Sunday, 8 March 2015

Interview with Jer'Ell Hartsig

Monika: Today it is my pleasure and honor to interview Jer'Ell Hartsig, an American writer, the author of the biographical book titled “The Wind that Ruffled the Field” (2014). Hello Jer’Ell!
Jer’Ell: Hello Monika!
Monika: Could you say a few words about yourself?
Jer’Ell: I can say that at this time in my life I’m very happy and have no regrets. I have become the person I always knew I could be. The journey that I took to becoming Jer’Ell can be followed in my book, ”The Wind that Ruffled the Field”.
Monika: Why did you decide to write your autobiography?
Jer’Ell: I felt my story would not only be inspiring but also enlightening to those people struggling with gender dysphoria and also their family and friends who have someone in their lives who may not be understood as a transgender person. Also, there is a hook to the story that needed to be told that Hollywood did not want you to know.
Monika: Which aspects of your experience can be useful for other transwomen?
Jer’Ell: To know what you are feeling when something is wrong when the body does not match the mind. Believe in your gut feelings and follow your heart.
Monika: At what age did you transition into a woman yourself? Did you have any support from your family or friends?
Jer’Ell: I was forty years of age when I finally completed my surgeries. There was a two-year prior preparation before surgery with hormone therapy and crossdressing. I did not get support from my family and friends but I made new friends along the way, people who understood what I was going through and offered their support. Knowing you are not alone in your transition is very important.

Life is good.

Monika: At that time of your transition, did you have any transgender role models that you followed?
Jer’Ell: I was very young when the news came out that Christine Jorgensen had undergone a sex change operation to become a woman. I remembered how all my family rejected her and were in disbelief that any such surgery was even possible. I thought how brave she must have been, her story gave me hope. 
Monika: What was the hardest thing about your coming out?
Jer’Ell: Getting to a place where I knew I was right in my beliefs, there was no going back. Already, there had been so many years that had slipped by that I was anxious for my new life to begin.
Monika: What do you think about the present situation of transgender women in American society?
Jer’Ell: American society has been slow to accept transgender women. Now in some European countries, they are further ahead in accepting transgender women and have been for some time. It’s really up to us to educate society. Those days of “in the closet” should be over.
Monika: What is your general view on transgender stories or characters which have been featured in films, newspapers, or books so far?
Jer’Ell: It’s hard to watch the news reporting negative stories and images on transgender women but they are just doing their jobs as reporters. It refreshing when a positive story comes along and gives the public a chance to see the other side of the transgender woman, to see her in a new light.
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?
Jer’Ell: Although it appears we are all connected by a fine line, we are at the same time on a very different journey as we make our ways as individuals.
Monika: Is there anyone in the American transgender society whose actions could be compared to what Harvey Milk was doing in the 60s and 70s for gay activism?
Jer’Ell: Yes, Laverne Cox has done as much in the past year with images and stories that are creating a new type of role model.


Monika: Are you active in politics? Do you participate in any lobbying campaigns? Do you think transgender women can make a difference in politics?
Jer’Ell: I’m not active in politics until we are taken more seriously and better understood. But then my parents’ generation would not have predicted or even believed a black man could be President of the United States.
Monika: Could you tell me about the importance of love in your life?
Jer’Ell: Love has to be a part of all our lives wherever it comes from, and in how many different forms. The poets write of love, some write songs of love, the authors write stories of love, but in the bottom line, all we need is love.
Monika: Do you like fashion? What kind of outfits do you usually wear? Any special fashion designs, colors, or trends?
Jer’Ell: I love fashion. Early on I thought I might study fashion and become a designer but instead I chose to go to an art school and become a story illustrator. That later led me to interior decorating. My flair for fashion has always been noticed and drawn attention. It’s my untapped gift. 
Monika: What is your next step in the present time and where do you see yourself within the next 5-7 years?
Jer’Ell: I’m working on my next book. It’s about five transgender women and their search for their true identity. It takes place in Hollywood California and should be a fun read. The title will be, “C’est La Vie”.
Monika: What would you recommend to all transgender girls struggling with gender dysphoria?
Jer’Ell: To get professional advice and talk to other transgender women who will share their stories. You must know that you are not alone. You can find help. It could be the most important decision in your life.
Monika: Jer’Ell, thank you for the interview!
Jer’Ell: Thank you Monika for this opportunity.

All the photos: courtesy of Jer'Ell Hartsig.
© 2015 - Monika Kowalska

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