Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Interview with Eden Lane

Monika: Today it is my pleasure and honor to interview Eden Lane, a television journalist and producer, homemaker, wife, and mother, the only American broadcast journalist that is known to be transgender, 2011 Denver Post Ovation Award Winner, the host of Colorado Public Television's "In Focus with Eden Lane," a weekly interview program about arts and culture. Hello Eden!
Eden: Hello Monika!
Monika: You are an incredibly hard-working woman. You are a wife, mother, housewife, television journalist, and producer. How do you cope with so many obligations?
Eden: For me, it’s impossible to take it all in at once. The old adage, “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time”, is a great reminder. My electronic devices can help me stay on track for deadlines and family events, but I also have learned that I can’t excel in all areas at the same time; at least not without the support of my family.

In Focus with Eden Lane - 429 Leading Ladies.
Source: YouTube.

Monika: Your coming out was unintentional. Some time ago, during political coverage, your transgender status was used in a dirty campaign against some of your subjects, both Democrat and Republican. Did you have any strategy on how to react to such dirty tricks? Did you ever expect that your transgender status would be an issue? 
Eden: ”Coming Out” isn’t really the best term in that I wasn’t in the closet so to speak. My trans history wasn't a secret, but it wasn't on my business card. It never really occurred to me that it was relevant to my work any more than another woman’s medical and personal history was relevant to her work. When another journalist cited my work and included a description of me as transgender it seemed like it distracted from the point he was making. Since it was a surprise to become part of the story I didn't have a strategy prepared on how to react.

In the flesh.

Monika: You did not intend to become a transgender role model, preferring to be a married, suburban housewife and mom with no intention to be in the spotlight. Do you regret becoming one of the most inspirational transgender role models?
Eden: Role Model is an uncomfortable label for me. I am far too flawed to be a role model. It is clear that my work and platform are evidence that other transpeople can reach out for any opportunity if they aren't afraid to do the work and keep trying. I can’t regret that. Hearing from others that my work has an impact on how they see their own potential is humbling and inspiring to me. I’m grateful.
Monika: One of the drawbacks of your outing was the loss of potential sponsors for your weekly primetime arts program “In Focus With Eden Lane”? What is the situation now? 
Eden: It’s true it has made it more difficult to find and retain corporate sponsors of our broadcast. However, it is important that the viewers, the community has continued to support our show, not only by watching but with direct financial support. That is so encouraging because it proves the viewers know they are watching a trans woman host and anchor programming and they continue to watch and send in money to keep the show going.
Someday sponsors, news directors. agents, producers, and media organizations large and small will learn they needn’t be afraid to use trans men and women on camera beyond reality shows.

Interviews for "Official Rejection".

Monika: In your TV program you speak with artists, writers, directors, performers, and others in the theater, dance, music, film, and television. What was the biggest cultural event in the USA in 2013?
Eden: It is almost impossible to cite a single cultural event. It feels like we might be cracking the door open just a little more for women, people of color, and some parts of the LGBT community, beyond ‘diversity” but incrementally edging toward inclusion. Even though it may be just tiny cracks, it did feel like a small tremor of change in 2013.
Monika: Some critics say that contemporary art does not provide too many opportunities for women to show their talents and stories that are more interesting for the female audience. Would you agree?
Eden: Opportunities for women’s voice in art, politics, business, in all segments of life are still limited, What encourages me is more and more women are creating their own spaces for art, their own business, and their own political movements.
Monika: What is your general view on transgender stories or characters that have been featured in films, newspapers, or books so far?
Eden: We are beginning to glimpse more varied stories of transgender people. It is just a start, but so exciting to witness. The old worn ideas of who transpeople are still dominate, but it seems as if something seismic is happening.
Larverne Cox has delivered compelling work in Orange Is The New Black, and Musical Chairs. Janet Mock’s unflinching new memoir Redefining Realness gives us a look at a powerful young trans woman of color most people have never read before. Chaz Bono was invited into America’s living rooms in primetime.
Newsrooms are examining how they report on transpeople, so even though there is plenty of room for improvement, the doors are opening, the conversations are starting, and amazing trans men and women are refusing to keep quiet. 

In Focus with Eden Lane - Show 735 Producing
Artistic Directors. Source: YouTube.

Monika: At that time of your transition, did you have any transgender role models that you could follow?
Eden: That seems so long ago. I don't recall knowing much about other transgender people. In fact, I had never even heard that word at the time. It was not easy to find information, at least not truthful information. Of course, I heard about Christine Jorgensen, April Ashley, Caroline Cossey (Tula), and later Aleshia Brevard. In a more real way, I learned from the showgirls who passed on what they knew. That was a time when most of the women who worked as showgirls left the business and the community as they transitioned.

Jon Jon show.

Monika: What do you think about the present situation of transgender women in American society?
Eden: Basic safety continues to be a major concern for so many transgender people. Access to informed health care, education, employment. It is wonderful to see the positive achievements of many transgender men and women, but it is still too rare an exception.
Monika: Could transgenderism be the new frontier for human rights?
Eden: It feels like one of the far too many frontiers. A least now the hard work and sacrifice of many have at least included transgender people in the conversation.
Monika: Do you participate in any lobbying campaigns? Do you think transgender women can make a difference in politics?
Eden: As a journalist, I do not participate in campaigns I may be reporting on. There are so many ways everyone can make a difference in politics. Working on campaigns, not only for transgender or LGBT issues but building alliances by working on other issues.
Monika: Do you like fashion? What kind of outfits do you usually wear? Any special fashion designs, colors, or trends?
Eden: I enjoy and respect fashion but my wardrobe is more practical than creative. Covering a Red Carpet event is often both fun and stressful just considering what to wear. 
Monika: What do you think about transgender beauty pageants?
Eden: I don’t know enough about Transgender Pageants to make a statement.

On stage at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House
during the auction for Opera Colorado.

Monika: Many transgender ladies write their memoirs. Have you ever thought about writing such a book yourself?
Eden: There have been a few memoirs by transwomen I really enjoyed. A project I began a few years ago started out as something else, but has morphed into a kind of memoir. 
Monika: Are you working on any new projects now?
Eden: My weekly broadcast is ongoing, but during breaks, I have other projects in different stages. One is a documentary about transgender people working in media. Another is a limited series of looks at the Arts and Artists in surprising places.
Monika: What would you recommend to all transgender girls dreaming about such a career as yours?
Eden: Work on your school newspaper or newscast if they have one. Watch a variety of newscasts. Find an internship that will let you do more than make copies and carry gear. Attend the NLGJA convention as part of the student project. Learn to write, shoot, edit, produce... do it all. The most sought-after people in the newsroom are backpack, multimedia, one-man-band journalists.
Monika: Eden, thank you for the interview!

All the photos: courtesy of Eden Lane.
© 2014 - Monika Kowalska

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