Monday, 31 March 2014

Interview with Miss saHHara


Monika: Today it is my pleasure and honour to interview Miss saHHara, a British Nigerian model, singer, beauty queen and LGBT activist, known for representing Nigeria in international beauty pageants to draw attention to the plights of LGBTQI+ people in Africa. In 2011, she was the first Nigerian trans woman to participate in the Miss International Queen beauty pageant in Pattaya, Thailand. Hello Miss saHHara!
Miss saHHara: Hi Monika!
Monika: Some critics compare your voice to that of Nina Simone. Do you have any singers that you admire and draw inspirations from?
Miss saHHara: Yes, I have been told I sound like Nina Simone, Ella Fitzgerald and Heather Small from M-People. I find it humbling because they are the greats! I am influenced by the looks, glamour and stage presence of Shirley Bassey.
Monika: Could you say a few words about your singing career?
Miss saHHara: I began singing and writing songs at the age of twelve in Nigeria. I found solace in music through the church due to a rather troubled/confused childhood because of the identity I was assigned at birth. So, when I moved to the United Kingdom to live my life openly, I decided to pursue my music career a bit farther.
I have a singing residency in a lovely venue in London for the past 10 years. Music is my life, being creative in writing and producing gives me joy and satisfaction. I have written and produced over fifty songs, I am planning to release an album in the future.

Sunday, 30 March 2014

Interview with Kat Haché


Monika: Today’s interview will be with Kat Haché, an American video blogger that documents her transition on YouTube. Hello Kat!
Kat: Hello Monika! Thanks for reaching out to interview me.
Monika: Could you say a few words about yourself?
Kat: Well, I am a transgender woman from East Tennessee. I’m currently in graduate school getting my masters in archival studies. I’m interested in trans representation and the diversity transgender narrative in the archive.
Monika: Why did you decide to share your transition details on YouTube?
Kat: Well, like I said, I’m interested in personal narratives. I think they are incredibly powerful and inspirational for others who have experienced or are experiencing the same sorts of things as the person relaying that narrative. For transgender people, we are so used to being articulated by society in less than flattering terms rather than articulating our own narratives and identities on our own terms, with our own discourse.
With that video I really wanted to challenge the narrative that there was one crystallizing moment that I *knew* that I was trans, and instead I wanted to articulate how it was a gradual discovery and a gradual deconstruction of this imposed narrative of who I was supposed to be and this imposed dialogue that I had to use to describe myself and limit who I could be at any of the stages mentioned.

Saturday, 29 March 2014

Interview with Addie Vincent


Monika: Today it is my pleasure and honour to interview Addie Vincent, a Chapman University student that made history as the first transgender contestant in Delta Tau Delta’s philanthropy pageant. Hello Addie!
Addie: Hello, Monika! Thanks for having me!
Monika: Could you say a few words about yourself?
Addie: Of course. My name is Addie and I’m a senior at Chapman University. I was born in Canada, raised in Michigan, and currently attending school in sunny California. I identify as a Trans* person, more specifically as a gender queer person with they/them/their preferred gender pronouns.

Friday, 28 March 2014

Interview with Cadence Matthews


Monika: Today’s interview will be with Cadence W. Matthews, a young transgender woman from Canada. Hello Cadence!
Cadence: Hi Monika; thank you for having me.
Monika: Could you say a few words about yourself?
Cadence: Well, I am 27, I work in the hair extension industry, as well as doing some acting, singing, and other artistic pursuits. 
Monika: Why did you decide to share your transition details in the media?
Cadence: I think it's important to share my journey as a way of giving back to the community. Trans visibility has only recently increased in a positive way , and I want to be a part of that.

Thursday, 27 March 2014

Interview with Amanda Watson


Monika: Today it is my pleasure and honour to interview Amanda Nicole Watson, a USN Veteran, healthcare worker, activist and transgender woman from California, USA. Hello Amanda!
Amanda: Hello Monika, what an honor for you to ask me for an interview, I feel humble in this moment. I think talking about one’s self is always challenging.
Monika: Could you say a few words about yourself?
Amanda: Gladly, I am a 46 year old transgender woman, living California’s Central Valley. I work in the healthcare business. In my line of work I try to be an outspoken advocate for LGBT related issues in healthcare. As well as taking away the stigma that some try to place on transgender people.
Monika: At what age did you transition into woman yourself? Was it a difficult process? Did you have any support from your family or friends?
Amanda: My transition did not fully start until I was in my thirties. I had known since age 5 that I was a little girl. However, the world around did not seem to embrace the same thoughts. Around the age of 15 I had a traumatic event that occurred. This event made me despise weaknesses that I saw within myself.
In addition, I was filled with confusion over my gender and sexuality. This took me years to overcome, undoing self hatred and stereotypes. Shortly after getting out of the US Navy, I started to realize that I was not alone. Friends in the San Diego community helped my through the process. As well as a supportive family, who have continued to do their best to support and love me.

