Thursday, 15 January 2015

Interview with Jameela Maxwell Boardman

Monika: Today it is my pleasure and honour to interview Jameela Maxwell Boardman, a British free thinker, scientist, spiritualist, and the author of the biographical book titled “Jameela's Journey: From Jonathan to Jameela” (2010). Hello Jameela!
Jameela: Thank you for inviting me.
Monika: Could you say a few words about yourself?
Jameela: In hindsight, I think that it would be more accurate to call me a Third Gender person rather than Transsexual, but unfortunately that option is not legally open to me in my country (Britain).
We are all a combination of Nature and Nurture, and I feel now that the hiding of my male part after transition, is just as much a distortion as the hiding of my female part was before! I often use the simple phrase: A "Balance of Yin and Yang" to quickly explain my feelings. It never was a sexual issue, rather a spiritual wholeness that I sought. That sounds as though it wasn't much of a problem, but it was! I knew that something major was wrong, and I had to move in the direction of the feminine.
After the transition, I tried so hard to fit in, as we all do, but it just felt that I'm throwing away my male part… which is throwing away part of myself. So now I have come to a more central position on the gender spectrum wherever possible.
Monika: What inspired you to write your autobiography?
Jameela: There were profound lessons from all that had happened, and I wanted to share this with the world. As it turned out only a few people were interested. The gender change was like going through a doorway to another level of comprehension. Transition is only that - transition! It is where it takes us that matters. In my case, it was the beginning of a study into Contrasts, and the wisdom and inner peace that can be found through such. This is what I desired to share in the book.
Monika: Which aspects of your biography could be used by other transgender women planning their transitions?
Jameela: Well, transsexuals are in both directions: female to male and male to female! I hope my story might give emotional support to those people for whom deep religious feelings are also part of the problem.

Jameela's Journey via

Monika: Your life is full of incredible stories. After the marriage with an Iranian female mechanical engineer, you became an "intellectual" Muslim…
Jameela: ... then a Spiritualist, then a researcher into unconventional science!
Monika: You got married and had two daughters but the gender identity problem would still not go away. In addition, after the family tragedy, you turned to Islam…
Jameela: The family tragedy happened when my younger brother was killed in a motorcycle accident, this deeply affected all the family but in different ways, with me, it was my spiritual and religious feelings that came to the surface.
It was some years after this that I started to also face my gender anomaly. But the two issues: spiritual and gender, have always been entwined in me and it has taken a long time to sort out. I think cultural society can push people in ways that do not match reality.
Monika: Did the September 11 attacks have any impact on your life then?
Jameela: When that happened, I just felt: "Two wrongs don't make a right". …There is a lot more to say about this subject, but here is not the right place.
Monika: I guess that since the mid-1980s, the Islamic Republic of Iran has permitted and partially subsidized sex reassignment surgery. What do you think about the present situation of transgender women in Muslim society?
Jameela: Yes in Iran gender change is happening a lot now, but there is the absurd situation where Gay people are totally illegal. So that pressures many Gay people to change gender roles in an attempt to live in society, but Gay and Gender-Dysphoria are totally different conditions. Most of the Muslim world is Sunni and even worse than this for LGBT folk, but there are a few more enlightened people.
Monika: At what age did you transition into a woman yourself? Was it a difficult process? 
Jameela: I started formal transition at 45 years old, but I knew something was seriously wrong since my first year at infants school. I tried so hard to live as a normal bloke, but so much of me was being squashed. ... Yes, it certainly is a difficult process to face, but step by step we can come through it.
Monika: At that time of your transition, did you have any transgender role models that you followed?
Jameela: Not really, but my partner and I watched the film "Billy Elliott" at a critical time when everything seemed terrible, and that film helped enormously. It was not a film about transgender, rather about a Northern English lad who wanted to be a ballet dancer. It was the role model of being gifted but different and standing for what we are that helped me so much.
Monika: Are there are any transgender ladies that you admire and respect most now? 
Jameela: Yes: Lana Wachowski who is the creative genius behind: "The Matrix" and "Cloud Atlas" films.
Monika: What was the hardest thing about your coming out?
Jameela: Losing some of my family.
Monika: What do you think about transgender stories or characters which have been featured in films, newspapers, or books so far?
Jameela: It all helps normalize the issue. I think people are basically good, but ignorance does a lot of damage and is the root cause of a lot of pain to people who are different. ... As the saying goes: "All publicity is good publicity".

Courtesy of Jameela Boardman.

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?
Jameela: To some Gay Muslims, I once said: "In LGBT, I am the TEE!" :-) ... I think support and encouragement will come from a wide variety of sources, and that is good. I received a lot of help from that Billy Elliott film!
Conversely, too much isolation from other transgendered people can trap us into a permanent transition state. This is a phase of our life that takes some time, but it is healthy that we do move through it. 
Monika: Are you active in politics? Do you participate in any lobbying campaigns? Do you think transgender women can make a difference in politics?
Jameela: There was a transgendered Member of Parliament in New Zealand - Georgina Beyer. I do think we have creative gifts to share, but I think this comes back to 'Between the Contrasts' that is special, rather than being the other gender. I have engaged a little with local Politics, but I struggle with any polarization, so I feel my best role is in what I can write.
Monika: Could you tell me about the importance of love in your life?
Jameela: That is the reason for life, but I say it in a Spiritual sense rather than sexual; both meanings though have their respective truths.
Monika: Are you working on any new projects now?
Jameela: I am writing another book; focused on World Peace - bringing many contrasts together. 
Monika: What would you recommend to all transgender girls struggling with gender dysphoria?
Jameela: Try to take the stress out of this. Change your career, change your lifestyle, change your religion... if some ideology clashes with what we are inside and our sincerest soul searching, then it cannot come from that which created us in the first place! Eventually, you will separate the True from the cultural Beliefs, so make it easy for yourself now.
Be creative in what can be changed to take the stress out of this gender identity problem, but this problem for some people is very real. I agree our "Mind" cannot be changed, so the gender-professionals say to change the body! But this can have so many difficulties, such as with all the relationships and expectations built up around us since our birth.
So I think the ideal solution would be to change the culture we live in to just accepting us as we are, without ever needing to express a "Gender" type. We need a fluid "Third Gender" option that is both a legal entity and culturally accepted. Some of us will stay "Third Gender" by choice, but for others, it will be a much kinder transition route, especially regarding family acceptance. …
Until that day happens; many people go through a big drama in transition, only to find years later they have softened to a more relaxed position on the gender spectrum - so why not aim for that relaxed position in the first place!
Monika: Jameela, thank you for the interview!

All the photos: courtesy of Jameela Maxwell Boardman.
© 2015 - Monika Kowalska

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