Monday, 28 April 2014

Interview with Leslie Regier

Monika: Today it is my pleasure and honor to interview Leslie Regier, the author of "Unchaining My Truth: Taking Flight on the Wings of a Dream", published by her business, Violet Angel. Hello Leslie!
Leslie: Hi Monika. It is also my pleasure to meet you and have this opportunity to be interviewed. You have presented a professional series of these interviews, and I am privileged to be among them.
Monika: Could you say a few words about yourself?
Leslie: It's difficult to know where to start. I am a person with so many facets, so many interests, so many passions in life. Some might call me a renaissance woman. I think perhaps at the core I am someone with a strong desire to learn, experience, play, share, and teach throughout my life.
Monika: Why did you decide to write your autobiography?
Leslie: I've always enjoyed writing in one form or another. The desire has varied at different times, but when I went through my gender transition I felt strongly compelled to share my experiences in a way that would openly reach more people. It was not only an outlet for me, but I also felt it would be helpful for others to learn from my experiences and my unusual journey, whether they are transgendered or not.

Friday, 25 April 2014

Interview with Nancy Nangeroni

Monika: Today it is my pleasure and honor to interview longtime transgender activist Nancy Nangeroni. Nancy founded the Boston chapter of The Transexual Menace, a ‘disorganization’ of transgender activists, in 1995. She co-produced and co-hosted GenderTalk for 11 years and GenderVision for 11 programs. She served as Executive Director of the International Foundation for Gender Education and has been Chair of the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition since 2008. An MIT-degreed engineer, she worked in the industry for 20+ years, now focuses on providing leadership and tech empowerment to the broader trans community. Hello Nancy!
Nancy: Hi Monika, thanks for inviting me to join your many amazing interviewees! 
Monika: For many years you have been dealing with transgender advocacy. What has been achieved so far and what are the current challenges for transgender people in the USA?
Nancy: When I began volunteer work for IFGE in 1990, there was little respect shown for people expressing or identifying with the ‘opposite’ gender, and any critique of binary gender thinking was relegated to the radical fringe. Now, we have laws in hundreds of jurisdictions protecting people’s right to freedom of gender identity and expression.
Most people in the USA now accept, if still resisting in some areas, the presence of transgender people in “respectable” society. We’ve forged a credible (some say leading) social movement that continues to grow. And we continue to win respect for people who don’t fit into pre-existing definitions, including definitions of what it is to be “transgender.”

Thursday, 24 April 2014

Interview with Guta Silveira

Monika: Monika: Today it is my pleasure and honor to interview Guta Silveira, an inspirational transgender activist from Brazil, actress, author of two biographical books: "Homens Não Choram" (1994) and "Transexual A História de Uma Vida" (2005). Hello Guta!
Guta: Hello Monika! Hello girls!
Monika: Could you say a few words about yourself?
Guta: My story doesn’t deviate much from what usually happens to other transsexual girls. I was born with the body of a boy and I was raised as one. Despite that, when I was 3 years old I went to the sports club with my mother and we used to go to the girl`s bathroom and that was normal to me, part of my universe.
One day I went to the boys' bathroom and I was stunned by what I saw. Handsome men stirred something in me, but at that age, I didn’t know what it was. I grew up feeling different from my schoolmates, not knowing what my true place was. I loved to use my mother’s makeup on myself when there was nobody watching, and used rags to fake long hair, wrapped myself in bedsheets to make believe they were dresses, it was all very fun and pleasing.

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Interview with Fay Presto

Monika: Today it is my pleasure and honor to interview Fay Presto, aka Letitia Winter, a British premier close-up magician, voted The Magic Circle Close-up Magician of the Year 2012, former Tatler 'Party Entertainer of the Year, Gold Star Member of The Inner Magic Circle.
Her first job was as a lab assistant at an atomic energy research company. She had to leave The Magic Circle when she began her transition, regaining the membership in 1991 when The Magic Circle voted to allow women members. Her main interest is close-up magic; she is known for her "bottle through the table" trick, which was ranked as one of the greatest magic tricks of all time by Channel 4's 50 Greatest Magic Tricks. Hello Fay!
Fay: Hello Monika!
Monika: According to Wikipedia, magic is a performing art that entertains audiences by staging tricks or creating illusions of seemingly impossible or supernatural feats using natural means. Why do people need magic?
Fay: Magic, my kind of magic, is part of the entertainment industry. People have a fundamental need to be entertained, after air, water, food, and shelter, comes entertainment; be it folk tales, shamanic dancing, or cave paintings that flicker in the firelight.
We go out, kill the mammoth, bring it home, skin it and cook it and then gather in the cave behind the fire and tell tales to help us forget the sabre-toothed tiger on the other side of the flames.