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Interview with Kalki Subramaniam


Monika: Today it is my pleasure and honour to interview Kalki Subramaniam, a transgender rights activist from India, actress, entrepreneur, the founder of Sahodari Foundation, an organization working for the social, economic and political empowerment of transgender persons in India, and the editor of the English book titled ‘Law Beyond Gender’. Hello Kalki!
Kalki: Greetings Monika. It is a pleasure to know you.
Monika: For many years you have been involved in the legal rights campaign for recognising transgender people in India. Could you say a few words about them?
Kalki: In the Indian constitution, the fundamental rights under part III are enforceable human rights guaranteed to all citizens of this country, whether men, women or transgender people. We, transgender people, however are discriminated in the society because of our gender identity. Only legal recognition can assure our rights. The state has to come up with policies that protect transgender people and initiate measures to empower us.
On that line, I have been sensitizing the judiciary of this country for a better understanding of transgender people’s lives, the issues and problems we face in the society. These campaigns being done along with other transgender rights activists, will bring tremendous changes in the near future.

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Interview with Dawn Flynn


Monika: Today it is my pleasure and honor to interview Dawn Flynn, a pastor of an LGBT congregation in Charlotte, NC - New Life Metropolitan Community Church, and author of “God Does Love Me: My Trans Journey To Finding My True Self” (2012). Hello Dawn!
Dawn: Hello Monika!
Monika: Could you say a few words about yourself?
Dawn: Sure. I am a trans woman, having had my SRS January 11, 2011. I have felt like a girl since I was 8 years old. At that time I tried on a pair of my grandmother’s clip-on earrings and knew I was different because they felt right. I suppressed my true gender identity for over 50 years through two marriages and two children, finally embracing my true self when it became clear that I was going to commit suicide if I kept on going the direction I was headed. I am now a trans activist, pastor of an LGBT church in Charlotte, NC, and openly share my story whenever I can to encourage others on their journey.

Monday, 24 March 2014

Interview with Aneesh Sheth


Monika: Today it is my pleasure and honour to interview Aneesh Sheth, a young Indian-American actress and transgender activist, an Advocate Magazine's 40 Under 40 list honoree, known for her roles in "Outsourced" (2011), "My Inner Turmoil" (2011), and "Arbore" (2012). Hello Aneesh!
Aneesh: Hi Monika! Thank you so much for this honor!
Monika: Could you say a few words about yourself?
Aneesh: Sure! I am an actress and activist originally from New York City. In 2010, I made my way to the West Coast, first in San Francisco and then to Seattle in November of 2013, where I currently reside.
Monika: When did you decide to pursue an acting career?
Aneesh: I was lucky enough to have parents that were very supportive of the arts, and to live in New York where there is an abundance of it. Ever since I was very little, my parents took me to see lots of theatre and opera and somehow I got bit by the bug.
I think I was cast in my first show at age 7, and just continued my journey in theatre and film from there. When I was ready to leave for college, I made the choice to pursue a career in acting and I was very lucky to have supportive parents who encouraged me to pursue my dream.

Sunday, 23 March 2014

Interview with Andi Dier


Monika: Today it is my pleasure and honour to interview Andi Dier, an American young woman, transgender activist from New York. Hello Andi!
Andi: Hey there, I don’t really feel like I do enough to call myself an “activist.”
Monika: Could you say a few words about yourself?
Andi: Sure, I mean, I’m still young so I don’t have much to show. But I’m an advocate who prides herself on speaking from a place based mostly on observation and reason. I’m a soon-to-be physics student, so it’s only natural.
Monika: We are having the interview in the middle of the media outcry caused by the employees of The Irish Times Pub and Restaurant in Holbrook who in your view bruskly removed you from the premise, using transphobic slurs? Are you still angry with the treatment you got?
Andi: Absolutely. At first I was just pissed that I couldn’t get into a pub with my own ID. But now I sincerely believe I wasn’t let in because I’m transgender. They had no right to misgender me. They had no right to touch me or use aggressive physical assault against a young girl less than half their size. Most of all, they knew their position of power and used it to humiliate me. Unfortunately not a first for me.

She was high when she took this.

Monika: Have you ever faced any acts of discrimination before?
Andi: I’ve faced it on more of a microscale. Not something like this, however.
Monika: Are you satisfied with the way you are being portrayed by the media?
Andi: By most outlets, yes. Cathy Brennan’s propaganda hate group website “Gender Identity Watch” is a different story. They misgender us for fun.
Monika: What should be done in order to stop transphobic acts?
Andi: Oh, wow, that’s a long laundry list of things. Most transphobia stems from misplaced homophobia. It always comes down to education. You know what the most effective measure would be? A mandate to teach about gender identities in health class. Of course, this would be “controversial.”
Our school systems ignore us, they’re how most of us get an idea about the world, by doing so they’ve institutionalized transphobia. But we are a fact of human biology. We exist.
Monika: What is your general view on transgender stories or characters which have been featured in films, newspapers or books so far?
Andi: Ugh, fucking terrible. Trans people are largely represented through the eyes of cis people. Our lives of pain and violence are ignored until they become convenient for their comedic relief characters. Don’t get me started on cis people playing trans roles.

The only reason she looks happy
here is because of her boobs.

