Saturday, 25 February 2017

Interview with Claire Michelle

Monika: Today’s interview will be with Claire Michelle, an American musician, artist, and video blogger that showcases her talents and discusses the finer points of transitioning on YouTube. Hello Claire!
Claire: Hi Monika! Thanks so much for documenting the history of so many transgender people, you really are doing us all a great service!
Monika: Could you say a few words about yourself?
Claire: I’m a Seattleite and the only transgender musician in Seattle at this time. I do some band management for other local artists and have quite a few smaller projects as well such as my YouTube channel!

The single cover.

Monika: You have a single coming out soon, what’s that about?
Claire: I do! I wrote a song for the Transgender Day of Remembrance last year and decided to release it as a single! It’s titled “Fall” and explores the relationship between death and grief. The song is inspired by the death of my father and writing it helped me find the motivation to go on “for him” rather than “without him”.
I think it speaks well to the transgender community as well since the death rate is so unfortunately high for trans people.
Monika: I am sure you get many questions from your fans. What do they ask for?
Claire: As I’m one of few transgender musicians, the majority of my fans ask me questions about singing and performing. I get a lot of people telling me I’m an inspiration to them, it’s a pretty amazing feeling.
Recently someone covered my song “Out of the Shadows” and told me in a note that I helped her realize singing and performing was possible even after transition. That one really tugged at my heartstrings.
Monika: What was the strangest question that you answered?
Claire: The strangest has not come from a fan, but from haters. I feel the majority of them are not even sure what they are asking, but they feel the need to add their two cents.
I typically reply with an educational response doing my best to not take their comments personally and to avoid conflict. I want trans people to be seen as respectful and nice people (like we are) not the stereotype the world would like us to be.
Monika: Why did you decide to share your transition details on YouTube?
Claire: I always felt close with the platform. With my videography skills and a big journey ahead of me, I felt it was only right to document my life for myself. I really started the channel for myself so I could look back on myself all those years ago, I had no idea it was going to get as popular as it has!

Claire modeling for her music.

Monika: Do you write scenarios for your videos or do you just improvise?
Claire: I typically have an idea in mind, depending on the depth of the film I may or may not write a script. My “Trans Singing 101” series was all scripted as I didn’t want to repeat information and really focus on helping trans women find their feminine singing voice!
Some films like my travel vlog are not scripted, but I do like to find some shots that are created in a way to draw the viewer in further.
Monika: What was the hardest thing about your coming out?
Claire: I was afraid of the unknown. I was afraid of how much my life would change. I feared the changes in my personal and dating life... Where I would end up. Would people take me seriously? Would I take myself seriously? A lot of my transition was about facing personal fears and not so much about those around me.
Monika: At which stage of the transition are you right now?
Claire: I’m nearing 2.5 years now, and well past the point of social transition. I’m no longer seeing my male self in the mirror which is wonderful for my dysphoria!
I’m looking into surgeries now, but being an artist and entrepreneur surgery seems like something well out of reach… Maybe someday!
Monika: Are you satisfied with the results of the hormone therapy?
Claire: Very! I find that one should not rush to FFS when they start hormones, there are a lot of changes that happen...

Claire performing at the Columbia City Theater in Seattle on 1/27/17.

Monika: Are there any transgender role models that you follow?
Claire: I have one role model in the trans community, Danni Askini; a Seattle trans activist and Founder of the Gender Justice League. I’m inspired by her work ethic and her level-headedness when faced with bigots.
Monika: Are you active in politics? Do you participate in any lobbying campaigns? Do you think transgender women can make a difference in politics?
Claire: Trans women can make a difference, and so can trans men! In fact, anyone can make a difference if they believe and work hard enough for it. I’m not so active, but I do march once in a while, or participate in local rallies from time to time.
Monika: What do you think about the present situation of transgender women in your country?
Claire: The United States has been tarnished. The president and his vice president reflect where this country is headed. I fear trans people will be losing privilege left and right, but I have hope for our fight.
The United States is funny in this regard since there are pockets of very liberal-minded communities and then conservative communities scattered about as well.
Monika: Are you involved in the life of your local LGBTQ community?
Claire: I am! I typically perform at the events my trans siblings put on and try to bring more attention to LGBTQ arts through my own video project called 12for12.
I also try to raise awareness of trans people by playing my music on the radio, TV, and local heteronormative events.

Claire modeling for her music.

Monika: Could you tell me about the importance of love in your life?
Claire: I’ve tried and failed many times to find love. I haven’t given up, but my hope is dwindling. I try and focus to find happiness through what I have, not what I want.
Monika: What would you recommend to transgender women that are afraid of transition, discrimination, and hatred?
Claire: It will be scary, it will be different, it may seem impossible, but it’s worth it. The happiness you’ll experience is unlike any other and the peace of mind you’ll have is beyond comprehension until you actually experience the inner peace you find after the transition. 
Monika: What is your next step in the present time and where do you see yourself within the next 5-7 years?
Claire: My next step is to finish this cup of hot cocoa, head home, and fall asleep! Thank god for late-night coffee shops! In 5-7 years, I see myself being a crucial part of the Seattle music scene in both my music and business career, I’m excited about my future!
Monika: Claire, it was a pleasure to interview you. Thanks a lot!
Claire: Thanks so much for having me.

All the photos: courtesy of Claire Michelle.
© 2017 - Monika Kowalska

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