very impressed that you know my book because it is only accessible in the German language. My site is better known in Germany. It has more than 100,000 readers per year.
Monika: Could you say a few words about your career so far?
Jula: I never realized that I have a career. Nearly ten years ago I began to share my experiences and insights as a transgender person by writing articles and publishing them on my website. The book in 2009 was an important next step. Since then I have been not only a writer but also a speaker on CSD events in Germany and other European countries.

Monday 6 January 2014

Interview with Chelle Padraigin

Monika: Today it is my pleasure and honor to interview Chelle Padraigin, an American transgender activist and writer, hardware store owner, newspaper columnist, President of a Habitat for Humanity chapter, church pianist, member of many boards and civic organizations, and author of “Finally Chelle: The Musings of an Average Transsexual Woman”. Hello Chelle!
Chelle: Hi, there, Monika!
Monika: Could you say a few words about your career so far?
Chelle: Hmmm… I’ve worked continuously since I was 12 years old—and that was 40 years ago—so that covers a lot of ground! The short version is that I started college as a music major, changed majors after one year, and got my degree in electrical engineering. I worked as an engineer for about 13 years before getting into the hardware business and I’ve owned a retail hardware store for over 15 years, now.

Sunday 5 January 2014

Interview with Joy Ladin

Monika: Today it is my pleasure and honor to interview Joy Ladin, an inspirational American woman, a writer, poet, Gottesman Professor of English at Stern College for Women of Yeshiva University, lecturer at many universities and colleges, including Sarah Lawrence College, Princeton University, Tel Aviv University, Reed College and the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. Hello Joy!
Joy: Hi Monika, and thank you! It's wonderful to talk with you.
Monika: In your memoir titled “Through the Door of Life: A Jewish Journey Between Genders” (2012) you touch upon many intimate and personal issues of your transition, including the relationship between your religion and transgenderism. What is the attitude of Judaism towards transgender women?
Joy: It depends on what you mean by “Judaism.” The Reform, Reconstructionist and Conservative movements in Judaism have all adopted policies welcoming transgender people, but there is a lot of work to do when it comes to translating abstract policy statements into concrete action in communities.
Orthodox Jewish communities are just beginning to recognize the existence of people whose gender is more complicated than “male” or “female,” though the sages of the Talmud recognized the existence of what we would now call intersex people, and they interpreted Jewish law in ways that enabled people whose bodies weren't simply male or female to participate in Jewish ritual and community.

Saturday 4 January 2014

Interview with Drew-Ashlyn Cunningham

Monika: Today it is my pleasure and honor to interview Drew-Ashlyn Cunningham, a talented woman, British celebrity and model, make-up artist, and participant of Channel 4’s reality documentary "My Transsexual Summer". Hello Drew-Ashlyn!
Drew-Ashlyn: Thank you so much for doing this interview. I'm excited to see what kind of questions you thought up for me!
Monika: It has been 2 years since you appeared on "My Transsexual Summer". Did the documentary change your life?
Drew-Ashlyn: Haha, definitely I think it's fair to say my life is completely different now and for the better. I moved on from the coffee shop I was working in while the show was being wrapped up and started working for Illamasqua in their stand-alone store in Leeds as a make-up artist. I moved on from an abusive relationship and met a lovely guy in my hometown. I no longer have people shouting nasty things at me down the street.

Friday 3 January 2014

Interview with Vanessa Victoria

Monika: Today’s interview is with Vanessa Victoria, a Puerto Rican transgender woman, activist, model, and entertainer. Hello Vanessa Victoria!
Vanessa Victoria: Hello Monika!
Monika: Could you say a few words about your career so far?
Vanessa Victoria: Well I currently work full time for the Research Foundation Of the City University of New York. In a research study/intervention for transgender women, it is very empowering to be able to promote resilience, provide coping skills, and discuss in individual and group session settings issues that we face as women, but also issues that we face especially as transgender women.

Thursday 2 January 2014

Interview with Tracee McDaniel

Monika: Today it is my pleasure and honor to interview Tracee McDaniel, an American transgender activist, and advocate, the CEO and Founder of Juxtaposed Center for Transformation, Inc. in Atlanta, Georgia, the author of “Transitions: Memoirs of a Transsexual Woman”. Hello Tracee!
Tracee: Greetings Monika, thank you for your interest in my story.
Monika: Could you say a few words about your career so far?
Tracee: I believe that I am doing exactly what I am supposed to be doing as far as my career is concerned. I enjoy helping others.
Monika: What are the objectives and current agenda of Juxtaposed Center?
Tracee: Our current objective is to continue fighting for human rights, equality, and justice for transgender and gender non-conforming people. Our current community initiative includes membership on the Working Group on Prostitution, which was formed by Mayor Kasim Reed to address and make recommendations on how to address street prostitution in our city.

Wednesday 1 January 2014

Interview with Samantha Valentine

Monika: Today it is my pleasure and honor to interview Samantha Valentine, a British transgender activist, model, actress, and member of TEAM TG. Hello Samantha! 
Samantha: Hi Monika, It's a pleasure and an honor to do this interview. Thank you for asking me to do this.
Monika: Together with Lisa Heart, you are involved in the TEAM TG project. Could you say a few words about it?
Samantha: Well, I heard about Team TG on the Sparkle 2013 website where they were looking for volunteers to help handing out leaflets and modeling with KITT. The website itself helps anyone who is trans to find the right website for them relating to trans issues. I think this is important, especially, in the early days of transitioning. It can be a jungle and you can get lost quite easily. So something like this is a great idea.
Team TG goes to transgender events to promote itself. Having KITT certainly helps to bring attention to us and then people ask about team TG, it's all good.

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