Monika: At that time of your transition, did you have any transgender role models that you followed?
Andi: It’s difficult to pinpoint when I started transitioning. I’ve only started dressing 24/7 a week after I lost my job in the beginning of September. That’s when things started snowballing for me. But I’ve been on hormones for 19 months now. And I’ve been femme long before that.
Regarding the question, I feel like we’ve reached a weird tipping point in the last year for the transgender community against the mainstream media. Their authority and ignorance is finally being challenged.
I’ve followed pretty transgender faces for years. But there hasn’t been much personality until recently: Laverne Cox, Laura Jane Grace, Chelsea Manning. They’re really making transgender people — people.
And I really do have all the respect in the universe for Chelsea Manning, who right now is locked in two cages, not only by her body but by the U.S. government.
Monika: What was the hardest thing about your coming out?
Andi: Telling my parents. That was literally the hardest thing. I’m not even sure why. They’re pretty liberal. And they’ve easily accepted my older brother as gay. But being trans is... different. I was socialized within a society that made wearing women’s clothes unnecessarily embarrassing. But time shows, the hardest thing about coming out is the concept of it. Years will pass and you’ll forget it even happened.
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?
Andi: I still fear I don’t pass. That fear is waning, albeit slowly. I’m not sure I’m comfortable giving advice I can’t follow myself. However, you’ll never be cis. We all need to accept that because it’s driving us mad. You are no less a woman than a cis woman. But you’ll never be cis. And that’s okay. If you feel like your body is broken, fix it. But don’t harp over factors you can’t change. Trans girls are fucking beautiful.

Good thing eyes don't have noticeable gender
characteristics because she took this years ago
and it's her favorite photo she's ever taken.

Monika: What do you think about the present situation of transgender women in the American society?
Andi: I don’t think much about the present situation of cis women in the American society. So there’s not much hope for trans women. What do I think? We need to all move to Sweden, where they respect gender equality, or bring that ideology here.
Monika: Could transgenderism be the new frontier for human rights?
Andi: It undoubtedly is. Marriage equality has become a centralized issues. Trans people are only now starting to whisper in the mainstream conversation. And marriage equality is the least of our issues. We have a lot to fight for. It could be. The question is, will any large organizations passionately mobilize around us?
Monika: Are you active in politics? Do you participate in any lobbying campaigns? Do you think transgender women can make a difference in politics?
Andi: I’m tirelessly educated on politics. But I’ve not overcome my ADHD enough to do something significantly productive with it, besides social outreach. I plan to get more involved as my life goes on. We can, only if we organize effectively enough.
Monika: Could you tell me about the importance of love in your life?
Andi: My love of science has kept me going. It’s the reason I want to wake up in the morning. There were so many nights I’ve wanted to give up; nights of tattered clothes and broken mirrors. But I loved too many people. I loved too many experiences. I loved breathing too much, even at times where it felt like I was suffocating.

She's pretty sure she can pass as a 12 year
old girl in this and that scares her a little.

Monika: Do you like fashion? What kind of outfits do you usually wear? Any special fashion designs, colours or trends?
Andi: I had a pretty bad shopping addiction that consumed most of my finances, if that answers the question. I hate to sound painfully generic. But I’m inspired by Tumblr.
I’ve always idolized the girls on there. I dress like a hipster infused with punk. I could live in Forever 21. Trends piss me off though, it’s out-of-style when I feel like it.
Monika: Are you working on any new projects now?
Andi: I’m working on an educational thought-provoking YouTube channel. It’s been in the works for awhile now. I have the first episode written but shooting it has proven to be troublesome.
It will be a series tackling science, politics, philosophy, spirituality, existentialism, etc. Of course, there will be a handful of videos about transgender issues, as well, likely in a broader context. I’m pretty good at connecting dots and that’s what I hope to do.
Monika: What would you recommend to all transgender girls, struggling with gender dysphoria?
Andi: The most important advice I could give is transition literally ASAP. Every day counts. We feel like we’re dying before we get to live. But science has allowed us to manipulate biology in our favor. Don’t let yourself be a victim of circumstance. Fight for it, no matter what it’ll cost you.
But above all: Cry because you’re in pain. Cry because it’s fucking hard. But don’t cry because you don’t feel like a gal. You are.
Monika: Andi, thank you for the interview!
Andi: Thank you for having me!

All the photos: courtesy of Andi Dier.
© 2014 - Monika Kowalska
  

Saturday, 22 March 2014

Interview with Tona Brown


Monika: Today it is my pleasure and honour to interview Tona Brown, a talented African American Transgender violinist, vocalist, mezzo soprano, actress and host of a web TV series entitled "Conversations with Tona Brown". 
Tona was the first transgender woman to perform at Carnegie Hall and was chosen by the White House to sing the National Anthem for President Obama at a 2011 LGBT Pride Gala in New York City. She participated in such shows as “Now What” with BET producer Kevin E. Taylor, WHRO’s Hear Say with Cathy Lewis, the Anthony McCarthy Show, and the Marc Steiner Show. Hello Tona!
Tona: Hi Monika. It is a pleasure to speak with you and everyone that follows your work. 
Monika: You started as a classical violinist but soon you became a successful mezzo soprano diva. Would you like to keep both options open or you have already decided about your artistic future?
Tona: I would like to keep all options open because I enjoy making music no matter the genre or medium. Music IS my life!
Monika: Could you say a few words about your music career?
Tona: My decision to follow my dreams was the best decision of my life. As an artist I can express things that would be very difficult for me to express normally. Through my art I can release all frustrations and emote in ways unimaginable.