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Interview with Melissa Sklarz

Monika: Today it is my pleasure and honor to interview Melissa Sklarz with whom I would like to discuss the role of transgender women in US politics, culture, and society. Melissa is a transgender advocate and activist, delegate to the Democratic National Convention in New York, presiding over Stonewall Democratic Club. Hello Melissa! 
Melissa: Hi Monika!!! Thanks for doing this and for reaching out to New York City!! 
Monika: I am tempted to ask about your family roots. Your family surname sounds Polish …
Melissa: The family surname Sklarz means glassworker or window cleaner, depending on which part of Poland or the Czech Republic you are from. My estimate is my family left Poland in the late 18th Century and then went to Munich for 3 generations. My family arrived in New York City in the late 1850s.
Monika: Could you say a few words about your career so far?
Melissa: I transitioned in the early 1990s and then became a peer counselor at the Gender Identity Project in the mid-90s. People asked about resources for trans people and I discovered there were none. I started getting involved with the government and the political system at that point, and have continued on from there.

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Interview with Johanna Kamermans

Monika: Today is my pleasure and honor to interview Johanna Kamermans (born 1938), a writer, translator, and former striptease dancer from the Netherlands. For nearly 15 years, she worked in cabarets in Germany, Belgium, and Luxembourg as a striptease dancer named Gina de Senfal (for a short time as Gigi Deloran), the author of the autobiographical novel titled "Schlauchgelüste" (2012) and other 10 books of all kinds. Hello Johanna!
Johanna: Hello dear Monika! Many thanks for your invitation and I am very glad that you give me the possibility to say something about my transgender life especially in the former times. I always say: “Future and past belong together, especially for us transgender people, because also we – like other people too - become elder and elder (help !)…”
Monika: You come from a very cosmopolitan family with parental roots in Germany (mother), the Netherlands (father), and in Flanders (paternal ancestors)...
Johanna: Yes, in 1933 my beautiful mother came from Gelsenkirchen-Buer (Ruhr-Region) to Vlissingen (a seaside resort on the Dutch North Sea coast). She worked there in the famous “Grand Hotel Britannia” and there she met my father. I wrote 4 genealogical books about both of them and my worldwide family.

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Interview with Jennifer Cohen-Taylor

Monika: Today’s interview will be with Jennifer Cohen-Taylor, a video blogger that documents her transition on YouTube. Hello Jennifer!
Jennifer: Hello Monika! I am honored to be one of many so highly admired women. Thank you.
Monika: Could you say a few words about yourself?
Jennifer: Sure, I have always known that I was a woman. From very young, about 5, I knew it well. There was never dysphoria at that age. I lived as me. I was happy. But as I grew older, I began to see that my body was not like other girls. That’s when the issues began. It took me a long time – 44 years, to finally come out and be Jenny, but today I am happy and free – the woman I have always known.
Monika: Why did you decide to share your transition details on YouTube?
Jennifer: Well, I have always loved video as a medium to share and connect with people. I look into the lens and I imagine people like you on the other side. I connect with people using real emotions and real words from my heart. YouTube allows me to do that well.

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Interview with Rachel Love

Monika: Today it is my pleasure and honor to interview Rachel Love, a radio host, coach, and intuitive instructor, the author of the books titled “Things My Mother Should Have Told Me Before I had My Manhood Removed“ (2013) and “The Day God Died” (2013). Hello Rachel!
Rachel: Hello Monika, thanks for this opportunity to be interviewed by you. 
Monika: Could you say a few words about yourself?
Rachel: Seems to me that you have said a whole bunch about me already. Perhaps I can add that I like to shop, travel and take strolls along the beach with that special person. Lol
Monika: Why did you decide to write your Memoir “Things My Mother Should Have Told Me Before I had My Manhood Removed“?
Rachel: Friends have been after me for years to write about my life and experiences that lead up to where I am now. This book is a part of that path.
I started to write many times the story of my childhood and stopped before finishing. The past has a way of haunting me and the memories and feelings resurface when I write. So I had allowed the ghosts of my past to discourage me and I stopped writing it many times over the years.
Over those same years, I have had people offer to help write it for me. But then they fail to do so. So just before I wrote this book “Things My Mother Should Have Told Me.” I was working with another author to finally write my childhood story. Unfortunately or fortunately the results were a partially finished book.

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Interview with Laura Calvo

Monika: Today it is my pleasure and honor to interview Laura Calvo, an American politician, transgender advocate, served as Treasurer of the Democratic Party of Oregon, the first transgender woman elected to the Democratic National Committee, Vice-chair of the Democratic National Committee LGBT Caucus, according to Just Out - one of the top 25 LGBT community leaders of the past quarter-century. She’s been awarded the IFGE Trinity Award, and Spirit of Pride Award by Portland Oregon’s annual Gay Pride organization. Hello Laura!
Laura: Hello Monika! I was pleasantly surprised to be included in your interviews. 
Monika: Could you say a few words about yourself?
Laura: I’m a child of the ’60s growing up in the Haight-Ashbury of San Francisco. In the mid 70’s I went to work for the city of San Francisco as a paramedic. My first political action was helping with Harvey Milk’s campaign. I then moved to rural Southern Oregon in the ’80s and eventually to Portland Oregon in 2004, where I currently live.
Along the way, I eventually found myself and have no regrets other than I wish that I had the foresight way back then to have found myself earlier. I’m not sure how much that would have changed where I am at now, but if I’m honest perhaps I would not be involved with politics as I am now.

