Friday, 17 February 2017

Interview with Andrea Chrysanthe

Monika: Today it is my pleasure and honor to interview an American transgender musician and video blogger: Andrea Chrysanthe, who documents her transition on YouTube. Hello Andrea!
Andrea: Hello Monika, it's good to be here.
Monika: Could you say a few words about yourself?
Andrea: I always had diverse interests so I'm a licensed x-ray technician, medical assistant, and phlebotomist, nearly completed with my bachelor’s degree in physics and teaching, I also am a musician, and audio engineer. I've also done the majority of my own tattoos, myself.
Monika: You like tattoos? You are not afraid that someday you may need to remove them and it will be difficult to do so?
Andrea: I did most of my own tattoos, as I wanted to be able to do personalize them more to reflect my thoughts and experiences more accurately. While I've thought about the implications of removing them, I don't think I will because they've become a part of who I am and they represent a side of me that would otherwise not be visible. I feel I still have a lot more to do.

Trying to accept my masculinity led to many
 experimental looks to try to feel comfortable in
 my own skin. This photo was when I was at the
height of my beard phase. I feel its probably the
most striking comparison to how I look now.

Monika: Why did you decide to share your transition details on YouTube?
Andrea: Videos of other transgender women were a tremendous source of inspiration when I started this journey; I wanted to give something back to the transgender community, and let them know they were not alone.
Monika: At which stage of the transition are you right now?
Andrea: Oh, I'm at about 2 and a half years of HRT, with 7 sessions of laser and over 50hrs electrolysis. This past year I needed cervical and lumbar surgeries, so I'm just rehabilitating until my next authorization.
Monika: Are you satisfied with the results of the hormone therapy?
Andrea: It is so different having estrogen and progesterone in the body instead of testosterone, and I felt like changing my endocrine hormones made me a calmer, more complete individual. That's not to say I wouldn't have preferred more breast growth, haha, but yes, I'm satisfied with my results thus far.
Monika: Did you undergo FFS? When I look at your previous self, you have achieved a lot. You look very feminine...
Thank you! I never did facial feminization surgery, and I don't think I will. I got lucky with a face I'm comfortable with. This isn't it say I think I'm perfect, I feel like my hairline could come down, my jaw could be shaved, and a blepharoplasty would be nice, but again I don't think I will pursue those surgeries in the future.
Monika: You have reduced your weight too...
Andrea: When I first got on hormone replacement therapy I weighed a good 220 pounds. I felt like my transition would suit me best if I might take my weight down to something a bit healthier. Ultimately I lost 70 pounds by cutting out sugar for a while and refraining from a lot of fried foods. I ate healthier portion sizes and decided to work out lightly and do more stretching and yoga. Losing that much weight also has an effect on my facial structure, which eliminated the need for facial feminization surgery.
Monika: Which aspects of your experience could be used by other transgender women planning their transitions?
Andrea: I transitioned slowly because I was working at urgent care, and I felt like it made it easier on the patients. I've also had significant delays in receiving care from state health insurance.
So overall, I'd say to the transgender women who are coming out: learn to love yourself for who you are today, and accept whatever quality of life improvements come your way as they come. Don't postpone happiness because you feel like you're incomplete. Practice mindfulness.

Going full-time female meant trying
to discover my own feminine style.

Monika: What do you think about the present situation of transgender women in your country?
Andrea: In the United States, I know many other transgender women who are uncertain about the federal government's musings to de-federalize transgender equality and give it to state's rights, especially when North Carolina banned transgender people from using the restroom of their preferred gender.
Monika: At what age did you transition into a woman yourself? Was it a difficult process?
Andrea: I began my transition when I was 31, and I think it was "time, slipping" that sparked me to finally make it happen. It took me a while to find doctors that could help. 
Monika: At that time of your transition, did you have any transgender role models that you followed?
Andrea: So many! I'm hard-pressed to choose one particular role model because it was the boldness of their decision to transition that inspired me to take a chance and come out properly.
Monika: Are there are any transgender ladies that you admire and respect now?
Andrea: I respect Laverne Cox for her advocacy in the LGBT community, definitely.
Monika: What was the hardest thing about your coming out?
Andrea: Explaining myself to my family, and my 12yr old son about my transition. I lost contact with much of my family, but there are supportive members as well. My son has been very understanding and I'm proud of his compassion and acceptance.
Monika: What do you think about transgender stories or characters which have been featured in films, newspapers, or books so far?
Andrea: There was one I saw recently, "Boy Meets Girl" by director Eric Schaeffer, which I felt was a cute story. In my opinion, there is still so much in the media with incendiary overtones; treating transgender as something to poke fun at or be comedically treated. I don't have a large range of trans films or books, to date.

