Tuesday 7 February 2017

Interview with Melody Maia Monet

Monika: Today’s interview will be with Melody Maia Monet, an American video blogger who shares her experiences as a transgender woman on YouTube. Hello Melody!
Melody: Hello Monika! Thank you for asking little ‘ol me for an interview.
Monika: Could you say a few words about yourself?
Melody: Sure. I am a 46 yr old and five years post-op trans woman living in Orlando, Florida. I was born in NYC to Latino immigrant parents and grew up on Long Island in New York State. I went to Princeton University, which is where I met my ex-wife. We were married for 15 years and have a teenage son. We divorced after I came out as transgender, so I moved to Florida where I have a family. I love it here!
Monika: Why did you decide to share your life on YouTube?
Melody: I noticed that many of the more prominent transgender people on YouTube are young and tend to be straight and into a glamour type of look. I saw lots of transition-based channels with “this is me after 3 months on hormones” and a lot of sadness and resentment in the mix. I wanted to create a positive-minded channel focused on the everyday realities of my transgender and lesbian life.
I want to be “real” in the sense that I look like your neighbor who didn’t spend hours applying makeup or has had a lot of expensive plastic surgery. Someone you get to know well enough that you are able to have very frank and honest conversations about things you wouldn’t dare ask most other trans people.

Monika: I am sure you get many questions from your YouTube fans. What do they ask for?
Melody: Probably the number one question I get asked is how I developed my voice. I recently made a video on that topic to address the questions. I also get a lot of offline messages asking for advice on transition. Occasionally I get asked if I’m single or for my hand in marriage. lol.
Monika: My favorite video of yours is "How I Grew Big Boobs". Not everything is dependent on hormones. So there is hope for some of us ... :)
Melody: I was fortunate enough to have some breast development before hormones, but I grew a significant amount after starting estrogen therapy as well. Enough that I didn’t need to get implants. That, and a good pushup bra, has led to what you see. Most of this happened after middle age for me, so there is always hope.
Monika: You do not avoid intimate questions. The viewer can learn a lot about your first female orgasm, new vagina problems, or painful dilation ...
Melody: I want my channel to be a place where people can go to have these questions answered without defensiveness and embarrassment. Many people have never met a transgender person, and these aren’t things they should be asking upon first meeting us either. I’ve heard these questions a million times and am difficult to embarrass, so I can fill the role of that close transgender friend people wish they had to satisfy their curiosity about these topics.

Photo taken at the Aloft Hotel in Downtown Orlando by Meredith
Talusan to accompany her Buzzfeed article on the Pulse tragedy.

Monika: What was the strangest question that you answered?
Melody: Somebody asked me the other day where exactly my urine comes out of after my surgery. There is a lot of curiosity and confusion out there with few places to find answers. 
Monika: Do you write scenarios for your videos or do you just improvise?
Melody: Mostly I improvise, although I have made a general outline once or twice. I know the topic I want to speak about, go over things in my head that I want to cover, and then improvise the specifics. I write that way too. I almost never make an outline and just trust my brain will order it in a structured way.
Monika: At which stage of the transition are you right now?
Melody: I completed my own transition with bottom surgery five years ago. I’m just living my life as a woman who got here by the scenic route.
Monika: Are you satisfied with the results of the hormone therapy?
Melody: Yes. For someone who was nearly 40 before I took my first hormone pill, my results exceeded what I reasonably expected to happen. I do wish I had wider hips and a thinner waist but is any woman ever satisfied with her body?
Monika: Are there any transgender role models that you follow?
Melody: Before I started to transition, but after I came to the realization that I am transgender, I read “She’s Not There,” by Jenny Boylan. That book changed my life because I realized all the feelings I had growing up were shared by someone else. I clung to the stories in that book like a roadmap during my transition. She’s my hero. I’ve been fortunate enough to meet her a few times and even got her to sign my dog-eared copy of her book.
Monika: I have also watched your video with Caitlyn Jenner. She is one of the most prominent transwomen in the USA...
Melody: …and maybe most controversial. I was able to meet her briefly at the GLAAD Media Awards in NYC last year. Even in a room full of celebrities like Robert DeNiro and Mariah Carey, she was a rockstar. She was personally very nice to me, however, I do not agree with her politics at all. Hopefully, she’ll use her access to conservative thinkers to broaden their education on transgender issues.

