Sunday, 21 December 2014

Interview with Paulina Ashley Angel

Monika: Today it is my pleasure and honour to interview Paulina Ashley Angel, a transgender activist from USA, songwriter, musician, singer, producer, and blogger. Hello Paulina!
Paulina: Hola Monika, hella great to meet you!!
Monika: Could you say a few words about yourself?
Paulina: WOW, where should I start? I’m a 32 year old Transwoman from the town of Indio, in California. I’m a songwriter/singer, multi-instrumentalist, student leader, LGBTQIA Rights Leader and a dreamer. I'm the creator of the Facebook page, Trans Role Models and its sister page, Trans Fund Raising. I have my own music company, P.A. Music, Inc.
Monika: You have written over 200 songs. Where do you get your music inspirations from?
Paulina: I’ve always had a knack for writing lyrics. Some songs are written just by coming up with a song title, or if a lyric pops into my head, and at times from real life experiences, or dreams of experiences I can have in the future. The first song I wrote, The Rain (which can be heard on my first album), was actually based on a suicide letter I wrote during the summer of 1997, but I'm still alive and decided to make a song out of parts of it.

Cover of her debut album "Angel" - designed by her.

I would at times find inspiration on places I've visited, I know both Los Angeles and San Francisco had inspired the song California Baby. The album Saturday Morning Around The Pool, is actually a love letter to Palm Springs.
I also seek inspiration from music artist like The Beatles, Beach Boys, Kylie Minogue, 10,000 Maniacs and a few other bands.
During 2004, I found myself getting a lot of advice from professional songwriters and producers such as Billy Steinberg (Demi Lovato, Cyndi Lauper, Madonna), Danielle Brisebois (New Radicals, Natasha Beddingfield, Begin Again Soundtrack), and Douglas Carr (Ace of Base, Meja).
Monika: What does it mean to be a transgender artist? Are your music and lyrics influenced by your transgender experience?
Paulina: To me, a Transgender Artist is someone who is open about their gender identity as a Transperson. I like to think that some of my songs have some kind of influence growing up trans. I always wrote in a woman’s perspective, even before I started to realize my gender identity.
A lot of my earlier songs, I had to change certain lyrics because they all came off as songs women would sing and not men, to make sure no one ask me or try to figure me out, but once I came out, I stopped that practice.
The hardest part for me when coming out was if people are going to take my music seriously. Before, if you were a Trans Music Performer, you would have to make an album like Britney Spears, RuPaul orLady Gaga, but I see myself being more like Paul McCartney, Rachael Yamagata, Kylie Minogue or Darren Hayes (Savage Garden). I think today people get surprised when they hear that I play all the instruments on my songs.
Monika: What do you think about the present situation of transgender women in the American society?
Paulina: I like to think that we are slowly but surely gaining acceptance in society, it’s a long journey and there is more wars we need to fight in ought to make sure we are protected, but I believe by the time 2020 comes around, we shall have total equality and there will be less of us getting killed because we are trans.

Performing 'In The Autumn Skies' at her college
campus, Palm Desert, Ca.

Monika: At what age did you transition into woman yourself? Was it a difficult process? 
Paulina: I started self-medicating when I was 24/25, bought my hormones from a black market site (I had no choice or resources in my area for Trans Health). It wasn’t at all difficult, the emotional part was a roller-coaster ride and getting used to breast forming was hard, but in other words not at all.
I stopped self-medicating when I was 28 due to health issues and financial issues. I resumed HRT, this time with doctors care at 31 and I’m more happy than I had been before. I've been on HRT now for about 5 months and just feel great to become the woman I was born to be.
Monika: At that time of your transition, did you have any transgender role models that you followed?
Paulina: A girl that I became friends with, and someone who I consider my best online friend is Danielle Askini of Gender Justice League in Seattle. We’ve met on MySpace 10 years ago (Mid-2004). Both of us being close in age, it was very very easy for me to relate to and she was and still am a great resource to me, and she inspired me to be a Role Model and Activist.
When I co-created Trans Role Models, she was the first person that came to mind. Most of the Trans Women that I follow I've developed online friendships turned in-person meets such as Clair Farley of TEEI, Erin 'Grishno' Armstrong and a couple others. Someone who was also a role model to me was Sylvia Guerrero, the mother of Gwen Araujo; I consider Sylvia to be a spiritual mother to me.
Monika: What was the hardest thing about your coming out?
Paulina: Family mainly. I broke their hearts when I came out, because I was my dad’s oldest son, the one he wanted a great father/son relationship with, both of us being musicians, he wanted a son and name him after Paul McCartney. There is a long story to go to this that I won’t go into, but feel free to read about it at my blog.
Some friends of mine took a while to come around, but they all now support me. The greatest thing that happen was attending my high school reunion, and one of the jock guys came up to me and said 'Paulina, I'm very proud of the person you've came out to be, you are one of the most bravest people I know'.

