Thursday, 19 March 2015

Interview with Violet Bernarde

Monika: Today it is my pleasure and honor to interview Violet Bernarde, a young video blogger that documents her transition on YouTube. Hello Violet!
Violet: Who me? ;P
Monika: Could you say a few words about yourself?
Violet: I’m an average girl. I just happen to have a trait that other girls don’t, but we all have something that makes us unique in some way.
Monika: Why did you decide to share your transition details on YouTube?
Violet: I shared myself for a few different reasons. I wanted to document my own transition and make a diary of sorts. I wanted to give back to the community and make videos that helped others. I wanted to connect with people for my own sake and it also gave me a little spending money to pay for food which I didn’t have much of in the beginning.
Monika: At which stage of the transition are you right now?
Violet: I would say that I’m at the end where I’m just finishing up. I’m simply putting money away to polish up with my surgeon so I can be on my merry way.

Monika: Are you satisfied with the results of the hormone therapy?
Violet: Considering the age that I started my transition, yes I am. I think my body was fluid enough to carry its self into a new gender.
Monika: Which aspects of your experience could be used by other transgender women planning their transitions?
Violet: I don’t think I necessarily reinvented the wheel, but I think that taking a slightly more androgynous approach has helped me transcend one gender into another. I’m also very goal-oriented and I think trying to accomplish what you can handle with a rationalist approach is beneficial.
Monika: What do you think about the present situation of transgender women in your country?
Violet: I think we’ve improved since Krafft-Ebing’s 'Psychopathia Sexualis' and I’m thankful that I’m not institutionalized. I’ve been able to live in relative peace with others and I’ve not had too many problems though I don’t gamble with my life by taking the shortcuts down any dark alleys. I’m unhappy that there are still people even in liberal areas that don’t consider the worth of a trans life equal to their own, but not everyone is like that; I’m sure my passing has helped me greatly with avoiding negative situations.
I’m hoping that in the following years that Gender Confirmation Surgery (GCS) will be commonly covered through health insurance in America and that that trans quality of life can improve for everyone and not just for those who have been able to save for 7 years. The best way to sum up my thoughts about the question is that I have hope.
Monika: At what age did you transition into a woman yourself? Was it a difficult process? 
Violet: I started the process of transitioning close to my 22nd birthday and started hormones about 3 months afterwards. The most difficult part of my American Transition was the cost. I could wait for hormones to do their work though I did have my uncertainty, the cost of transition was tremendous.
The first time I got a bill from Quest Diagnostics which was used to check my body chemistry was truly insane! Trying to pay for therapy, doctor/HRT, and hair removal kept me from financially drained. Then getting a four-figure bill from Quest Diagnostics was just the icing on my poverty cake. Not to mention the cost of living and continual car care. I’d have to say the cost of transition was the most difficult!

Courtesy of Violet Bernarde.

Monika: At that time of your transition, did you have any transgender role models that you followed?
Violet: Vanna ‘Van’ Burnham was an inspiration to me. I watched their 8-month video quite a few times and it gave me hope that it could be done.
Monika: Are there are any transgender ladies that you admire and respect now?
Violet: Andreja Pejic, Lana Wachowski, Renee Raskind, Jenny Boylan. I don’t look up to anyone like I did when I first started transition, but I have a high opinion of those four individuals and a small list of others.
Monika: What was the hardest thing about your coming out?
Violet: Knowing I was losing so much of what I had. I knew there was no way I was going to keep much of the conservative friends and family from my old physical gender. In the process of coming out, I was aware I would have to have a calculated future in order to continue on after so much loss. To this day I don’t expect to gain any of those lost relationships back.
Monika: What do you think about transgender stories or characters which have been featured in films, newspapers, or books so far?
Violet: I think it is absolutely positive that transsexuals are being shown as individuals like everyone else. I enjoy being able to read biographies about other transsexuals and to be able to go on their journey with them through media. I find that I’m rather susceptible to their emotions and journeys. It also helps me to be reflective about my transition and remember some of the things I’ve forgotten about it.
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?
Violet: I think that it is good that the LGB and the T are able to help and support each other, but I do think that the T can be too silent. I think that we don’t always have the same needs as the LGB and can be overlooked because we’re almost our own cause, but don’t always have the membership to carry it. It’s better to be a part of the LGB than to not, but we are still working towards our own goals to increase the T’s quality of life.
I will say that I think we are doing better than what we have in the past, but it should also be said that not all trans individuals stay to further the cause. I don’t hold any negative feelings for those who choose to move on after transition and in a way, I think they still help the community though we can’t always see 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?
Violet: Not really, no. I try to help other individuals on a case-by-case basis, but on a grand scale, I don’t think I do much in participating in lobbying campaigns. I like to think that by existing and being a positive role model I do help the community. I do think the trans community can make a difference in politics and lobbying, but to an extent, it also requires allies too. Along with lobbing, I think one of the biggest assets we have is in our trans allies; Never underestimate the value of the cis-allies influence.
Monika: Do you like fashion? What kind of outfits do you usually wear? Any special fashion designs, colors, or trends?
Violet: I’m normally wearing in scrubs these days, but when I’m not working and in casual wear, I wear a lot of jeans or shorts with a top. I don’t think the things I wear are overly feminine, but my attire has been changing lately. I think of my closet as an average girl's wardrobe. I’d like to ask Stacy London to look at my closet and ask her what she thinks if ever I got the chance.
Monika: What do you think about transgender beauty pageants?
Violet: I’m not a fan really. There is nothing inherently wrong with them, but I’m just not fond of pageants in general. I’m not actively seeking to be in one. If Jean-Paul Gaultier gave the chance to walk the catwalk I’d do that.
Monika: Could you tell me about the importance of love in your life?
Violet: That’s a complex question for me. Pre-transition I was never with anyone any sense. After beginning, I’ve had some relationships. I’d like to think they weren’t just for myself and I don’t think they were. However, there was a bit of growth that has changed me that I can’t say I would have had without them. I almost didn’t believe in love pre-transition and a mild part of that has carried over into my female life.
Monika: Many transgender ladies write their memoirs. Have you ever thought about writing such a book yourself?
Violet: Yes! If given the time I’d like to do it, but right now I have enough on my plate. It might still happen one day, but it will have to wait. Hopefully, if the day comes I’m still interested in the notion.

Monika: Are you working on any new projects now?
Violet: I’m almost afraid to say because my plans are always evolving. I’ve been really interested in working in the medical field. For a while, I’ve been thinking about working toward being an anesthesiologist, but if I’m going for an MD and specializing in that I’m half tempted to work toward being a trans surgeon. Thinking about it too long though wears me out. Right now I'm focused on what I’ve been putting off for too long, so I can save the capital for investment in something else.
Monika: What would you recommend to all transgender girls struggling with gender dysphoria?
Violet: Find a Gender Specialist, set obtainable goals, and work toward them. Also, remember that there is a life after transition. Don’t work so hard on your transition that you forget that.
Monika: Violet, thank you for the interview!
Violet: Thank you for your interest in interviewing an average girl in her American transition.

All the photos: Courtesy of Violet Bernarde.
© 2015 - Monika Kowalska

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