Saturday 24 May 2014

Interview with Renee Reyes

Monika: Today it is my pleasure and honor to interview Renee Reyes, a successful American transsexual entrepreneur. She invented a product for cleaning “dry clean only” clothes at home in a household clothing dryer and holds eleven patents in this regard. She recently sold the enterprise that manufactured and distributed her product and now lives in Atlanta, GA. Hello Renee!
Renee: Hiya Monika! It’s a pleasure to catch up. Want to congratulate your progress and success by sharing the lives of accomplished trans-women from around the world. Know its lots of hard work and offers little reward. You’re making a difference: good for you!
Monika: You look fantastic, Renee. What is the secret of your beauty?
Renee: I’m now 52 – thus looking “fantastic” is not something that happens every day. Had my share of surgeries: FFS, breast & buttocks augmentation, and a bit of maintenance along the way. Some transgender women were naturals – ideally suited for a change of gender. I wasn’t. I suppose not being naturally pretty was an asset in some respects – I never quit trying to improve.
Monika: Could you say a few words about yourself?
Renee: I’m happy to say I’m finally at a point where the fact I’m transsexual is one of the lesser identifiers for my life. Took a long time to get to the point where my present projects and passions are bigger than me being transgender.
Monika: What is your general view on transgender stories or characters which have been featured in films, newspapers, or books so far?
Renee: I’m glad to see they’re much more positive. When I started actively expressing my alternative gender, most were cast as perverts and serial killers. It’s refreshing to witness that positive evolution. I almost never watch television so I’ve missed some of the newer portrayals but I’ve heard very positive things.

Eleven patents later... at the shelf with her inventions.
Now preparing to launch her newest technology and
company. One more patent? She wins a set of steak knives.

Monika: At that time of your transition, did you have any transgender role models that you followed?
Renee: Lynn Conway – we both had a technical background and patents plus we were both dedicated to maintaining a website that helps others in the transgender community. Lynn’s awesome!
I approached and discovered role models outside the trans-world for help with success in my business career – learned from others who once faced significant business discrimination – Afro-Americans and Jews. Learned helpful approaches and mindsets from these wonderful mentors.
Monika: What was the hardest thing about your coming out?
Renee: My inability to accept the fact I was going to completely lose control of my life following the transition. I thought I had it perfectly planned: I didn’t. When my plan wasn’t working, I got depressed and things only got worse. I almost didn’t survive that downward spiral and I started using drugs to escape my reality – which of course, made things much worse.
Monika: What do you think about the present situation of transgender women in American society?
Renee: It’s the best it’s ever been – and yet it still has a long way to go. I think the next big breakthroughs are on us – not society. The world is waiting for us to step up and build positive, successful lives beyond the realms of entertainment and reality TV. I’m seeing more transgender women doing just that and I think their presence and success will drive the way toward better circumstances for all.
Monika: Could transgenderism be the new frontier for human rights?
Renee: To some degree it already is. It took us over one hundred years to embrace that people born differently on the outside – are no different than anyone else. Sadly, we’re still struggling with the fact people are also born differently on the inside – i.e. being gay. Transgenders represent a difference on both the inside AND outside – we’re stretching the concept of acceptance in society. We’ll get there!

Living with two of her greatest passions: art
and antiques.

Monika: Transgender ladies are subject to the terrible test whether they pass as a woman or they do not. You are a lovely lady yourself but what advice you would give to ladies with the fear of not passing as a woman?
Renee: You just hit upon what is indeed the bane of almost every transgender woman’s journey. Effective passing is crucial – particularly for newly minted full-time girls. It's hardest at first – we’re less confident, know little about appropriate fashion, and lack resources to accumulate such accouterments – at the exact time we need them most.
It's what completely separates us from the rest of the queer community –alas, it doesn’t cost $100,000 just to BE gay. Also, they don’t have to invest hundreds of hours practicing & perfecting a new role that’s required just to be accepted out of the starting gate.
It takes a very long time to pass seamlessly since a huge component is an absolute confidence. However, it’s the biggest key to enjoying your life as a transgender woman since it allows free encounters with new friends without first dealing with the trans subject.
It takes time – usually more than we want to embrace. It takes lots of practice. Girls who give it up and degenerate into an “accept me as I am” approach often face a lonely path. Don’t ever quit trying to improve your style and presentation. Once perfected, your life is much more fun and successful.
Monika: Are you active in politics? Do you participate in any lobbying campaigns? Do you think transgender women can make a difference in politics?
Renee: My role in the political landscape will continue to be financial support. I’m one of the few transsexual women who were lucky enough to become a self-made millionaire after my transition. We have a lot of girls able & willing to leaded causes but usually lack financial resources to support those arguments.
I committed too many sins to ever be a front face in politics. Also, what makes me best at my work: unwillingness to compromise – which is not ideally suited for success in politics.

