Monday, 10 April 2017

Interview with Diana García

Monika: Today’s interview will be with Diana García, a Mexican transgender woman that documents her transition on as aprilight, a programmer by day, co-host of geek podcast @abajoadelantea, and a general nerd by night. Hello Diana!
Diana: Hi Monika, I was surprised at first to learn that you wanted to interview me but I’m very happy to be able to share my story with others. Thank you for this opportunity.
Monika: Could you say a few words about yourself?
Diana: Certainly, I am a 32-year-old trans woman originally from Tijuana, Mexico but now living in Mexico City. I’m a computer programmer who works from home. I am very interested in games and fun so I have also dabbled in creating videogames and the latest side project I’m developing is a board game.

At a drag club. I got made up by the owner.

Monika: Why did you decide to share your transition details on Reddit?
Diana: For the longest time I couldn’t find people with whom I could identify, I just didn’t see myself in the transgender representation in the media at the time.
When I found Reddit's trans spaces I finally found other stories like mine, not just a few but many, many amazing stories with which I could relate.
I shared my transition because I wanted to give back to that community and I would lie if I didn’t say I started to do it for validation as well.
Monika: I am sure you get many questions from other Reddit users. What do they ask for?
Diana: They mostly ask about my voice surgery at the Yeson Voice Center in Seoul, South Korea. I get some comments about me smiling more and looking younger after the transition.
Monika: Oh yes, I have heard that it is one of the most complex surgery. It is also regarded as very dangerous. Could you share some details about your reasons for this surgery, recuperation, and its results?
Diana: I felt very safe with the surgery after researching for a while. Yeson Voice Center felt like the best bet, at least according to Reddit. The reason I felt the need to have this done was that I noticed that I wasn't participating in groups because I felt very conscious about my voice, I felt like I wasn't my true self in those situations and I felt that the best way to make myself more comfortable was having this done. 
The hardest part of the whole ordeal was at the start or the recuperation having to be silent for one month after surgery, the last week was the hardest. I documented this month of silence (in Spanish). 
I didn't know what to expect with the results, I figured anything was better than the voice I had. The results were fairly evident from the start but it's still improving even after almost 2 years. I got excited when I first started to get correctly gendered on the phone and I've been misgendered less and less so I'm really happy with the results even though I wasn't the best at being disciplined with the exercises and didn't see a voice coach as the clinic recommended.

A way into boardgame and bad memes.

Monika: What was the strangest question that you answered?
Diana: I don’t get particularly strange questions but people keep telling me I look like other women but it’s always different women! And I never see the similarities. The ones I remember getting are Mayim Bialik and Bárbara Mori.
Monika: At which stage of the transition are you right now?
Diana: Well, I’ve come out, am now 3 years and a half into hormones, changed my papers, had voice surgery and laser hair removal. I wouldn’t say I’ve finished transitioning but I don’t feel in transition anymore. I might do other surgeries after but I’m quite happy where I am now.
Monika: Are you satisfied with the results of the hormone therapy?
Diana: Definitely, the important thing is that the physical changes I’ve gotten out of them have helped me gain much more confidence in my identity. I also pretty much enjoy the emotional changes. But don’t get me wrong, I wish I would have gotten more chest development.
Monika: Are there any transgender role models that you follow?
Diana: When I first started I looked up to Ophelia Pastrana, I knew her as a YouTuber and fellow geek my age. Julia Serano also helped me tremendously via her books. Lately, I love what visible trans media personalities have done for our community like Laverne Cox, Jen Richards, Janet Mock, and Angelica Ross.
I also follow and look up to Morgan M. Page and the Transition Transmission podcasts. Anyone who is putting themselves out there and giving their own voice to our community deserves recognition.

Tired after a long day at Six Flags.

