Sunday 9 March 2014

Interview with Sarah Jordan

Monika: Today’s interview will be with Sarah Jordan, a young American video blogger that documents her transition on YouTube. Hello Sarah!
Sarah: Hello Monika!
Monika: Could you say a few words about yourself?
Sarah: I’m Sarah a Trans* Woman from South Carolina! I have been in transition now for about three years. I face many challenges and discrimination as a Southern transgender woman, even from family, friends and especially the public. Even though life gets really tough sometimes I never regret my choice to stop hiding and live free! I’m very fortunate to have a supportive, loving Boyfriend who knows when to push me forward and when to hold me tight!
Monika: Why did you decide to share your transition details on YouTube?
Sarah: When I first started on vlogging on YouTube it was to watch my transition as I went through my first hormone treatments and to follow my journey. Vlogging was also a way to express how I was feeling about life and my transition. The more videos I made the more I realized that other people needed to hear an honest and real transgender woman tell the truth about her life!
I felt I needed to share the highs and lows of accepting yourself as well as the struggle and pain of family, friends and societies acceptance of being a transgender woman! The more I videos I made the more it became like free therapy, allowing me to express my most intimate struggles and acceptance of my new life!

Monika: At which stage of the transition are you right now?
Sarah: I have been on Hormone Replacement Therapy now for just over 3years. I still have not been able to afford any surgeries or even a name change. I still have to live two separate lives because of my Job. I can’t afford to just quit because it’s irresponsible, I wouldn’t be able to afford hormone therapy or doctor visits or clothes or makeup or anything important to my life.
I have only myself to rely on and that’s how it should be so I’m scared to quit and have nothing to fall back on! I have several goals to still achieve and as long as I continue to push forward I know I can achieve them!
Monika: Are you satisfied with the results of the hormone therapy?
Sarah: I am somewhat satisfied with HRT, I have had favorable results in my facial changes and some other physical changes, such as softer skin and fuller hips. It is frustrating sometimes to have such extreme mood swings and after changing the regime a few times it getting better. Overall, I love the results!

3 years HRT. Happy today.

Monika: Could you describe your childhood? When did you feel for the first time that you should not be a boy or man?
Sarah: When I was very about 4 our family moved to Montana and that’s the first time I remember expressing myself as female. I was out walking and made a new friend a little boy, I introduced myself as Sarah. I felt more confident, brave and free to the girl I knew I was! I was plagued my whole life by feelings that I wanted to be like the other girls. I was tortured by their freedom to be feminine and free and not have to put on a façade so as to not be chastised for my behavior.
I was fortunate to have sisters: 2 older and one younger, and throughout my life my older sisters handed me down clothes, which became my wardrobe.
I was about 7 when I remember wearing one the dance costumes my oldest sister had. I remember how it made me feel beautiful and special and free all at the same time. I was so proud and confident in myself that I put on a dance show for my sister and Mother!
I learned that day, that was unacceptable! I was told it was wrong and that normal kids don’t do those things! I was crushed! The feeling that I was not supposed to be one of the boys was already so deep in my heart I could not stop it from running my life!
I did however learn how to suppress the outward expression of my true feelings. I pushed those feelings deep down and never let it overtake my outward life. I learned to mimic the boys and to be accepted into their world, as one of them. I wanted to turn away from feeling feminine, so life would be less complicated but it was always with me and every day I hated myself for feeling that way!

I was in my early 30’s before it became clear I would never be free of the way I thought. I would always be haunted by the feeling that I was never going to be like the other guys. I wanted to be a woman! I was already a woman in my heart and mind and always had been but had to those feeling deep inside and hide my true self!
When I was ready to accept that I was never going to stop feeling like I was the wrong sex! I finally “came out” to a friend whom I barely knew. She called me out when I did an “impersonation” of my sisters. She told me that it seemed to her like my “impersonation” was really just me letting my true self shine! I was floored and came clean about how I felt, how my whole life I felt like I was hiding the woman within.
She put her arms around me and gave me a comforting hug. She was the first person to ever be accepting and supportive of my desire to transition to female. I was ready to begin! I shed a tremendous weight literally and figuratively I lost 150 lbs over the course of a year and half, and began to allow my true self to run my life!
I came out to friends and family and it all went terrible and I lost a lot of friends and isolated my family. I lived as female for a year before starting psychological therapy each day challenging myself to experience some part of life as female. It was little things like going to a gas station, movies or being around a close group of accepting friends.
I began psychological therapy then hormone treatment and that’s where I am today. There is still a strain with family, it’s give and take, for every step forward we make it seems like we take to giant leaps back. I have no regrets and even though I am not as far as I would like to be I am still proud of what I have accomplished and glad I made the choice to accept myself!

Coming out New Years Eve 2010.