Monday, 14 April 2014

Interview with Amy Brosnahan

Monika: Today it is my pleasure and honor to interview Amy Brosnahan, an inspirational transgender girl from New Zealand, finalist of the Battle of the Babes, a New Zealand beauty pageant. Hello Amy!
Amy: Hello, it’s great to be doing an interview, Monika. I feel very honored. 
Monika: Could you say a few words about yourself?
Amy: Well, I’m 18 years old, and I was born in Auckland, New Zealand. I like to dance and sing - not that I am particularly good at it though. I am a really sociable person and I love being around my friends and people who support me. I’m half Samoan – my dad is Samoan and my mum is Pakeha (born in New Zealand but of Irish descent).
I’m just a normal girl who happens to be seen as different, and quite often misunderstood. I consider myself to be a very strong person and usually roll with the knocks, but occasionally things will push me right back down again and it takes a little while to bounce back. But I always do.

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Interview with Carys Massarella

Monika: Today it is my pleasure and honor to interview Carys Massarella, a doctor of emergency medicine at McMaster University and Lead Physician of the Transcare Program at Quest Community Health Centre in St. Catharine’s, Canada. She grew up in Sudbury, Ontario, and graduated from the University of Western Ontario. Hello Carys!
Carys: Hello Monika!
Monika: You are one of few ‘non-pathologizing’ trans-care health providers in Ontario. Could you explain what ‘Non-Pathologizing’ stands for?
Carys: A non-pathologizing approach to transgender care essentially implies that there is no diagnosis to make with transgender people. The idea that this is a pathologic process is patently absurd. There is no inherent biological risk in being transgendered.
In that I mean by being transgendered there is no measurable biological effect in a negative way. The documented poor outcomes for trans-identified individuals are a product of issues related to the social determinants of health that affect all such marginalized populations such as poverty, homelessness, access to health care, and violence. These are corrected at the political level with advocacy from health care providers and transgender activists as key players.
So for me, there is no diagnosis essentially to make. I allow transgender people to claim their identity and then provide safe and medically appropriate access to cross-gender hormone therapy and surgery plus support through the transition. That is the essence of what I do.

Saturday, 12 April 2014

Interview with Michelle Austin

Monika: Today it is my pleasure and honor to interview Michelle Austin, an American entertainer and adult movie actress, 2013 Tranny Award winner for Voluptuous Model. Not only an entertainer but producer, director, and video editor. A powerful businesswoman! Hello Michelle!
Michelle: Hello Monika! Thank you for having me!
Monika: Could you say a few words about yourself?
Michelle: Well, as you all know already I am Michelle Austin. I have been in the adult industry for four years now. I don’t just work in front of the camera, I work a lot behind the scenes as well.
Monika: How did you come into the adult movies industry?
Michelle: At 21 I was early into my transition when Shemale Yum had approached me to do a set for them. At that time I had been on the cover of Ladylike Magazine and really wasn’t ready to be in porn. I didn’t think I wanted to be seen as a sex object that early on in my transition. Fast forward to being 30, and I was asked again by Shemale Yum, and I was ready in my life and had been full-time and comfortable in my own skin by then to do it!

Lady in red.

Monika: Is it possible to make both ends meet with being a transgender adult actress?
Michelle: No! I suggest any girl wanting to get into this business, don’t do it for the money. I love what I do, but it helps push my other jobs. I work a lot at promoting my brand and doing tons of other things that help me live off of it.
Monika: Who is the average viewer of transgender adult movies?
Michelle: I would say they are a straight male, curious, or already there.
Monika: Some transgender activists say that transgender adult movies create a negative image of the whole transgender community. What would be your answer in this respect? 
Michelle: I don’t think so! As for me, I work a lot with the queer porn world last year and their porn is used in colleges as an educational tool.
I think that can be the same for trans porn as well. I also feel like I am a role model to many girls, I am showing them that you can be beautiful at any size, and love your body and who are. We all look at porn!
Monika: Do you take part in transgender beauty pageants?
Michelle: I did years ago, I loved it but it’s a lot of money and time that I really don’t have right now in my life. I love being on stage and entertaining. As for pageants though, most look down upon girls who have done porn. So, the only way I would get back into it would be when I completely leave the industry.
Monika: Being beautiful always produces a lot of girl power and empowerment. Do you often use it?
Michelle: I don’t think beauty produces girl power, I believe strength does. I think you need strength and inner love to be empowered. And of course, to live the life I live and do the things I do, I have to be empowered.
Monika: At that time of your transition, did you have any transgender role models that you could follow?
Michelle: Oh, my God, YES! That’s the beauty of the trans sisterhood that I cherish to this day. The minute I walked into this world and started to transition I had so many beautiful women take me under their wings. One of the greatest trans women to influence me was Erica Andrews, the first trans woman I ever met.

