Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Interview with Alana Joy

Monika: Today it is my pleasure and honor to interview Alana Joy, a commodity trader, musician, photographer, hiker, writer, and dreamer, the author of the biographical book titled “Dreamy Morning” (2015). Hello Alana!
Alana: Hi Monika, thank you so much for asking me to do this interview. It is an honor and a privilege to be here.
Also, I want to thank you, Monika, for creating such a wonderful website. There is a wealth of knowledge and information here, thanks to the collective experiences of all of these wonderful ladies.
Monika: Could you say a few words about yourself?
Alana: As of this writing, I am a 60-year-old transwoman. As a nature lover, I am fortunate to live in Phoenix, Arizona, U.S.A., where the city has preserved many hundreds of acres of natural desert land, within the city limits. There are many hiking trails, which I hike often to keep in shape. I am a very artistic person, who loves music, photography, and the art of charting and trading.
As a small child, I felt I should be a girl, and wanted to be. At 13 or 14 years old I knew I needed Sexual Reassignment Surgery, although I still did not understand the root of these feelings. So, I dreamed of actually being a girl, and having surgery, and of living every day of my life as that girl. Today, Alana is living that dream. Is life easy now? No, but I am me, and there is not a day that goes by, that I am not still amazed, and thankful, to be living 24/7, as Alana.
Monika: Why did you decide to write your autobiography?
Alana: I was (still am) so tired of people accusing us of “choosing” to be transgender. I just had to tell my story, in hopes that it would maybe help at least a few people, parents of trans kids maybe, to better understand.
I also knew there were still people out there who thought they were the “only ones.” So I decided I had to really open up, and try to describe my experiences as accurately as I could. This was not an easy decision. I was actually terrified to tell my secrets to the world, as I was always a very quiet and private person. But I wanted so badly to make a difference, that I eventually knew that I just had to tell it all.
Also, the bathroom issue was (is) extremely important to me, especially for school children. As a small child in elementary school, I was scared to death of school restrooms. I don't remember wanting to use the girls' room, but I was terrified of the boys' room. Though I didn't understand why I knew those parts down there were not right. I was very embarrassed by them and had many, many, very long school days of holding it until I could get home. This then led to many urinary infections. It breaks my heart, that fifty years later, little has changed for trans children.
Those three above issues were my main reasons for writing. I also wanted to add a bit about drug and alcohol abuse, as I do not want to see any young people take that dead-end road. I made a lot of wrong turns myself!
I also wanted to attempt to portray my life the way it really was, as there were sometimes long periods of time in between thinking about being a girl. But it always returned!

