Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Interview with Jennifer Lydon

Monika: Today it is my pleasure and honor to interview Jennifer (Bryant) Lydon, a senior account executive at Metro US — a free daily newspaper popular in New York, Philadelphia and Boston; She is also the organizer of the Mid-Atlantic Transgender Community (M.A.T.C.) as well as the hostess of The Raven TG pride events in New Hope, PA. Hello Jennifer!
Jennifer: Hi Monika. Thank you so much for allowing me part of your site. It is an honor to be amongst so many inspirational people.
Monika: Could you say a few words about yourself?
Jennifer: Questions like this are always tough for me… I either say too much or have nothing to say… lol … Anyway, here goes… I am a 48 year old trans-woman that has successfully navigated one life into another. I was married for almost 20 years and have 4 adult children that are still very much a part of my life.
I work as an account executive for Metro News Media. I’ve been there for over 14 years… the first 13 of which I worked as a mild mannered male… lol. Times have changed for sure!

Monika: Recently you have been featured by the media, setting a positive example of transition at work…
Jennifer: Yeh, for the first time in my life, I’m really proud of myself. When the Metro asked if they could write my story… I agreed immediately. It’s so important that others see that it is possible to transition on the job. It’s also very important that the general population read our stories… after the article ran I received so many beautiful comments from family members of trans people that are trying to understand. Awareness is so important. Metro story.
Monika: Have you ever been subject to discrimination due to your transgender status?
Jennifer: Yes and No…I’ve never been assaulted or fired from a job…but like almost every trans-person I’ve faced some ridicule and mean spirited comments. Funny thing is… as Jennifer I have no problem shaking off criticism, whereas Brian took it to heart. It’s most likely because prior to living my true life I harbored so many insecurities and fear.
Monika: For several years you have been involved with the Meetup online groups M.A.T.C and Tgirls United, which promotes “meet ups” for transgendered people in Pennsylvania… 
Jennifer: Yeah, in so many ways these groups are where I grew up. I didn’t really start accepting myself until I was in my early 40’s …oh there were short spurts where I would venture out presenting female, but they were all followed by a retreat back into the closet. Fact is prior to my discovery of the internet I felt as though I was the only one… the constant feelings were my weakness, my so-called cross to bare. They had to be squashed and suppressed.

On the cover of the Metro daily.

When I came upon a small group in Allentown, PA on Meetup I finally joined and started posting pics… shortly afterwards I started reaching out to others and found that by listening to others struggles I could better handle my own.
In time I became quite active and started hosting events and shopping trips. Helping others to crawl out of the shadows became my calling. I am thanked often for opening the door for many in our community…but the reality is I should be thanking them.
My helping others and setting myself up as a role model actually gave me the strength and courage to deal with my own demons.
I have to credit much of my success at work on the confidence and social skills I developed socializing within these groups.
Monika: What do you think about the present situation of transgender women in the American society?
Jennifer: I feel great strides have been made within the past 5 years. I see more and more trans people all the time. I am most impressed with younger generations. In my field of work I am out and about all the time either presenting in front of groups or networking at social events.
It’s remarkable how those under 35 react when they meet me. They respect my courage and move onto other topics… it’s like no big deal to them. This I attribute mostly to sensitivity training in schools. Something that most in my generation mock… but there’s no denying that it has been impactful.
Monika: At what age did you transition into woman yourself? Was it a difficult process? 
Jennifer: Tough question to answer because there have been so many levels of transition. I was 25 years old when I finally opened up to someone. I told my then wife that I was confused and needed help. Shortly after opening up, I wrapped it all up again and started hitting the weights… lol. I really did try and beat this… anyway, long story short after years of purging I started seeing a therapist at the age of 44 and started HRT a few months later. Coming to terms with my being a transsexual took a life time.
Monika: At that time of your transition, did you have any transgender role models that you followed?
Jennifer: Not really…and to be honest with you…there were so few that had their shit together, for lack of a better way of putting it. As a child I do remember Renee Richards (T.S. tennis player) being on the cover of Sports Illustrated. Sadly, I was both captivated and sickened at the same time. I wanted to be like her, but at the same time I despised myself for feeling that way. Looking back… she really was an incredibly courageous woman.
Monika: What was the hardest thing about your coming out?
Jennifer: The hardest part was facing the unknown. After management and human recourses were on board. I still had to face my co-workers and clients. Prior to reading my letter to the staff I was a nervous wreck… but to my surprise just about everyone reacted with compassion and a congratulatory spirit. This propelled me to a state of complete confidence. I’ve had very few issues with clients as well. In fact several have become friends.

