Saturday 10 October 2015

Interview with Katie Bainbridge

Monika: Today it is my pleasure and honor to interview Katie Bainbridge, a Scottish writer, blogger, and the author of the autobiographical book titled “Flowers and Tightropes” (2015). Hello Katie!
Katie: Hi Monika! Thanks for asking me to do this interview.
Monika: Could you say a few words about yourself?
Katie: I'm a 47-year-old, transgender woman. I was born in Scotland and I now live in Cornwall. I am a writer, author and I also work part-time as an administrator.
Monika: Why did you decide to write your autobiography?
Katie: Well, I didn't just decide. It sort of evolved. Every Monday, Anja, my friend, and housemate, have a creative evening (her idea originally) and we produce and perform pieces of work for it. Anja started the evenings because she wanted someone to perform to and I wanted to take part so, I started writing pieces about my life. After a year and a half of these evenings, I found I had myself a book.
Monika: Which aspects of your experience can be useful for other transwomen?
Katie: A hell of a lot of it, actually! I have had a rough ride through the system and through life and I never want anyone to go through what I have experienced. From that viewpoint, I can help a lot of people.
Transgender people, generally, seem to have a tough time and one way it can be made easier is by having realistic role models and real people to identify with. I felt very alone with my struggle and, had it not been for friends of mine going through the same thing, I would probably have committed suicide.
Monika: You wrote also other books …
Katie: Yes. I have self-published two poetry books: The Book of Mirrors and The Book of Windows.
Monika: At what age did you transition into a woman yourself? Was it a difficult process?
Katie: I started my hormone therapy on 1st September 2006, I was 38. The best way to get an overview of my life is to read my book because the problems I encountered were many and varied. My health issues were many as I have a damaged immune system. My mental state was very fragile at times too.
I also got sent to an inexperienced endocrinologist who gave me ethinylestradiol, an outdated synthetic hormone, that put me through hell. I suffered Steven Johns Syndrome throughout my entire body about a dozen times over three years. I thought I was going to die each time. The symptoms were horrific! I then found out from a friend that I should have been sent to a clinic further up the country; she probably saved my life. I still had to fight the system to get an appointment. It makes me so angry, the way I was treated!
By the way, I did not go all the way with the transition because of how damaged my immune system is. It would be too risky. At the end of the day, what is between someone's legs does not make them male or female. It is what is in their heart and between their ears that counts.

"Flowers & Tightropes"

Monika: At that time of your transition, did you have any transgender role models that you followed?
Katie: No, no role models. I just desperately wanted to be me, whatever the hell that was. I was one lost soul at the outset of my journey. I had also joined Alcoholics Anonymous for the second time in my life. I was very messed up. I couldn't face trying to follow anyone. The denial of being transgender was a big thing with me too.
That was largely to do with the role models of the time and the shame society puts on gender differences outside the perceived norm. Also, the role models were either so perfect that one couldn't tell they were transgender or so weird I didn't want to associate myself with them! I didn't like myself very much either. That, thankfully, has changed. 
Monika: Are there are any transgender ladies that you admire and respect now?
Katie: Yes; all of them. Anyone that has the courage to come out and 'go down the road less traveled', I take my hat off to. Even under favorable conditions, I cannot imagine it being easy. We are taught, as a society, what is and isn't normal and are shamed if we step out of it.
Monika: What was the hardest thing about your coming out?
Katie: I feared I would lose my family and my friends. I lost neither but I gave them the option of whether they wanted to stick around or not. I can remember being very clear about it. I had reached the end of my rope and was willing to accept total rejection if need be. I cared little at this point about what would happen to me.
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?
Katie: I feel we get a bit lost in the LGBT community, not to mention misunderstood and sometimes discriminated against. That is how it has felt to me and that has been my experience in the past. I used to avoid 'the scene' for these very reasons. Saying that I do go to an LGBT night on a Sunday now, and I have people there that I count as friends.
Monika: What do you think in general about transgender news stories or characters which have been featured in films, newspapers, or books so far?
Katie: I have to admit, I don't read the papers or watch television so my experience is very limited. 
Monika: Do you participate in any lobbying campaigns? Do you think transgender women can make a difference in politics?
Katie: Oh, yes! You bet I do, both. Transgender women can make a huge difference in politics. We need a voice and we need to change how people perceive us and themselves as male and female. That is the reason I felt compelled to publish my book.
Monika: Do you like fashion? What kind of outfits do you usually wear? Any special fashion designs, colors, or trends?
Katie: I tend to be fairly conservative but I do 'quirky' from time to time. I have stopped worrying so much about whether I look too male or female and just wear what I want. Life is too short to start pleasing people with opinions so I do my own thing.
Monika: What do you think about transgender beauty pageants? Some activists criticize their values, pointing out that they lead to the obsession with youth and beauty.
Katie: I cringed when I read this question so that probably tells you all you need to know! I hate beauty pageants of any sort. I find them patriarchal, outdated, and shaming. We all have beauty if we choose to show it.
Monika: Could you tell me about the importance of love in your life?
Katie: If you are talking about sexual partners, I have made an epic fail of that one. I am single and have been for the last three years; it suits me. I have my cat and my housemate and I am happy with that. I either don't know how to cope in sexual relationships and mess things up or I pick a complete mental case like the last one!
Monika: Are you working on any new projects now?
Katie: Yes, another book! It is a science fiction book and is proving to be a bit of a challenge.
Monika: What would you recommend to all transgender girls struggling with gender dysphoria?
Katie: This might sound cheesy but learn to love yourself for who you are inside. Discover what you can give to the world. Try not to get too obsessed with what your outer appearance is like. Surround yourself with good, supportive people and drop the wasters and users. Don't forget that this life is not a rehearsal; go live it. Be who you want to be and do what you want to do.
Monika: Katie, thank you for the interview!

All the photos: courtesy of Katie Bainbridge.
© 2015 - Monika Kowalska

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