Saturday, 22 April 2017

Interview with Hailey

Monika: Today’s interview will be with Hailey, a young aspiring creative writer, student, and transgender woman that documents her transition on as the_forsaken_queen. Hello Hailey!
Hailey: Heya!
Monika: Could you say a few words about yourself?
Hailey: Honestly, it’s hard to answer since I’m still discovering myself every day! I feel a little overwhelmed since I’m being interviewed alongside so many inspirational women that are a lot further along in their transitions and more experienced than me in general.
I lived the first 16 or so years of my life without direction or purpose and felt like a detached spectator of the world rather than someone with an actual identity. It was only recently that I figured out why and took the first step towards becoming the person I truly am.
What I will say is that I’m an eager creative writer and I hope to further express myself through books and what will hopefully be a healthy writing-related career once I’ve got my head together!
Monika: Why did you decide to share your transition details on Reddit?
Hailey: I think it’s important to establish a place where you can record your progress, both physically and mentally so that on the days where it gets tough you can look back and see how far you’ve come since the beginning. Reddit’s also an amazing website for finding like-minded people and support, as well as advice on all things transgender. I honestly don’t know what I’d do without it since I’m so introverted and generally shy away from safe spaces outside of the internet.
I also feel that sharing your transition can be a source of comfort for others that aren’t hopeful about their chances. I used to look like a budget Harry Potter, and although I think I’m still far from perfect, it’s impossible to deny that I haven’t come a long way even without extended exposure to estrogen.
Monika: I am sure you get many questions from your Reddit fans. What do they ask for? 
Hailey: The most common thing people ask me for is advice on make-up, but I’m still in the very early stages of learning myself so it’s always a little awkward to respond to! I’ve had a few people skeptical of their gender identity come to me for advice and my opinion on whether they might be transgender. I’m always eager to help out and talk through gender-related issues because they can be extremely confusing and difficult to figure out, and there are really not enough helpful resources or support groups for people in certain countries.
I’ve also had people ask if I’m single pretty often! It’s surprising how varied and also wildly inappropriate Reddit PMs can be if you’re a trans woman who posts a lot.

A few years before HRT.

Monika: What was the strangest question that you answered?
Hailey: “Can I prop you up against the wall of my shower and…” Yup… Reddit is sadly ripe with chasers. It’s flattering and all since I’m used to being seen as ugly but creepy as all hell nonetheless. 
Monika: At which stage of the transition are you right now?
Hailey: Very early days. It’s super exciting! I’ve only been on a significant HRT dose for about a month yet I’m starting to see a girl in the mirror rather than a boy, at least with the help of make-up. I’ve got a long way to go and I can’t wait to see what happens in the future. It really is like starting a new life.
Monika: Are you satisfied with the results of the hormone therapy?
Hailey: It’s too early to say whether I will be in the grand scheme of things, but so far everything’s going well and I’m hoping that remains the case over the next few years.
Monika: Are there any transgender role models that you follow?
Hailey: It’d be hard to give specific names but almost everyone who posts on the /r/transtimelines subreddit is a source of great inspiration for me, and the reason I ended up posting myself on there. I might still be denying who I am and wasting years of my life right now if it weren’t for the incredible transitions documented by hundreds of trans men and women.
I remember seeing a particularly macho member of the US military that went from the very definition of masculine to a gorgeous woman, and I’d say that was probably the example that empowered me the most. I figured if she could do it then so could I!
Monika: What was the hardest thing about your coming out?
Hailey: Working up the courage to come out was a nail-bitingly stressful period that ultimately paid off, which I’m extremely grateful for. My friends and family are thankfully far more progressive than most and I can’t imagine the turmoil I would’ve experienced if they rejected my identity. I’m insanely lucky and my heart goes out to everyone who can’t transition peacefully due to a hostile environment or unloving parents.
The hardest part was actually communicating my feelings to my parents without clamming up due to anxiety. I had a friend email them while I was at work because I just couldn’t bring myself to face them in fear of a negative response. It took months on end to properly explain the intricacies of my situation, and even longer to become completely comfortable with discussing my transition.
Monika: What do you think about the present situation of transgender women in your country?
Hailey: I live in southern England and I’d say it’s one of the most welcoming areas in terms of LGBTQ support and acceptance. The vast majority of schools and colleges in my surrounding area offer a large amount of help to queer individuals, at least in comparison to the rest of the world, and there’s relatively little to fear even for non-passing trans women.
That being said; it’s still not good enough. As with all places, bigots exist, and it’s hard to feel totally secure in the knowledge that there are people who will always see you as your biological sex, or want you melting in a dreary pit of fire and brimstone.
My hope is that transphobia will eventually be frowned upon to the same degree as racism over the next century. We did, after all, see an absolutely amazing boom in gay acceptance over just a few decades. 
Monika: What do you think about transgender stories or characters which have been featured in films, newspapers, or books so far?
Hailey: To put it simply; there really aren’t enough. I can’t actually name any off the top of my head. I despise blatant and lazy tokenism but I’m by all means an advocate for diversity in fiction since it can be very heartwarming for members of certain minorities. If I saw a well-written trans character that was treated like anyone else in one of my favorite franchises I’d be ecstatic. It’d be validating on a massive scale, and it’d go a long way in educating the masses and correcting common misconceptions.
Monika: Are you active in politics? Do you participate in any lobbying campaigns? Do you think transgender women can make a difference in politics?
Hailey: I have very strong, left-leaning political views but I haven’t yet been in a position to actively express them in a meaningful fashion. Once my transition’s complete I hope to get out there and make whatever differences I can, but it’ll be hard to resist the urge to blend in as a cis woman/go stealth and detach myself from the trans community if I can. I’d never blame anyone for doing that but I do feel a responsibility to try and improve trans visibility and our overall treatment.
I think transgender women definitely can make a difference in politics, but it’s a lot harder to be taken seriously and to earn the respect that anyone else might be granted. Things are gradually improving, though, and we’re seeing a number of politicians coming out as transgender and keeping their jobs in the process.
Monika: Are you involved in the life of your local LGBTQ community?
Hailey: Not locally. I’m drawn to online communities due to how shy and unconfident I currently am! Once I’ve seen more changes I’ll likely get out there and become more active in my local area.

