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.
Pre-transition age 23 and post
transition age 33.
Monika: At that time of your transition, did you have any transgender role models that you followed?
Amanda: At the time of my transition there were really few role models at least on a national level. In San Diego I befriended Miss Major Griffin Gracy, Tracie O'Brien, Evelyn T, Julia L, Keresa K and an FTM named Travis. Their presence in my community made such a difference in my life. Seeing people live their authentic life made me proud to be who I was.
Monika: What was the hardest thing about your coming out?
Amanda: Monika, in my mind there was two hard things. The first was the fear that my family would reject me. Family means everything to me, even if we do not agree, talk much or get to spend a lot of time together. Family is important.
The second struggle was that I had a good career and had a decent salary. At the time, I was working in mental health. I was afraid that my peers would reject me and classify as having a mental disorder. Much to my surprise everyone was pretty supportive and helped me through the change.
Monika: What do you think about the present situation of transgender women in the American society?
Amanda: I think transgender people have come a long way in America. We have more rights and opportunities than we have had. However, we have a long way to go. Healthcare has improved and healthcare options are improving. However, we have a lot of education to do with both employers and healthcare providers.
Monika: Could transgenderism be the new frontier for human rights?
Amanda: I believe that it already is a frontier for human rights. Gender Identity and Expression really surpasses more than just transgender people. Anyone who does not fit what society feels is a normal way to express your gender is subject to ridicule.
Monika: What is your general view on transgender stories or characters which have been featured in films, newspapers or books so far?
Amanda: historically transgender characters have been portrayed as unsavory characters or persons to be made fun of. This is changing, thanks to people like Laverne Cox and Calpernia Addams. It is my hope that we see more transgender people playing transgender people.

2007 transgender day of empowerment
keynote speaker.

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?
Amanda: Sometimes it is challenging for transgender issues to get the attention we need, where there is still much work to do in the LGB world. I believe that our LGB brothers and sisters are more aware of our issues and are trying to be supportive.
The other challenges we face are divisions within our own community. If we are to be successful, we must find common grounds on which we can stand together.
Monika: Is there anyone in the US transgender society whose actions could be compared to what Harvey Milk was doing in the 60s and 70s for the gay activism?
Amanda: There are many transgender persons each doing their part to ensure equality. I think the most important ones though, are the ones that get up every day , put on their authentic self. If you look around you, you might seem them in schools or universities, they volunteering, or working. Their presence in the world makes a huge difference that I think too often gets discounted.
Monika: Are you active in politics? Do you participate in any lobbying campaigns? Do you think transgender women can make a difference in politics?
Amanda: Previously, in Baltimore and San Diego I had been politically involved. This included working on some legislative items. Transgender women and men can make a difference in politics. All it takes is the courage to speak your truth, live your truth and be proud of who you are.
Monika: Could you tell me about the importance of love in your life?
Amanda: Love, this is one of the all too challenging things about being differently gendered. However, having someone to love and having someone to love me are very important. Love and relationships are a challenge for anyone, add in a twist of different and life gets challenging.
However, I believe that there is someone for everyone. In my life, I have loved many people and many people have given me love in return. I believe Katherine Hepburn said it best, “Love has nothing to do with what you are expecting to get — only with what you are expecting to give — which is everything”.
San Diego Pride community service award 2004.

Monika: Do you like fashion? What kind of outfits do you usually wear? Any special fashion designs, colours or trends?
Amanda: I like fashion, but truthfully I am a plane Jane kind of girl. As I get older I find that fashion is to be my own unique style and not was everyone else things looks good.
Monika: Many transgender ladies write their memoirs. Have you ever thought about writing such a book yourself?
Amanda: I have thought about writing my story. It is on my bucket list and I have started some of the groundwork. I want to write mine differently than others, maybe even in the form of fictional story using real life truth.
Monika: What is your next step in the present time and where do you see yourself within the next 5-7 years?
Amanda: I am working on going back to school to convert my Associates into a Bachelor Degree. I plan to complete my GRS within the next year. I would love to get married some day to a great man that can accept me for all my quirks.
Monika: What would you recommend to all transgender girls struggling with gender dysphoria?
Amanda: A few things, one is to know they are not alone in this world. If you have to tell yourself every day, “I am not alone.” Also, know that there is no “right” way to transition. It is not a race and there is no finish line to reach. Go at your pace, the one you are comfortable with.
Make friends with others in the transgender community, if you are in a remote area, use online resource to reach out. If you are thinking about suicide, it’s not worth it, reach out. Death is a permanent solution to what is almost always temporary solution.
Monika: At the very end of this interview, let’s promote your gofundme page…
Amanda: I am close to GRS. I have made all the financial requirements to see Dr Bowers, but am having a challenge making travel expenses. If anyone wants to help, they can visit me on My GRS Travel Expense Fund.
Monika: Amanda, thank you for the interview!

All the photos: courtesy of Amanda Watson.
© 2014 - Monika Kowalska

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