Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Interview with Lucia Richardson

Monika: Today it is my pleasure and honor to interview Lucia Richardson, an application architect, a Canadian writer, blogger, the author of the biographical book titled “Lucia: The Life of a Transgender Person” (2015). Hello Lucia!
Lucia: Hi Monika. Thanks for the opportunity. As always, it is nice to have a voice, and thanks for taking the time.
Monika: Could you say a few words about yourself?
Lucia: I graduated from the University of Moncton (1999) in New Brunswick, Canada with a BSc. Major Computer Sciences and Minor in Informatics Management. My mother tongue language is French and I have been working as an IT professional for the past 18+ years. I have worked for the Government and for various financial/insurance companies throughout Canada and the US: Sunlife, TIAA CREF, Fintrac, and Farm Credit Canada. 
Also, I have worked as an IT Consultant for OAO Technologies, CGI, and Keanes Canada (now better known under the name: “NTT Data”) and also with Pason Inc. (Oil Industry) and AT&T (Telecom).
I consider myself a passionate technologist and hold a TOGAF certification in the field of Enterprise Architecture. Today, I assume the role of Senior Application Architect at Farm Credit Canada for the past 6 years.
I consider myself to be an innovator, software engineer with a particular interest in the Artificial Intelligence discipline and system architecture in general. Like many of my transgender colleagues, I have an interest in supporting my fellow friends and advocating for the transgender community especially when presented with opportunities for equal rights for all citizens of Canada.
Finally, I have a general interest in studies relating to self-improvement, human behavior, and social interactions.
Monika: Why did you decide to write your autobiography?
Lucia: When I first started writing my autobiography, I had no intention to even publish my book publicly, but it was clear that I would tell my life story. The effort proved to be therapeutic for me. At the time, my intent was to inform my immediate family, colleagues, and friends about my journey and my decision for the need to transition from a male to a female. As I started telling my story, it became apparent that I had a message for the world as well. I thought that it might be of interest for the general public to hear my message. I also thought it useful to provide supporting information for transgender individuals.
Even though the book focused primarily on the topic and life of a transgender individual, I attempted to tell a story that inspired others for taking on the journey of self-discovery, self-improvement, self-love, and a life of authentic self own. A meaningful journey that is well worth the effort, no matter what challenge needs to be overcome, is a gift for us all.
After releasing the first edition of my book back in December 2014, I discovered that I had the interest to bridge the gap between Transgender individuals and the social stigma imposed by the general population upon transgender individuals. By stepping into their world (general population), leveling and explaining objectively from the viewpoint of the public the reason for such a journey.
Also, I thought I could attempt to tell a story that could capture the general interest of people. As such, the final version of my book was born and the second edition was released last September 2015.

"Lucia: The Life of a Transgender
Person" via Amazon.

Monika: Which aspects of your experience can be useful for other transwomen?
Lucia: The writing of my book was therapeutic and allowed me to plan my journey appropriately, realistically, and effectively. It allowed me to process difficult times in my life and bring closure to my longtime life struggles with respect to my gender identity. The exercise was also helpful in preparing immediate family members, close friends, and colleagues.
Finally, the experience was liberating for me and my focus was primarily aimed at achieving a better state of being. I have learned the importance of being supported while transitioning: family, friends, colleagues, doctors, psychiatrists, etc. I learned also that having a plan is also a MUST. And having a backup plan is also a MUST.
So many before me I see the struggle in their respectful journey because they have not taken the time to prepare a plan for their transition. Planning for your transition, getting the support that is needed, and having a backup plan are essential in ensuring your transition success.
Also, I have learned that the transformation from within (psychological as oppose to physiological) goes far beyond the physiological transformation. This has been the message that I speak of in my book and the basis for why I claim that the journey of transitioning is a gift for us all. The transformation from within is so refreshing and liberating. The physical appearance means much less to me now than it did before.