Friday, 21 March 2014

Interview with Beth Horner


Monika: Today’s interview will be with Beth Horner, an American living in greater LA. She works in the bicycle industry and has won some design awards in the past, written 2 technical books, played music in a local band and has traveled extensively to Europe, Asia and South America for work and pleasure. Hello Beth!
Beth: Hi Monika and thanks for what you’re doing. There are lots of transwomen leading normal, interesting and successful lives. This is important for all people to know.
Monika: Could you say a few words about yourself?
Beth: I was born in Afghanistan where my Dad was a USA diplomat. My Mom was Dutch and during my childhood we traveled a lot, living in many different countries. I must have been about 5 when I put on my Mom’s dress, in Greece, in private, and had an awakening. I revisited that theme many times over the years and dreamt, “if only I could have been born female”, or that there could be some magical intervention to make it happen. Basically the feeling was of inner peace and that things would be better compared to the estrangement I felt.

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Interview with Honey West


Monika: Today it is my pleasure and honour to interview Honey West, an American entertainer, singer/actress, and YouTube vlogger. She started her cabaret career in the 1990s with one-woman show “A Taste of Honey”. She won two After Dark Awards as Chicago’s Outstanding Cabaret Entertainer as well as several other honors.
In 1997 she released her first album “Take Honey West Home” and seven years later released a second collection “My Big Fat Cheesy Lounge Act”. Honey appeared in the film “Velvets”, which was shown at the Chicago Lesbian and Gay International Film Festival, and recorded the love theme for the Judy Tenuta film “Butch Camp”.
She starred in the comedy Vampire Lesbians of Sodom and was featured in such stage productions as “Tony N’ Tina’s Wedding”, “Pussy on the House”, “Diva Diaries, The Musical”, “Music Kills a Memory”, “The Wizard of A.I.D.S.”, “Sexy Baby”, “Applause”, and “Jerry’s Girls”. Hello Honey!
Honey: Hi Monika!
Monika: Could you say a few words about yourself?
Honey: Sure, I have a degree in Musical Theater from Indiana University. I have been singing and acting professionally for the last 33 years. I traveled with cruise ships and resorts fresh out of college and finally settled in Chicago where I live now.
Monika: When did you decide that you would like to be a stage artist?
Honey: Smile, I don’t remember a time I didn’t dream about it. They say I came out of the womb humming a tune.
Monika: Could you name some of the venues and shows in which you participated?
Honey: I got the chance as a young entertainer to live and work in Tahiti for American Hawaii cruises. I still remember the beauty and the people fondly. In Chicago I had a cabaret act that lasted for 13 years and some of the people that I met during those years are still friends today.

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Interview with Michelle Ann Farrell


Monika: Today it is my pleasure and honor to interview Michelle Ann Farrell, an American independent filmmaker, known for her work on Safehouse (2008), Bigfoot at Holler Creek Canyon (2006) and On Top (2012) and several other feature films. She has been DP on 17 feature films and has written, produced and sold scripts and has established herself as a professional filmmaker. Hello Michelle Ann!
Michelle Ann: Hello Monika, I’m honored to do this interview. Thank you.
Monika: Were you born with a video camera in your hand?
Michelle Ann: Although I’ve always enjoyed photography and personally owned a video camera once many years back I was not one of those people who made movies as a child. I’ve always enjoyed being creative writing story lines and poetry but not until I was 40 years old did I decide that I was to shoot a movie. That movie of course was “Franky’s Heaven”.
Monika: Before you worked in independent films, she had run a wedding business which involved video…
Michelle Ann: Yes, soon after Franky’s Heaven I had bought my business partners out and decided to use the movie gear and start my own business. In the beginning weddings were the day job but my goal was to one day leave that and do production full time. That’s what I do now, work production 7 days a week either in the office or out making money.

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Interview with Grishno


Monika: Today’s interview will be with Grishno, an American video blogger that documents her transition on YouTube. Hello Grishno!
Grishno: Hi Monika. Glad to be here.
Monika: Could you say a few words about yourself?
Grishno: Sure. My name is Erin Armstrong, but many people know me as Grishno online. I was assigned male at birth, but transitioned from male to female when I was 20. It was not an easy choice to make at the time, and it has cost me a lot, including my relationship with parts of my family, but looking back now, almost 10 years later, I wouldn’t change a thing.
Monika: Why did you decide to share your transition details on YouTube?
Grishno: I first started doing video blogs on YouTube in 2006, only a year or two after the site started. At the time I was living in NYC, where it is really hard to meet new people. I had friends, sure, but none of them were Trans*, and I felt like I was missing that in my life. I decided to make my first video as a way of reaching out to other people like me, and wouldn’t you know it… we’re everywhere.