2 years HRT.

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?
Andrea: I think so, as many of the rights we fight for (bathroom freedom, updated legal documents, etc.), aren't the same as the LGB members. I think it is important to note that "LGBT" is now being commonly replaced by "LGBTQ", to represent Queer individuals who do not identify as either male or female or switch betwixt them.
My fiancé is queer, and in Oregon, queer individuals can get their gender marker on their identification documents to reflect a neutral ("them, they") gender identity. I think this sort of inclusion of diversity is a good thing and should be embraced.
Monika: Are you active in politics? Do you participate in any lobbying campaigns? Do you think transgender women can make a difference in politics?
Andrea: I do think we can make a difference, and for my part, I hope to be able to contribute to the LGBTQ community more now that my spinal surgeries are over. The YouTube channel is a good starting point, but I'd like to do more.
Monika: Do you like fashion? What kind of outfits do you usually wear? Any special fashion designs, colors, or trends?
Andrea: Nothing particular, I just go with the flow, and that generally means something practical and comfortable at home, and something maybe a little cuter to go out. I like camis and skinny jeans, but those are among many others. I wear a lot of black, haha.
Monika: What do you think about transgender beauty pageants?
Andrea: Strange. I guess I think any pageant is strange though.

Andrea Chrysanthe's music can be heard on YouTube.

Monika: Could you tell me about the importance of love in your life?
Andrea: I'm madly in love with my partner, and always hoped I'd find someone like them. We have an open/polyamorous relationship, because it suits us best, and because we have a lot of love. Couldn't be happier about that aspect of life. I feel you have to be true to yourself in order to expect another to love your true self.
Monika: Many transgender ladies write their memoirs. Have you ever thought about writing such a book yourself?
Andrea: Absolutely. Writing a book is on my list of to-do's.
Monika: Are you working on any new projects now?
Andrea: Music, mostly; my partner and I are recording now, and beginning to organize our focus. I believe more YouTube videos will be in order, as we want to record some music videos.
Monika: What kind of music do you play?
Andrea: I used to play a kind of pop grunge inspired by Nirvana. After trying out multiple bandmates, I decided to do a lot of the recording on my own and ended up getting into audio engineering.
While I've played piano since I was a kid, I also dabbled with the clarinet and violin, then got into guitar and bass. Recording forced me to pick up the drums, and these days I dabble with anything I can get my hands on like the cello and now an organ. I had my own recording studio for many years and did live sound including front-of-house and back-of-house engineering. I also tried to do a bit heavier stuff inspired by Tool and Opeth, but these days I've been a bit more experimental, exploring the more ambient in hypnotic melodies wrapped up and bands like Tycho and Near the Parenthesis.
My music is up on YouTube, and while I'm still working on getting all of the style tuning together and the vocals recorded working with another vocalist, my fiancé, my uploaded catalog can be heard by checking out my page by searching Andrea Chrysanthe.
Monika: What would you recommend to all transgender girls struggling with gender dysphoria?
Andrea: Breathe. Also, avoid the mistake of thinking you are hopeless without changes. Learn to love yourself if you want others to love you. Also, reach out to someone you trust, or a hotline if you feel like hurting yourself or others. You are not alone.
Monika: Andrea, thank you for the interview!

All the photos: courtesy of Andrea Chrysanthe.
© 2017 - Monika Kowalska

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