Monika: What was the hardest thing about your coming out?
Diana: Not doing it for so long. I came out at 28 years old and I wanted to say something for so long but I felt scared that people would reject me after knowing about this.
My coming out was a fairly positive experience so in that sense I would say that the hardest part was keeping it bottled up all those years and not having the vocabulary and terminology to correctly communicate how I felt.
Monika: What do you think about the present situation of transgender women in your country?
Diana: It varies a lot from place to place and from woman to woman. I’m happy to say that since 2014 it has been very easy to legally change your name and gender on your birth certificate in Mexico City.
I am very privileged in that I live in a very LGBTQ friendly part of Mexico City, that the great majority of people close to me were supportive of my transition, and that I haven’t had any major issues when people find out I’m a trans woman but unfortunately that is not the case for way too many trans women here in Mexico. It is still scary to be a trans woman as hate crimes towards us still happen. 
Monika: What do you think about transgender stories or characters which have been featured in films, newspapers, or books so far?
Diana: I’ve been seeing a slow, gradual change for the better. We still get many of the tiresome trans stereotypes people have more exposure to diverse and real transgender stories with shows like True Trans and I am Jazz plus better trans characters like Nomi in Sense8 or even trans actors in non-strictly trans roles like Laverne Cox in Doubt.
Society is coming to terms with trans stories and even if the portrayal is not perfect it has given me an excuse to talk about my transition with people that I might not have the opportunity otherwise. The more representation, the more opportunities I get to talk about trans issues.
I'm also extremely happy about art by and for trans people like upandoutcomic.tumblr and I think I would've felt way better about having those confusing feelings if I had come across these kinds of trans images when I was younger and I hope they are making a difference for trans youth.

Groom's people at a friend's wedding.

Monika: Are you active in politics? Do you participate in any lobbying campaigns? Do you think transgender women can make a difference in politics?
Diana: Everyone can make a difference in politics. Trans people have a unique view on life in a society so we can offer a different perspective.
Monika: Are you involved in the life of your local LGBTQ community?
Diana: Not as much as I want to but I do go out with a local LGBTQ women meetup group when I can.
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?
Diana: I think so. Many of the battles we fight and victories we have are thanks to the work done by all of the letters in the acronym, issues like discrimination, the hardships of coming out, and the struggle with the law to give us the same rights as everyone else. The T is usually the last of the group to have their rights validated in the law and, since it has to do with identity rather than orientation, our cause also has its own voice, motivation, and identity within the community.
Monika: Do you like fashion? What kind of outfits do you usually wear? Any special fashion designs, colors, or trends?
Diana: I’m not big into fashion. If I follow trends it’s usually an accident or a coincidence. I used to mainly wear jeans and t-shirts early in transition but as I become more comfortable with my body and my expression I’m trying to expand my wardrobe.

This is my sense of humor.

Monika: Could you tell me about the importance of love in your life?
Diana: Very important. It is one of the key points in my life be it love, romantic love, family love, or friend love. I was hesitant to transition because I thought I could lose the love I had and/or the possibility to find love in the future. Fortunately, I feel much loved at the moment.
Monika: Many transgender ladies write their memoirs. Have you ever thought about writing such a book yourself?
Diana: Not in a serious manner. I’m very bad at telling stories so I’ll leave that to other people who would surely do much better than I ever could.
Monika: What would you recommend to transgender women that are afraid of transition, discrimination, and hatred?
Diana: If they’re reading this, that’s a great start. I didn’t know transition was for me until I found other trans women with a story similar to mine so go out and find someone you can identify with. We are so many that whatever your conditions, your situation, your starting point someone out there has transitioned with a similar story and if they can do it, so can you.
Monika: What is your next step in the present time and where do you see yourself within the next 5-7 years?
Diana: I’m trying to have more things to do professionally, so I recently took a freelance job extra to my 9-5 job and side projects (which very rarely make any profit) I have. I just want a healthy, normal, well-adjusted life. In 5-7 years I want to be married as I’m engaged at this moment. I want to feel more satisfied with my professional life than what I currently am and maybe have surgery more under my belt.

I really like needing a fake mustache now.

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?
Diana: Yes and no. Yes in that it is better to not have a transition as an end goal but rather as a step in order to live our lives to their fullest. No in that we should never say that dreams start at the operating table because not all trans people want or are able to have surgeries and their individual experience is as valid as everyone else’s.
Monika: Diana, it was a pleasure to interview you. Thanks a lot!
Diana: And it was a pleasure to be interviewed by you. Thanks for doing what you do.

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

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