Monday, 17 March 2014

Interview with Ashley Jones


Monika: Today’s interview will be with Ashley Jones, an American video blogger that documents her transition on YouTube. Hello Ashley!
Ashley: Hello and thanks for having me!
Monika: Could you say a few words about yourself?
Ashley: Sure thing! I am 23 years old, half Russian and half Ukrainian. My hobbies include: mixing/producing EDM music, playing guitar, doing yoga, and running. I’m a “gamer girl” I mostly play RPG’s, MMO’s, Sci-Fi and Fantasy games. I also love me some anime!! Top 3 would be: Cowboy Bebop, FLCL and Samurai Champloo.
I have been on hormones for 1 year and I would like to try to reach out to the LGBT community and help in any way I can! I have been through a lot of pain in the time I've spent transitioning and I would like to help others get through it all and be proud of who they are. The transgender community has a 41% suicide rate and I think that enough is enough!! If I can help just 1% of that 41% than I will be happy.

Saturday, 15 March 2014

Interview with Erica Elizabeth Ravenwood


Monika: Today’s interview will be with Erica Elizabeth Ravenwood, a video blogger that documents her transition on YouTube. Hello Erica!
Erica: Hi Monika. Thank you so much for asking me to do this. I’m just a little fish in a big sea really.
I do have to correct the term video blogger though. That would suggest I actually talk to the camera, which really isn’t my style of video. Rather, I use music and images to help me tell my story.
Monika: Could you say a few words about yourself? 
rica: Few words LOL. You don’t know me very well Monika. I’ll try to keep it pretty basic. I was born in 1965. A difficult period to grow up transgender since the information and resources didn’t exist back then like they do today. But growing up in the 70’s was also a magical time. I was 12 years old when Star Wars came out, for crying out loud. What better era was there to be a kid?
That being said, as many transgender girls do, I grew up without friends, I’ll go into that more in a later question.
I hid, buried, denied all that I could as I got older so that by the time I met my future wife I had a pretty decent alter persona going that at least allowed me to pass as male. I found the strong silent type the easiest to pull off. If I said little I would have less of a chance of giving my true thoughts away.

Friday, 14 March 2014

Interview with Mayra Viamonte


Monika: Today’s interview will be with Mayra Viamonte, a young Brazilian video blogger that documents her transition on YouTube. Hello Mayra!
Mayra: Hello, Monika. Interesting proposition, to list trans personalities as possibility models. Glad to be one of them.
Monika: Could you say a few words about yourself?
Mayra: More than a few, like ‘narcissistic’ and ‘gorgeous’. Jokes aside, I’m a lesbian trans, which confuses a lot of people. I’m a professional translator, working from my home PC, and I’m engaged to a ciswoman that is wonderful in many ways.
Monika: Why did you decide to share your transition details on YouTube?
Mayra: Actually, the YouTube profile is just a part of my personal blog. Both, however, are a twofold tool. Through them I aim to inspire other trans people, and educate everyone else about us.
Monika: At which stage of the transition are you right now?
Mayra: At “mission complete”. I’ve done a Facial Surgery and Breast Implant, I have no desire for the SRS, and my social life is fully feminine. Documents aren’t changed, but I also don’t plan them to be.

Thursday, 13 March 2014

Interview with Cherise Witehira


Monika: Today it is my pleasure and honour to interview Cherise Witehira, an inspirational transgender activist from New Zealand, Butcher’s Apprentice, Hairdresser, Academic, Sex Worker, Public Servant and former President of Agender New Zealand, a leading advocacy organization for the trans community in Aotearoa, New Zealand. Hello Cherise!
Cherise: Kia ora my sis!
Monika: Could you say a few words about yourself?
Cherise: Trigger alert, blunt, offensively honest etc…
Monika: For many years you have been dealing with transgender advocacy. What are the current challenges for transgender people In New Zealand?
Cherise: Please forgive me for the long-winded response to this question. To be honest Monika, there are many challenges faced by the Trans community here in Aotearoa, NZ. The five main issues I see currently affecting the community in NZ are Housing, Healthcare, Education, Employment and Poverty.
These issues have been evident for many years and successive governments have chosen to ignore them as they “are not a priority”. This is quite sad really as there are many within the community who require the support but for various reasons, cannot seem to access the services that are required in order for the person to become, for want of a better term, valuable, contributing members of society.

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Interview with Ianna Book


Monika: Today it is my pleasure and honour to interview Ianna Book, an inspirational photographer from Canada, author of Trans Avenue, a series of photographic self-portraits taken in Montréal and New York from 2011 to 2013. Hello Ianna!
Ianna: Hi Monika!
Monika: Could you say a few words about yourself?
Ianna: Of course! I was born in Lévis, a small town in Québec, Canada. My parents divorced early and I lived with my brother and my single mom in a difficult economic situation. From a young age, I’ve always felt perturbed and was always asking myself many questions.
Puberty is when I started to fell a need to express my femininity. I isolated myself to live out that reality, because I was scared. At the beginning of adulthood, I moved to Montréal to study visual arts.
After many many years of denial and hesitation, I started, four years ago, to move forward with the process of my transition and gender adjustment (mtf). It was very difficult at first but necessary. In 2013, I published Trans Avenue, a collection of photographs tracing a part of this period of change.