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?
Sarah: For me the most discrimination I face is at work. It has been made clear to me that me being transgender is not acceptable to the company values. It is the most difficulty I face on daily basis. I have come so far and worked so hard to get to where I am, yet as long as I work my job I will continue to be discriminated against.
I would try for another job and there are a couple of companies that have EDNA in place however being in the South I face discrimination and have been unable to get past the initial interview with those companies.
I also have faced and still face a lot of discrimination in public. Southerners are resistant to change and are afraid what they don’t understand! I get stares and snickers and pointing and laughing and snide comments behind my back everywhere I go!
Sometimes I feel like screaming and other times all I can do is cry. When I feel like I can’t take it anymore, I remember, always be yourself! My mantra since I can remember. I know that I can get through it all because there is no going back, I’m finally free! I am proud to live as myself and not have to hide who I am anymore.
Monika: Are there any transgender role models that you follow?
Sarah: I have never really had any transgender role models. I am inspired by anyone brave enough and strong enough to accept who they are and live as themselves!
Monika: What was the hardest thing about your coming out?
Sarah: The hardest thing about my coming out was the loss. I lost so many relationships. I lost friends that I had been close to for 20+ years they just stopped speaking to me. My sisters no longer visit with me or allow me into their homes or lives; I am not allowed to visit my nieces or nephew.
The worst pain of all is the strain on the relationship with my parents. Growing up were all very close and throughout my adult life I grew even closer to my parents. My parents have tried to be more accepting than other family, however it seems like when we progress forward in our relationship it stops and goes backwards, and we start all over again.
Monika: What is your general view on the present situation of transgender women in your country?
Sarah: In America we are lucky to have the freedom to be who we want to be. I am so glad to see more and more acceptance of transgender women. The media is slowly accepting transgender woman more and portraying us in a positive light. I hope that will lead to further acceptance by the general population and have a positive effect on future rights for transgender persons.

150lb weight lost.

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?
Sarah: I am glad to see strong beautiful transgender woman being strong for the rest of us. I am so glad to see how successful transgender woman can become in a society that still doesn’t fully accept or understand us!
Monika: Are you active in politics? Do you participate in any lobbying campaigns? Do you think transgender women can make a difference in politics?
Sarah: I don’t follow politics and I don’t participate in lobbying campaigns. I don’t view transgender women as any less capable than anyone else. I think it would be difficult for a transgender woman to make a difference in politics, because of all the discrimination she would be faced with.
Monika: Do you like fashion? What kind of outfits do you usually wear? Any special fashion designs, colours or trends?
Sarah: I don’t follow trends so much but I do love to shop! I recently went on a shopping spree! My style is just to wear what I feel great in! Usually that includes showing off a bit, short skirts, sleeveless dresses, anything that I feel confident and sexy wearing!
My favorite color is purple, followed by pink, red, and blue. I wear flats or sandals with most outfits however I do on special occasion wear heels. I avoid them normally because I’m so tall and I don’t like bringing even more attention to myself by adding 3 or more inches of height when I’m already 6’5” tall!
Monika: What do you think about transgender beauty pageants?
Sarah: I have seen several beauty pageants from Asia, but not many here in the US. I think it's fine to be in a beauty pageant. In the South we love beauty pageants. I was jealous every time I went to one! I always wanted to be in a pageant and wear one of those gorgeous gowns!

First time not wearing a wig.

Monika: Are you involved in the life of your local LGBT community?
Sarah: I recently joined a group, I met with them once, I will not be retuning. I know it sounds bad but, I don’t relate to the LGB community or culture. I don’t feel like I fit in with them, other than having to accept you are different, and “come out” to others.
Being transgender is a whole different world. Changing your gender identity to match that of the opposite sex has a unique set of challenges.
Monika: What would you recommend to transgender women that are afraid of early transition, discrimination and hatred?
Sarah: When you’re ready to accept who you are then you will, don’t be afraid to be yourself! Other people will discriminate against you no matter what you do or who you are!
Hatred is real and be mindful and honest all the time, especially in a relationship. Fight hatred and discrimination with kindness. Even when the snickers and stares are too much and I want to be rude back, I remember to just smile.
Monika: What is your next step in the present time and where do you see yourself within the next 5-7 years?
Sarah: I see myself in 5-7 years, married, happy and successful!
Monika: Could you say that you are a happy woman now?
Sarah: I am happy I accepted myself and was able to feel free and even fond love. I have a lot more to accomplish before I can feel fully happy, personal goals and dreams that I’ve still yet to achieve. Some are transition related such as some surgery in the future to enhance my vision of the woman I see myself as.
Monika: Sarah, it was a pleasure to interview you. Thanks a lot!
Sarah: Thank you it was challenging to dig that much into myself!

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

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