Loving the new mix of her latest single, California Baby.

Monika: What do you think about transgender stories or characters which have been featured in films, newspapers or books so far?
Paulina: That’s such a good question. I’ve always been pissed off by how shows like Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and NCIS portrayed us, can’t begin to tell you how pissed of I was every time Det. Olivia Benson called us ‘Tr***ys’ on the show.
When it comes to true stories, I loved JD Pardo’s performance as Gwen Araujo in A Girl Like Me. But I would love to see Trans Characters appear on TV and Movies that are portrayed in a positive light, and possibly portrayed by Trans Performers.
Monika: For its 8th issue, Winter 2014-2015, C☆NDY Magazine brought together fourteen of the most prominent women who have become the faces of the transgender movement. It is amazing to see them all on the cover…
Paulina: I so need to get that magazine, it's so happy to see us arrive into mainstream and especially to be called Role Models, cos we are, whether if we are activist or not.
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?
Paulina: Its hard to say, there are some, but we all are working in different parts of our rights, whether if its Media, Military, Medical, Governance or Education. The only people I can think of are Janet Mock, Kristin Beck, Masen Davis, and others.
I'm sort of an unsung leader when it comes to Trans Issues in Higher Education. I wrote a student resolution asking for community colleges to have Gender Identity Equality, and a year after it passed, 22 colleges adopted the resolution to implement on their campus.

Attending a Student Assembly as a Presenter, San Diego, Ca.

Monika: Are you active in politics? Do you participate in any lobbying campaigns? Do you think transgender women can make a difference in politics?
Paulina: I’ve very active in Politics, something I originally had no intentions of doing but was thrust upon me. I am the first transsexual elected to office for the student organization, Student Senate for California Community Colleges, which I advocated for LGBTQIA Students Rights, some might call me the Harvey Milk for students rights.
The only kind of campaigning I did was for Proposition 8 in California, and I did put together a Facebook group for College Students that support AB 1266: School Success And Opportunity Act.
I really think Trans Women and Men can make a difference in politics, I hope to someday run for Senate in California, probably start by running for office in San Francisco.
Monika: Do you like fashion? What kind of outfits do you usually wear? Any special fashion designs, colours or trends?
Paulina: Haha, who doesn’t like fashion? I love wearing Jeans, can’t live without wearing them. I love wearing tank-tops with a blazer over them.
I have an addiction to Music Shirts, I can be spotted wearing either a Beatles, Sarah Mclachlan, Roxy Music or other band shirts. You can say that I have a hipster-chic kind of look, very San Franciscian.
But I like to think that over time my fashion sense would change, I’m a very eclectic kind of person once you get to know me.

Being sworn in as Senator at SSCCC Meeting, Sacramento, Ca.

Monika: What do you think about transgender beauty pageants? Some activists criticize the concept of transgender beauty pageants, pointing out that they lead to the obsession with youth and beauty…
Paulina: It all depends on the message the pageants give out, I have 50/50 views on them.
Monika: Could you tell me about the importance of love in your life?
Paulina: To me, its critical, I’ve never been in love, been single all of my life, never dated and never been kissed, but I still dream for the day that I’ll find someone that would love me for me and would grow old with.
Monika: Many transgender ladies write their memoirs. Have you ever thought about writing such a book yourself?
Paulina: Funny you mentioned that, during 2013, I started writing one, it’s called ‘Imperfect Girl - Project Paulina Angel’, which covers my life from April 1997 to Present Day. Still not finished, waiting for the right ending, hopefully of me finally returning to San Francisco.
Monika: Are you working on any new projects now?
Paulina: I’m trying to get my own organization started, Rainbow Alliance for California Colleges. This has been a brainchild of mines since 2008. I’m entering Pre-Production on my third album, Return To Me, planning on doing a Kickstarter campaign for that. In other words, I’m just focusing on moving back to San Francisco Bay to resume my studies.
Monika: What would you recommend to all transgender girls struggling with gender dysphoria?
Paulina: Surround yourself is positive people, make sure if transitioning is something you want to do, do your research, but more importantly, love yourself!!
Monika: Paulina, thank you for the interview!
Paulina: Thanks so much for the great interview, enjoy your interview series and honored to be a part of such other great women.

Paulina's links:
Trans Role Models
Official PA Music/Paulina Angel Page
Paulina Angel's Artist Page
Paulina Angel's Twitter Page

All the photos: courtesy of Paulina Ashley Angel.
© 2014 - Monika Kowalska

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