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.
But what that half-filled out story did do was to break the bonds of my fear about writing and I was able to write this book about my experiences as a transwoman. I wanted to share with others the things I experienced as a woman that I was completely unaware of when I started down the rabbit hole of transition.
My experiences allowed me to see the gap between the genders. The almost invisible fences that have been built are so hurtful for those trapped behind them. Fences that many people have had to struggle over to find their truth and happiness. 
Monika: Which aspects of your experience can be useful for other transwomen?
Rachel: I learned a lot about life along my journey. We all learn as we live our lives and my life is no different than most. But I will be honest that I could have saved myself and others a great deal of pain if I had a clearer understanding of the consequences of my decision to change my gender.
Many times I was confused and lost and when some honest answers would have been helpful I only got sugar-coated answers. Answers that proved to be false in most instances.
So I wanted to share as openly and truthful my experiences in my books and on my shows and speaking engagements. That way someone taking this path could learn from my mistakes and my successes.
I think we provide a disservice when we tell someone a falsehood or a sugar-coated platitude when the person along this path needs the truth to survive and succeed in their life. This journey of change is serious and can be fatal. Making decisions on anything without the truth could cause harm and this journey is even harder than many journeys people travel.
Monika: In addition, you are the author of “The Day God Died: The Year was 1966 and the Times Declared God Was Dead”…
Rachel: This is the third book of my story about my spiritual past and church. This book was a reach back into my past and this time I was able to face some of those ghosts. I allowed myself to travel back in time as a child of the sixties and narrate my experiences as I grew up in a broken but religious family.
I shared openly about my involvement in church and how that turned my family against me in the long run. I wrote what I did despite the cost of doing so in hopes that the message would help others.
But in writing this book and the others I learned a lot about myself and was able to understand better the lessons along the way. So in essence the writing of these books was therapy.

“Things My Mother Should Have
Told Me Before I had My
Manhood Removed“ via Amazon.

Monika: At what age did you transition into a woman yourself? Did you have any support from your family or friends?
Rachel: I was forty-three when the decision to correct my gender was made. Some influences came from therapists and doctors as I was struggling with some stress issues at the time. I am sorry to say that I had no support from family and friends at the time.
The opposite in fact. I was disowned, ridiculed, and hurt by them. I had death threats, job transfers, and lawsuits. In a very short time after sharing my decision, my life turned upside down! I was shocked and totally surprised at the reaction I received.
Monika: At that time of your transition, did you have any transgender role models that you followed?
Rachel: No, I am sorry to say I did not know of anyone else like me. I searched the internet of course and learned a lot about the issues I was facing and thankfully I found a few good therapists who helped me.
But I never really knew personally of anyone else like me. My therapists were not schooled in trans issues nor some of the doctors I first saw. Over time I was able to find doctors and therapists who were. One note also I went to Equality Centers in the area I lived and I was even teased there about being trans. It did seem like the world was against me back then. Things sure have improved over the years, thankfully!
Monika: What was the hardest thing about your coming out?
Rachel: My children’s reaction and the reaction from family members. Wearing women’s clothing and not really blending very well. And I will tell you it takes a while to get proficient at makeup and style. I was a mess! Lol 
Monika: What do you think about the present situation of transgender women in American society?
Rachel: I am thankful for some television shows and of course Social Media for the good role models and success stories of late. I believe things have improved greatly and I am looking forward to a time when we are viewed as humans and not by our gender role. But sadly I will admit there are still too many transgendered horror stories and deaths. We have a long way to travel yet.
Monika: Could transgenderism be the new frontier for human rights?
Rachel: In my case, it has allowed me to see the injustices we suffer due to gender. So yes my being an activist for human rights is a direct consequence of my experiences as a transgendered woman. And yes my life has caused many to examine their beliefs about roles in regards to gender. But is transgenderism itself the frontier of the battle of human rights?
I would say it is a largely undiscovered area that could help with the understanding of equality between the gender, It’s certainly a battlefield situation that I hope one day soon will be a place of peace and harmony among all humans.
Monika: What is your general view on transgender stories or characters which have been featured in films, newspapers, or books so far?
Rachel: I am very pleased by the ones I have seen of late. There are still too many jokes and stereotypes at our expense. But overall I believe things are changing for the good.

“The Day God Died” via Amazon.

