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.
Monika: Are you satisfied with the results of the hormone therapy and GRS?
Jordyn: In general, I would say the answer is yes. I definitely haven’t had as many changes from hormones as I might’ve liked, but then I’m sure a lot of people who happen to be trans* might say the same thing and it’s certainly true that most people, no matter how they identify, have something about the way their body looks that they wish they could change (for me, it's mainly the size of my hips compared to the size of my shoulders and my ribcage. Not necessarily specific parts of my body maybe, but sort of the overall proportion I guess.)
Jordyn looking through a pretend
camera viewfinder.
I’ve also had a bad habit throughout my transition of comparing the changes I’ve gone through to those that others around me have gone through, which as I’ve found anyway isn’t necessarily a healthy or realistic thing to do since its really your own genetics that end up playing the biggest role in determining what changes you’re likely to receive from hormones than anything else, if that makes sense.
Monika: Some of us are very lucky.
Jordyn: To put it another way, just because two people might be taking the same hormones at the same dose doesn't necessarily mean that they’re going to see the same changes (and it can be really frustrating and even upsetting sometimes if you try to predict what your results might be solely based on other people’s results.)
Besides the fact that I maybe didn't always have a realistic sense of what to expect from hormones though, they’ve definitely helped me feel more comfortable with the way my body looks and GRS absolutely has as well.
As I’ve mentioned in some of my videos, GRS definitely has had it’s drawbacks, including the fact that I still have pretty visible scars from it (even though its been well over a year since I had it), having to dilate down there can be really annoying and uncomfortable, and I also had a complication a few weeks after having my surgery that literally almost killed me.
Not having to worry or feel dysphoric about that part of my body anymore though has been really amazing and, at least in that sense, the positives have definitely been well worth the negatives for sure.
Monika: Could you describe your childhood? When did you feel for the first time that you should not be a boy or man?
Jordyn: For me actually, it wasn’t necessarily a question of if I should or shouldn't be a boy, but that deep down I knew I wasn’t a boy, if that makes sense.
To go back to the very beginning, I first knew that there was something “different” about me maybe when I was about four years old, although I couldn’t really figure out what it was at the time (I didn’t even know what the word “transgender” meant until I was probably 13 or 14).
Until I was around five-ish, I’d always ask for girls toys for my birthday and for holidays (which my family would actually give me, at least for a few years anyway) and I got along with girls at school much better than boys, but somehow there was still a part of me that felt ashamed and embarrassed for feeling the way I did about my gender identity and I felt like I was almost being pulled in two different directions maybe on some level.
On the one hand, I knew I wasn’t a boy, but on the other hand I didn’t necessarily feel comfortable with the idea of living as a girl, or I guess I felt like my family wouldn't be supportive of me if I did.
Monika: So what did you do?
Jordyn: As a result of all that, I didn’t end up saying anything to anyone about how I felt until I finally told my mom when I was maybe 15 or 16, but she more or less thought I must be just going through a phase of some kind (which looking back on it I honestly can’t really blame her for since I never really mentioned or did much of anything to show how I was feeling from the time I was about five until the 10ish years later when I first told her). 

After her reaction though, I felt even more embarrassed than I did before and for a long time after that I really tried to just ignore how I was feeling and do my best to be comfortable with how people saw me, even if I knew they weren’t seeing the real me. 
Eventually, I started wearing girls clothes off and on in order to keep exploring the idea of whether or not I should transition at least on some level, but only when I wasn’t in school and when I was going to places that I knew I wouldn’t see any of my family or my friends. 
At that point, I was pretty sure that I wanted to go through with it, but I wasn’t really sure exactly where to start (I didn’t know anyone else who happened to trans* or even know anyone else who might’ve knew someone else who was trans* or even LGBT) and I was petrified of the idea that my family and my friends wouldn't be supportive of me if I did.
Monika: How did it change?
Jordyn: When I was in college though (I went to film school at Loyola Marymount University), I started to realize that I just couldn't keep living a lie any longer, for lack of a better description I guess, and I finally came out for good in 2010 during my junior year.
It definitely took people some getting used to, some longer than others, but both my family and my friends ended up being much more supportive than I was worried for so long that they’d might be and a big part of me still really regrets not coming out to them sooner and not starting to transition full time until after I graduated from college.
Even still though, things are infinitely better now than they were before I started transitioning and I feel incredibly lucky to have had such a relatively smooth transition.

