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.
Monika: At which stage of the transition are you right now?
Jennifer: I am at 1 year and almost 5 months.
Monika: Are you satisfied with the results of the hormone therapy?
Jennifer: Yes, I have always been intersexed – breasts at age 11 and a not-so-normal boy figure. Even at 44, I have seen fantastic changes. My breasts began to grow, right where they left off at age 11. I have changed in my face, hands, feet, and in my mind. Great changes and HRT made me feel normal, balanced, and really me.
Monika: Could you describe your childhood? When did you feel for the first time that you should not be a boy or man?
Jennifer: I was a little girl in Connecticut. I was in fourth grade and I had a little friend Debbie. She and I were two girls and we played together like that. She never knew I was trans, she just knew I was like her.
One day, after recess, the teacher brought me aside and she told me that I was no longer going to play with girls. She said that I was not allowed to talk to them or be with them at all. I was horrified as my little and perfect world was destroyed. The boys were informed of this too to my humiliation and from that day and for 8 years more, I was beaten and taunted for being a girl in a boy’s body.
Then as I went home, my Mother informed me of the same tragic news. She told me that for my Birthday and only a few weeks away, that I would not be having any girls to come. I cried and said “what?”. She told me that I was going to have “new” boyfriends to play with from now on. Again I was horrified. My world became so small then and it hindered me for some 34 years afterward.

Courtesy of Jennifer Cohen-Taylor.

Monika: For most 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?
Jennifer: Well, College was no better than high school or before that. I was not only transgender and now devastated and ready to die most days, but I was also socially inept.
I had no real friends in the past, so relationships were a disaster for me in my college and in my 20’s. I kept my being trans a huge secret, so no, I never had persecution about that. I did get teased about being gay and effeminate.
Monika: Are there any transgender role models that you follow? Jennifer: I am a simple woman. I enjoy the lives of real people like you.
Monika. People on Facebook who struggle and live lives bravely. I call heroes in the trans world what some might call ordinary and average. I see people in a different light. I look not at the stature but rather at the fight. I look for a person who takes the challenges life gives them and then I see how they battle those. I follow people who win and people who conquer their fears with a happy life. These are the champions I admire.
Monika: What was the hardest thing about your coming out?
Jennifer: Facing my own reality. Admitting that I was gay and that I was transgender too. To be real and honest and genuine enough to face my truth and then live it. I was the toughest person to face. I did however and now that I loved myself and was truthful, I finally was able to come out as Jennifer for good.
Monika: What is your general view on the present situation of transgender women in your country?
Jennifer: Many call themselves transgender but are not. I see people who are confused and think they are transgender, but they only wish to dress like the other gender. There is no sacrifice and no real determination to be the correct gender identity. They fail to pay the price that the rest of us have paid.
Many say and like to be in our community because they can hide there. But really, they have no issues with their birth gender. They are fine being guys. They just like to wear girl clothes. Look, wear what you like, but don’t call yourself transgender if you are not willing to pay the price and make the tough decisions.

Courtesy of Jennifer Cohen-Taylor.

Monika: We are witnessing more and more transgender ladies coming out. Unlike in the previous years, some of them have the status of celebrities or are really well-known, just to mention Lana Wachowski in film-directing, Jenna Talackova in modeling, Kate Bornstein in academic life, Laura Jane Grace in music or Candis Cayne in acting. Do you witness the same trend?
Jennifer: Certainly I do see many people now having the comfort and the liberty to come out. The world is changing and we are witnessing a movement that will only be more intense. People are brave to live their lives as the correct gender identity now.
They see us and others, and now they too, want to come out and be right with their expression. They won’t settle for hiding or denying their true self anymore. They take bold moves to be themselves and all because they see us do so. It’s so exciting.
Monika: Are you active in politics? Do you participate in any lobbying campaigns? Do you think transgender women can make a difference in politics?
Jennifer: I am a huge supporter of activism. I have been professionally trained by the Human Rights Campaign in Washington. I have been professionally trained by the New Organizers Institute in New York.
I have been part of all kinds of grassroots campaigning in Miami for trans rights. I have been an advocate on Facebook and on all of the social networks. My fight for transgender and gay rights will only increase.
Monika: Do you like fashion? What kind of outfits do you usually wear? Any special fashion designs, colors, or trends?
Jennifer: I adore fashion. I love clothes and expressing myself in the correct clothing. I used to hate getting dressed in plaid and stripes and black or blue pants and guy stuff. Now I get to be pretty and beautiful. I can present my true identity and gender by what I wear. I like purple and the Summer Palette of colors. Liz Claiborne is one of my personal favorites.
Monika: What do you think about transgender beauty pageants?
Jennifer: Well, people can do what they want. What I see many times are people trying to authenticate themselves. To justify looking like a woman and winning awards. Pageants are fine though. I think there are better ways to present beauty and poise – in your real life. To me that’s the best place to show off who you’re made of.
Monika: Are you involved in the life of your local LGBT community?
Jennifer: Oh yes. I live in Nashville with my Partner Lynna Lopez. We frequent the “gayborhood” in downtown Nashville. We try to involve ourselves in a community that is certainly thriving. Yes, even in Tennessee.
Monika: What would you recommend to transgender women that are afraid of early transition, discrimination and hatred?
Jennifer: There comes a time when you must be real, be genuine, be true to yourself, and be happy. Face your fears and be you. Pay the price and make the tough decisions. Stop dying the slow death and begin to live. Be the man or the woman God made you be and stop worrying about how everyone will receive that. This is your life – now live it. 
Monika: What is your next step in the present time and where do you see yourself within the next 5-7 years?
Jennifer: I see myself as a competent and strong woman. Finally making her way in society as a respected contributor to society. I see myself as a huge transgender leader and helping more people than ever before. I see my face smiling and I hear myself laughing from all of the joy my life will one day bring.
Monika: Could you say that you are a happy woman now?
Jennifer: No, I am more than happy. I am more than joyous. I am thrilled to live my life as the real me. I am Jennifer and I am wonderful. I have chosen to live the right life for me and I have no regrets.
Monika: Jennifer, it was a pleasure to interview you. Thanks a lot!
Jennifer: Thank you, Monika – You are an inspiration to us.

All the photos: courtesy of Jennifer Cohen-Taylor.
© 2014 - Monika Kowalska

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