Ready for a beach.

Monika: What was the hardest thing about your coming out?
Michelle: I had two coming-outs, so my second one was a little easier on things. But it was still rough. But when I decided to transition as a woman, I moved away from my family to do the change away from them. I didn’t want them to have to go through the experience with me.
By the time I told them I had already been living full time for three years. So coming out to them was a little easier, but they knew I was openly gay so being trans wasn’t that much more of a stretch to shock them.
Monika: What do you think about the present situation of transgender women in American society?
Michelle: I think it sucks being a second-class citizen in America. We are slowly being viewed in a positive light in some media but still, most of the country has no clue what a transgendered person is. We have many more years before it becomes something of the norm.
Monika: Could transgenderism be the new frontier for human rights?
Michelle: Oh, it is getting there, but here in America, the human rights focus is on gay marriage. I don’t think we will see trans human rights for another decade or so. Which is sad.
Monika: Are you active in politics? Do you participate in any lobbying campaigns? Do you think transgender women can make a difference in politics?
Michelle: I think trans women can make great strides in politics, but when it comes to me and politics I don’t agree. I think politics are what’s killing this country and it's hard to change what is already done. As for me, I sit on the side and watch!
Monika: Could you tell me about the importance of love in your life?
Michelle: I think you need love to be happy. I have so much love in my life from the great friends I know, to my amazing family and my husband of six years. I am a blessed person to be so loved and live the life I want. I know many trans people don’t have that opportunity.

At 6th Annual Tranny Awards gala.

Monika: Do you like fashion? What kind of outfits do you usually wear? Any special fashion designs, colors, or trends?
Michelle: I love fashion but I live a very quiet life outside of porn, so when it comes to buying the hottest thing and showing it off, you really only see that on my site. As for trends I try to stay in fashion. But for the most part, I am a very casual kinda girl. Summertime it’s all dresses.
Monika: Many transgender ladies write their memoirs. Have you ever thought about writing such a book yourself?
Michelle: Well, I basically write a column about my life for Transformations Magazine called A Tgirl's Life. But one day, I plan to write a book, if not a book, a play. I was a theater major in college, so plays and musicals are my things. So to see a play about me would be pretty cool.
Monika: What is your next step in the present time and where do you see yourself within the next 5-7 years?
Michelle: Have my porn empire built! Most likely I have announced I will be retiring from in front of the camera at end of 2014, but I will be producing stuff and shooting a lot of trans men and women for my new site which will be a hot spot for all trans porn needs.
Monika: What would you recommend to all transgender girls, thinking about the entertainment career?
Michelle: First off, know who you are. Find yourself, and love yourself and be comfortable in your own skin. This industry will eat you up and spit you out. Also, don’t do it for the money but do it for the love. Then, from there go for it!
Monika: Michelle, thank you for the interview!

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

Friday, 11 April 2014

Interview with Jessie Jacobson

Monika: Today it is my pleasure and honor to interview Jessie Jacobson, an inspirational woman from New York and Los Angeles, now living in London, United Kingdom, a specialist in psychotherapy and private counseling with a focus on transsexual, transgender, intersex, and other gender-variant individuals; in addition to lesbian, gay, bisexual and heterosexual clients. Jessie also lectures on trans issues and therapy and has taught graduate psychology courses in Human Sexuality. Hello Jessie!
Jessie: Hello Monika. I’ve seen your site and have found the interviews both educational and enjoyable. I really appreciate what you’re doing and am honored to participate. 
Monika: Could you say a few words about yourself?
Jessie: I identify as a woman or a transwoman. I’m not too bothered about specific terminologies although there are certain names and terms I would prefer not to have applied to me. I believe all of us should be free to choose the terminology for ourselves that we believe is most suitable and that none of us should attempt to assign terminology to others. I transitioned somewhat late in life despite knowing since as far back as I can remember that I identified as female rather than male.

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Interview with Sally Goldner

Monika: Today it is my pleasure and honor to interview Sally Goldner, an Australian drummer, singer, and stand-up comic, Executive Director for TransGender Victoria, treasurer of Bisexual Alliance Victoria, and treasurer of the Victorian Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby, listed in The Age Top 100 Creative and Influential People in Melbourne in 2011. Hello Sally!
Sally: Great to be with you.
Monika: Could you say a few words about yourself?
Sally: I’ve been physically alive since October 1965 but only spiritually alive since April 1995 which was when I finally received accurate information about trans. At that point, all the pieces of my life began to make sense. I realized my need to affirm my female identity permanently about 3 years later and in between those 2 ties, I got to the truth about my sexual orientation, which I now define as bi/pansexual – like most things, it’s an evolution. 
Monika: How did you start your artistic career?
Sally: I started out more with singing and then was invited to the spoken word. Stand-up and character comedy was something I wanted to do deep down and started in 2003, although it’s been on the backburner since about 2008 due to being busy with advocacy and personal reasons.

