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.

Womanless Beauty Pageant, April 2008.

Monika: Why is God so merciless towards transgender people, placing their minds in the opposite gender bodies?
Dawn: I don’t believe God creates transgender people to punish them. I believe they are chosen to go on their journey. My mother had 11 miscarriages trying to have children: 7 before I was born and 4 after.
Medically I should have died like the other fetuses but I didn’t. I never knew why I had lived until I embraced who I truly was. I know in my heart I had to go on the journey so I could share my story and encourage others. I couldn’t have done that without experiencing it.
I believe all transgender people are called to do the same, that is, to help society understand that God’s love is for everyone and that we are flesh and blood people created by God and no less loved than anyone else. When ‘the light goes on’ and someone truly understands that, our journey becomes a blessing and all are blessed.
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?
Dawn: I agree that many are not open to be involved in religious institutions (like church) because they most likely were told by their churches and Christian families that God didn’t love them and they were living in sin. However there are a number of transgender ministers in various denominations and traditions.
They are there because they have come to understand that God’s love transcends tradition. We are only truly whole when we come to understand we are loved by our Creator and His love is unconditional. We have come to understand God truly loves us and we are not under condemnation as the traditional church has told us. We are just fulfilling our call in life. They are just fulfilling their call in life.

With Pam, Atlanta Braves Game 2000.

Monika: What is the general attitude of the Christian religion to the transgender phenomenon?
Dawn: Outside of those traditions, or denominations, that focus on ministering to the LGBT community, like Metropolitan Community Church, it varies. Most mainline denominations, within their bylaws and disciplines, lump transgender with homosexuals and therefore condemn them.
But there are a number of ‘renegade’ churches within each denomination that openly are LGBT affirming in a lot of communities. Many folks in mainline denominations are now coming to understand that transgender people are not to be feared and are not evil people. Most of the negativism against transgender people is really due to not understanding who we truly are.
Unfortunately TV has most often portrayed transgender people as prostitutes and mentally deficient. The majority are not. We are just trying to be contributing members in society as our true selves.
Monika: Is there any reference to transgenderism in the Bible?
Dawn: No, not as such. The term transgender is a recent term, first used in 1965 by Dr. John Oliven but was not commonly used until the 1970’s. There are a number of passages that mainline denominations use as ‘clobber’ verses to condemn being transgender, like Deuteronomy 22:5. When they are used for that purpose they are really being misinterpreted. They are being taken out of context and not being interpreted as they were intended.
The condemnation of God described in that verse is directed at members of the Jewish community that were evading punishment for disobeying the Law by disguising themselves with clothes of the opposite sex. God’s anger was for not accepting their punishment, not for wearing the clothes of the opposite sex. To truly understand the context, one frequently has to go back to the original language the verse was written in.

Part time, July 2009.

Monika: What inspired you to write “God Does Love Me: My Trans Journey To Finding My True Self” (2012)?
Dawn: I have always, even in my dark days, been searching for an understanding from God of why I, from an early age, felt like a girl/woman. When I finally embraced my true self and completed my transition to a woman, God came to me, through the Holy Spirit, in a dream and told me to write a book about my journey to help others who have been rejected by mainline churches because they are transgender. He wanted me to tell them He loved them.
He also told me the title to use. When God tells you to do something, you do it. As a proof of His leading, it took me a year to write it and six months to get it published - pretty quick by most standards for publishing.
Monika: At that time of your transition, did you have any transgender role models that you followed?
Dawn: Christine Jorgensen. I saw her on a TV special when I was younger and was amazed to see her – she was so beautiful. I bought her autobiography and read it many times. Until I knew about her journey I thought my feelings about being a girl trapped in a boy’s body was unique. Now I had hope – if she could do it, so could I.
Monika: What was the hardest thing about your coming out?
Dawn: Fearing I would lose the love of my wife Pam. I had read that 90% of people that transition to another gender, whether married or in a straight relationship, lose that relationship. I loved her with my whole heart and still do. I didn’t want to hurt her but it was unavoidable. As a man I was straight, attracted to women. I never consciously was attracted to a man.
But now I am straight (due to hormones I guess), attracted to men. Pam and I have been married 36 years (and are still married but separated) and are soul mates. We love being together even though there is not any longer a sexual attraction. The greatest joy I experienced in my whole journey was when Pam openly accepted me and understood why I needed to transition. I knew that we would be girlfriends for life which we are. My greatest concern became my greatest joy.
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 would you give to ladies with the fear of not passing as a woman?
Dawn: Whether you are a transgender woman who passes readily or not, I would advise all that are in transition to go to websites that are specifically there for transgender ladies to help them pass better in public as women. There are ways you can de-emphasize male features with makeup and clothes.
Also learn female deportment by watching natal females and practice at home. Regardless of your ability to pass in public, always be true to yourself but also help yourself by using resources available to pass better. Unfortunately passing privilege is more harshly criticized and judged with trans women than trans men.

Brandywine Photography, May 2011.

