Tuesday 28 March 2017

Interview with Brianna Tuerff

Monika: Today’s interview will be with Brianna Tuerff, a transgender woman who makes electronic and instrumental metal music under the alias ‘Brianna and the VSTs’. She documents her transition on Reddit.com as Neonnimrod and on YouTube with her channel BriannaIsGreat. Hello Brianna!
Brianna: Hello! Thanks for having me!
Monika: Could you say a few words about yourself?
Brianna: Well, my love and passion is music. Everything to do with writing it, playing it, recording and producing it, etc. The science of sound has always fascinated me. My first serious musical project was a comedy punk band called Thunder Stump that I fronted years before I figured out that I was transgender. This helped me let out some rage.
My life pre-transition isn’t really fun to look back on, but I do have a comfortable nostalgia in listening to a wide variety of music and playing Super Nintendo games as they both remind me of the bits of my childhood where I could zone out of reality. I was born in and currently reside in Phoenix, Arizona in the United States, but I feel that my future in creative success lies elsewhere.
Monika: Is there somewhere that you would prefer to live?
Brianna: If money were no object, I’d say somewhere in the northwest. That or possibly in Canada either in Toronto or Vancouver, depending on what happens where I live, politically. I’ve vacationed to those locations and fell in love with them.

Brianna's music page.

Monika: How would you define your music? Do you have any music inspirations?
Brianna: Most of my work lately has had a very psychedelic rock vibe. I'm currently working on an album with a more electronic feel and writing a bunch of lyrics to break my cycle of primarily making instrumentals.
I think my biggest inspirations musically have been a mix of Apollo 440 and Ozric Tentacles. The former, for their brilliant fusion of electronic elements with distorted guitars, and the latter for their trippy, intricate instrumentals that are really easy to zone out to.
Monika: Is there anything like transgender art? How does your transgender status contribute to your art and artistic perception of the world?
Brianna: I suppose so. All art tends to come from a place of hurt, joy, experience, or just something felt that is powerful enough to inspire creativity. Even still, while all transgender artists have probably had their own different experiences in life, I don't doubt that a similar feeling comes through for all of us when we convey an artistic message through media.
I do believe that my being transgender contributes in a big way to my music. I've consciously made songs from inspiration created by certain feelings, such as feeling out of place, struggling to get past powerful emotions, joyous realizations of who I am and the doors and emotions it opened, and generally the renewing feeling of transformation. I try to really put my experiences into it.

Photoshoot after hair dyeing.

Monika: Why did you decide to share your transition details on Reddit?
Brianna: Community is such an important thing. I really reached out for the sake of hearing people and being heard, myself, because what helped me decide to transition was just seeing that I wasn’t alone and that there were so many other trans people out there living life and standing by each other.
I figured out I was a woman 2 years ago because it was popping up in the media a lot and until then, I really knew nothing about trans people or even that we were a thing. After this sudden increase in public attention, I was compelled to do some research on the subject and as I read up on what makes someone transgender, I realized I was reading my own life. I burst out crying realizing not only who I was, but seeing that I wasn’t just alone or profoundly broken.
My whole life pre-transition was a constant cycle of feeling out of place, uncomfortable, stressed, and troubled by everything in a way no one else seemed to be, and wanting to commit suicide.
This all melted away when I figured out what was going on. I want everyone who needs to hear what I did to figure themselves out and see that they are not alone on their journey.
Monika: I am sure you get many questions from your Reddit audience. What do they ask for?
Brianna: Sometimes I’m asked where I live and what the situation is with trans acceptance in my area. Sometimes I’m asked what makeup I’m wearing. I also get an uncomfortable amount of propositions for sex from weird strangers, but thankfully, they’ve mostly kept it out of the comment section.
Monika: What was the strangest question that you answered?
Brianna: I tend to not answer anything too strange. It’s mostly people asking about ‘what’s in my pants’ but I haven’t been asked anything too hilarious yet.

Out at a mall early in transition.

Monika: At which stage of the transition are you right now?
Brianna: I’m not really certain how to categorize it. Basically, since a year and a half ago, I’ve been presenting as a woman full time and I’m at such a stage of comfort that I can function in society with minimal issues.
I plan on getting sexual reassignment surgery in the future if I somehow come into a ridiculous amount of money. I also still need to get electrolysis because if my makeup isn’t ON-POINT, I’m still afraid to use public bathrooms sometimes and that really causes an issue.
Monika: Are you satisfied with the results of the hormone therapy?
Brianna: Very much so. I started the hormones a year ago and the effects have been more than I expected them to be at this point. It’s not just the physical things that help, but running my body on estrogen has had a huge number of positive effects on me mentally and emotionally.
Monika: Are there any transgender role models that you follow?
Brianna: A lot of my cis friends have been surprised by my complete lack of knowledge regarding trans people in film music and politics. I guess it never really occurred to me to particularly look into it. However, there are a couple YouTubers who have really kept me going when I needed to hear an understanding voice. The most prominent of them being Stef Sanjati.
Right after coming out to my best friends, one of them sent me her channel and her video about figuring out that she was a woman and it resonated so much with me in how familiar those feelings sounded. We began our transitions around the same time and she is just such an inspiration to me. She’s a few years younger but so strong, entertaining, and positive. Not to mention she has the stomach to talk about political issues regarding the trans community that even just reading about causes me to shut down and become depressed beyond caring enough to talk about.
Monika: What was the hardest thing about your coming out?
Brianna: I was super lucky to have a hyper-liberal family. However, coming out was still scary, as it is for anyone. I did lose a large number of ‘friends’, and I found out that my friend with benefits was a TERF (Trans exclusionary radical feminist) Who began emotionally abusing me and treating me awfully until I kicked her out of my life.