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Interview with Andie Davidson

Monika: Today it is my pleasure and honor to interview Andie Davidson, a publisher, writer, blogger, musician, and author of "Realisations" (2012). Hello Honey!
Andie: Hi Monika, it’s great to join you here, and in such a company.
Monika: Could you say a few words about yourself?
Andie: No! I talk far too much! But I can try. I live on the south coast of the UK and work as a technical writer in an engineering company. I was married for over 30 years and have two grown-up children. I’m recently divorced, but happy to have found my true self after 55 years of ignorance and another couple of years sorting it out.
Monika: You are the author of the collection of poems titled “Realisations” (2012). What inspired you to become a poet?
Andie: Hmm. That’s interesting. Maybe like “becoming a woman” one doesn’t. I just am, but only took writing seriously when the transgender light dawned. Being made redundant three years ago in 2011 was a catalyst for everything – and gave me time to think.
I just desperately needed to write my way through the emotions of self-discovery and the impact of it, in a way that might subvert the ordinary conversation that simply hits opinions head-on before inner dialogue can take place.

Her first poetry collection:
Realisations (Amazon), 2012

Monika: Is there anything like transgender art? What does it mean to be a transgendered artist?
Andie: Art is observation, and we all see the world differently. But transgendered people have a perspective that others don’t. We notice things such as ambiguities and false certainties through gender, and as artists realize we can extend that to the wider world. That can make our art really interesting rather than purely descriptive, and be used to provoke a response that brings new realizations in others.
My experience in writing openly as transgendered was that I was suddenly much more daring in speaking my truth and throwing it into an unsuspecting world. I then suspected that it might be difficult to understand without a background, so added section introductions as scene-setters into my poetry collection.
Ever since, I have questioned whether my writing is clear enough for those with a narrower perspective, or whether I am too subtle. I think that so long as you don’t get too self-obsessed about your message, you can speak a much broader language and become much richer and more nuanced from being transgendered. I find I write poems now that are dense with meaning for me that simply pass over the heads of non-trans people.
So if anything, being a transgendered artist or writer is to work from a privileged position of seeing everything differently. Non-trans people can never do that, however good their imagination. When you have stood amongst men when no women are present, and amongst women when no men are present, you have witnessed unguarded self uniquely equally.
Monika: Has your transition influenced the way you write your poetry?
Andie: I did write some before, through emotional times, but it was sporadic and far from crafted. Poetry can also be pretentious, imitating other poets. Mine was!
My transition was as raw and authentic as it gets, and I wanted my writing to be that as well. Discovering what it means to be born transsexual was overwhelming because it was unavoidable and was not up for discussion. You can’t negotiate your authenticity, and poetry was a way of being brutally direct whilst being a bit more gentle about it. That meant I had to learn to write in a way that leads rather than pushes so that the truth of what I was saying became self-evident rather than being an argument with proof.
The best poetry is full of “show not tell”, which was what I was trying to do at first about my gender, so it felt very appropriate to learn the real craft of poetry. I worked with a poet-mentor for a year. In hindsight, I can see how much of my writing was about trying to capture other people’s perspectives of transgendered people erupting into their lives, so it was about me, but it taught me to observe self (hence the subtitle of my blog).
Monika: At what age did you transition into a woman yourself? Did you have any support from your family or friends?
Andie: I felt I was different from the age of five, but I had no explanation for it. By the time I hit puberty, with the help of religious cultural background and a taboo-sensitive family, I knew it was something unspeakable and bad. So by adolescence, I was into evangelical Christianity and pretty screwed up inside! I had girlfriends because they were attractive but also, I can see now, so that I could be much more intimate with feeling female. But no one else knew my secret.

Starting out in 2011, her first style.

I married at 25, revealing very little of my secret, but felt safe enough hoping it might all go away; whatever ‘it’ was. I just didn’t know that people could be born transgendered and that this could be diagnosed, and that it felt like this. I left doctrinal religion behind at about the same age, but still knew I had this wicked side to me that no one must find out about because I would be rejected as disgusting or perverted.
It was only in desperate searching of the Internet in 2010, at the age of 55, that I discovered that being transgendered wasn’t anything to do with sexual preferences. I knew it wasn’t a sexual thing for me, but that had been the only image I’d been presented with all my life. It clicked and suddenly I knew I could be alright. 
It was a shock to my wife, but we read all the right books together to understand it, and ended up going to therapy together for a while. To a degree, I had her support, and we did go around together as two women for about a year.
I think she understood reasonably well what gender dysphoria meant, but it didn’t mean she was at all comfortable living intimately with a woman. I was racing ahead and she was confused. In the end, she just didn’t want to be married to a woman, and I had to leave for my own emotional security. It was making me suicidal to live with the emotional rejection. Did she support me? In some ways, yes, and I am just glad she wasn’t antagonistic. But welcoming? Definitely not.
My daughter stopped talking to me three years ago, has never even been in the same room as me since the transition, left home to join her boyfriend soon after, and I haven’t seen or heard from her since. In contrast, my son had a transgendered friend so it was never an issue for him.
I was fortunate to find a support group in Brighton (UK) that I could attend while out of employment for that critical year. It normalized my experience and gave me the courage to do what had to be done, and I was able to find out what to do in practical terms. Without them, I’d have been quite lost and fearful, and transition would have taken longer and been a lot harder.
I lost all the family friends, mainly other couples, but as a musician, I was involved every week with maybe 150 other musicians. There was no way I could creep in one day dressed in women’s clothes, though it might have finally explained the nail varnish and earrings! Instead, I announced in front of each band in turn through one week at Easter 2012, that I would no longer be seen as a man. I think my explanation, and certainly my courage, was enough to settle all gossip and ridicule, and I had a lot of support, especially from other women.