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Interview with Vicki Estrada


Monika: Today it is my pleasure and honor to interview Vicki Estrada, a landscape architect, urban planner, civic visionary, the President of Estrada Land Planning, a landscape architecture firm from San Diego. Hello Vicki!
Vicki: Hello Monika. I am quite honored that I am one you chose to interview. By the way, thank you for all you do for our community throughout the world.
Monika: Could you say a few words about your professional career so far?
Vicki: Well, I have owned my own design firm now for 29 years, almost half of my 61 years. I currently have 8 employees. Growing up I wanted to be an architect but realized while in architecture school that what makes a city great is not an iconic building here or tower there. It is what happens between buildings, how the buildings are arranged, that makes cities great. This is what landscape architects do.
There is misunderstanding by most that because the word "landscape architect" has the work "landscape" in it, that we are "fancy" gardeners. It is much more far reaching than that. I heard a story once by a famous landscape architect that if you imagine the earth as a canvas, architects put dots on the map, engineers connect the dots but landscape architects are the only ones that can literally paint the entire canvas.
I never forgot that story and have never regretted my decision to change from being an architect to being a landscape architect. We seem to be much more open and able to think on a larger scale.

Monday, 10 March 2014

Interview with Dr. Lynn Walker


Monika: Today it is my pleasure and honour to interview Dr. Lynn Walker, an American transgender activist, educator, retired US Army officer, and bishop in the Orthodox Catholic Church of America. Hello Lynn!
Lynn: Hi Monika. It’s very good of you to invite me.
Monika: Could you say a few words about yourself?
Lynn: I live in Brooklyn with my spouse and two cats, teach occasionally, and direct a couple of housing programs for a non-profit AIDS service organization.
Monika: Why is God so merciless towards transgender people, placing their minds in the opposite gender bodies?
Lynn: I don’t necessarily agree that God is merciless. It seems to me that nature and the creator love variety, and in the last hundred years or so we’re seeing that more clearly. Gender identity is not A or B, but may be better represented as a spectrum – far more nuanced than the scale developed by Dr Harry Benjamin.
It also seems to me that randomness is part of the way the world works, and it’s what enables great creativity as well as great strength of character. I’m not saying that the mind-body thing isn’t a serious matter, for it really is. It’s not at all easy to face the reality or realities of the trans experience.
But struggle is not unique to us, either. There are many physical, spiritual, psychological situations that present enormously difficult challenges for people all over the world. The part about merciless, though. Some people are merciless, perhaps for religious or cultural reasons, or for fear. Maybe it’s a phobia, or it could have to do with misunderstanding or ignorance.

At the Philadelphia Transgender Health Conference,
with her friend and colleague, Bishop Tim
and her spouse Francesca.

Monika: In one of my previous interviews, Lisa Salazar indicated that transgender persons are said to be some of the least likely to become involved in religious institutions (like church) since most have been rejected and judged by their Christian families, friends and faith communities. Would you agree?
Lynn: Certainly, I’ve known many trans folk who have been rejected by family, friends, and faith communities based on what seem to me to be to be errors in understanding scripture, tradition, and history.
Yet at the same time, there are a good number of trans people whose religious faith has been constant, and steadfast, and sometimes strengthened, by the ties that they have with their families, friends, and religious communities. The Philadelphia Trans Health Conference has for several years had a spirituality track, and has attracted a number of religious people and clergy – trans people, along with their families and friends.
One thing that is so very sad for me is that so many trans folk have had such an awful experience with their faith communities. Here and there the situation is different, and many faith communities that identify as reconciling, open and affirming are in fact trying to be exactly that.
Monika: What is the general attitude of the Christian religion to the transgender phenomenon?
Lynn: Within Christianity in general, there is such a wide variety in attitudes – from outright rejection and condemnation to acceptance and celebration – among the many communities of faith. I’m not sure I could say whether there’s a general attitude. In the Christian churches with which I’ve been associated, the general attitude has been exceptionally positive, friendly and encouraging.
Monika: Is there any reference to transgenderism in the Bible?
Lynn: Not precisely, for the idea of transgenderism, as we experience it in the 21 Century, is not an idea likely to be found in ancient documents. Of course life has changed in serious ways over the last several thousand years. In this twenty-first century, our domestic and public lives can’t really be compared with people in first century Greece or Israel.
There are references in the Bible that may be used to support or condemn us, and of course there are the usual dozen or so “clobber passages.” Over the last decade or so, though, there have been a number of writers who have addressed those passages, and these have been of great help and support to so many of us who have been perplexed.

With Francesca on Pride Sunday 2013 at the Church of St Luke
in the Fields.

