Friday, 7 March 2014

Interview with Mieke B

Monika: Today’s interview will be with Mieke B, a young video blogger that documents her transition on YouTube. Hello Mieke!
Mieke: Howzit Monika. Thank you for interviewing me, quite an honor!
Monika: Could you say a few words about yourself?
Mieke: I’m a 25 year old trans woman living in South Africa. I’ve been living as a woman since November 2013. Generally I’m a happy spontaneous person with everything to give and considered something of an enlightenment for those around me. I’ll do anything in my power to help anyone in need and see to it that they are well and happy. Anything that provides a thrill will be my favorite thing to do.
I’m a bit of an adrenalin junky and still enjoy the “men” stuff like motor sports and off-road biking. I know anything and everything about cars. Off the eye I look like a city girl but at heart I’m more a farm type o’ gal.
Monika: Why did you decide to share your transition details on YouTube?
Mieke: Well, in South Africa we barely ever hear about other trans people except for in the news and crime statistics. No transgender person has really ever put themselves out there to be a national face for the cause or to provide resources. When I started to transition I thought I was the only trans person in the country but with time more and more people contacted me and I realized that we are quite a few.
The other reason is that I didn’t think transitioning into a woman will at all be possible considering the man I was, but with other women on YouTube I saw that anyone can do it and that it is indeed possible. Sure there are lots of trans-vloggers on the internet but I thought it would be a good thing for the South African transgender community to have a face of one of their own on the internet talking about the things that matter to them most.
It’s also rewarding when strangers tell me how far I had come since my first video. YouTube helped a lot with building my self-confidence. Documenting my transition in video format and posting it online turned out to be not only beneficial for me, but for many others in my country as well.
Monika: At which stage of the transition are you right now?
Mieke: Currently I am on HRT for 10 months. So far I had wonderful results with fat distribution, hair reduction, softening skin and breast growth from using HRT and looks wise pass really well as a woman despite my height. I still haven’t had any surgery done but of course I’m planning on it.

2011 vs. 2013.

Monika: Are you satisfied with the results of the hormone therapy and GRS?
Mieke: Yes I’m very satisfied with the results so far. It’s a “ready… steady… aaaaand WAIT!!” affair but the results do show eventually. Like with most things in life we all expect immediate results, but all good things are worth waiting for.
The most noticeable effects from HRT showed after 6 months. That’s when I decided to go full time living as a woman because I was having difficulties passing as a guy… Yes, that’s correct, I didn’t pass as a guy that I was born as anymore! People were making comments like "you are starting to look more like a woman every day, what's going on?".
Monika: Could you describe your childhood? When did you feel for the first time that you should not be a boy or man?
Mieke: My childhood was a fairly ordinary one with a loving family and a lot of opportunities to prosper, but due to what I believe was the depression caused by Gender Dysphoria I never did anything but to just be alive and breathing. Throughout my childhood I knew something was different about me and that I was not in the body I was supposed to be in.
Because of the conservative nature of the Afrikaans community I grew up in there wasn’t ever any talk about transsexualism or sex changes, but rather me just being an “odd” kid that needs to do more boy stuff and toughen up. That’s exactly what I did until I eventually didn’t think of wanting to be a girl at all.
From the age of four years old I knew I wanted to wear dresses and play with dolls (which I did anyway when my parents weren’t around) but it was only at the age of 22 that I realized how serious it is to me and that I needed to transition or not live at all.
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?
Mieke: In my school years I didn’t really know about my gender identity crisis because I suppressed it so well. When I decided to tell my close friends at age 22 that I was about to transition they weren’t surprised at all, in fact it turns out I did tell them in high school already, on several occasions – I just don’t remember it.
I’m fortunate to have those few good friends who kept quiet about it and support me to this day for doing it. In high school and college I was the naughty bad boy type, so no one ever suspected me being trans, thus I had never been bullied or discriminated against because of it.

Mieke at age 21.

Monika: Are there any transgender role models that you follow?
Mieke: Yes certainly! Candis Cayne, Lana Wachowski, Laura Jane Grace, Jenna Talackova, Paris Lees, Lisa du Preez and lots more. Of course I follow my fellow YouTube trans-vloggers too!
Monika: What was the hardest thing about your coming out?
Mieke: Telling my family was pretty rough. It was the hardest thing to do, and although I didn’t except things to turn out bad, my whole world collapsed when they told me I’m no longer part of them and that to them I’m dead.
It’s been a long time since I last saw them, but it gets easier to go on as time progresses. Not having a family to please kind of took away my feelings of guilt for transitioning, so in a way it’s a softening sadness. I do still believe they will come around one day, but until that happens I will stay strong and try to help other families that’s going through the same thing.
Monika: What is your general view on the present situation of transgender women in your country?
Mieke: In the last decade or so transgender rights came around in South Africa. Because most trans women go completely stealth after living in their preferred gender it is hard to keep track of them and have the numbers to fight for true equality. Though we have some good human rights in place when it comes to legal documents and discrimination it’s hard to tell if it is truly being implemented correctly.
On paper transgender people should have no trouble living a normal life, but from the lack of knowledge of the general public we still get treated unfairly, being refused to use the preferred restrooms, have our identity documents amended, not being considered for employment or getting fired when coming out as a transgender person.
I’m hoping to be a national face for these causes so that the every-day person know more about transgender people and their needs and feelings too. The more exposure the transgender community gets in South Africa the more the public will be accepting towards us.