Joke stockphoto image 'laughing salad girl'.

There was also the issue of extreme dysphoria when going out, as learning makeup for the first time and covering up my face as much as I needed to were a huge challenge in the first half-year, as I hadn’t started hormones yet.
Monika: What do you think about the present situation of transgender women in your country?
Brianna: I think we (and all trans people) are a strong force of outspoken people who know what we want and really demand to be heard. We’re in a weird time politically though, and we’re being made the target of a lot of problems that don’t exist (i.e. the public bathroom scare), which is probably one of the most idiotic witch hunts in recent history as no one has been harmed by a trans person in a bathroom, ever. We just need to pee, damnit!
My biggest concern is that as a community, in some ways we are very divided. There’s a saddening amount of people who ‘pass’ discounting the needs of those who feel they do not, and vice versa. Not to mention the LGBT community as a whole wanting to break apart for separate concerns of their own. I wish for a much more inclusive community where we all work together and all get what we deserve.
Monika: What do you think about transgender stories or characters which have been featured in films, newspapers, or books so far?
Brianna: We’re portrayed far too often as crime victims, hookers and punchlines. Even in stories involving a transgender main character, they too often end up meeting with tragedy, dying, de-transitioning, or just ending up in a really bad place.
Trans isn’t a tragedy. I hope for more transgender characters in the future who aren’t solely colored by their orientation and who can do great things, or even just exist as a neutral character without making a huge deal about it. Normalization of transgender characters will do great things.
Monika: Are you active in politics? Do you participate in any lobbying campaigns? Do you think transgender women can make a difference in politics?
Brianna: I believe that as a whole, we are capable of anything. As for myself, I have very unpopular opinions as to the voting system and whether voting actually changes anything, whether those in charge will ever be altered by voice alone, etc. I’ve done a fair amount of fighting (by the books) for the rights of everyone for years and seen little to no return for most of it, so it’s fair to say I’m jaded.
Still, when something comes up that I can do something about, I spring into action and help. I’d have trouble sleeping if I didn’t.

On my way to high tea.

Monika: Are you involved in the life of your local LGBTQ community?
Brianna: Not as much as I probably should. It’s something I’m trying to get more involved with.
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?
Brianna: I think it offers a wonderful platform, but as I mentioned earlier, it worries me just how many groups want to stop associating with the trans community for ignorance of who we are or sometimes just a fear that we’ll never be accepted so ‘Let’s just get OUR laws and rights’ even if it negatively impacts the trans community.
From what I understand, there are even transgender activists who want to be a different thing entirely, due to it being a concern of rights regarding gender and not one of sexual orientation. Personally, I think we’re stronger when we work together and I’d love for us to stay a part of the same force.
Monika: Do you like fashion? What kind of outfits do you usually wear? Any special fashion designs, colors, or trends?
Brianna: Very much so! My casual wear is typically a little floral or black dress, or some mix of striped shirts with skinny jeans or a skirt. I’ve recently fallen in love with pinks and pastels, so I’m all about those recently.
I do also enjoy lolita fashion and tea dresses, but I’d only wear something so ornate for going out to proper high tea with my friends. Not so much as everyday outfits.
Monika: Could you tell me about the importance of love in your life?
Brianna: Romantic love? I can live without it for long periods of time, but I do prefer to have it. I’ve never been in a long-term relationship yet for lack of a partner willing to commit to me, but the short ones I’ve had were nice. I like to get really emotionally involved and have deep connections, but most people my age, I find, prefer having the option to jump ship.
Monika: Many transgender ladies write their memoirs. Have you ever thought about writing such a book yourself?
Brianna: Despite writing many songs in my life, writing about my past would be an organizational nightmare. The other day, I recorded a YouTube video five times and deleted it because I was unable to convey a clear message containing all of the things I was trying to say.
In the future, it’s certainly a possibility though.
Monika: What would you recommend to transgender women that are afraid of transition, discrimination, and hatred?
Brianna: I encourage people to be their true selves more than anything, but make sure (especially if you’re young and living with family) that you have a safe security net and won’t be kicked out of your home with nowhere to go. Also, if possible, make sure to surround yourself with friends who will continue to love and support you through it.

Brianna's vlog on YouTube.

Monika: What is your next step in the present time and where do you see yourself within the next 5-7 years?
Brianna: Right now, I’d love to make enough money to support myself and grow my tools for creating music and video. In 5-7 years, I really want to be in a better place financially, in a band with other people again, and to really be doing something with music that I feel impacts the world in some good way.
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?
Brianna: I agree entirely! Nothing worse than getting everything you wanted and then having no idea what to do. Transitioning helps us to be ourselves and live the exciting life we want with minimal complications. I’d hate to get done surgery, look in the mirror, and think... ‘now what?’
Monika: Brianna, it was a pleasure to interview you. Thanks a lot!
Brianna: Thank YOU. It was a pleasure to be interviewed!

All the photos: courtesy of Brianna Tuerff.
© 2017 - Monika Kowalska

Search This Blog