Monika: The transgender cause is usually manifested together with the other LGBT communities? Being the last letter in this abbreviation, is the transgender community able to promote its own cause within the LGBT group?
Rachel: It has been hard in the past at least for me. And I still feel that many of the equality centers and places I have visited have been resistant to my involvement. As recently as last year there was controversy at the board level for my attending an equality function.
And many times at LGBT conferences I have attended dealing with transgendered we have been represented by lesbians and not transgendered. I have asked and spoken up about this issue and was told they didn’t know any transgendered speakers. So yes we need representatives and there is room for improvement in our involvement in the LGBT group.
Monika: Is there anyone in the US transgender society whose actions could be compared to what Harvey Milk was doing in the 60s and 70s for gay activism?
Rachel: I am afraid I have no one that I could say is doing that. I know of a friend in Oklahoma City who just announced her intent to run for State legislator. And there are many who are active in politics but I don’t know of any that I could say could be compared to Harvey Milk.
Monika: Are you active in politics? Do you participate in any lobbying campaigns? Do you think transgender women can make a difference in politics?
Rachel: I have been involved in local politics in the recent past. I ran for Mayor of a small city in Arkansas. It was a full-time commitment with my money, time, and my emotions. Certainly caused some concern with the other local politicians and church groups.
I am involved with social media and sharing politics on a regular basis. My political beliefs are not a secret to those who read my pages. I would like to run again for a political office but my last experience is still pretty raw. Perhaps in a few more years.
Monika: Could you tell me about the importance of love in your life?
Rachel: Love is the emotion and power that will change our world. It certainly changes lives. I am blessed at this time to be involved with a very special woman. Our love has changed me and empowered me in ways that are hard to describe.
But love did not come easy for me. I had to take my life and work on parts until I was in the position to love myself before I could love someone else. I started with my finances, my body, and my spiritual life and then took the time to examine myself. What did I believe about myself? Could I forgive myself? Am I able to love who I am? Living in a place of looking out of my eyes to a body that felt foreign does take a little work to become a person who can truly love another.
I am very thankful that I had the opportunity to accomplish this in my life and find love as I did.

Monika: Do you like fashion? What kind of outfits do you usually wear? Any special fashion designs, colors, or trends?
Rachel: I don’t keep up with all the latest fashions at least as far as designers. I do love shopping and my girlfriends ask my advice many times when it comes to what looks good on them.
Spring, summer and early fall is my favorite time of the year. I love sundresses and sandals. Coats, pants, and boots are the staple of winter and not my favorite. I love red and as long as my hair is colored dark or blonde I look good in red. I have played with short hairstyles and honestly, I like the ease of having short hair. But I look softer and more feminine with longer hair.
My age has limited me from being able to pull off the overly modern looks. So there is always a compromise when it comes to what I wish I could wear to what I should wear.
Monika: What is your next step in the present time and where do you see yourself within the next 5-7 years?
Rachel: I am helping with developing an LGBT high school here in Tulsa Oklahoma. Am also working on another book and am enjoying traveling with my partner. Recently have been doing stand-up comedy and so far have had good reviews. Comedy is a good medium to help people relate and understand each other. Plus I am told it makes you look younger. Ok, I wish that was true. I use that younger wish anytime I can.
Five to seven years from now I hope to be at a place in my life where I can still be making a difference in the world. And my hope is by then that they will have the science perfected where I could turn back the clock and look like I am in my thirties. I know wishful thinking. But then again it’s a lovely vision.
Monika: What would you recommend to all transgender girls struggling with gender dysphoria?
Rachel: First find someone who knows what they are doing for counseling. Find certified, experienced people who will help you understand the issues. Learn all you can about the process and results that can be reasonably expected. Most importantly I believe you need to know who you are and your core values. Be at a place where you are strong enough to travel this road. It is not an easy path and many have lost themselves along the way. 
Finally understand the surgery and hormones are only a part of this journey. Your life, your dreams, and your vision is what makes you who you truly are. This journey can help you find your true self, your true voice but only if you are careful along the way. There is a tendency to believe you can fix the issues with surgery and the truth is it takes time and there are no real shortcuts.
Monika: Rachel, thank you for the interview!

All the photos: courtesy of Rachel Love.
© 2014 - Monika Kowalska

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