In her previous life.

Monika: Could transgenderism be the new frontier for human rights?
Jennifer: Yes…as it should be…we were born this way… sadly much of the world has no idea what it means to be transgender. All that being said… we are well on our way.
Monika: What do you think about transgender stories or characters which have been featured in films, newspapers or books so far?
Jennifer: Other than documentaries on the subject I’ve seen very few positive portrayals…and sadly the only people watching the documentaries are trans people… lol.
Monika: Have you recently read or watched any interesting book or event/film about transgenderism?
Jennifer: Y’know… I haven’t… and that probably sounds strange. I think that I spent so much time prior to accepting myself reading articles online that I sort of burnt out on reading about other transgender people. I find more inspiration reading about people like Jackie Robinson. Fact is… for those of us out in the workplace. We are the ultimate minority… it’s real important we carry ourselves with strength and dignity.
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?
Jennifer: Excellent question, and one that needs to be asked. I have always felt that there is a huge difference between sexuality and gender. Obviously we share similar struggles…but at the same time there are so many issues important to the trans community that sort of get pushed to the back burner. We need a charismatic leader… someone who speaks what so many of think.
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 the gay activism?
Jennifer: No…not even close… but I do feel as if that will change soon. The fact is we need leadership… people willing to put themselves out there without having to be compensated or compromised. It’ll happen sooner than later, I think.
Monika: Are you active in politics? Do you participate in any lobbying campaigns? Do you think transgender women can make a difference in politics?
Jennifer: I am not currently active in politics. I guess you could say I have been too busy finding my own place at this time. However, I do think the right person can make a difference… that being said…our best ambassadors are those of us that are out there every day meeting people… changing hearts and minds… the more we are seen… the more we become PEOPLE first!

Finally herself.

Monika: Many transgender ladies write their memoirs. Have you ever thought about writing such a book yourself?
Jennifer: Yes… I’ve thought about it, but writing my memoirs would force me to re-examine a lot of painful emotions. … right now I am too focused on my new, more fulfilling life. Maybe when I retire… I’ll probably be 90 y.o... lol
Monika: Are you working on any new projects now?
Jennifer: Yes… I am involved with a group that is planning to launch a website that will feature essays from transgender authors. We should be up and running in early 2015.
Monika: What would you recommend to all transgender girls struggling with gender dysphoria?
Jennifer: 1) Find a good therapist…one that helps you to be honest with yourself… not one that simply tells you what you want to hear.
2) Be active socially… and surround yourself with good friends… It’s so important to stay conscious of the fact that in no way are you alone.
3) Love yourself… NOBODY will ever love you if you do not love yourself. I know what I just said is easier said than done, but believe me it is possible… I truly hated who and what I was, but when I finally accepted, I never gave up on myself… If I am trans… I’m going to be the best trans-woman possible… lol. I really do push myself almost every day to be a little better than yesterday. It’s what we all have to do to live the life we deserve.
Monika: Jennifer, thank you for the interview!
Jennifer: Monika, what you are doing here is great. I only wish I read these profiles earlier… it may have sped up my whole coming out at work… so… Thank you!

All the photos: courtesy of Jennifer Lydon.
© 2014 - Monika Kowalska

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