Monika: What was the hardest thing about your coming out?
Melody: Telling my then eight-year-old son that I am really a “girl.” My ex-wife and I consulted a therapist beforehand and then told him I was going to transition in terms he could understand. We also had to tell him that we were getting a divorce. I’ve come out to many people since then, but that was the only time I wanted to die on the spot.
Monika: What do you think about the present situation of transgender women in your country?
Melody: It’s a very scary time to be transgender in the United States right now. Just as we were making headway with wins in the courtroom, guidance from the federal government to respect our gender identity, and medical protections in the Affordable Care Act, it all changed seemingly overnight. First with the passage of these “bathroom bills” in places like North Carolina, and then in the election of an administration that has no qualms with limiting our rights in the name of “religious freedom.” Nearly a dozen states have introduced legislation similar to North Carolina’s. What may happen in the future is scary.
Monika: What do you think about transgender stories or characters which have been featured in films, newspapers, or books so far?
Melody: I think we still have a long way to go. There have been some notable recent developments with shows like Transparent and Orange Is the New Black, but more often than not, we are misgendered in newspapers and characterized as psycho killers in popular media. There is a lot of public fear surrounding trans women, despite the fact that we are the ones who are usually at risk of violence, and some of that fear is the responsibility of Hollywood. Who wouldn’t be afraid of us after watching Silence of the Lambs, or more recently, Pretty Little Liars?

Femmes and Follies show at The Honey Pot
in Tampa, FL.

Monika: Are you active in politics? Do you participate in any lobbying campaigns? Do you think transgender women can make a difference in politics?
Melody: I have worked with Equality Florida to speak to state Republican congresspeople about a proposed bathroom bill in Florida. That bill has been tabled, so I guess I would have to say that yes, we can make a difference.
Monika: Are you involved in the life of your local LGBTQ community?
Melody: Yes, very much so. I work at an LGBTQ nightclub, photograph at Girls in Wonderland events during Gay Days, and march with different organizations during Orlando Pride.
I have also sung with Orlando Gay Chorus, including at a vigil held after the Pulse Nightclub attack here this past June, and helped with additional fundraising efforts after Pulse. I guess you could say my name is known around town in those circles.
Monika: The transgender cause is usually manifested together with the other LGBTQ communities. Being the last letter in this abbreviation, is the transgender community able to promote its own cause within the LGBTQ group?
Melody: It has been difficult, but we need to be known and speak to those who would forget about us within our community. I am very out partly because I want to be able to do that. I write a transgender opinion column in the local LGBTQ newspaper called Watermark in order to bring awareness to our issues. Most of the time the problem comes down to ignorance instead of malice. 
Monika: Do you like fashion? What kind of outfits do you usually wear? Any special fashion designs, colors, or trends?
Melody: I have absolutely no interest in fashion. 
Monika: What do you think about transgender beauty pageants?
Melody: I spend no time thinking about them. I suppose anything that portrays us in a positive light and as attractive is a good thing, but I have no idea if transgender beauty pageants do that effectively.
Monika: Could you tell me about the importance of love in your life?
Melody: Love is very important and is the missing element so far. I am fortunate enough to have many friends who love me, but I do want to get married again someday. At the moment, I am single and have been for nearly four years. I hope to change that this year.
Monika: Many transgender ladies write their memoirs. Have you ever thought about writing such a book yourself?
Melody: Every trans person I know has been asked to write a memoir by their friends at some point. There just isn’t much of a market in it, so I haven’t had much interest. I would rather tell my story in my videos.

Melody Maia's Facebook.

Monika: What would you recommend to transgender women that are afraid of early transition, discrimination and hatred? 
Melody: Take time to build an effective support structure for yourself before you transition. You will face many challenges and better not to go through them alone. Friends, other trans people, therapy, and medical expertise are all necessary components. If you can’t find those things where you live, if you are able, go to where you can find them. If not, use the Internet as your lifeline. This process is not for the faint of heart.
Monika: What is your next step in the present time and where do you see yourself within the next 5-7 years? 
Melody: I’m trying to develop my channel into a larger platform to help with my transgender advocacy. I am also nurturing a music career that I hope will one day be a viable profession. My dream is to be able to combine these one day and do it full-time. I hope in 5-7 years that will be a reality.
Monika: My pen friend Gina Grahame wrote to me once that we should not limit our potential because of how we were born or by what we see other transsexuals and transgender people doing. Our dreams should not end on an operating table; that’s where they begin. Do you agree with this?
Melody: Very much so, yes. I’ve been asked by many trans women after my surgery if I was now happy. The answer is not yet, but I have now given myself a shot at happiness that was not possible before. If all it took to be happy was to possess a vagina, all cisgender women would be happy. That isn’t the case. The race did not end on that operating table. It began and I now feel comfortable enough in my skin to run it to my greatest potential.
Monika: Melody, it was a pleasure to interview you. Thanks a lot!
Melody: Thank you!

All the photos: courtesy of Melody Maia Monet.
© 2017 - Monika Kowalska

Search This Blog