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.
I then met another one in a bar called Bar Hollywood in Playa del Ingles at the yumbo center in Gran Canaria where I was working as a floor waitress. Her name was Michelle and she was one of the nicest people I have met in my life. She helped me discover myself more.
Once I got back to London about 2006 I was living still in a lie, I wasn't me that is when I had the big break down, and pleaded to my partner I need to see someone about this dysphoria. Then I finally went to Dr. Richard James Curtis; it took me a while to get the first appointment, like about 5 months, then another 3 months later after the first appointment, he had me on hormones. This was about 2008.

Ready for a day out with other
transladies Auckland pride parade
and after-party 2013.

Monika: And when you returned?
Jasmine: Returning to New Zealand was an important part of my life; it was me, revealing the true me to my family. They were a bit off to start with, but now today we all just get on like a normal family, I get invited to Christmas with my partner and I get invited to his family things. I went through a lot of heartaches for a few years, so my saving for surgery was just not happening.
Over the last year, it has been about me getting my life back on track, getting back to a more career-focused mind, and offering my support to those who need it. It is my passion to see unity and care in our community.
Currently, I am studying Administrative Services. I have worked in many bars, hotels, and restaurants in Europe over the past. So this year I am studying for a change in direction in life.
Monika: Over a year ago you appeared in the New Zealand media, appealing to your government for the change of the funding system for gender reassignment surgery in your country. Has anything changed since then?
Jasmine: We have a government-funded surgery for 3 male to female (reassignment) and 1 female to male surgery fully funded every 2 years. Currently, the waiting list is around 20 years. You must be referred by a GP to a specialist, then see at least a psychologist before you can be considered for the list.
I haven't noticed any change, just the fact more of us know about this option. Our current surgeon is someone not desired by transwomen; he is getting quite old and his methods seem to be quite outdated.
Monika: What do you think about the present situation of transgender women in New Zealand in general?
Jasmine: To be honest despite the moaning, I think we have it wonderful. Yes, discrimination still exists out there, but one on one people are generally quite nice. You hardly hear of transwomen being beaten here. We are all over the workforce, it’s not an issue really with employment, but that is if one makes an effort to look respectable. Lately, I believe, trans advocate and lawyer Kelly Ellis did a great job about transpeople in prisons.
We do sadly have most of the issues amongst the trans community. I am now seeing a divide in the transsexual community on its own, where I am finding the older generations of transsexuals aren't being so open-minded and the younger generation like me are open-minded to others’ views on being transsexual.
Monika: What is so different about the older community?
Jasmine: Sadly the older community seem to want special treatment as opposed to the rest of the transgender community, they also don’t want to fall under that umbrella of transgender, many of us younger transsexual don't seem to mind really, but in general I find in NZ being Transwoman is quite a gift.
I do find sometimes some people from the rural areas are very uneducated though. You do get the whole cis women occasionally like to purposely misgender you, but hey all us girls like to get a bit catty when we are competing for the guys hehe.

S&M's Cocktail and lounge
bar. Game show hostess for
a fun night during the
Wellington Outgames 2011.

Monika: Could transgenderism be the new frontier for human rights?
Jasmine: Yes, I do think that it is one of the big ones going around at the moment, after women’s rights, then the whole race thing, then homosexuals; I think we still have a long way to go internationally.
Monika: What is your general view on transgender stories or characters which have been featured in films, newspapers, or books so far?
Jasmine: Most of the time I am upset by it, as we are always shown as depressed, drugged-up prostitutes, or just as people with loads of issues. I am still waiting on a film that shows a transwoman in the light of the Devil Wears Prada.
In the news, you rarely see the good stuff printed, also I notice they like to highlight the bad things, like a headline might read: TRANSGENDER WOMAN WAS FOUND BASHED AFTER SHE HAD BEEN ON COCAINE BINGE if it was a cis woman it would read: WOMAN WAS FOUND BASHED THIS MORNING. The newspaper really enjoys making us look bad. Nothing has really made me smile about the media yet.
Monika: I have read about many fantastic role models from New Zealand such as Georgina Beyer, Dana de Milo, Carmen Rupe, Cherise Witehira, or Jacquie Grant. At that time of your transition did you have any transgender role models that you could follow? 
Jasmine: Georgina, Dana, Jacquie, and Carmen can definitely be listed here. I would add Kelly Ellis. She has just received honors from the LGBT community lately. Also Lexie Matheson and Sara Chez. Oh and I cannot forget Cindy Lewis.
Monika: What was the hardest thing about your coming out?
Jasmine: First was the fact I was in a relationship with a guy who was really good to me (sadly that fell apart not long after), also was family, my biggest fear was losing my family, I am very close to them.
Monika: Transgender ladies are subject to the terrible test whether they pass as a woman or they do not. You are a lovely lady yourself but what advice you would give to ladies with the fear of not passing as a woman?
Jasmine: Not to worry too much, what on earth does a woman really look like? Every time I look around they all look different. Yes, if you look masculine you may have issues, but time will change that, and just not look too over the top, if you go over the top you draw unwanted attention. Most important; walk proud!
Monika: Are you active in politics? Do you participate in any lobbying campaigns? Do you think transgender women can make a difference in politics?
Jasmine: I have a Facebook group called “Transsexuals of New Zealand”. It’s a closed group; we had some issues amongst some admins being quite nasty, so I had them leave on their own terms and have spent the last few weeks tidying it up and weeding out the meanies. I made it closed to encourage some to speak, I was told by those admins if they leave we will crumble, but no, I have seen the opposite. I have had many who left due to the bitching return and commend me. I was on Genderbridge Incs Committee for a while, and also helped in organizing Transgender Day of Remembrance 2011 in Auckland, so yes I guess I am quite involved.

Behind the party girl really I am just an ordinary girl.

Monika: Could you tell me about the importance of love in your life?
Jasmine: For me it is important, it gives me that sense of even better acceptance. I am currently engaged to a lovely guy, we are open to everyone in our families and that gives me a warm feeling. I get invited to his family things all the time, and we are seen as Rory and Jasmine (a couple). I really enjoy it, and his mum treats me just like a daughter, even bought me a lovely white dress for my 30th; she is eager for our wedding.
Monika: Do you like fashion? What kind of outfits do you usually wear? Any special fashion designs, colors, or trends?
Jasmine: I use to care about fashion, but these days I am just your average girl next door look. I wear just simple dresses, that look nice; I avoid heals as they make me look like a giant. But if I do wear them now, they have to be strappy and plain.
I like bright colors, pastels, or anything pale. When I wear tops and skirts it must be not too short also just above the knee and tops light material and flowy. Nothing beats my favorite bootcut jeans, slinky top, and strappy heels. I can never go wrong with a classic country glamour look.
Monika: What do you think about transgender beauty pageants?
I do not like them at all. I think they make it worse for those who struggle to pass and make us feel worse about our bodies.
Monika: Many transgender ladies write their memoirs. Have you ever thought about writing such a book yourself?
Jasmine: I think why the hell should I do that. I understand if one has really made a difference, but some do it and you look on and think please girl, on an ego boost are we? My tale is not much different from many. If I do something special one day I might. Sorry I am a real modest soul.
Monika: Are you working on any new projects now?
Jasmine: Yes just a career change, and saving for our wedding.
Monika: What would you recommend to all transgender girls struggling with gender dysphoria?
Jasmine: Don't hide it, see a specialist ASAP. I tried to hide it, and I had a massive breakdown. You need to be true yourself.
Monika: Jasmine, thank you for the interview!

All the photos: courtesy of Jasmine Eastall.
© 2014 - Monika Kowalska

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