Saturday, 19 March 2016

Interview with Deena Kaye Rose


Monika: Today it is my pleasure and honor to interview Deena Kaye Rose, an American writer, lecturer, one of the most recognized Nashville songwriters of her time with over 400 songs published and around 200 of those recorded and released worldwide, the author of the biographical book titled “Some Days Are Diamonds” (2016). Hello Deena!
Deena: Hi, Monika! It is an honor to be invited to share a bit of my humble story with you. Thanks, bunches.
Monika: You are a woman of so many talents! Could you say a few words about your fantastic career?
Deena: Well, I appreciate your very kind words. I have often thought that even a stray dog finds a ham-bone now and then! So I have stumbled upon some minor successes in the world of entertainment.
Being creative is absolutely the most important part of my life; whether that is writing songs, performing on stage, or recreating myself as a woman. Having lived in Los Angeles, New York City, and Nashville, the world of show business is filled with so many inspirational people. My intent was to TRY and write songs, rather than not make the attempt and spend the rest of my days wondering if I might have done it - but I didn’t give it a chance.

Nashville Publicity Photo.

Monika: Most people remember your songs written for Johnny Cash. How do you recollect your co-operation with him?
Deena: Johnny Cash heard a tape of about seven of my compositions and he called me. He said, “Hello, this is Johnny Cash,” and at first I thought it was one of my friends trying to prank me. He asked me to come out and talk to him.
Well, I was about 5 miles away and I think I made it in about four minutes! He praised my tunes and said they were “not just a bunch of words.” John signed me to his publishing company and gave me a draw of $100 a week.
We had some terrific talks, one on one. He recorded and released four of my songs, including his number one recording of my song, “Any Old Wind That Blows.” The best advice he ever gave me was “Sing Louder!”.
Monika: Did being a session musician help you to understand the needs and expectations of artists waiting for your songs?
Deena: Very much so. And it gave me a close relationship with other professional Nashville musicians. These girls and guys gave me a lot of tips concerning recording artists who might be looking for a particular type of material. 
Monika: What is your favorite song that you wrote? Where did you get your inspiration from?
Deena: My songs are like my children. While each tune may have unique qualities and a special history that I like, I could not choose one over another any more than I could choose one child over another.
I always feel that I have two favorite songs: the last one and the next one! The excitement an artist has for a new creation is very exhilarating. And when that excitement wears off, well, the creative muse nudges me with another idea.
My inspiration has often come from the art of others. Mary Cassatt’s painting of “Portrait of a Young Woman in Green” might touch me and leave me with such a glow that I want to create, too; not to copy her genius but to make something with my own talents. Out of that feeling, might come a new song.
And I love to speak with persons who give me a line or tell me a story that becomes a nice musical work, to express what they might feel but cannot say.

Late 1970s in NYC.

Monika: Did the transition change your artistic perception of the world? What does it mean to be a transgender artist?
Deena: Now, I am artistically Fearless! A lot of my time when I was trying to be a guy was consumed with the paranoid acts of, what I felt was self-protection.
Monika: Contemporary music has produced a new wave of transgender female artists, just to name a few of them: Mina Caputo of Life of Agony, Laura Jane Grace of Against Me!, Marissa Martinez of Cretin, Amber Taylor of The Sexual Side Effects, Namoli Brennet, Sissy Début, and Jennifer Leitham, and many others. Are we going to see more and more transgender artists in mainstream music?
Deena: I celebrate them all! Wonderful artistic courage, every one of them. When I met Jennifer Leitham, I told her she had inspired me in a very deep way in how, after transition, she had publicly embraced her achievements before transition, her musical career as a guy, She said, “Well, I really didn’t have a choice!”
Too often the impression I have gotten through the years is that Transgender folks have all been incapacitated by gender dysphoria, that we were hiding in a shuttered room somewhere just waiting to transition so that our lives could begin. But that is certainly not true. I am thrilled to see so many post-transition people coming out to claim their successes in their previous personas.
Just to mention a few as examples, Martine Rothblatt, the founder of Sirius Satellite Radio, yes, Laura Jane Grace, already a star as the male lead singer in the band, Against Me, slipped seamlessly into the same spot as her female self, the recent story that the Wachowskis, the genius movie makers are both transgender, and, of course, Caitlyn Jenner. Now everyone can say I knew someone before she transitioned!
Yes, I do hope we see more and more transgender musical artists and would hope that someday the TG part of a performer’s story will be a very minor deal when really great music should be the main thing.
I once heard the legendary guitarist, Chet Atkins, say, “There are only two kinds of music: good and bad!” And I am eager to tie my humble, musical accomplishment to the true fact that I am transgender, that even a country music guy from Nashville who wrote “East Bound And Down” from the Burt Reynolds film, “Smokey and the Bandit,” is not immune to the state of being Trans. It chooses us, not the other way around.