I also discovered that people, in general, care much less than I initially thought they would which can help new transgender individuals feel more at ease with coming out. People, generally care less than we do ourselves and people do things for themselves as oppose to doing things for others. Being scared is natural, but it can also be a stumbling block preventing us from moving forward.
Monika: At what age did you transition into a woman yourself? Was it a difficult process? 
Lucia: I came out and began my transition in February 2013 shortly after my separation, I was 42 years old. For me, my transition to my new gender was NOT a “BIG BANG!” process (instantly) but rather it was a gradual process that took many years to achieve. I chose to have several stages of coming out as opposed to coming all at once.
First I sought support from my spouse, then from support groups, then immediate family (mother and children), then my physician and psychiatrist, and finally I came out and sought support at work and the general public. The “coming out” process took over a year. This process can be longer and shorter for some individuals depending on their comfort level.
However, securing support and gradually moving forward was of the essence – baby steps were OK. Also, my journey towards my gender identity started between the ages of 3 and 4, and it has been less than a year that I have been living full-time as a female. The transition is different for everyone, difficult for some and more or less difficult for others but it is for each and every one of us to evaluate, assess and judge for ourselves the best way to come out – it is not one size fits all.
For myself, my head was always in the way, and I moved very cautiously with patience until I felt that support was secured. Before then, I refused to move forward as I did not feel safe. My fearful and cautious approach brought me many life challenges over the years for which I speak of in my book. But when realized that it was necessary to move forward and I had the support that I needed, then things got easier for me and I was able to let go and start moving forward on my own.
There is a lot to consider and plan before facing the world, and it can be a bit overwhelming at first. It cannot be accomplished alone and luckily support existed for me: support groups, friends, family, psychiatrists, doctors, and specialists who were there to help me move forward in my journey.
Monika: At that time of your transition, did you have any transgender role models that you followed?
Lucia: I surrounded myself quickly with the people that I needed to move forward. Great people around me provided the insight and support that I needed. The “do's” and “don't” of transitioning. What is important? How safe is it? How do we do this or that? They have been great mentors and great leaders that I consider incredible supporters – I can call them role models as well.
I listened very carefully to them so that I could learn from them. I filtered information and adapted quickly, was careful in moving forward and I carefully captured every piece of information so that I could avoid unnecessary risk exposure. I prefer not to expose the people's names without their explicit consent but they know who they are and I never lose the opportunity to thank them for their effort. They are gold to me.
Monika: Are there are any transgender ladies that you admire and respect now?
Lucia: I have many people to be thankful and grateful for as mentioned above – they are my supporters and I consider them my role models. These supporters were invested in my success and their own which distinguished them from others who were trying to validate themselves by self-reflecting themselves on others. This is where I applied my filtering. As a result, I was very selective in deciding who I would accept in my life and some resented me for it. I am OK with this, I made my choices and I can live with them and I am sure they can too – all is good.
Above all, the individuals that seem to capture my heart especially are the younger ones who are able to find the courage at such a young age to assume their identity. I admire them and I think that they deserve an award for bravery and courage. We can learn so much from them. I admire them, particularly because I did not have their courage at their age and I find it admirable.
Also, I admire the older transgender folks who have decided to give themselves the gift of life – being their authentic self. They could have decided to coast along and ride it off, but instead, they decide to face the world and give themselves a meaningful life – very admirable as well. Then there is me... middle age where most of us decide to come out... I guess we are OK too! lol
Monika: What was the hardest thing about your coming out?
Lucia: For me, the hardest thing was coming out at work and securing my professional career. I recall having knots in my stomach for a week prior to coming out at work. Also coming out to my children I thought was difficult.
Monika: What do you think about the current situation of transgender women in Canadian society?
Lucia: I believe that in Canada legislation in comparison to other countries, we might fall behind and perhaps ahead depending on which country we are comparing ourselves with. For some reason, transgender women seem to be more of a target for discrimination as opposed to transgender males. I want to understand this better and hope to study the behavior more in the future.
