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.

Monika: A couple of weeks ago you won the “Miss Congeniality” title at a beauty pageant philanthropy event hosted at Chapman. How did you feel when it was announced?
Addie: I felt incredible and so loved! It was an honor to participate with my fellow contestants, and to struggle along with them to raise money as a part of the philanthropy. They are such wonderful people, and it was such a wonderful opportunity to bond with them, support each other, and help a wonderful cause! I am so grateful for their votes, and without them this interview wouldn’t be happening!
Monika: Did you have to spend a lot of time on preparations: gowns, hair, make-up etc. before the pageant?
Addie: Yes, we had been preparing for the pageant for almost 5 months leading up to the event. Most of the contestants, including myself, didn’t end up picking our gowns and deciding on hairstyles until a couple weeks (or days) before the pageant.

In black and red. Photo by Ana Venegas.
Courtesy of Addie Vincent.

Monika: What was the reaction of the other girls taking part in the pageant?
Addie: They all were very supportive, happy, and proud of me leading up to and during the pageant. They are so amazing, and I’m so happy that the pageant brought us close together as a friend group.
Monika: Are you planning to participate in any other pageants?
Addie: As of now, I am not planning on competing in other pageants. But I am open to doing more in the future. It’s just a matter of finding out if I’d be eligible for other pageants.
Monika: Did you have any transgender role models that you followed?
Addie: Of course! I was really inspired by Cassidy Lynn Campbell, the transgender Homecoming Queen from Huntington Beach. Despite the harsh criticism she’s faced by her school, the local community, and the nation, she has remained strong and confident, and continues to make an impact.
I also look up to other Trans* celebrities and trailblazers, such as Laverne Cox, Janet Mock, Jenna Talackova, and Calpernia Addams.
Monika: Transgender women are subject to the terrible test whether they pass as a woman or they do not. You are a passable yourself but what advice you would give to ladies with the fear of not passing as a woman?
Addie: It frustrates me how much beauty standards and passability are emphasized not only within the Trans* community but pressured on women in general. All I can say is, our looks and appearance shouldn’t determine the value of our identities.
If we free ourselves of the pressure and standards to look a certain way, we can focus on our health and well-being.

At Huntington Beach, CA. Photo by Nathan
Worden. Courtesy of Addie Vincent.

Monika: What do you think about the present situation of transgender women in the American society?
Addie: I feel that we are in an exciting time for Trans* awareness and visibility, with prominent speakers and celebrities speaking out against hate and for gender equality.
However, we still live in a society filled with hate and people willing to act on their hate. Trans* women are still subjected to vicious hate crimes in both public and private settings, unfair treatment and placement in prisons, homelessness due to unsupportive families and a lack of resources, and the inability to find work or healthy careers as a result of transphobia. These women face transmisogyny on a daily basis, and their identities and preferred gender pronouns are not respected.
Monika: Could transgender visibility be the new frontier for human rights?
Addie: I feel that it already is. Crimes and discrimination against the Trans* community are making headline news, and people are becoming increasing aware of Trans* identities as well as the hate and violence Trans* people face. Trans* people of all different genders are making waves, challenging gender norms and the gender binary, and the transfeminist movement is gaining momentum.
Monika: Are you active in politics? Do you participate in any lobbying campaigns? Do you think transgender women can make a difference in politics?
Addie: As a Peace Studies major, you could say I’m pretty aware and active in politics. I may not be able to vote due to my Canadian citizenship, but I still like to be active with petitions and protests of any form.
Of course, I believe transgender women can make and are making political differences. With cases such as those of Cece McDonald and Monica Jones, we see Transwomen making tangible changes that affect local and national political systems and human rights.

Photo by Nathan Worden. Courtesy of Addie Vincent.

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?
Addie: I would say we’re marginalized in the LGBT+ community, with the full acronym to my knowledge being LGBTQPIOUA+. The Trans* population gets so little attention compared to other identities, with intersex, ambi, omni, and ace people receiving even less.
As a result, many cisgender and heterosexual people are not aware or informed about our communities, and some begin to make assumptions and judgments based on their ignorance or misinformation. Some argue that gender and sex minorities should not be clumped into the same category as sexual orientation minorities since they are separate identities, yet others argue for the T and other acronyms to remain.
Monika: Could you tell me about the importance of love in your life?
Addie: I have never been on a date, and although I would enjoy being in a relationship and being in love, dating and love and not priorities or my focus right now. Before I can even be with someone, I need to work on myself to become the best I can be.
As RuPaul says, “If you can’t love yourself, how the hell you gonna love somebody else?” Before I can build a relationship, I need to create a solid foundation through myself. Plus, I’m still young, and I have so many things I was to accomplish before settling down with someone.
Besides romantic love, the love I receive from and give to my family and friends is so important to me. Their love and support are what keep me motivated and strong, and I am grateful to have such a wonderful community and force behind me every step of the way.

Photo by Nathan Worden.
Courtesy of Addie Vincent.

Monika: Are you working on any new projects now?
Addie: I am in the works of establishing a gender-neutral fraternity at Chapman, a “frarority” as it’s been coined. It will be service-oriented, and have a focus on benefiting the local LGBT+ community.
I am also looking into possibly founding a shelter for LGBT+ homeless people in Orange County. I need to do more research and networking, but it’s something that our area is definitely in need of.
Monika: What is your next step in the present time and where do you see yourself within the next 5-7 years?
Addie: I see myself still making an impact in the world, whether it be through public speaking, writing, acting, and so on. I’d love to start a non-profit, possibly the shelter I mentioned above.
I’ve also been looking into becoming a midwife and helping women and families across the nation. I love the idea of helping expecting parents bring healthy children into the world, and providing these families with natural and safe medicines and treatments.
Monika: What would you recommend to all transgender girls, struggling with gender dysphoria?
Addie: All I can say is, talk about it. Find a friend, family members, or someone safe and supportive that you can talk to.
Form your thoughts into words, and know that there are people out there that love and support you. It took me years to come to terms with my gender identity, but talking about it with friends and family really helped me become the confident and proud person I am today.
And just remember, you are a wonderful person and you are capable of anything!
Monika: Addie, thank you for the interview! 

Main photo taken by Nathan Worden.
All the photos: courtesy of Addie Vincent.
© 2014 - Monika Kowalska

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