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.
Monika: At which stage of the transition are you right now?
Kat: Well, I don’t think of transition in stages. I think of it as a journey. And I’m almost two years into that journey. I would like to have surgery one day.
Monika: Are you satisfied with the results of the hormone therapy?
Kat: I’m very satisfied with the results. When I first started HRT, I felt euphoric for about a month because things finally felt right. It was like my body finally felt the right fuel and it started to work properly. The euphoria faded, but it’s made me feel overall much more at ease with my body, and when I see myself in a mirror, at least clothed, I feel much more at home in my body. I see me, as I always should have been.
Monika: Could you describe your childhood? When did you feel for the first time that you should not be a boy or man?
Kat: My first memories of other children was them making fun of me and trying to harm me. I was bullied constantly, and my home life wasn’t great. We were totally poor and always moving, so I never had friends, really, outside of my video games and stuffed animals and books.
As for when I first felt it, it’s kind of like I said in my video - I never felt I was a boy or that I should be one. There was a period in college when I got super depressed and felt like I had to act like one, and I tried to “accept" that I was a man, but I wasn’t, and I couldn’t be, and it was overcompensation and awkwardness all around and it just left me feeling like I hated myself.
I had a genderqueer phase, and I’m not saying that it’s a phase for every genderqueer person, but for me it was a safe way of telling my parents that I never felt male, even if I didn’t quite know how to articulate that I was a woman at that stage in the game.

Courtesy of Kat Haché.

Monika: For most of transgender girls, the most traumatic time is the time spent at school, college or university when they had to face lots of discrimination. Was it the same in your case?
Kat: Like I said, I was bullied and tormented by my peers. I was called a faggot, a pussy, and the guys I was forced to be around, the hegemonic masculinity that was forced upon them and me really destroyed my self esteem and made me feel like I had to be something I was not.
I just remember from the onset of puberty until I transitioned, I was someone else entirely. I felt out of control of my life and my identity, and it sucked. I had to unlearn all the abuse and degradation of my peers to build my self esteem. It’s much better now, but it hasn’t been an easy road.
Monika: Are there any transgender role models that you follow?
Kat: My friend Parker Molloy is a huge inspiration to me and definitely a role model. Her writing is always on point and she’s doing great things for trans representation in media.
Samantha Allen is a sister to me and she is so incredibly smart and articulate and insightful and I love her dearly. She’s my family, and even my parents welcome her as a part of my family.
Laura Jane Grace of Against Me! is also an inspiration to me because she’s badass and I love that I can call her a friend of mine. I have so many awesome friends who are role models, like Zinnia Jones and Mattie Brice and Lydia Neon...
And of course people like Laverne Cox and Carmen Carrera, who I haven’t met and made my friends... yet.
Monika: What was the hardest thing about your coming out?
Kat: Mostly, it was letting myself out of the cage of fear that I had kept myself in for so long. It’s kind of funny. I’d been out as bi for a while. My parents knew that I was since I was, oh, 19? Maybe even earlier. And I had told them about the not feeling like a guy thing years before.
I was just afraid of going all the way and letting myself fully be who I wanted to be. My parents and friends and coworkers and colleagues have all been super accepting. I know I’m lucky, even though everyone deserves that, but yeah, the hardest part was getting over my own fear and conquering myself so that I could become myself. 
Monika: What is your general view on the present situation of transgender women in your country?
Kat: Things aren’t great. Trans women and especially trans women of color face higher rates of violence, sexual violence, less access to essential services and less means of satisfying basic needs like shelter and healthcare. They’re imprisoned in men’s prisons and dehumanized daily. Even though things are grim at times, though, I remain optimistic.
I am an optimistic person by nature. I have to be. It’s what drives me. I honestly believe and trust that things are getting better, and fast. I wouldn’t have anticipated when I was still a repressed undergraduate that I would have ever felt comfortable being who I am on a college campus, let alone a mere 5 or so years after I started to really admit that I was not a guy.
That said, a lot needs work. Trans representation is terrible. There aren’t many positive representations of trans people on television or in film. People in Hollywood and in the entertainment industry in general don’t think that there are trans actors and actresses capable of representing themselves. Transphobic slurs are still totally acceptable and commonplace on primetime television. 
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?
Kat: Yeah, I consider Laura to be a friend and I’m super happy for her coming out. Geena Rocero, a really cool lady who does trans advocacy just came out. Despite the crap we get with regard to our representation, it’s becoming more and more acceptable to be transgender and visible, and when high profile people are, it does so much for our community and helping others come out.