Monika: What do you think about the present situation of transgender women in the American society?
Dawn: It’s tough for transgender women in American society especially if you don’t have passing privilege. Workers are uncomfortable around them and employers are leery of them. The interview process now makes it impossible to apply for a job without revealing yourself. Even if you have passing privilege or are post-op, if you don’t tell them up front, it is grounds for firing.
Some facilities and professions are more tolerant of transgender women, like more highly educated professions such as college professors. We have a long way to go before transgender women can find a comfortable place in the American society outside of hairstyling, dental hygienists, cabaret impersonation. In those areas I just mentioned, it is acceptable to be transgender and not be stigmatized.
Monika: Could transgenderism be the new frontier for human rights?
Dawn: The more I learn about LGBT history, the more I see parallels between LGBT human rights and the human rights of the African American community. It took them many years to get where they are now. If you ask them they will tell you they are not totally where they want to be but they are far better than they were 50, 100, and 200 years ago.
I believe the same is true for transgender people. I believe that soon straight people will come to see transgender people as people that deserve equal rights just like them and when that happens, it will open the door for a new frontier as it relates to LGBT people. Right now transgender people are a hot subject in the news and reality shows. I believe that interest will continue to grow and eventually open doors for human rights.
Monika: Are you active in politics? Do you participate in any lobbying campaigns? Do you think transgender women can make a difference in politics?
Dawn: Even though I am a trans activist, I am not active in politics and lobbying in my local and state governments. I am well known within the state of North Carolina USA and travel, whenever requested, to speak on transgender issues. I am pretty busy with my other activities including serving a church, speaking in universities, and publishing.
If the opportunity arose and I was asked to speak at a political rally, I would not hesitate to do so. I just do not seek it out right now. Yes, I feel transgender women can make a difference in politics. The more the public sees a transgender woman functioning in a professional capacity, the more the prostitute stereotype of a transgender woman will diminish.
"God Does Love Me: My Trans
Journey To Finding My True Self”
(2012)  - Amazon.
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?
Dawn: Yes but it takes a lot of effort. Most of the LGB people I know have a poor understanding of what it means to be transgender. I believe the gay community, as a whole, is uneducated about the subject. Because of that the gay agenda is pushed in politics and activities as would be expected because that is what they know.
I believe the transgender community will never truly be recognized and given the dignity it deserves until it comes out and stands fully on its own. I believe that day is fast approaching as transgender becomes more main stream and people cease to see us as freaks.
Monika: Could you tell me about the importance of love in your life?
Dawn: I firmly believe in love being the greatest gift of life. The love of my Creator and Savior allowed me to embrace who I truly am. The love of my parents along with the faith they instilled in me brought me home from the throngs of death to a new and better life. The love and acceptance of my dear friend, Carrie, gave me the courage to pursue my dream.
The love and advice of my therapist, Dr. Lisa Griffin, saved my life by showing me that in being transgender I was just being my true self. And last, but not least, the love of my soul mate Pam, has been my mainstay throughout my journey and life. I am now sexually attracted to men, would love to date, but have not dated yet. I believe God will send the right man in my life when the time is right.
Monika: Do you like fashion? What kind of outfits do you usually wear? Any special fashion designs, colours or trends?
Dawn: I’m addicted to fashion girl! I love to dress up. I have always been a girly girl so I dress up whenever I get the opportunity. I love expressing my femininity. I have been addicted to earrings since my episode at age 8 with my grandmothers pearl clip-on earrings. I now have over 160 pairs.
I have many dresses and skirts. My favorite color is pink but everyone says I look good in red and pastel blue too. I’m not a subscriber but read Glamour magazine whenever I can.

With Pam, Charleston, SC June 2011.

Monika: Are you working on any new projects now?
Dawn: My church keeps me busy but I have other activities too. My first book, God Does Love Me. My Trans Journey to Finding My True Self told my story through transition, ending with SRS. Many readers have asked me to write a second book about how I perceive life as a woman, the pluses and minuses. I have been taking notes and am starting to write.
I am a trans activist, active in numerous trans organizations in the state of North Carolina, USA and continue to talk about my book to university students and any organization that asks. I am also a professional entomologist (person who studies insects) and have been for over 40 years.
I am one of 14 world authorities on a group of insects called treehoppers. I have published numerous professional papers including an extensive paper on the treehoppers of Panama and have just had a paper accepted that describes two new species of treehoppers from Panama.
I continue to correspond with professionals throughout the world and do worldwide treehopper research as a volunteer at a local Natural History Museum.
Monika: What would you recommend to all transgender girls, struggling with gender dysphoria?
Dawn: Hang in there and always believe in yourself. If you are serious about transitioning, seek online help about presentation and deportment to improve your self esteem and find a professional therapist, as soon as possible, who specializes in gender dysphoria. It is a tough journey with many sacrifices and heartaches but well worth it if you truly are transgender.
Monika: Dawn, thank you for the interview!

All the photos: courtesy of Dawn Flynn.
© 2014 - Monika Kowalska

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