Friday, 31 March 2017

Interview with Milene

Monika: Today’s interview will be with Milene, a young transgender woman from Canada that documents her transition on Reddit. Hello Milene!
Milene: Hello! It’s very nice to finally speak to you!
Monika: Could you say a few words about yourself?
Milene: Well, first of all, I would like to say that English is not my first language. I was born and raised French in Moncton, New Brunswick, and was living with my mom, dad, and two brothers, both younger than I am.
I’m not in school at the moment but I plan to apply for next September to eventually go to medical school! Other than that I currently work full time at a Starbucks in Halifax Nova-Scotia, where I’m working towards my coffee masters! (The black apron you occasionally see on a barista.)

Latte art that Milène made during one of her shifts.

Monika: Which kind of coffee is your Spécialité de la maison? Light roast or dark roast? Arabica or Robusta?
Milene: Our Pike Place Roast is definitely our most popular coffee. It's a very well-balanced blend with subtle notes of cocoa. But for our specialty coffee's I would say all our reserve blends at the moment, which are all made on our clover machine, a really expensive machine that brews coffee by the cup and we carefully weigh the exact amount we use. All our coffee beans are Arabica beans, as it's overall a better quality bean.
Monika: The coffee capsule industry is booming. What do you think about the quality of such coffee compared to the one prepared in a traditional way?
Milene: Obviously it does not taste the exact same. For most people, all they want is freshly brewed coffee, and it performs very well in that regard. But when it comes to quality and flavor, nothing beats freshly brewed coffee on drip or in a press. 
Monika: How many cups of coffee do you have every day?
Milene: It depends on the day! How long I'm going to be at work or how tired I really am, haha. One or two cups on average. But I had days where I would drink three Venti (Large) Starbucks double shots, which in total comes to 15 shots of espresso. I'm not gonna need sleep for the next three days apparently!

First time using makeup! Loving it!

Monika: Why did you decide to share your transition details on Reddit?
Milene: At first it was mostly for me as I had to document my transition somehow. It was a nice confidence boost knowing that the hormones we’re actually taking effect and you could compare month by month the changes in the face and body. It’s amazing the support we have for one another and it gives that extra “you can do it!” That everyone needs once in a while!
But eventually, it turned into much more! People were sending me messages about how I inspire them and help them through their transition. That quickly took over and I felt amazing knowing that someone, somewhere was looking up to me! I’ve never been a role model before but it brings me pride to know that I’m helping someone out there.
Monika: I am sure you get many questions from your Reddit fans. What do they ask for? 
Milene: Most of the time it’s makeup tips. But I don’t get many questions online, mostly in real life. People love to know my skincare routine and what makeup I use! I can’t stress enough how a good skincare routine is! Haha. I always say if your skin looks good without makeup, it will look amazing with makeup.
Monika: What was the strangest question that you answered?
Milene: Someone wanted to hook up at some point. Not going to name any names. But people seem keen to get my phone number online, which most of the time we live so far away I wouldn’t see the point. They ask for my Snapchat name and most of the time it’s cis men (you know the rest). And obviously, I don’t reply.
Monika: At which stage of the transition are you right now?
Milene: I will be hitting 9 months on hormones soon! It’s very exciting. I went to go visit my family back in Moncton and they all said The changes were drastic! I didn't see them since last November so the change kinda shocked them a little. It’s nice to know that people notice.

What is expected during HRT.

Monika: Are you satisfied with the results of the hormone therapy?
Milene: Very satisfied. Although like anyone else, I would love even more changes of course. I’m still waiting to see if I want facial feminization surgery eventually. It may be the push I need to be 100% comfortable in my own skin. But I’m still early in the transition so anything can happen.
Monika: Are there any transgender role models that you follow?
Milene: Of course! Gigi Gorgeous, Chloe Arden, and Maya on Youtube are all such a big inspiration for me! Going through this alone is difficult, but knowing other people like me are out there that support you and want to help you is truly amazing.
One big inspiration I have is a girl I went to school with! She’s a year older than I am but she is truly the most beautiful girl I have ever met! Without her, I would’ve never found out who I truly was.
I would also like to talk about Michelle Leard. She was such a big help, telling me who to see and what to expect when it came to my transition. She made sure that I never felt overwhelmed by the whole process and she’s probably the biggest influence I have.