Monika: Which aspects of your experience can be useful for other transwomen?
Alana: First off, just know, that you are not alone. There have been many before you, and there will be many after you. All of the feelings you are experiencing, you can bet, someone else, has also experienced.
Take baby steps! A lot of us want to transition overnight, but it is really better to take it one step at a time. You will get there a lot quicker than you think.
Don't be afraid to have surgery in Thailand. They have very modern facilities, and the hospital care I received, was as good, if not better, than what I've experienced here in the U.S. I fell in love with the nurses, and ladies who cared for me. They were so very good to me. But do your own research, and pick the surgeon that is best, for You. Of course, if you don't go to Thailand, you'll miss out on all of that wonderful Thai food!
Never, ever give up! Today may be a cold, dark dreary day, with seemingly no hope for tomorrow. But tomorrow truly is a new day, and sunshine is just around the corner.
Love yourself, I cannot say this enough! I hated myself, for most of my life, as I did not understand why I had these feelings of being a girl. I believe this has caused more damage to me than probably anything else. Always, always, Love yourself!
Monika: At what age did you transition into a woman yourself? Was it a difficult process? 
Alana: I started transitioning at 58 years old. Really, it was a pretty easy process for me overall. I am fortunate to have a wonderful therapist and have had wonderful supportive friends and family. I was very lonely, at the beginning, which was probably by far the worst part for me. But as far as actually transitioning, everything pretty much just fell into place.
My biggest difficulties have come since being post-op. Part of which has been post-op depression, as I was so focused on that surgery for so very long. I also had a very hard time getting my hormones balanced post-op, which was very stressful.
And I have had major setbacks in my business, which has caused deep worries, and now my old unwanted partner's depression has reemerged. So, I just need to get my personal life back on track, and then all will be great. Finally being post-op is just, beyond wonderful. But you still have life to deal with.
Monika: You underwent your Gender Reassignment Surgery in Bangkok, Thailand, the Mecca of transgender women. How did you choose the clinic? Was it a difficult choice? 
Alana: I researched everything I could find, on all of the North American and Thai surgeons, and contacted all of them. The cost was a big factor, but so was experience, and of course results. I just slowly narrowed it down to PAI, Preecha's Aesthetic Institute, in Bangkok. 
Dr. Preecha is the most experienced SRS surgeon on the planet and trained so many of the other surgeons. And the total cost, including travel expenses, was half that of the North American surgeons. Then when I met Michelle, who had just returned from PAI, I was totally convinced.
Monika: At that time of your transition, did you have any transgender role models that you followed?
Alana: My dear personal friend, Michelle, who blazed the trail to Thailand a few months before me, and helped me to verify my decision to go to PAI. Erica Keppler, who has done more than anyone I know locally, in fighting for our rights, Michelle, ex-military, and now a commercial pilot. These three ladies helped me immensely, in preparing for my SRS. I would not have been prepared without this wonderful sisters' help!
Also, my dear friend and sister, Lynn, who at the beginning of my transition pulled me aside, and told me that if I wanted to blend in with society, I should dress a bit more my age, and wear a little bit longer skirts. And she kept reminding me of this! (smiles)
Monika: Are there are any transgender ladies that you admire and respect now?
Alana: Oh, so many, in addition to my friends I just mentioned above. Honestly, I consider every transwoman that transitioned before me, a heroine. Every one of them, whether known, or unknown. They all blazed the trail for me. I just hope that I can leave that trail a little bit easier for the ladies who follow me.
Becky Allison, whose blog, the website was a huge factor in my finally coming out and transitioning. Nathine Goldenthal, a model, and probably the most knowledgeable person I've ever known, about the physical side of transitioning.
Donna Rose, author of “Wrapped In Blue,” an excellent book, which I want to read again. Annah Moore, musician, and author.
Regina Gazelle, who blazed the trail for us thirty (?) some years ago, under unbelievably harsh conditions, then founded a shelter for homeless trans people here in Phoenix. Antonia D'orsay, who has done so much work with homeless trans people, and is a walking encyclopedia of knowledge, on transgender subjects.

Alana enjoying the view from North Mt., Phoenix, AZ.

Miss Millie, whom I just recently met. Millie blazed the trail for us forty years ago. What an honor it was to meet her!
My friends, JJ. whose transition was halted by cancer, but still runs the long-running support group, T.G. Harmony. Sharon, who transitioned thirty years ago, and lost her entire family, and then also lost her career, because of it. 
Stephanie, who had the unbelievable courage, to come out while working as a police officer, and now leads the Trans-Spectrum Women's Support group. Dana, who formally led Trans-Spectrum. Briana Sandy, who became widely known, after being refused service in a local bar, because she was trans, and then was publicly scrutinized by the media. Raven, musician, songwriter, dancer. Kristina Bachman, author, Eileen, Billie, Mandi, Jenna, Shirley, Cassandra, Paula, Katie, Diana, Laura, Jessica, I could go on! Kristin Beck, Jenny Boylan, and many more! All uniquely talented, and wonderful women! I am blessed to call so many of them my sisters and friends!
Monika: What was the hardest thing about your coming out?
Alana: Writing, and then sending off, my coming out letter. I put it off until I worried so much I was experiencing migraines, which I hadn't had in years.
My oldest first cousin, an entomologist, was first to respond. He said, “well you're just going through a metamorphosis.” I thought that was a classic response!
I had it so much easier than most, though. My parents were gone, as were my aunts and uncles. So it was just cousins, who mostly live far away, and a hand full of longtime friends that I had to come out to. I was also self-employed, so that was one huge worry I did not have to face.
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?
Alana: This has been a popular subject lately, with some on both sides wanting us to break off from the LGB. My personal view is mixed. There is strength in numbers, in which we are better off united. But with the LGB's being sexual orientation, versus the T, being gender orientation, there is a lot of confusion among cis people who do not understand the differences. It's hard to know which is really best for all, but for now, at least, I am for staying together. Personally, I have had total support here locally, from those on the LGB side, of which I have many friends.
PFLAG is a great organization, which I just heard has officially opened its doors to also include everyone beyond the T.
It looks like we have the fight of our lives coming up here in 2016. Many states have anti LGBT and anti-trans bills. My home state of Indiana has a bill that would fine us $1000, and up to a year in jail, for using the proper restroom for our gender. So, if I visited my family that I haven't seen in 5 years, and I used a public restroom, I could end up doing a year in jail, if this bill passes. It's these things that make me so emotional. I just don't understand the cruelty of these people!
Monika: What do you think in general about transgender news stories?
Alana: Caitlyn Jenner has greatly increased awareness, and I have seen many more new people coming out since her coming out. So this is good. But she has also said some things which were hurtful to the community. I am sure, none of it was intentional, and I wish her the best with her transition. I just want people to know that for the rest of us, transitioning is a very different world than her world. In other words, reality TV, is not reality, in my opinion.
When you have heard personally first hand, so many of your sisters telling with tears in their eyes, how they've lost their families. How many you know that have been homeless, and how many have lost their careers because of transitioning. And those who have been severely beaten. And when you've sat beside a sister in the hospital, who is under strict suicide watch, and very fortunate to still be alive. That's, the reality the public needs to hear!
Monika: Do you think transgender women can make a difference in politics?
Alana: Yes, and I believe we will have more transgender women in politics in the future.
I also want to add, for politicians, they need to be familiar with much more than just trans issues. I think this is something a lot of us forget. What good are trans or equal rights, if we all lose our freedom through an act of war?
Monika: Do you like fashion? What kind of outfits do you usually wear? Any special fashion designs, colors, or trends?
Alana: You won't see me on the cover of Vanity Fair, LOL! I am not one to keep up with the latest fashions. I am a simple country girl, at heart. Although I do wear dresses occasionally, you are much more likely to find me in jeans, or a denim skirt. I guess you could say, I'm a denim girl. (smiles)