Monika: At what age did you transition into woman yourself? Was it a difficult process? Did you have any support from your family or friends?
Lynn: I suppose I could say that I was always female, but just happened to have a body with an XY chromosome configuration and a masculine shape. But in terms of transition to what I believed to be a more authentic way of life. I was in my late 30s, having lived with the questions, doubts, fears, and uncertainties for many years.
Around the time I retired from the Army, it was time to make a positive shift in terms of work and social life. There were a number of difficulties, largely around employment and loss of income. I have been blessed with a network of supportive friends and a loving family.
Monika: At that time of your transition, did you have any transgender role models that you could follow?
Lynn: Among my friends, I had a number of people who served here and there as role models. Not only trans people, either. There are people of courage and resilience all around us.
Around that time, though, I was active in the International Foundation for Gender Education, and in the Gender Identity Project at NYC’s LGBT Community Center. I was also active in the Imperial Court of New York. There, I had the friendship of a great many good people.
Monika: What was the hardest thing about your coming out?
Lynn: There is not just one thing. Leaving a job that I enjoyed enormously, and taking a serious pay cut was difficult. Taking a big chance when telling family and friends was frightening. Requesting an indefinite leave of absence from my church was another. Divorce was yet another.
Monika: How do you perceive the attitude of the administration of President Obama towards transgender Americans?
Lynn: In general the administration seems actively to support equal rights for all US citizens, and I’m very glad about that. There seems to have been a serious shift at the federal level in the direction of commitment to equality of opportunity for more people. In a very few places, there is a move to require health insurance companies to cover trans related health care, and this is encouraging. The administration might exert some influence in this area, so that this might become the general rule.
There are still places in the US where trans people can be fired from their employment because they are trans. I would like to see more in the direction of better medical care in the VA Medical Centers, and I would like to see the US follow the example of other nations and make it possible for trans people to serve in the military.

At a competition in Fort Lee, New Jersey, enjoying
ballroom dancing.

Monika: The transgender cause is usually manifested together with the other LGBT communities? Being the last letter in this abbreviation, is the transgender community able to promote its own cause within the LGBT group?
Lynn: Sometimes I wonder. It takes lots of people in crowds to attract attention, and it takes money. There are so few trans folk, and a good many of us don’t care to engage in advocacy. Further, a good many of us don’t have much money to support causes, even if the causes are our own.
Monika: What is your general view on the present situation of transgender women in the American society?
Lynn: We’re doing a lot better than 20 years ago. There are advantages to living and working in NYC – and I believe our situation here is generally pretty good. At the same time, we continue to witness and experience countless murders, assaults, and incidents of sexual assault, and domestic violence. There are many hostile work environments, and trans folk often encounter unfair treatment.
Monika: Do you think that in our lifetime we could live until the day when a transgender lady could become the US President?
Lynn: (grin) Well, it could happen. It seems unlikely, but we can hope.
Monika: Could transgenderism be the new frontier for human rights?
Lynn: Certainly, one of many new frontiers. It is interesting that Facebook has just recently made a change to enable people to choose among a large number of gender and sexual identities (around 50, I think).
At the same time, we do well to remember that the struggle for gay, lesbian, and bisexual human rights continues. Recent legislation in Russia, Nigeria, Cameroon, and Uganda make it clear that we need to continue to press for equal rights for all of us in all the LGBT communities.
Monika: Are you active in politics? Do you participate in any lobbying campaigns? Do you think transgender women can make a difference in politics?
Lynn: I am not active in politics, though I have participated in lobbying efforts in support of HIV/AIDS services and in connection with gender expression non-discrimination. And yes, I believe that when trans folk are willing to stand up and be noticed, when we are willing to meet with political people and when we become politically active, we can exert enormous influence.

Wedding with Francesca.

Monika: Could you tell me about the importance of love in your life?
Lynn: It’s important to me. I’m in a wonderfully supportive, loving relationship with another woman. We got married this year.
Monika: What do you think about transgender beauty pageants?
Lynn: They could be as good as any other beauty pageant – if they can support the truth that trans women have great talent, imagination, intelligence, passion, courage, and wit. So they need to be more than just about physical beauty, eh?
Monika: Many transgender ladies write their memoirs. Have you ever thought about writing such a book yourself?
Lynn: As you just said, many have written. What’s one more story? Of course I’ve thought about it, for I think I have a good story to tell, but to what purpose? I wonder if it might be better to write a few essays to focus on spiritual and religious issues that come into our lives.
Monika: What would you recommend to all transgender girls struggling with gender dysphoria?
Lynn: I’d start by saying that it might help to step away from the term ‘dysphoria,’ and start thinking that in fact, nature thrives on diversity and variety. But at the same time, I would need to acknowledge the enormous struggle that many of us endure – simply to survive, simply to live as the people we are. Too many of us encounter violence, insult, assault and discrimination.
One thing, and I think the most important thing to do is to reach out to others in the trans community for support and friendship … and then to reach out to their health care providers to urge them to seek up to date information, and perhaps to consider joining WPATH.
Monika: Lynn, thank you for the interview!