Finally went bra shopping!

Monika: What was the hardest thing about your coming out?
Milene: Not knowing if my family would be supportive. I never even imagined I would come out so early but it just happened. I was with my ex-girlfriend at the time and I told her out of the blue that I felt like I should’ve been born a girl. It was such a shock for her and me. She never saw it coming, and neither did I. But it felt so good finally telling someone. That very moment, I feared we would not last. And sure enough, we broke up three days later. It was probably the hardest breakup for me since our relationship was going so well! We were supposed to go to Paris for our anniversary and everything! That was probably the hardest part of my transition, but nonetheless an essential part of it too. 
When I came back home in tears, my mom wanted to know what was going on! That’s when I came out and it’s been back and forth ever since. My dad is very supportive! But my mom has a hard time grasping that her little boy is now gone. She tries so desperately to keep the little boy she raised and that’s very hard to deal with. You don’t want to hurt anyone by transitioning. But you have to sometimes. That’s the hardest part of transitioning.
Monika: What do you think about the present situation of transgender women in your country?
Milene: In Canada, transgender women are well, women! See, in Canada, people from the LGBTG+ community have rights just like everyone else. I’ve never felt threatened or in danger throughout my transition, which I would say I should be very thankful for that! 
We are well protected and more and more rights are being given to us. Just recently, New Brunswick passed a Bill that would make sure that SRS would be covered by the government, making it the last to do so, which is such a big deal and a huge win to the transgender community.
Monika: What do you think about transgender stories or characters which have been featured in films, newspapers, or books so far?
Milene: I think it’s important that the trans community get more and more people talking. The more public we are, the more people who previously had no idea on the subject now know a lot more about us. But I still believe it needs some work. Sometimes transgender characters have a tendency the get over-sexualized in films, where the transition is depicted as sexual and not mental.

Exactly 7 months on hormones.

For example, the movie “The Danish Girl” had a scene where the main character sits alone in a cubicle-like room where we could see another woman through a window dancing in a somewhat sexual manner. We can see the main character imitate her and we clearly see an internal struggle, almost as if she doesn't feel womanlike. It just feels like another moment of objectification of women and it feels so awkward and out of place for me. It was a great movie that had plenty of relatable scenes, but I don’t want people getting the wrong idea about who we are through media.
Monika: Are you active in politics? Do you participate in any lobbying campaigns? Do you think transgender women can make a difference in politics?
Milene: I don’t follow politics that well. Although I should. I think transgender women would make quite a difference though! It gives us a voice! We need more and more minorities in politics where issues could be brought up. It makes all the difference when someone in politics actively experiences the problems we do face every day. It has a better impact and gives strength to our voices.
Monika: Are you involved in the life of your local LGBTQ community?
Milene: Of course! There’s a group called UBU Atlantic which I’m a part of, though lately, I’ve been absent since I recently moved to Halifax. There are support groups that go on for transgender youth, adults, and allies. We talk about relevant problems, events, and general things about our beautiful community. The Pride parade is also one of my favorite events every year and it's amazing how much pride we have as one big community, where we all show our true colors through love and acceptance!
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?
Milene: I think we do promote our cause as one group, but most people say our cause is somewhat an independent one. Most queer people I know think that we should separate transgender issues from the other issues from our community because it’s a “different” kind of issue. I’ve heard countless times from my gay friend who says that the transgender community almost should be a separate community.

What I would like to say to my haters out there <3.

