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.

Monika: Recently you have made headlines with your TRANART project…
Tammy: TRANART is my crowdfunding project on RocketHub. In the historic building that my bike shop is in, I’m at “garden level” (which means virtually the basement). The walls are dull down here, so I found some mural artists who would love to share their artwork. They are professional artists who need to be compensated for their time and their art supplies so I put my plan into action and created TRANART. I want to make the walls pretty where my bike shop is… simple as that.

Monika: Are you satisfied with the success of your bike shop?
Tammy: Success is relative. I’m grateful that I’m no longer sleeping on the sidewalk. And I hope to be able to move out of my shop and rent a room someday soon. But my real success can’t be measured until I am able to hire other transgender people and improve their lives. Until I start hiring other transpeople, any “success” that I might gain ought to be considered selfish.

In front of a gay flag.

Monika: Which bikes are most popular this year?
Tammy: LOL, rentals! My shop is on Treasure Island, which is in San Francisco Bay. One of the funniest times a person can have is renting a bike and biking around this island, enjoying the most spectacular views of the Golden Gate Bridge.
Monika: In addition, you are a stand-up comedian.
I use comedy as therapy. I started doing it when I was homeless in order to force myself to forget about my troubles for a while... It's difficult to be sad when you put yourself in front of an audience and they want you to make them laugh.
Monika: You want to help other transpersons avoid the difficulties that you suffered through employing as many transmen and transwomen as possible. It would be great if other companies could do the same…
Tammy: Don’t hold your breath waiting for big companies to start hiring a large percentage of transpeople. Nor is the government going to step in and require anyone to specifically hire transpeople.
It goes without saying I’m looking to hire as many transpeople as possible; we HAVE to look out for each other. Because, believe me when I tell you, ain’t nobody lookin’ out for us. Also, I hope I might inspire other trans people to start their own businesses. The best way to make sure there is a job for you is to build the job yourself.
Monika: Your transition resulted in the loss of your job and house. Have you ever regretted your decision to transition?
Tammy: Not for a second. Ever.

In front of the shop.

Monika: At that time of your transition, did you have any transgender role models that you could follow?
Tammy: Someone who I never met and don’t know who she was… I had just begun my transformation and was living in Colorado at the time. I was getting my hormones from the Stout Street Clinic in Denver (which does handle trans patients properly but is not a trans-only clinic). I was alone and doing this all by myself; I was scared out of my mind.
While waiting for my prescription I noticed another transwoman walk into the clinic, she must’ve been about 6’ 8’’, minimum. She was very, very tall. But she walked in and kept her head held high. It was obvious others were whispering about her, but she didn’t mind them the least.
It was a big lesson for me that day. I still get watery-eyed thinking about how much courage she had, to be so tall and still transform. I told myself if she can do it and keep her composure I can, too. Big lesson.
Monika: What do you think about the present situation of transgender women in American society?
Tammy: Well, in America, I believe we have it better than some other countries where a person can be arrested and sentenced to death. And although San Francisco is topnotch for providing health care and hormones for transpeople, we still have a long way to go to get to equality. This is why it is so important for each trans person to do the best they can and for us to help each other at all times. It bothers me when I see 2 transgender people arguing with each other! Ugh, if we don’t have each other’s back, no one else will.

Oakland pride smile.

Monika: Could transgenderism be the new frontier for human rights?
Tammy: Not sure about the “new” frontier, more like the final frontier. It seems like everyone else is recognized and allocated with their rights, except for the trans-community.
I can’t imagine anyone else in our current times being so open to dehumanizing treatment by society. Aren’t they just now ending the “Trans panic” defense to murder?! Which was/is a “defense” that declares because of the person that a transperson is, they are allowed to be beaten to death. Wow!
Monika: Are you active in politics? Do you participate in any lobbying campaigns? Do you think transgender women can make a difference in politics?
Tammy: Myself, I’m more directly involved with bicycle advocacy. Anyone can make a difference where they want to see change, I’m much more of a businesswoman than a politician. So I’m covering the complaints of, “There need to be more trans business owners!” But the fact that more transmen and transwomen need to be in elected public office is an understatement.
Monika: Could you tell me about the importance of love in your life?
Tammy: Love is everything. A life without love is not worth living. I’m not in love with anyone at this time in my life, but I still have a love for everyone!

Monika: Do you like fashion? What kind of outfits do you usually wear? Any special fashion designs, colors, or trends?
Tammy: I do like fashion and wish I could afford really nice things to wear, but at this time in my life, I am unashamedly a thrift-store shopping kind of girl. So my fashion is unique to myself, which is much like the rest of my life… If I think it looks good, and if it doesn’t make me itch, then I don’t mind having it around.

Tammy on Miss Teen.

Monika: Many transgender ladies write their memoirs. Have you ever thought about writing such a book yourself?
Tammy: At times. But my bike shop is first and foremost for me right now, which takes just about all my time. And when I do have a moment to relax I love doing stand-up comedy at open mic nights in the city.
Monika: What is your next step in the present time and where do you see yourself within the next 5-7 years?
Tammy: Right now, I’m completing the fund-raising with TRANART. So depending on how much I get from that will determine the path of my shop this summer. In 5 years from now, I would like to have my 2nd and 3rd shops and be the number one employer for transpersons in the entire Bay Area.
Monika: What would you recommend to all transgender girls, thinking about the entertainment career?
Tammy: Believe in yourself, even if no one does. Don’t be afraid to fail. And no matter how difficult times get, always remember… the sun is gonna rise tomorrow!
Monika: Tammy, thank you for the interview!

All the photos: courtesy of Tammy Powers.
© 2014 - Monika Kowalska

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