Friday, 15 August 2014

Interview with Jessica Bussert

Monika: Today it is my pleasure and honor to interview Jessica Bussert, an American emergency room nurse, firefighter, professional photographer, inventor, and former IT professional. Hello Jessica!
Jessica: Hi Monika! Sorry for taking so long in getting this together. I've recently had a few major surgeries and have been laid-up with recovery.
Monika: Could you say a few words about yourself?
Jessica: "a few words about myself" *grins*.
Monika: It has been almost 10 years since you were demoted from your senior IT job at Hitachi Data Systems after you started your transition. Are you still bitter about it? 
Jessica: Well, just to set the record straight, the company claimed that I was not demoted. It was their assertion that everyone else had been promoted above me. Yeah... Right... Am I bitter? Yeah, a little bit when I'm having a bad day. That said, I try to focus on the positives instead of dwelling on the negatives. If things hadn't turned out the way they did then I would have never discovered nursing. And I -love- being an ER nurse!
Monika: You sued the company but you lost the case in court…
Jessica: During the hearing, we successfully made every point we wanted to and caught the company telling a number of blatant lies. Regardless, the court found it in the company's favor. It will forever be one of the great mysteries of my life.
Monika: What are the main challenges related to discrimination of transgender persons at work?
Jessica: I believe that the biggest challenge related to discrimination is the fact that since we make up such a small percentage of the population we don't have much of a voice in the public forum. As such it is imperative that we educate the masses so as to hopefully foster change in the future. I regularly give talks to college classes, business groups, and community organizations in the hope of changing hearts and minds on the subject of trans-discrimination.
Monika: As a result, you lost the highly-well paid job. It must have been a difficult time for you …
Jessica: Oh my, yes! If it hadn’t been for our savings we would have definitely gone bankrupt. As it was we ended up depleting all of our reserves just to make ends meet.
Monika: Did your spouse support you during the transition?
Jessica: Sharon, my spouse of 24 years, is the most amazing person I have ever known. She stuck with me through it all and we became closer because of the trials we had to endure. I am truly blessed to have her in my life.
Monika: At that time did you have any transgender role models that you could follow?
Jessica: There are a number of trans men and women who are wonderful role models. People like Lynn Conway, Dr. Marci Bowers, Christine Burns, Ruth Smart, and many others keep fighting the good fight for all of us.
One of my greatest advocates and role models at the time wasn't even trans. His name was Vincent Keter and he was the barrister who handled my case. Vincent has since passed away and the trans community lost a great friend when he did. He will always hold a special place in my heart.

Courtesy of Jessica Bussert.

Monika: What was the hardest thing about your coming out?
Jessica: I was terrified that I would lose my friends and family as a result of coming out but the pressure inside just kept mounting and mounting until I couldn't keep it in any longer. The miracle is that I kept all of my family and all of my true friends after transitioning. I guess that is a testament to the quality of people that I've surrounded myself with during my life.
Monika: What do you think about the present situation of transgender women in American society?
Jessica: Wow... That is a tough one. Trans men and women alike are often victimized and cast out like so much fodder. If you don't pass well in the US then you will most likely end up on the wrong side of the poverty line regardless of your skills and abilities. It is a very sad commentary on my nation.
Monika: Could transgenderism be the new frontier for human rights?
Jessica: I believe that it already is. LGBT issues are hot-button topics in the political circles of today. Most of the advocacy being performed is focused on the "LGB" end of the spectrum with the "T" being somewhat of the red-headed stepchild. But as "LGB" becomes more and more mainstream we are getting a larger share of the spotlight.
Monika: Are you active in politics? Do you participate in any lobbying campaigns? Do you think transgender women can make a difference in politics?
Jessica: Absolutely! I'm a member of the Indiana Transgender Rights Advocacy Alliance (INTRAA) and an active participant in their educational speaker's bureau. While other members focus on political lobbying, I prefer to try and open the minds and hearts of our future leaders. I find that younger people tend to have more open minds on the subject of trans issues.
Monika: Could you tell me about the importance of love in your life?
Jessica: *smiles* I spent the first half of my life convinced that I was unlovable. That is a sad, sad way to live a life. It took a Divine miracle and a loving woman to open my eyes to the love that surrounds me every day. Now I can honestly say that I am unconditionally loved and blessed beyond measure.
Monika: Do you like fashion? What kind of outfits do you usually wear? Any special fashion designs, colors, or trends?
Jessica: I miss living in London! There I had the opportunity to dress nicely and follow all the newest trends. Since returning to the States and moving to a rather rural area I find that I'm in jeans and tee-shirts much more often than I'm in evening gowns and trendy outfits! If you wear heels around here you end up sinking into the mud!
Monika: Many transgender ladies write their memoirs. Have you ever thought about writing such a book yourself?
Jessica: Sharon is the writer in our family. She is currently working on a memoir called "Life with Jessica" wherein she discusses being the spouse of a transgender woman. I feel that what she has to say is very important and I hope her words have the ability to provide encouragement to other spouses dealing with a similar dilemma. Now, if we can only find a publisher...
Monika: What is your next step in the present time and where do you see yourself within the next 5-7 years?
Jessica: Well, my immediate next step is to finish recovering from surgery. Even though I transitioned 10 years ago it was only a couple of months back that I was finally able to have my GRS. Once I'm healed I plan on going back to work as a traveling emergency room nurse. Sharon and I recently bought a 36' motor home and we are touring the nation while I accept short term contracts in hospitals around the country. We love it! It also gives us the opportunity to take some amazing photographs while we are on the road.
Together with our youngest daughter, we own an art gallery in Southern Indiana where we sell our images. If you are ever in the area please stop by and see our work!
Monika: What would you recommend to all transgender girls struggling with gender dysphoria?
Jessica: In every day of our lives we have the choice to fill our awareness with the shit that surrounds us or with the joy and blessings that surround us. It is our choice. Even in the darkest life, there are miracles everywhere if we only open our eyes wide enough to see them.
My advice? Focus every bit of your awareness each day on the joy around you. Yes, shit happens. But that doesn't mean I need to focus my life on it.
Monika: Jessica, thank you for the interview!
Jessica: You are very welcome! Thanks for helping to give us all a voice.

All the photos: courtesy of Jessica Bussert.
© 2014 - Monika Kowalska

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