All the photos: courtesy of Dr. Lynn Walker.
© 2014 - Monika Kowalska
  

Sunday, 9 March 2014

Interview with Sarah Jordan


Monika: Today’s interview will be with Sarah Jordan, a young American video blogger that documents her transition on YouTube. Hello Sarah!
Sarah: Hello Monika!
Monika: Could you say a few words about yourself?
Sarah: I’m Sarah a Trans* Woman from South Carolina! I have been in transition now for about three years. I face many challenges and discrimination as a Southern transgender woman, even from family, friends and especially the public. Even though life gets really tough sometimes I never regret my choice to stop hiding and live free! I’m very fortunate to have a supportive, loving Boyfriend who knows when to push me forward and when to hold me tight!
Monika: Why did you decide to share your transition details on YouTube?
Sarah: When I first started on vlogging on YouTube it was to watch my transition as I went through my first hormone treatments and to follow my journey. Vlogging was also a way to express how I was feeling about life and my transition. The more videos I made the more I realized that other people needed to hear an honest and real transgender woman tell the truth about her life!
I felt I needed to share the highs and lows of accepting yourself as well as the struggle and pain of family, friends and societies acceptance of being a transgender woman! The more I videos I made the more it became like free therapy, allowing me to express my most intimate struggles and acceptance of my new life!

Saturday, 8 March 2014

Interview with Namoli Brennet


Monika: Today it is my pleasure and honour to interview Namoli Brennet, an Iowa-based singer and songwriter, 4-time Outmusic award nominee, recipient of the Tucson Folk Festival Songwriting Award and finalist in the ISC songwriting competition; her 2010 album "Black Crow" was named one of KXCI FM's 50 best albums of the year. Hello Namoli!
Namoli: Hi Monika.
Monika: When did you decide that music would be your way of life?
Namoli: I’m actually one of those people who - I just always knew that I would do something with music - I’m pretty sure I knew I was a musician before I knew I was trans. So I didn’t have to think about it too much, except for what form it would take.
I had always felt like I wanted to write, record and tour but I think in part I was underconfident, and I also hadn’t begun to deal with transitioning yet so I felt kind of stuck. Seeing the show “RENT” when I was 29 was a pivotal moment that made me feel like, “I need to do this - now.” The theme of that show is “No day but today” and it was exactly what I needed to hear at the time.

Friday, 7 March 2014

Interview with Mieke B


Monika: Today’s interview will be with Mieke B, a young video blogger that documents her transition on YouTube. Hello Mieke!
Mieke: Howzit Monika. Thank you for interviewing me, quite an honor!
Monika: Could you say a few words about yourself?
Mieke: I’m a 25 year old trans woman living in South Africa. I’ve been living as a woman since November 2013. Generally I’m a happy spontaneous person with everything to give and considered something of an enlightenment for those around me. I’ll do anything in my power to help anyone in need and see to it that they are well and happy. Anything that provides a thrill will be my favorite thing to do.
I’m a bit of an adrenalin junky and still enjoy the “men” stuff like motor sports and off-road biking. I know anything and everything about cars. Off the eye I look like a city girl but at heart I’m more a farm type o’ gal.
Monika: Why did you decide to share your transition details on YouTube?
Mieke: Well, in South Africa we barely ever hear about other trans people except for in the news and crime statistics. No transgender person has really ever put themselves out there to be a national face for the cause or to provide resources. When I started to transition I thought I was the only trans person in the country but with time more and more people contacted me and I realized that we are quite a few.

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Interview with Mana Weindel


Monika: Today’s interview will be with Mana Weindel, a young video blogger that documents her transition on YouTube. Hello Mana!
Mana: Hello, Monika! Thank you for the interview, it is an honor to be able to participate. 
Monika: Could you say a few words about yourself?
Mana: Sure. I live in Denmark by myself in an apartment, and I have a lot of friends, which I love very much. I am not exactly big on words but I will do my best. 
Monika: Why did you decide to share your transition details on YouTube?
Mana: I have seen a lot of transition videos myself, so maybe I got the idea from there. I have always loved attention, though I'm very critical about myself.
Monika: At which stage of the transition are you right now?
Mana: At this point I have been on HRT for about 5 months, and even though it might seem longer I can only say I know my makeup.
Monika: Are you satisfied with the results of the hormone therapy and GRS?
Mana: Yes I am, very. GRS is not until later though, but I am getting to it.

Monday, 3 March 2014

Interview with Jordyn


Monika: Today’s interview will be with Jordyn (aka JordynJordynJordynS), a young video blogger that documents her transition on YouTube. Hello Jordyn!
Jordyn: Hello! Thank you so much for inviting me to talk with you!
Monika: Could you say a few words about yourself?
Jordyn: Sure! Well, I’m 24 years old and I’ve been transitioning full-time for about three years so far, and I’m also pursuing a career in the film and TV industry to hopefully direct my own projects someday that focus on trans* and LGBT issues.
Monika: Why did you decide to share your transition details on YouTube?
Jordyn: For me, watching YouTube videos of other trans* individuals talking about their experiences was really helpful when I was starting my transition and hadn't met anyone else yet who was trans* and so I decided to share my own experiences as well, in case they might be helpful for someone else the way they were for me.
Monika: At which stage of the transition are you right now?
Jordyn: I feel very grateful and fortunate to be almost at the end of my transition actually, for all intents and purposes at least. I’ve come out to all of my friends and family, had my name changed legally, updated all of my documents.
I’ve been taking hormones and living as myself full-time for almost three years, and I had GRS at the end of 2012. It’s been without a doubt the most difficult thing I’ve ever done in my life, but overall it’s absolutely been worth it.

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