Also, when considering the federal government, it is curious to notice that we are lagging behind in adopting gender identity and gender expression in a human code of rights for all Canadian citizens. Vote in favor of Bill C-279 and let's move on. It makes it difficult for federal institutions to adopt policies that are supportive of transgender in general. In regards to using public washrooms, it still remains a debate and that baffles me – I still need to be concerned with what public washrooms I need to be using, really?
Also, some provinces still have limited or no medical coverage for transgender individuals. Despite all of the information circulating in relation to transgender individuals, we seemed to still be surprised that this is a reality in today's society.
I also wish that people would ask more questions as opposed to choosing to draw their own invalid conclusions. This would lead the general population to a better understanding of the issues and perhaps enlighten them to be more supportive. Being supportive means being able to do so in their face and behind their backs. This is not always consistent but human behavior and actions speak louder than words. As a result, the public needs to watch their body language when facing transgender people. This a clear indication of their comfort level around the issues.
For transgender individuals, we must always stay on our guards, and I must admit, it is sad. Perhaps one of my biggest pet peeves is individuals who are complete strangers who cannot refrain from staring in public or even people who know you but refuses to acknowledge that you now exist. I understand that the problem lies with them, but it is still unpleasant and unnecessary. As such, we have a long way to go with the social stigma, baby steps at a time, I remain confident that we will get there.
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?
Lucia: One thing for sure we are outnumbered by the LGBT. However, it is very candid of the LGB to take us under their wings but I am not sure there is much to promote within the LGBT group itself other than perhaps raising awareness of our kind. As such, the LGB group accepts us without truly understanding the 'T'. But I don't believe that this is a problem within the group, but rather I think it is the difference between LGB AND T that is more important to recognize.
Personally, I think that I would prefer to stay on board with LGBT and learn from the struggles of the LGB community so that we can apply the necessary strategies to help the T group promote our own interests. However, I can see that the general population seemed to get confused because they confuse gender identity with sexual orientation. After all, can we blame them? We are associated with a group that has been defining its rights for sexual orientation for decades. Still, I believe that we have lots to learn from the LGB community from the standpoint of their struggles faced over the years for reaching social acceptance abroad.
Although I see the positive value for learning, I may slightly fear being misrepresented or being misperceived as individuals with special sexual orientation needs. While the T is facing similar types of struggles and discrimination, gender identity will remain distinct from sexual orientation and should be advocated as such. Not sure that standing our own is advisable since we have much to learn and we have an interest to partner with others to better understand each other's needs. We may have a responsibility to stand on our own at some point... so that we can advocate our own rights and needs. Once again, gender identity does not equate to sexual identity hence why we are distinct.
Monika: What do you think in general about transgender news stories or characters which have been featured in films, newspapers, or books so far? 
Lucia: There are great stories of success for transgender individuals abroad. For safety reasons, we tend to be critical towards our own kind and I wish that we could embrace gender diversity more openly within our own community as well as the general public. 
Gender identity is not one size fits all, and it continues to sadden me to see a struggle for acceptance abroad and especially within our own kind.
I understand that we all have our aspirations and we are doing our best to grow as individuals, but I would like to see more positive stories, films, newspapers, and books embracing gender identity diversity. This is also a pet peeve of mine as I believe that it will be difficult to receive acceptance in society if we cannot become more united and work more cohesively as a team. Our success as a community depends on it.
Monika: Do you participate in any lobbying campaigns? Do you think transgender women can make a difference in politics?
Lucia: I will participate in the effort of trying to influence our Canadian politicians from time to time. Not so long ago, I sent a letter addressing our senators for pleading to adopt Bill C-279. I believe that we live in a democratic country that requires numbers to influence politics and for this reason, It is vitally important for transgender individuals to show support for their own interests first, and then for those of their fellow transgender friends.
Although I do not consider myself a “lobbying person”, I will not shy away from expressing our interest as a community when the opportunity presents itself because I understand that numbers matter.
Monika: Do you like fashion? What kind of outfits do you usually wear? Any special fashion designs, colors, or trends?
