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 julaonline.de 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.

Ich bin (k)ein Mann: Als Transgender
glücklich leben - Ein Ratgeber (2009),

Monika: You have your own website titled Julas Homepage. What kind of information do you cover there?
Jula: My Homepage is the basis of my work as an author. It contains articles I wrote myself, translations from English texts, and articles of others, which I want to make accessible to a broader audience.
Monika: What inspired you to write your book?
Jula: I wrote my book because so far the most books by or about trans people have had a biographic approach. They are all people who made their way. But nobody has talked about the basics. Nobody has said about the difficulties to manage oneself and integrate the topic of trans identity into a partnership. I wanted a kind of guidebook, but it didn’t exist, so I had to write it myself.
Monika: Which aspects of your biography could be used by other transgender women planning their transitions?
Jula: Maybe mostly the fact that I didn’t really transition. I do refuse the simple choice of either to be a woman or to be a man. I reject the decision and oscillate between the gender roles. So I could be an example for a kind of third way for all those who are like me not able to make a clear decision.
Monika: Did you have any transgender role models that you could follow?
Jula: Of course, but it is not one person. If I had no role models I would never have had the guts to go my way. My role models were the girls I met on the web, on several social networks. They taught me what is possible and their examples encouraged me to leave my closet.

Speaking at the CSD Konstant in 2013.

Monika: What was the hardest thing about your coming out?
Jula: The hardest thing was to learn for me that I could be accepted and loved as a woman too. No matter what my chromosomes and genitals are like. The hardest obstacles on my way out were my fears and my lack of self-confidence.
Monika: What is your view on transgender stories or characters which have been featured in German films, newspapers, or books so far?
Jula: Every broadcast story is important because it is a step to the visibility of transgendered people in our society. But I regret that only two types of Transgender people are present in the public perception. First, there are drag queens who are very flashy and present a specific hyper-feminized picture. 
And on the other side, there are "serious" transsexuals, who achieve and undergo medical treatment and try to live in deep stealth as "natural born women".
All the others, those who reject medical treatment or changing gender depending on mood and situation, do not appear in media. Only those who confirm the binary gender system are in the light but there are much more in the shadow. People like me, people who live queer and who do not fit into the idyllic world of two divided genders.
Monika: What do you think about the present situation of transgender women in German society?
Jula: The situation in Germany is better than in most countries in the world. Our Constitution protects us from prosecution and harassment through legal bodies. That is far more than people in other states in Europe or other continents. Our society is tolerant. It is possible to go out for people like me who are at the latest on closer inspection cognizable as a born man when they are in female gender role.

Presenting her book at the International
Book Fair in Frankfurt.

Monika: Are you active in politics? Do you participate in any lobbying campaigns? Do you think transgender women can make a difference in politics?
Jula: Together with some friends I try to influence the debate in Germany about the revision of the laws applying the situation and rights of transgendered people.
Monika: Are there any important activists in the transgender movement in Germany?
Jula: In Germany, there is no transgender person in politics or administration at a high level. There are some experts like a well-known lawyer or a psychotherapist who advise the decision-makers in advisory boards. But there is no transgendered decision-maker in Germany, not even a transgendered member of Parliament.
Monika: Could you tell me about the importance of love in your life?
Jula: Love is the biggest power in my life. Without the love of my life, I never would have chosen the way I live today.
Monika: Do you like fashion? What kind of outfits do you usually wear? Any special fashion designs, colors, or trends?
Jula: Fashion for me is an important aspect. I like clothes and - that's understood - shoes. I'm a hobby seamstress and like very much creating my own clothes and accessories. I like casual style, so my favorite labels are Esprit, S. Oliver, Cecil, and Tom Taylor. But I also like a little bit of romantic vintage style, for example, the dresses of the English label Phase Eight.

Holding a lecture at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden.

Monika: What do you think about transgender beauty pageants?
Jula: I’m skeptical if these contests really help to increase the acceptance of trans people in society. They only reproduce the ideals of stereotype femininity. Trans women who are able to fit in are welcome. But all the others, who are not pretty and stay recognizable as genetic males, are rejected. What we need is to change the rules of gender expression not to try to over-fulfill them
Monika: Are you working on any new projects now?
Jula: I’m writing a lot about the relations between the “doing gender” approach in feminist theory and what it means for the understanding of transgender. I hope I will conclude some new articles about this topic in 2014.
Monika: Having not completely transitioned yourself, what would you recommend to all transgender women struggling with gender dysphoria?
Jula: Most important is to realize that you should do nothing only because you believe society expects you to do it. If you want to have a chance for living happily you only should do what your heart tells you to do.
Monika: Jula, thank you for the interview!

All the photos: courtesy of Jula Böge.
© 2014 - Monika Kowalska

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