Performing on a Nashville Network TV Show.

Monika: What is the present situation of transgender women in American society? 
Deena: We are more visible.
Our bravery often comes from others who have taken to the internet to wrap collective arms around one another, to provide support to our trans sisters and brothers.
Being a “mature” lady myself, I grew up in a time when being a person who wanted to be the opposite gender was about the worse social stigma that one could possess. With the advent of the internet, we find, hey, I am not the only one.
There is a great Barry Manilow song (which I wish I had written but didn’t) called, “All the Time” is certainly a great tune about feeling alone when others like me, were there “All The Time.” I recommend a listen. This tune is about the US.
Monika: Why did you decide to write your autobiography?
Deena: For that same reason of community solidarity that I spoke of before.
When I met Kristin Beck, she told me there was no reason for me to allude to my old dead name; that I could move to Seattle, transition, change all of my gender markers and no one need ever know. I said, “Yes, Kristin, but I would know. And it would be unfair to my TransSisters if I were to choose living in stealth myself while others like Kristin Beck are putting themselves and their lives on the line in order to achieve gender equality for all.”
So my story is my attempt to say to others like myself who have struggled with the idea of transition and what there might be to lose, that all of the negative circumstances that I had imagined never came to pass! And worrying about those “maybes” was an exercise in wasted energy and wasted tears.
And the worse day I have had since my transition to a full-time lady is better than the best day I had in the dozen or so years before that. I was prepared for disappointment— I was not really prepared to be SO VERY HAPPY!
Each morning, I look in the mirror and I think, I am a woman! Most times, I start to tear up just from the very emotional memory of feeling that I would never see this reflection of myself. “Hello, Lady. Where have you been?” She was there all the time.
A transfriend once said to me, “You know, you have to learn to act like a woman.” I said, “No, I have ALWAYS been a woman. I am just learning to act like a Lady!”

Her book via Amazon.

Monika: Which aspects of your experience can be useful for other transwomen?
Deena: Well, as I have said, I am a “mature” lady, and being such, I would tell anyone who has late-in-life doubts about transition, that it is only the wrong time when there is no MORE time.
I am delighted to be an older woman, for if I am left with twenty more years, twenty more months, or twenty more minutes, this is the right thing to do with the rest of my life. And I am delighted to know my true soul has finally come out to meet the world.
Monika: At what age did you transition into a woman yourself? Was it a difficult process? 
Deena: As I said, I am a late in life Lady! I began HRT about six years ago and around that time I began to rid myself of material ties to everything: I sold a property, had yard sales, gave away “stuff,” sold musical instruments on Craigslist, and made tons of donations to charities.
I had come to Nashville with everything I owned in my old blue Chevy and $800 in cash in a Hershey’s chocolate tin. My plan was to leave Tennessee in much the same way— only in a different gender. I put everything in digital form or online or in mail forwarding plans and took all of my leftover boy clothes to Goodwill. All of my music accounts were online; my credit cards were all paperless. All of my banking was now online except for one little local account for petty cash that I closed out for cash to use for travel money. It was a little over $1000.

END OF PART 1

 
All the photos: courtesy of Deena Kaye Rose.
© 2016 - Monika Kowalska

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