Jordyn's page as Miss September in the 2014 Angels of Change.

Monika: Are there any transgender role models that you follow?
Jordyn: Kim Petras (who is a German singer and song-writer) has been really inspirational for me since she always seems like a really cool, down-to-earth, and talented person and she never lets the fact that she happens to be trans* interfere with her life or get in the way of her following her passion for music.
Bamby Salcedo (who is a project coordinator for the transgender programs at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and also an incredible activist within the trans* community) is also truly amazing and one of the most remarkable people I’ve ever had the privilege of getting to know and I absolutely can’t say enough about her or all of the activism work that she does, both for trans* youth and the trans* community in general. She’s awesome!
Monika: What was the hardest thing about your coming out?
Jordyn: By far, it was overcoming my own fears about how other people might react and trusting that things would in fact work out okay (at least eventually) if I were to put my own need to feel comfortable and happy with myself, and with the way other people see me, ahead of what people’s reactions might be if I came out to them.
Like I said, in hindsight I really wish I could’ve somehow found the guts to come out earlier than I did (it’s probably my single biggest regret I’ve ever had so far in my life), but I think after being so afraid to tell people for such a long time it sort of came to the point that I was both afraid to start transitioning if my family wouldn't be supportive, but I that I also couldn’t keep not living as myself, even if not living as myself meant not risking my family and my friends’ support (I was basically afraid to make a decision either way, whether to come out or not).
I feel so incredibly grateful though to have the support that I do from my family and my friends and that things have worked out for the best (particularly considering I wasn’t always sure if they’d work out that way), even though in the end I might have ultimately came out later than I would’ve wanted to.

Jordyn walking the runway in her future profession outfit
during the 2014 Angels of Change runway show.

