Friday, 23 January 2015

Interview with Jaroslava Brokešová

Monika: Today it is my pleasure and honor to interview Jaroslava Brokešová, a tram driver from Prague, the Czech Republic, former diva, one of the most charismatic transgender women in Central and Eastern Europe. Hello Jaroslava!
Jaroslava: Hi, Monika. I am pleased with your interest and I am happy to answer all your questions. I would also like to greet the readers of your blog!
Monika: Could you say a few words about yourself?
Jaroslava: This year I am having my anniversary. Although I underwent a gender reassignment operation twelve years ago, in fact in April I will be fifty years old. I have two children, a son (25), daughter (23) from my 15-year marriage with a woman.
I live in a small town - Úvaly, near the capital of the Czech Republic, where I work for a Public Transport Company, being a tram driver.

The lady in white.

I like recreational sports such as swimming, biking, climbing (via Ferrata). In addition, I love to travel and discover everything. I am just living a normal life.
In the context of learning new things, last year I took a Mediterranean cruise on a replica pirate sailing ship of the 18th century - La Grace, where I learned the position of cadet naval craft!
Monika: Your story is a perfect movie scenario. You got married in 1987, you were the father of two children soon, and 10 years later you started your journey towards womanhood …
Jaroslava: Yes, this is about me! It would definitely make a good film in Hollywood. This is a joke, of course! I was married for 15 years, with two children. The last years of marriage were very demanding mentally. Not just for me, but for my partner and children. I decided that nobody would bother us because of my problems. I visited experts in the field of sexology, and I managed to fulfill my dream to become a woman.
Monika: You can boast a spectacular diva career, just to mention your performance in the 90s for Kabaret SRDCE & KÁMEN (as Vivian), Anděl s ďáblem v těle (Angel in a Devil's Body), and the EXCELLENT trio?
Jaroslava: The stage career was my salvation and it gave me a lot of encouragement in those difficult times of my transformation. It helped me in everything, especially mentally. I performed stage shows for five years (1998-2003). I met a lot of great guys and had a lot of fun with them.
I was not a professional dancer. Travesti shows were totally new in my country, so people were very curious about them. I performed my shows not only in the Czech Republic, but also in our neighboring countries: Germany, Austria, and Slovakia. I used to provide comic performances and singing live.

Her tram.

Monika: How big was the show business in the Czech Republic then? Do you recollect any unforgettable performances and divas?
Jaroslava: The show career was not fun for me, but it was a good business. However, we had some costs; everything was rather expensive, especially all the costumes. Our group had to rent theaters across the country.
Our repertoire was not just a classic performance. We were singers, magicians. It was a Cabaret!
I remember one show; it was quite interesting. A rich Czech entrepreneur celebrated his birthday in Linz, Austria. At a disco. His subordinates had prepared a surprise. They ordered him a stripper. It was me! I came to the stage in the style of Marlene Dietrich, in a hat, tailcoat, garters, and high heels. I sang in German a Scott Joplin song from The Sting. Then I invited a guest of honor to the stage and I stripped him a little too.
And the next song was from the La Cage aux Folles musical titled "I Am What I Am". I did a great strip-tease. It was a big surprise, fun, and great applause from the audience. That was awesome!

The diva years.

Monika: What do you think about the present situation of transgender women in Czech society?
Jaroslava: I think that the situation has improved in the Czech Republic, so transgender women are not discriminated against, though some exceptions do occur. We need to prepare how to defend against them.
Monika: You are a TV celebrity in the Czech Republic. You are invited to many TV shows and events…
Jaroslava: I'm not a real celebrity. I'm just an ordinary woman with an extraordinary life story. And I was able to stand up for my rights as a transgender woman ten years ago. That's why I have been invited to many TV programs, and there have been many articles about me in the Czech newspapers. 
Otherwise, I'm working properly, and I have been accepted and incorporated into society. At work, I am treated and regarded as a woman, and people do not mock me. That is all. But I'm a little exhibitionist, so I'm glad that occasionally someone invites me to take part in a show.
My dream would be to be a film actress.