The end of prosthetics, a new
natural self, 2013.

Above all, though, it was three other women friends who were the key to my survival, giving me all the encouragement, time, support, and advice I needed to leave the old gender behind completely. None had the experience of transgender people before, but what they gave was very much more than just acceptance.
My sister has been amazing. We don’t live near each other, but after a lifetime of phone calls maybe four times a year, we now spend an hour a week. Being sisters is a wonderful thing, and her support and mediation have meant my mother accepting me fully too.
Monika: At that time of your transition, did you have any transgender role models that you followed?
Andie: No. I’m not one for role models, heroines, or leaders to follow. It’s great to see the famous and prominent being out and trans, because it makes me feel less vulnerable and part of something more unassailable. People with established public respect like musicians, actors, film directors, TV personalities, or writers bring that respectability into being transgendered. But I don’t feel they wholly represent me or agree with everything they say.
My first awareness was Caroline Cossey, modeling as Tula, but everywhere she was billed with ‘sex change’, like it was a choice she made. I was wowed but felt no connection. I wish I’d seen interviews with her at the time.
I have to do my own thing or it doesn’t feel right. However, seeing other trans friends going through the whole business of gender identity clinics, psychiatrists, and negotiating the hormones through to surgery and out the other side, has been hugely important. I had plenty of examples of complete success to give me confidence in getting all the way through. This is why I blog.
Monika: What was the hardest thing about your coming out?
Andie: That’s the easy question! Losing my wife, home, and daughter. The consequences of transition quickly reveal how conditional even the best love you know, can be. It was absolute and complete agony. We were together for 32 years and I never stopped loving her.
But when she started treating me like an intruder or potential predator in my own bedroom, even before my body looked any different at all, it very nearly kicked me completely over the edge. Everything else has been very straightforward apart from that. I have always been so completely confident about who I am and how I should live, that even the most “courageous” things like public announcements in person have just seemed obvious.

In her own place at last.

Monika: What do you think about the present situation of transgender women in your country?
Andie: Here in the UK the situation is on the whole pretty good, but patchy. I know people who can’t find housing or jobs whose main explanation is discrimination. I certainly think being transgendered on top of anything else compounds your problems.
In terms of legal protections there isn’t a lot more to ask, but implementing non-binary attitudes is still very hard, whether it’s gendered bathrooms or official forms and registrations. The male-female declaration is pervasively required and yet there is so little reason to do so.
I was clear after a few months of part-time transition, that I am a woman, not ambiguously gendered, so I was flipping within the binary more than declaring neither. For non-binary people, life is very awkward indeed in many ways.
If society could be persuaded to drop binary identification everywhere that it doesn’t actually make a difference, this would go a long way, and probably further than protesting for trans rights with reference to a persisting binarist culture.
I have had very little antagonism or prejudice throughout my transition and wherever I’ve traveled and lived - partly because I’m not out clubbing on Saturday nights, partly because I’m older and well-established as a person with proven skills and abilities, and partly because I refused to compromise my identity and went at it with total confidence and sheer bloody-mindedness.
Those who find themselves in different cultural areas, or in places where local bigotry is rife, I know have a very different experience. Even when there are legal protections, you may find your local police force unskilled, untrained and unsympathetic, or that your HR managers in work situations don’t implement proper practice and stamp on bullying.
I think also that for trans women we experience a mix of prejudice through being women and also being trans. I would say I’ve had as much to deal with simply for being a woman, as I have for being trans.
Monika: Could transgenderism be the new frontier for human rights?
Andie: My first reaction to that is to say that there is no “transgenderism”. It isn’t an ideology and we aren’t a movement. People are born with gender identities that don’t conform to the nonsensical binary. Compare feminists with females. We don’t have femaleist. I worry about movements that form to make a normal variety highly visible.
We need education, awareness, and ordinary presence in the world, not to be something special or irritating. Human rights are human rights, and most are asserted through demonstrating the irrationality or absurdity of inequality. We have to stand up for ourselves, yes, but so do so many others, for lots of reasons.
We aren’t a special case to become a new frontier, but we are part of a natural progression as the whole nature of sex, sexuality, and gender is opened up to scrutiny. 100,000 people living in their true gender whilst being open about their life story, and doing so fully integrated in society, are a more powerful force than singular loud media voices or events on their own. Sometimes it can be more powerful to be ordinary than to be exceptional. I’d rather be yeast in the loaf than a cherry that can be picked out if disliked.