Courtesy of Kat Haché.

Monika: Are you active in politics? Do you participate in any lobbying campaigns? Do you think transgender women can make a difference in politics?
Kat: I more or less abhor politics. I think our system is fundamentally broken. That said, things are still getting better. There’s a growing pressure and a growing consensus that no one should be discriminated against or treated unfairly on the basis of their gender identity.
I personally am not involved in lobbying and am not active in politics, though if I see an opportunity to become more active, it is one that I will take.
Monika: Do you like fashion? What kind of outfits do you usually wear? Any special fashion designs, colours or trends?
Kat: I love fashion. My normal style, at least this winter, has been this weird vagabond thing, with a blazer and fingerless gloves and plenty of cute scarves. I like androgyny and like to play that up.
Then I have days where I look really femme. It all depends on the mood I’m in, but I like feeling badass and sexy and knowing that I look good.
Monika: What do you think about transgender beauty pageants?
Kat: I don’t like some of the objectification that goes on in beauty pageants, but I think there is some sort of subversion in recognizing trans women as beautiful and for us as trans women to embrace our beauty.
There’s this negative marker with being trans in our society that tells us we are ugly, untouchable, and unlovable, and people don’t recognize that we are beautiful. There should be more celebration of trans beauty, which is partially why I am interested in modeling - I would like to tell the world that despite what it has told me about myself that I am beautiful and I can wow people.
I don’t think that trans women should be relegated to separate beauty pageants, necessarily, if that’s what you mean, because like cis women we are women and that diversity should be represented in the mainstream, not cordoned off so that people can safely ignore it.
Monika: Are you involved in the life of your local LGBT community?
Kat: I’m involved on campus here - I do panels about LGBT issues and have been asked to do some trans education workshops. People around here read my articles that I’ve written, though, and more people around here know who I am than I had initially thought.
Monika: What would you recommend to transgender women that are afraid of early transition, discrimination and hatred?
Kat: It’s not as bad as you think it’ll be. Most people, even here in East Tennessee are accepting, even if they don’t understand. I realize I’ve been in a privileged situation in being accepted by my family and peers, but I’ve been encouraged by the responses from strangers who learn that I am trans - some of whom are now friends - and the effort that ordinary people are making to educate themselves about transgender issues.
I don’t want anyone to be scared, and if it is your life and you feel like it is the right thing for you - transition. It is the biggest step you can take in being authentic and happy and you deserve happiness and a sense of integrity, purpose, and peace. There’s a big community of trans people out there who will help you every step of the way. We’re brothers and sisters and we stick together. 
Monika: What is your next step in the present time and where do you see yourself within the next 5-7 years?
Kat: I really can’t say. My life in the past year and a half of advocacy has been a ride that I never would have imagined as a possibility. I’ve talked to really cool people doing really cool things and I’ve been and am currently involved in projects that are cool and that I believe will further acceptance of trans people.
My writing is reaching new eyes every day, and new opportunities are opening up all over the place. I’m a big fan of Joseph Campbell though, and I really believe in his idea of “following your bliss". I try to do that and I view my life as an adventure. I think I kind of have to as well, because I don’t really know what I am doing. I have to trust in myself and my decisions and the possibility of succeeding at what I do. It’s gotten me this far, at least.
Monika: Could you say that you are a happy woman now?
Kat: I think I am very happy. I have my ups and downs for sure, but the comparison now to before or even early in my transition is striking. I feel happy, confident, and strong. I know I’m capable of doing whatever I set my mind to. And I plan to succeed and prove all the naysayers, past, present, and future, wrong.
Monika: Kat, it was a pleasure to interview you. Thanks a lot!

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

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