Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Interview with Grace Anne Stevens

Monika: Today it is my pleasure and honor to interview Grace Anne Stevens, an American writer, speaker, trainer, blogger, design engineer, and senior engineering manager, with two patent awards. Hello Grace!
Grace: Hi Monika, It is a pleasure to chat with you here. Thank you so much for inviting me.
Monika: Could you say a few words about yourself?
Grace: I consider myself incredibly blessed to have transitioned as a “senior” while working in two workplaces and have lost no one in my life.
Monika: Your resume shows over 40 years in high tech, building successful teams and processes in both startup and large companies; holding Director and VP positions … 
Grace: Yes it does. It took me a long time to realize that even with this apparent successful career there was still something missing. The biggest realization was taking action to discover what that was both in my personal life as a transgender woman and my work and training. I really took to heart the famous quote from George Elliot – “You are never too old to be what you might have been.”

Monika: Recently you have published your autobiography titled “No! Maybe? Yes! Living My Truth” (2014)? What inspired you to write this book?
Grace: This book was more an experience of being “channeled” as it seemed to be written by forces inside of me. I started with a small blog – which became the first chapter – First Journey, and a friend asked/demanded to hear more. I explain this in the acknowledgments of the book.
Monika: Which aspects of your biography could be used by other transgender women planning their transitions?
Grace: People have said that this book is a combination of memoirs and self-help books. The question that I answered, and also ask of everyone is “Whose Life are you Living?”.
Monika: At what age did you transition into a woman yourself? Was it a difficult process? 
Grace: I transitioned at age 64. The anxiety leading up to it was perhaps greater than the actual event of a transition. I was prepared to lose everything and everyone in my life but was lucky enough that I have lost no one.

Grace's autobiography.

Monika: How did you find courage and energy to transition so late?
Grace: It really seemed that I had no choice but to live my true life. I do not think of it as courage, but that it was time to align my body to my brain.
Monika: At the time of your transition did you have any transgender role models that you could follow?
Grace: Just about everyone who ever transitioned provided hope to me that nothing was impossible!
Monika: What was the hardest thing about your coming out?
Grace: The fear of losing my kids. There is much about this story in my book.
Monika: What do you think about the present situation of transgender women in American society?
Grace: It is good and it is bad. I am really attempting to help change the conversation via my blogging, speaking, and book. Baby step by baby step. I want to work person by person, from the ground up.
Monika: You counsel and facilitate psycho-education groups in a substance abuse clinic. Could you elaborate more on this aspect of your professional career?
Grace: For the past six years I have facilitated groups for First Offense Drunk Drivers. People are usually very scared and angry after they get arrested. I have tried to help them not only understand their relationship with alcohol but their relationship with themselves and others. This focus has made a difference for many people.
Monika: In addition, you give lectures about transsexuality at universities, companies, and other institutions. What are the most frequent questions you are asked?
Grace: I have found that more and more people know someone who is transgender. I am finding that people want to know if it is OK to just say hello to people who may transition in the workplace or to avoid them. The answer is yes, always say hi, and welcome back.
Monika: What do you think about transgender stories or characters which have been featured in films, newspapers, or books so far?
Grace: It varies all over, as do people. I think the challenge is to get the general public to understand that each of us is unique, just like a snowflake. Any character in a movie is just that – one small sample and does not represent any one of us.

Monika: Are you active in politics? Do you participate in any lobbying campaigns? Do you think transgender women can make a difference in politics?
Grace: I do not think of myself as an activist. I am hoping to be a voice of reason and knowledge and if I could be anything at all, a teacher of love, compassion, and acceptance.
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?
Grace: I think our “cause” as you put it, is just gaining understanding and acceptance. I think that we are just starting later, and have much work to do.
Monika: Could you tell me about the importance of love in your life?
Grace: The journey to my self-acceptance required me to learn to love myself. I have learned that this is a requirement in order to truly love others. I say that you cannot give away what you don’t have!
Monika: Are you working on any new projects now?
Grace: I am now blogging on a regular basis on Huffington Post.
Monika: What would you recommend to all transgender girls and women struggling with gender dysphoria?
Grace: There is a very true and very classic saying. “You do not have a choice of being transgender. You do have a choice on what you do about it.” Each of us has this choice to be who we are and live our true lives. The road may be rocky or smooth, but I believe that it is the path to internal freedom.
Monika: Grace, thank you for the interview!

All the photos: courtesy of Grace Anne Stevens.
© 2015 - Monika Kowalska

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