Performing at Brighton Pride, 2013.

Monika: What is your general view on transgender stories or characters which have been featured in films, newspapers, or books so far?
Andie: What is interesting about a trans woman? Let alone a trans man! In any story, the only interest is their struggle for identity and acceptance. Aren’t our autobiographies all about our transition and struggles when young?
After the transition, it’s just another story. So to introduce a character “for interest” invites the parody, the inept attempt, the obvious faux pas, the loneliness, or the difficulties of sex life. Transition is only worth having in the story if it’s a problem. Mine would be so boring, except for five minutes!
Rarely is the script showing real interest in the person, and where it is, there are too few trans actors. That means the interpretations cis actors usually give, lack depth or emotional understanding. But why should a trans actor want to play trans parts that aren’t well written? They’re just actors who happen to be trans. Maybe what we need is more trans writers creating meaningful characters.


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

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Interview with Riah Roe

Monika: Today it is my pleasure and honor to interview Riah Roe, an inspirational American girl, transgender activist, and advocate, known for her transgender activism at Concordia College, a private college in Moorhead, Minnesota. Hello Riah!
Riah: Hi Monika, thank you so much for that kind introduction.
Monika: Could you say a few words about yourself?
Riah: Well, as you mentioned, my name is Riah (Rye-uh) Roe. I currently call Minneapolis Minnesota my home. I moved here during the summer of 2013 shortly after I graduated from Concordia College in western Minnesota.
Throughout my studies there I focused primarily on critical issues within the field of gender and sexuality. Now, being a more conservative private college there really was not a program for that so I ended up with a double major in Psychology and Sociology with a minor in Women's Studies.
As for recreationally, I absolutely love spending time with my dear friends. I went to roughly twenty-three schools as a child and so I never really felt very connected to say a town or family members outside of my single-parent family.
However, a consistent theme throughout my life has been befriending like-minded individuals (usually outcasts) and sharing experiences together. It was inevitable that one day that experience sharing would eventually develop into social justice advocacy.

Monday, 7 April 2014

Interview with Robyn Alice McCutcheon

Monika: Today it is my pleasure and honor to interview Robyn Ann Jane Alice McCutcheon, an inspirational American woman, diplomat (Foreign Service Officer -- FSO) who has served at U.S. embassies in Uzbekistan, Russia, Romania, author of a number of publications on Russian and Soviet history, a former engineer on NASA projects including Hubble Space Telescope, author of a web journal titled Transgender in State. This year she is working at the U.S. State Department in Washington, DC, where she also serves as president of GLIFAA, the LGBT+ pride association for U.S. foreign affairs' agencies. Hello Robyn!
Robyn: Hi, Monika! I've enjoyed your profiles of transgender heroines, many of whom are my personal heroines. It's quite an honor that you would want to include me in that number!
Monika: Could you say a few words about yourself?
Robyn: Well, I'm 59 going on 29, divorced, and happier and more excited about the world than I've ever been. I come from a Scotch-Irish family but fell in love with the Russian language and "things Russian" when I was in the university.
I grew up in the 60s in the early days of the space program. That's how it is that I ended up with two careers: 25 years of working on NASA projects and now 10 years of working for the U.S. Department of State as a Foreign Service Officer.

Sunday, 6 April 2014

Interview with Johanna Hackl

Monika: Today it is my pleasure and honor to interview Johanna E. Hackl, an inspirational Austrian woman, stewardess, yoga instructor, and celebrity star from the German reality show about transgender people titled “Transgender - Mein Weg in den richtigen Körper”. Hello Johanna!
Johanna: Hi Monika, I feel very happy about this interview.
Monika: Why did you decide to apply for the casting to “Transgender - Mein Weg in den richtigen Körper”?
Johanna: It was pure instinct and ambition. When I saw "Transgender" for the first time two years ago, I have felt envy and a strong need to participate in that TV show as well. There was no certain reason, I just wanted to be part of that. I considered it as my next goal.
Monika: What are your impressions about the participation in that show?
Johanna: My impression is that the production team is really serious about the topic and about us, the participants. Nothing respectless was shown in the shows though they could have. For example, there were pictures of me attending an erotic dance class where I did not hide my gender and you could see everything because I wore tight leggings. But they did not show. On the other side, the show is quite superficial cause it's more about operations.