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?
Renee: In my opinion, the least of our problems is associated with our placement on a queer acronym – it's structural. Being gay – is being gay: it’s about homosexuality. Being transgender is about gender identity – which represents a very wide range of manifestations.
Each subset has different needs – even taking offense to the needs and forms of expression by the others. We’re the smallest subset but we’re greatly divided in our agendas. Until we improve that issue, we’ll struggle when creating a cohesive identity.
Monika: Do you like fashion? What kind of outfits do you usually wear? Any special fashion designs, colors, or trends?
Renee: No, I don’t like fashion – I LOVE fashion. The size and scope of my closets are a little scary. One of my best female friends loves to tell others I would be worth marrying just for unlimited access to my closets.
Pinterest has become my new best friend. I wear a different outfit every day of the year. I pull a base item I find appealing – go to Pinterest for novel matching ideas – and give that ensemble a whirl. If I don’t receive at least two compliments from strangers regarding my newest outfit? I never wear it again.
Monika: Many transgender ladies write their memoirs. Have you ever thought about writing such a book yourself?
Renee: No, I don’t plan on writing a memoir. I’ve twice been approached by producers about creating a script for making a movie about my journey – turned them down without hesitation.
A key aspect of my success is rooted in the fact I learned to throw away my rearview mirror: I don’t re-live past mistakes or successes: I stay focused on what’s directly in front of me. A book or movie would force me to re-live memories I worked hard to forget. My transition wasn’t pretty: got hurt by people, hurt myself and I hurt others – no benefit in revisiting such trauma. Besides, I have too many positive things to accomplish now and in the future.
I don’t desire to be “famous”. I usually find it annoying and problematic when I’m recognized in a public setting. Also, I survived a pair of unhealthy stalkers – never want to go through that again. Some gals are naturally drawn to being noted or famous – I’m not.

"I wear a different outfit every day
of the year."

Monika: Are you working on any new projects now?
Renee: That’s a bit of an understatement. I’m in the midst of launching the most consequential business enterprise of my life – truly a culmination of life’s work. The fact I’m transgender is kept very low-key – that’s never an asset in a large new venture. I’m creating a charitable trust where the new wealth I create from this new entity can make a difference in women’s lives – trans and otherwise.
I’m blessed to already possess enough financial resources to provide for my present and future needs. Thus, I’m in a position to create consequential means for others from my ongoing success. I never dreamed of living a mega-rich lifestyle. However, I do dream of making a difference in my life.
Monika: What would you recommend to all transgender girls, struggling with gender dysphoria?
Renee: I mentor one new girl through transition issues each year. I would tell anyone the same thing I tell each of them.
Namely: Never Conditionalize Happiness – I finally discovered happiness was a choice – but a byproduct of my present situation during the worst phase of my life: I was homeless and destitute – but I was happy.
Patience – Being successful with transition requires a Ph.D. in Patience. Everything takes much longer than you wish – loved ones need more time to adjust to the new you, jobs take longer to get, love is harder to find. Be patient – but determined.
This is a marathon - not a sprint. The transition takes a really long time. Success is defined by the quality of your post-transition life: your sense of well-being, your friends, your family. Girls who try and hurry that evolution? They usually fall down – sometimes never to get back up. This will be a very long journey. Relish that fact – don’t fight it. Become the river – not the salmon!
Don’t quit your day job – Transition is not cheap. There are no success stories of girls who left their prior life, ran away and got a bunch of surgeries done, and came back to create a perfect female existence. You need your job to pay for this whole process. Will it be humiliating at times? Absolutely. If hormones are making you neurotic, less focused, and irritating? Cut your dosage. Don’t come up with an excuse to quit your job, Do whatever it takes to maintain your income stream. It’s the biggest key to success.
Monika: Renee, thank you for the interview!

All the photos: courtesy of Renee Reyes.
© 2014 - Monika Kowalska

Search This Blog