Sunday 8 June 2014

Interview with Rachel Coy Blunk

Monika: Today it is my pleasure and honor to interview Rachel Coy Blunk, an American transgender activist, the former Sheriff's Deputy in Pasco County. Hello Rachel!
Rachel: Hello Monika!
Monika: Are you a twin sister of Geena Davis?
Rachel: LOL, I wish I was, but I do get a lot of people who ask me that all the time.
Monika: Could you say a few words about yourself?
Rachel: Well, I graduated from Goshen High School in Goshen, Ohio. I went into the Army after graduation and served for 4 years before I was medically discharged under honorable conditions. I’m a disabled veteran.
I attended PHCC community college and graduated from the Police Academy and now I’m retired from law enforcement. I then went back to school, graduated, and became a certified Microsoft technician.
Monika: Being a police officer, you worked in a very macho environment. How could you cope there as a woman?
Rachel: It was the most terrifying, but most rewarding experience I had in my life. I started out working as a male officer, but I then transitioned on the job. It was very hard to do. I lost everything at first, but in the end, I have gained everything back.
Monika: You were in the army too. Did you like the service there?
Rachel: The service was okay, but in hindsight, I should have gone to college first and stayed in for 20 years. During this time I was always eager to play dress-up, but I couldn’t because I lived on the Base.
Monika: At what age did you transition into a woman yourself? Was it a difficult process? Did you have any support from your family or friends?
Rachel: At the age of five I knew I was different and it wasn’t until I was twelve years old before I started dressing up. My Foster Sister dressed me up for a Halloween Party at our Baptist Church. I won first place “Most Beautiful,” and when I got home my mom told me to take off the makeup and nail polish, but I ended up keeping it on and sleeping in it. It made me feel beautiful!
I tried to conform to male standards (racing motorcycles, going into the Army, dating and marrying three women, even fathering four children [two girls and two boys], but nothing worked I continued to dress up and no one knew!).
So, at the age of thirty-seven and after my third divorce, I said it was time, I was going to change my outer appearance to match my inner self, so I started off by self-medicating with hormones (I don’t condone) because I was working at the Sheriff’s Office. I then told everyone in my ‘Chain of Command” of my intentions of changing into the woman I was meant to be.
Monika: Did you have any problems at work?
Rachel: There was confusion (Understandable) between my Major and the Director of Human Resources about my transition. At first and on the surface they appeared to be supportive, but once I returned as “Rachel”, all changed, it was like I was an “Alien” from outer space and it seemed like co-workers who I’d worked with so many years started alienating me.
I felt like my life was in danger after an incident with a deputy (We’ll Call him “Rick”) who was supposed to back me up on a Domestic. Rick responded as “Back-up” seen that it was my cruiser in the Suspect’s Driveway and didn’t help me when I called on the radio for help. Rick drove off and left me there.
I really didn’t know until after I finished fighting for my life to get my suspect arrested and put in the back of my police cruiser. My Lieutenant ended up calling me into his office after the incident to warn me about it and apologized to Rick.
Monika: Quite a story! 
Rachel: After that, at every “Read-Off” (before the shift), my Lieutenant stood in front of me and my Co-workers and said “I don’t want to hear of anyone not backing up “Rachel” or saying anything derogatory to “Rachel”, because I’m retiring soon, and I don’t want to be sued!” I felt really small and soon everyone avoided me like the “Plague” and stopped talking to me altogether.
On top of that, the Director of Human Resources and the Major told me I wasn’t allowed to conform to “women’s uniform standards “ and was told I had to conform to “male uniform standards” because I still had an “M” on my driver’s License. I was so aggravated I replied “Fine, you want to treat me like a male, then I think I’ll go home, mow my grass, and I’m sure I’ll get pretty hot, so I’ll remove my shirt with my “C” size breasts to finish mowing, and you know what your 911 system will be so inundated with mothers and little old ladies calling in saying you have a half-naked woman out here mowing her grass! And you know what? When the Deputies pull up to arrest me, I’m going to flip out my driver’s license saying you can’t arrest me, it’s NOT against the law for a MAN to expose his CHEST!”
Of course, I didn’t do that and it would have set everything back that Transgendered Women have worked and fought for up until 2002. I ended up retiring from the Sheriff’s Office early after the Sheriff’s Office canceled my females' bullet-proof vest and I worked the street for 6 months without a proper vest.
Monika: Did you lose anything because of your transition?