Lucia: Yes, I am considered fashionable with particular attention to detail. Proper accessories, matching colors, and attention to proper makeup are important. Also, proper grooming practices, teeth flossing, hair grooming, eyebrow, and proper make-up application is important. I have an interest in blending in more than fashion itself.
Mostly, I wish for carrying my functions normally without drawing much attention to myself. Blue, Red, Grey, and Black seem to dominate my wardrobe. I consider myself a normal woman who dresses for the occasion and follows her mood in order to decide what she wears.
Every morning is an ordeal to decide what to wear. I don't follow fashion design, but I am a woman who knows what she likes when she sees it. Having said this, I do have a particular interest in shoes, jewelry, makeup, and nails... Is this a surprise? lol
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.
Lucia: l am not opposed to transgender beauty pageants especially if it is for the great cause of raising money for charity and giving back to society. It can be informational as well for the general population.
Although I can understand where someone can perceive the intent for youth and beauty being taken too far which can lead to perhaps unrealistic personal expectations.
Nevertheless, it is beautiful to see and I can see the positive intent and if positioned properly, very constructive. As long as it does not become an obsessive behavior that can lead to unrealistic expectations of their own. Bottom line, if it can help us promote our community, contribute to society, and can entertain the general public, then why not. It can be a great cause and very self-rewarding for some.
I am convinced that we can all see beyond beauty and also we can appreciate the beauty both from within and externally. On that basis, I can support the cause and I am behind it.
Monika: Could you tell me about the importance of love in your life?
Lucia: Love is perhaps the most important aspect of my life. It starts from within, accepting and loving myself for who I am. I admit that love from others can be hard to find, but I remain hopeful that my soulmate will find me one day.
However, I also recognized that I do not need someone in my life to be happy, since I am happy on my own. Although, It would be nice to have someone to come home to and share intimacy with – and I don't mean sex. I don't need anyone to make me feel complete, but I do recognize needing love. It would be a great addition to my life. My transition has been my focus and finding love is to come after. I am realistic in my expectations and will accept only what is healthy and true love moving forward.
At the moment, I think it is difficult to find someone who can love me for who I am with the parts that I have. Soon this will change and I will feel complete as a person and have a greater desire to find the right partner to grow old and comfort each other. We all need to find love and we have it around us in different forms. For now, that is satisfying and gratifying for me. 
Monika: Are you working on any new projects now?
Lucia: l am contemplating ideas for a new book. One that ties the domain of artificial intelligence with that of the application of technology, science, and human behavior. Also, I thought of a book that touches my heart dearly, my passion for cooking.
Although indecisive at the moment, I continue to have much interest in growing my understanding of the transgender community and their specific needs. I will continue to invest time in advocating for our cause. I am not ruling out another transgender book outlining the rest of my journey as my transition to a woman continues. Too many ideas are floating in my head but I know they will become more concrete and focused over time. 
Also, recently I have taken an old friend's son who is terminally ill under my wing as his tutor. My goal is to train and educate him in the field of computer programming so that he can work as a freelancer at home and be self-sufficient.
One thing for sure, I seem to always have an ability for boiling up new ideas in my mind and there will be more in the future I am sure.
Monika: What would you recommend to all transgender girls struggling with gender dysphoria?
Lucia: Reach out for support should be their first step – groups, physician, psychiatrist, close friends, etc. It is so important. You are not alone and there are many like you who struggle. Surrounding ourselves with people that we can trust moving forward is so vitally important – be selective and realistic with your expectations. Only accept the people in your life that makes you feel that they are invested in your success.
Beware of those that are invested in their own success and do not try to do it all on your own. Especially, trust your feelings, and remember, you never need to justify to anyone how you feel. And you do not need to prove anything to anyone, follow your heart and your instincts. You are worth it and the world needs you as you!
Find your inner strength and inner peace, and you will find self-love. I did and so can you, I am not better than you. With love and care, Lucia!

All the photos: courtesy of Lucia Richardson.
© 2015 - Monika Kowalska

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