Just a selfie.

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.
Alana: As far as the beauty pageants themselves, I really do not have enough personal knowledge about them to comment.
But, the overall obsession with youth, and beauty, I will comment on. It is something we have been programmed into. All women are programmed every time we pick up a magazine, turn on a TV, or go online. We are told we need this product, or that product, or we will not be attractive.
They have drilled this crap, into us, so that we just unconsciously believe it. This is a problem I believe for all of society, but it is especially damaging to trans women. We want to see a beautiful, young, pretty, woman in that mirror. But how realistic is that, for a lot of us?
I believe this is one of the top causes of depression, and probably suicide, among trans women, next to being disowned by family. True beauty, is what's on the inside, not, our outside appearance. But we are constantly trained to think otherwise. Just one reason I do not watch TV. I do not miss it either! But I still have a problem with this. Some days I think I look pretty good. Other days, I just want to crawl under a blanket and hide. But realistically, we have to get to the point where we accept ourselves as we are, and to love ourselves for the unique and wonderful person that we are.
Monika: Could you tell me about the importance of love in your life?
Alana: Love, a word with so many different meanings. To many, love means a relationship, and to some it means sex. I would love, to be in a relationship with someone to do things with. Take trips together, go hiking together, go out to dinner, go to movies, or sit at home and watch a movie, while sharing a big bowl of popcorn, cuddling under a blanket together to keep warm, and falling asleep in each other's arms. Cooking together, and sharing housework chores would be much more fun, than doing them alone. Laughing together, crying together, pulling each other up when we're down. These things would be more important to me than sex, although that could partly change, with that very special person. (smiles)
But what does Love truly mean to me? This enters the spiritual side of me. It's Unconditional Love, that means the most. This is what I seek myself, is to Love everyone, and everything, unconditionally, including myself. To see beauty, in everyone, and everything, including myself. If all of the worlds could just live with this kind of love for each other. How changed, it would be. I believe in the power of Love. I believe that just a tiny bit of Love can lead to huge changes, for the better.
Monika: Are you working on any new projects now?
Alana: Since publishing “Dreamy Morning,” I'm trying to focus on my own life for a while. But I am getting ideas for possibly another book, someday. Still writing poems and music. Still attending support meetings, to hopefully help others in some small way.
Monika: What would you recommend to all transgender girls struggling with gender dysphoria?
Alana: Accept yourself for the person you are. Be proud, of who you are. The sooner you can put the denial behind you, the better.
If at all possible, find a good, experienced, transgender therapist. Opening up to a good therapist is one of the absolute best gifts that you can give yourself.
Find a way to start transitioning now, or at least start making plans now. Don't put it off. The longer you put it off, the more of your true life, you are giving up. This is the one thing I would do differently. I would have found a way, somehow, years ago.
And when you look into that mirror, see the beautiful, wonderful person that you are inside. Don't allow yourself to see anything else! Smile, and say, “I love you.”
Surround yourself with people who lift you up. You don't need those who bring you down. Sometimes we just have to let go of some people. Don't be afraid to do so, it is their loss! 
Love yourself. Always, always, Love Yourself!
Monika: Alana, thank you for the interview!

All the photos: courtesy of Alana Joy
© 2016 - Monika Kowalska

No comments:

Post a Comment

Search This Blog