I personally think that we should stand together, as we’re kinda in the same situation as gay people were in before. You would see commercials on TV where homosexuality was treated as a disease, where people avoid homosexuality as it was said to be contagious. Being gay was a disease, a sin, and people were being murdered just for being who they were. The discrimination that homosexuals faced back in the day was insane! And we still to this day are being discriminated against, although much less severe than before.
But the trans community is in that very same situation right now! Where people fear being raped in the bathroom as if some shmuck would dress up as the other gender to rape someone in a public bathroom. Parents fear that we will influence their children, thinking that children at a young age shouldn't be “exposed” to our community. It’s all the same.
Monika: Do you like fashion? What kind of outfits do you usually wear? Any special fashion designs, colors, or trends?
Milene: I wear a lot of things that were given to me when I started my transition. I’ve gotten a bunch of clothes from co-workers and friends trying to help me out at first! Now if I shop I usually go to Forever 21. Really inexpensive and pretty nice clothes!
I try to wear anything that helps feminize my figure. Dolman sleeves are like my savior sent from the heavens! Seriously, invest in Dolman sleeves! In all seriousness though I just wear what makes me comfortable. Sweaters, and t-shirts most days. Leggings are like the best thing too, so comfy!
Monika: What do you think about transgender beauty pageants?
Milene: Well, let’s compare it to regular beauty pageants. They have a tendency to set a standard on beauty. People love to compare themselves to others, it’s just a natural thing we do as humans. But when society tells women how they should look, should act, and should behave, it’s demoralizing because society's view of women is already unachievable by 99% of us, we’re not all perfect guys.

Then and now! More to come!

Being transgender is even harder cause then people compare you to cisgender women, setting the bar even higher. These women have 100% of my respect, what they do is incredible! It’s just what society perceives these pageants as that bothers me so much.
Monika: Could you tell me about the importance of love in your life?
Milene: It’s what keeps me going! You need that support from others, you can’t rely only on yourself and expect to go very far. You need to have people there that love and care about you.
Lately, I’ve been working on loving myself more, learning to accept who I am, my flaws, my weaknesses. And when you have so much love and support, it’s an amazing journey about self-acceptance. When you learn to do that, it’s much easier to support and love other people. And it’s just a cycle that keeps all our morale high!
Monika: Many transgender ladies write their memoirs. Have you ever thought about writing such a book yourself?
Milene: I’ve never really thought about it until now. I haven't achieved much at all. I’m so young and I have such a long way to go still! Maybe sometime in the future, I will!
Monika: What would you recommend to transgender women that are afraid of transition, discrimination, and hatred?
Milene: Always do what’s best for you. No one is telling you how to live your life and only you have a say in it. I always thought about what others might think, what would people say and do. But at the end of the day, it’s my life.
If something in your life doesn't feel right, whether it’s a job, a class, your image, identity, etc. Do something about it. You might be afraid of losing people you love, but those who truly love you will always stand by your side, even if they’re not 100% with you at first. 
Understand that transitioning is a hard process for everyone and that it will take time. But it’ll be worth it in the end, wherever that goal is for you.
Monika: What is your next step in the present time and where do you see yourself within the next 5-7 years?
Milene: I plan on going to school. Hopefully, in five years I’ll be in medical school! Maybe I’ll be your dermatologist! Right now I’m planning to volunteer more and be more involved with the community.
I plan to be more involved with the transgender community as well, have a better impact on the lives of transgender people by fighting for our rights. I’ll be living day by day, hopefully with new experiences with each. Life is so short, live each day to its fullest.
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?
Milene: I agree completely. My transition is just one of many things that contribute to my happiness, I have to focus on my future as well. You have so much potential to do so much more. Transitioning should not be your only dream! Your career, your family, your impact on everybody, that’s what you should be dreaming about, along with your transition!
Your transition is not the only thing that will make you happy, it’s just part of the million and one things that you have to do to achieve happiness.
Monika: Milene, it was a pleasure to interview you. Thanks a lot!
Milene: Thank you so much for taking the time to contact me. Thanks again!

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

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