Saturday, 5 April 2014

Interview with Julie Nemecek

Monika: Today it is my pleasure and honor to interview Rev. Dr. Julie Nemecek, an American transgender activist, lecturer, professor, ordained Baptist minister, and Presbyterian Church elder. She was born in Chicago, Illinois but Michigan has been home for many years. In 2007 she hit the national headlines when she was fired from Spring Arbor University when she came out as a transgender professor. In 2008 Julie was appointed co-executive director for the LGBT civil rights organization Michigan Equality to become the first transgender person to serve as executive director for a statewide civil rights organization. Hello Julie!
Julie: Hello Monika!
Monika: Could you say a few words about yourself?
Julie: I am 63 and retired, but still active for LGBTQ rights and equality. I will have been married 42 years this June; have 3 boys – all married – and 5 grandchildren with another on the way.
Monika: In 2007 you made headlines for being fired by Spring Arbor University after saying you were going to transition into a woman. Are you still bitter about that act of discrimination?
Julie: Not really. I have had a lot of support from former colleagues and students. It was mainly the Board that had issues (fearing lost revenue and/or students). I worked for 18 months AFTER they knew I was trans and transitioning.
We reached a mediated settlement to my Equal Employment Opportunity Complaint after 13 hours of negotiation over two days. They knew they were in a difficult position because they taught the standards of care that I was following and had admitted a transgender student to a graduate program based on her Christian witness.
One positive outcome was that their act of discrimination brought me over 100 media interviews in 2007 including Newsweek, Wall Street Journal, Fox News, and even Christianity Today. This, along with two other highly publicized trans stories in early 2007, had a collective impact of bringing trans issues to the forefront of public thought.

Friday, 4 April 2014

Interview with Maki Gingoyon

Monika: Today it is my pleasure and honor to interview Maki Gingoyon, aka Maki Eve Mercedes, a Filipino trans woman beauty queen, most well known for winning Queen of Cebu 2010, and being one of the Queens for Super Sireyna 2013. Hello Maki!
Maki: Hey Monika! Thanks for having me on your blog. And it is nice to meet someone like you, a fellow transgender woman making a difference in promoting a good image among trans women.
Monika: Could you say a few words about yourself?
Maki: I am 24, turning 25 this year, and I am a transgender woman from the Philippines. I studied BS Psychology, unfortunately, I was not able to finish it due to some family issues, which challenged me to be independent and work my a** out by applying for a call center job. This is a very common job opportunity in the Philippines, especially for 2nd-year college students who want to work. That actually helped me to support myself and my transitioning.
And currently, I work as a digital online marketing director for a transgender dating site together with my boyfriend.

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Interview with Kenna Henderson

Monika: Today it is my pleasure and honor to interview Kenna Henderson, an American writer, ghostwriter, editor, and the author of the book titled "I'm Not The Man I Used To Be" (2012). Hello Kenna!
Kenna: Hello! I’m very flattered that you would consider me for an interview. I see all the lovely ladies you have talked with and wonder “What on Earth am I doing here?”.
Monika: Could you say a few words about yourself?
Kenna: I’m sure you’ve heard the term “late bloomer”. I was born in 1941, knew without a doubt by age six that I was transgender, and I kept it secret for more than five decades. I don’t remember how I learned it was something to be ashamed of, but I had no relatable examples in the media and no one I could talk to.
It was only in 1994, when I gained access to the internet, that I began to understand what I was dealing with and realized that there were a lot of other people like me. From that point on, I began to evolve. It took another ten years or so for me to know and accept exactly where I fit on the gender spectrum - and find peace.

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Interview with Tammy Powers

Monika: Today it is my pleasure and honor to interview Tammy Powers, an American transgender activist, the owner of the bike shop in San Francisco. Hello Tammy!
Tammy: Hi, thank you for contacting me. I’m glad you want to ask me some questions about me and my bicycle shop, A Tran’s Bay Bike Shop.
Monika: Could you say a few words about yourself?
Tammy: Sure, I’m a businesswoman, part-time stand-up comedian, helpful, sincere, trustworthy, tenacious, lover of dogs, and I make the best vegetarian lasagna you ever had.

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Interview with Dallas Denny

Monika: Today it is my pleasure and honor to interview Dallas Denny, a writer, editor, behavior analyst, pioneer, and leader in the transgender rights movement in the USA, recipient of IFGE's Trinity and Virginia Prince Lifetime Achievement Awards and Real Life Experience's Transgender Pioneer Award. Hello Dallas!
Dallas: Hi, Monika, and thanks so much for having me!
Monika: Could you say a few words about yourself?
Dallas: Let’s see, what do I want to say about myself… I live in a tiny town called Pine Lake, population 800, which happens to be in the middle of Metropolitan Atlanta, just 10 miles from downtown. It was started in the 1930s as a lake community resort so Atlantans could vacation in the country.
Today Pine Lake still looks like a girl scout camp, heavily wooded with cabins and cottages and of course a lake, but the city extends 50 miles past it! My house is mere feet from the lake, and all of the lake is a park. The town is filled with artists and interesting people of all sorts—and several other transpeople live here.

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