In the army (1984 - 1986).

Monika: What do you think about transgender stories or characters which have been featured in Czech films, newspapers, or books so far?
Jaroslava: I do not remember any film about Czech transgender people. I guess that there has not been any movie yet. Only some TV reports, mostly about discrimination, employment, and social rights.
The Czech society is very conservative. Here, there are Catholic prejudices too.
In addition, we have a few decades of living under a totalitarian regime. For many years homosexuality and transsexualism were considered to be an aberration and gay and transgender people were even prosecuted.
Currently, the situation is obviously different, but we can still face prejudices, especially among the older generations.
Monika: At what age did you transition into a woman yourself? Was it a difficult process?
Jaroslava: I was 38 years old when I started with my transformation. I underwent psychotherapy, and then hormone therapy. They all took me around 5 years. I had to hurry, so I followed the advice of my doctors. Regardless of my operations, I have managed to avoid any health problems because the Czech health service is of high quality. 
Monika: At that time of your transition, did you have any transgender role models that you followed?
Jaroslava: No, I did not have any role models. I have always been quite original. Everyone should have her/his own personality, without any role models. This is my opinion.

Monika: Are there are any transgender ladies that you admire and respect now? 
Jaroslava: I respect anyone who does the same way as I do, holding their thumbs-up, and achieving their goals. I have many transgender friends that I have known for a long time.  I often provide advice and professional assistance to my younger sisters.
Monika: What was the hardest thing about your coming out?
Jaroslava: The hardest part of my transition was the divorce, sharing the truth with my wife, parents, and closest friends. Not everyone took it easy. My wife had suspected me for a long time. My dad took it well whereas my mom did not. We did not talk together for five years. Today it's been all good, both with my parents and ex-girlfriend. We sometimes go out to chat over coffee. My children were very supportive during my transformation and we are all friends now.

The lady in blue.

Monika: Are you active in politics? Do you participate in any lobbying campaigns? Do you think transgender women can make a difference in politics?
Jaroslava: I am not really active in politics. For the time being, I have a lot of personal worries. If I decided to take part in politics, I would promote the right policies.
We will see in the future. Transgender women in politics? They are already, and they are successful.
Monika: Do you like fashion? What kind of outfits do you usually wear? Any special fashion designs, colors, or trends?
Jaroslava: I love sports mode, but not against other trends. I have no direction in the clothes; I have to feel comfortable. I like all the shades of blue, white and black. I hate wearing ugly combinations.
Monika: Could you tell me about the importance of love in your life?
Jaroslava: Yes, love is important, there's no need to write more!
Monika: Many transgender ladies write their memoirs. Have you ever thought about writing such a book yourself?
Jaroslava: Yes, I have been thinking about it. But my book will have to wait. I do not plan to end my life soon. I'm sure I will have many interesting experiences to share in the future. But I would like to write an autobiography, of course.

Monika: Are you working on any new projects now?
Jaroslava: I have a lot of work and various projects around. I work in transport and it takes me a lot of time. A new or additional work, usually not planned, is difficult to manage properly. However, I like my work.

With a rose.

Monika: What would you recommend to all transgender girls struggling with gender dysphoria?
Jaroslava: I recommend not to be afraid. It is important to have a proper mentality and serenity. Get advice from experts, psychologists, and sexologists. Definitely stay away from wrapping yourself with a problem. That's my advice.
Finally, be proud and happy to live your life.
Monika, one question you asked about my ideal. I have one, it's kind of my motto - quote: "He who is silent and bows his head dies every time he does so. He who speaks aloud and walks with his head held high dies only once." (Giovanni Falcone).
That is my role model. Life is beautiful.
Monika: Jaroslava, thank you for the interview!
Jaroslava: Thank you! J J.B.

All the photos: courtesy of Jaroslava Brokešová. 
© 2015 - Monika Kowalska

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