2014, 7 months on Hormone Replacement Therapy.

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?
Mieke: Yes. In South Africa however that’s not the case, but we hear and read about international transgender people all the time. The media and technology we have today allow more trans men and women to come out and be proud, in whatever way or capacity.
I’ve seen trans women on the internet that range from being truck drivers to walking on the red carpet, and that’s important to break the stereotypes set it the past. With every trans person coming out we see something different and the cis people realize that we are just as ordinary as they are. 
Monika: Are you active in politics? Do you participate in any lobbying campaigns? Do you think transgender women can make a difference in politics?
Mieke: I’m not involved in politics myself but I support those who are. Certainly a transgender woman can make a difference, if not more, than her cis counterparts. We as trans women lived on both sides of life and face more challenges on an everyday bases, so who better than someone like a transgender person to do the job?!
Monika: Do you like fashion? What kind of outfits do you usually wear? Any special fashion designs, colors or trends?
Mieke: I love fashion! Before transition it was all T-shirts, three-quarter jeans and flip flops, but now it’s a bit of everything plus accessories! For everyday clothing for work and so on I wear fashionable jeans or a long skirt with mild and dark colored stylish tops. I’m not too sure what “savvy” and “chic” means but apparently that describes my everyday wardrobe.
On weekends and special occasions I love to wear dresses with heels even though I tower out above all my male friends without them. My favorite color is blue, but I look better in greens and browns, so most of my clothes are those colors. Of course I have some black numbers too for those days I feel the need to hide the typical “trans woman body” features.
I always wear big flashy earrings and maybe a matching accessory to soften my wrists as well. When I’m home alone it’s gym pants and tank tops…
Mieke in 2013 aged 24.
Monika: What do you think about transgender beauty pageants?
Mieke: I think it’s awesome! It’s beautiful to see trans women look better than generic women do! These pageants also shows the rest of the world that we as trans women can be just as beautiful and “normal looking” as any other woman.
Monika: Are you involved in the life of your local LGBT community?
Mieke: A friend of mine and I are trying to start an LGBTI organization in our local community (Mpumalanga province) to help our community better understand the LGBTI people and have them seek the appropriate doctors, medication and therapists who specialize in working with people with these specific needs.
So far it’s been a struggle as most people are stealth or too afraid to come out, and thus we have no funding for the organization yet. Hate crimes against LGBTI people are still a very big struggle we have in South Africa, so most people chose to be under the radar, too afraid to admit it to even themselves. With my YouTube channel I’ve been able to reach and assist many people across the country.
Monika: What would you recommend to transgender women that are afraid of early transition, discrimination and hatred?
Mieke: My advice will be to transition as early as possible. The younger one starts to transition the better the effects are and the easier it is for the trans person and those around them to adjust to the new ways transition brings. Transitioning later in life can have more complications for example employment, marriage etc., so the earlier the better. It is easier for teenagers and young adults to accept a transgender person into their life and social events than it is for the older generations.
We see the general public being more accepting and open to many things that were considered taboo before, and this is because of exposure by the media and technology that we now grow up with. When it comes to discrimination it’s hard to give advice because it’s something that happens anywhere and everywhere at any given time. For the workplace it’s better to assign a lawyer before coming out to avoid being fired and go through a costly court battle, and to struggle to get employment afterwards.
It’s an unfortunate reality that many transgender people lose their jobs because of the fact that they are trans, and they are not considered for possible job opportunities for the same reason. Having one’s finances in order before transitioning is also a must, it’s a costly never-ending story. When it comes to hatred, I’m fortunate enough to never have experienced that, but what I can say is try to avoid any situations where a transgender person might be harmed. I never go out at night without my group of friends and I never go to dodgy places. Be aware of the situation and surrounding you are in and make sure you are always safe. In most cases people hate against a trans person just because they don't understand what it's about.

New found confidence from living full time as a woman.

Monika: What is your next step in the present time and where do you see yourself within the next 5-7 years?
Mieke: I recently went full time and have been living as a woman for a few months now. With going full time I don’t feel the rush or need to complete transition in a flash as I did before. I have peace of mind and feel more comfortable with myself now as to what I was before.
In the next two years I will have Facial Feminization Surgery and a Tracheal Shave with the possibility of Breast Augmentation. Only after that will I have Gender Reassignment Surgery, considering I am ready for it and comfortable with the idea. I consider myself to be a woman as I am now, so no need to rush things.
Besides from transition, I’m aiming to further my studies and get a degree in Civil and Structural Engineering. Once that is done I would love to settle down, get married and have twin boys named Nathan and Graham… a girl can dream right? My ultimate accomplishment would be to have my own family.
Monika: Could you say that you are a happy woman now?
Mieke: Absolutely! I’ve never been happier before. Although things got worse when I transitioned (money, family, etc.) I’m still happy and wake up every day with a smile! If I think back a few years ago I can’t relate to that person at all. I have no idea how I survived with being so unhappy and depressed. It’s amazing what a change my life had gone through when I started expressing the gender I am on the inside. I can with all honesty say that I am happy to be alive!
Monika: Mieke, it was a pleasure to interview you. Thanks a lot!

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

Search This Blog