Monika: We are witnessing more and more transgender ladies coming out. Unlike in the previous years some of them have status of celebrities or are really well-known, just to mention Lana Wachowski in film-directing, Jenna Talackova in modelling, Kate Bornstein in academic life, Laura Jane Grace in music or Candis Cayne in acting. Do you witness the same trend?
Jordyn: There’s definitely still massive amounts of work that needs to be done to stop the discrimination, harassment, and overall disrespect that so many of us seem to receive on a daily basis simply for living our lives and for being who we are, but at least in some ways I think things are heading in the right direction as far as the trans* community overall gaining the equal rights that we deserve and it’s been amazing to see trans* individuals like Lana Wachowski, Jenna Talackova, Kate Bornstein, Lara Jane Grace, Candice Cayne, and more recently Laverne Cox and Janet Mock becoming more and more recognized in the arts, media, and politics.
If nothing else, their recognition is helping to bring much-needed visibility to the trans* community, overcome the misinformation and misconceptions about trans* individuals that’s developed over the years, and illustrate the fact that all of us are perfectly normal people who have hopes and dreams just like anyone else.
Monika: What do you think about transgender beauty pageants?
Jordyn: I think transgender beauty pageants are helpful in order to bring more attention to the trans* community overall, but because trans* people (and trans* women in particular) can often become over-sexualized in one way or another, pageants featuring trans* individuals at least have the potential unfortunately to do more harm than good if they aren’t handled in such a way that they send a positive message about the people they include, if that makes sense.
Having said that though, there are definitely a few pageants featuring trans* individuals that seem to be helping to make important changes both within and outside of the trans* community, including the Angels of Change program at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles (which I participated in last year - I was Miss September!!).
Angels of Change focuses specifically on trans* youth, but it strives to include models who are active and positive examples within the transgender programs at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and also in their own communities as a means of challenging stereotypes about who trans* people are and illustrating how being transgender is a strength rather than a weakness (there’s also a calendar that includes each of the 12 models, one for each month).
Jordyn taking a random selfie.
The program also functions as a fundraiser for various services offered through the transgender program at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, so it’s also a great cause in that way as well.
Monika: Are you involved in the life of your local LGBT community?
Jordyn: I’m really interested in activism and I’ve been trying my best to stay as involved with the trans* and LGBT community here in LA as I can, particularly in ways that also involve my passion for movies and TV (as I mentioned, my life long dream is to be able to direct my own projects that feature trans* and LGBT issues and have at least some activist elements as well).
I haven’t been able to be quite as involved lately however since I started a new job at the beginning of January as a post production assistant for a show on USA Network (yay!), which has been really exciting, but its also meant that I’ve been less available as well to do very much in the way of activism.
I was in a panel discussion at UCLA though on February 21st as part of Angels of Change and last year I volunteered with an organization called Gender Justice LA, which does grass roots community building to promote LGBT issues within the Los Angeles area.
I was also the lead events coordinator for the Los Angeles Transgender Film Festival, which screens documentary and narrative films that focus on trans* themes and issues and works to promote the creative work of trans* filmmakers. 
Monika: What would you recommend to transgender women that are afraid of early transition, discrimination and hatred?
Jordyn: Speaking as someone who really regrets not having the courage to come out and start transitioning sooner (which I know on some level I shouldn't regret since in any case I started hormones and living full-time when I was 21, but…), I would urge anyone who might be afraid of transitioning for any reason, including the fear of discrimination and disrespect simply for being trans*, to really think about why they want to transition in the first place (something I really, really wish I’d done more of early on in my transition).
I think I was worried that at least in a certain sense (and I’ve also heard this from other people I know who happen to be trans* as well) people would see me as being selfish for coming out and starting to transition or that I was putting a burden on them when, from their perspective, it would’ve just been easier for me to just keep living the way I was, even if that would be impossibly difficult for me to do (fortunately none of my friends or family have told me they felt that way when I came out to them, but I’ve definitely heard similar stories from what other people have told me they experienced when they came out).
It’s definitely not a good thing to be selfish maybe, but I think a strong case can be made that coming out may be one important exception to this (and I’m sure that people who are in fact supportive don’t even feel like there’s even an issue here in the first place).
Anyway though, at least from my experience, all of us need to transition for the benefit of our own happiness and well-being at the end of the day and, no matter what, we need to do whatever we can to never let our fears, particularly our fears about what other people may think of us, get in the way of doing whatever we need to do in order to live authentically as ourselves. Life is just way too short to spend any more time than you need to living as anyone but your real self.
Jordyn wearing her "Angels" outfit while
backstage at the 2014 Angels of Change
runway show.
Monika: Could you say that you are a happy woman now?
Jordyn: All things considered, I can indeed say that I am a happy woman now (I’ve always been a woman, I just haven’t always been a happy woman, in case that needed any clarification!).
There have been times when my transition has been difficult, expensive, scary, frustrating, depressing, upsetting, and time consuming, and it’s been without a doubt the most difficult thing that I’ve ever done in my life, but in the grand scheme it’s also been exciting, rewarding, helped make me stronger as a person, and been by far the best thing I’ve ever done and the thing I’m most proud of accomplishing and I’m so grateful to have the support that I do from my family and my friends who have helped me get to this point. 
Looking back on it, it’s hard to believe it’s only been three years since I started transitioning and in some ways I even feel a little bit sad thinking about how I’m finally almost done with everything transition-wise, like I’ve reached the end of something that’s been such a big part of my life for so long.
When it comes down to it though, I know it’s much more of a beginning than an end and I’m finally able to start living the rest of my life as myself in a way that I’ve never been able to before. 
Monika: Jordyn, it was a pleasure to interview you. Thanks a lot!
Jordyn: Thank you!

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

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