Rachel: I lost everything when I transitioned, my career, my income, my relationships with my family and friends. I almost lost my home, and I also had to file bankruptcy, but then I met my husband Floyd on the Internet. We corresponded for a while and he said he wanted to help me fulfill my dream and become the woman I was meant to be. Then everything started to turn around; eventually, I was back in my family’s life. I ended marrying Floyd and we’ve been married now for 10 years.
Monika: At that time of your transition, did you have any transgender role models that you followed?
Rachel: I’m sorry I didn’t have any role model but when I lived in Italy, I saw a lot of transgender women and I met some great transgender people at the meetings I attended for a short time.
Monika: What was the hardest thing about your coming out?
Rachel: Telling my mother I was Transgendered and wanting to become a female. She broke down and wept asking me, “Why can’t you just be gay?” Then after I started the transition my family quit talking to me. I even went back to Ohio where my mom lives with Christmas Gifts and she wouldn’t even answer the door.
Monika: What do you think about the present situation of transgender women in American society?
Rachel: I believe that we’ve come a long way, but more needs to be done to protect us from violence, and against being discriminated against in the workplace. Also, I believe more needs to be done to educate people because we need to break the cycle and the stereotypical views of uneducated people.
Monika: Could transgenderism be the new frontier for human rights?
Rachel: Absolutely!
Monika: A few weeks ago Jared Leto received his Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for his role in "Dallas Buyers Club" as transgender Rayon. What do you think about transgender stories or characters, which have been featured in films, newspapers, or books so far?
Rachel: Jared I believed did I wonderful job portraying a transgender woman, but I believe more needs to be done on educating people because most of the views on television is just showing guys putting on dresses as a prank, which shines negatively or is just making fun, but kids and the adults associate this with real transgender women.
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: I believe we can if we have a strong voice within the community.
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: Yes I was in the past, but since my back surgeries, I haven’t been involved in politics. I believe that it's still an uphill battle for us to get into politics even though we’ve got a lot of intelligent women who’ve come from all sorts of backgrounds, and who have been educated in the finest schools.
Monika: Could you tell me about the importance of love in your life?
Rachel: Love is important in everyone’s life. It’s the glue that helps you succeed in life. The fact that you have a loved one pushing and supporting you in life helps a person to achieve their goals. 
Monika: You are married to a retired military man who paid for your gender reassignment surgery. Sounds like a fairytale!
Rachel: Yes and I think I’ll wake up someday too but, I met my husband online and he really wanted to help me out, but the only reason he did help was that I already started the process. When he met me I already paid for breast implants, rhinoplasty (small bump on my nose), two eyebrow lifts, I had my whole body laser to remove the hair.
Floyd is a retired major from the Army and when he retired he owned five H&R Block Stores, and now his children own them. All of his children know of my background and everyone is okay with our marriage. We’ve been married now for 10 years as of today.
Monika: Do you like fashion? What kind of outfits do you usually wear? Any special fashion designs, colors, or trends?
Rachel: I was into all types of outfits and I even performed on stage before, but since my back surgeries it's limited me in my outfits. I have permanent makeup so that helps a lot, but since I’m not going out because of my back, I’m usually dressed casual, but I can dress up nice. I’m just comfortable in the clothes I’m wearing now because they’re easier to put on.
Monika: Many transgender ladies write their memoirs. Have you ever thought about writing such a book yourself?
Rachel: Absolutely, but I want to wait and find someone to help me get a publisher.
Monika: Are you working on any new projects now?
Rachel: No new projects at this time.
Monika: What would you recommend to all transgender girls struggling with gender dysphoria?
Rachel: First; Be comfortable with your who you are on the inside and know you can change your outer appearance to match your inner self. Always seek out a professional to help you with your journey and have a great support group.
Be patient, set your mind to want you want to accomplish, and stay on the path, and don’t waiver from it. One day, it will happen, and don’t give up.
Keep a Positive Attitude and don’t worry what other people say about you. And once you’ve accomplished and when you’ve reached your goal, remember if somebody slips up try not to take it too personal.
Monika: Rachel, thank you for the interview!

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

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