Feeling much better about my appearance now!

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?
Hailey: There’s definitely a small, vocal minority that’s eager to have the T removed from LGBT, but I think the queer community as a whole is generally very accepting of trans folk. We endure many of the same hardships that gay, lesbian, and bisexual people do; and questioning your gender undeniably means questioning your sexuality even if the two are not necessarily directly linked. I’m bisexual as well as trans, and that realization of my sexual preferences came hand in hand with the revelation that I’m a girl.
Transgender, lesbian, gay, and bisexual people all stood together during the Stonewall riots. That should remain the case. I’d say trans people are definitely able to campaign for their rights as an important part of the LGBTQ community. Some may object to it but I don’t think they’re a noteworthy presence.
Monika: Do you like fashion? What kind of outfits do you usually wear? Any special fashion designs, colors, or trends?
Hailey: Fashion’s also something I’m actively discovering every day! I never cared about my appearance when I considered myself male. I was content with wearing jeans and a T-shirt all day every day, and zero effort was made towards tidying my looks. Nowadays, I find myself to be far more experimental and conscious of the way I look. I just recently bought a new pair of dresses and they’re stunning!
Thigh highs and block heel boots are my jam now. I adore knee-high socks and I’m thinking of amassing a collection. Anything stripy or blue is perfect in my eyes.
I’m very lucky to have a ridiculously thick head of hair and I take a lot of pleasure in trying out different styles and dying it in bright, unnatural colors. I don’t think I’ll ever go back to natural.
It all makes being a guy seems so drab in comparison! Blue and black remain my favorite colors, and although I still probably dress tomboyish overall I’m keen to try out new looks at every opportunity.
Monika: What do you think about transgender beauty pageants?
Hailey: I think it’s great that transgender people are being appreciated for their looks. There’s an unfortunate conflation between transvestites/drag queens and transgender people that results in this idea that all trans women look like men in wigs, and I’d say beauty pageants do a good job of displaying the difference.
Some pageants are properly more helpful than others, though. It’s important that there isn’t any fetishization occurring or any kind of overt sexual focus. Trans women have enough problems with being seen as slabs of meat rather than actual human beings.
Overall, it’s probably a double-edged sword. I’d love trans women to be more visible but I definitely don’t want us to be seen as sexual deviants and objects.
Monika: Could you tell me about the importance of love in your life?
Hailey: Love is genuinely the only thing keeping me going right now. Without the support of my family and boyfriend, I’d be in a puddle of tears at all times and I might have done something drastic. I’ll always be eternally grateful to everyone that’s so much accepted me as a female and I aim to give back to my loved ones over the remainder of my life.
Monika: Many transgender ladies write their memoirs. Have you ever thought about writing such a book yourself?
Hailey: Oh, definitely! It’d be amazing to reflect on the past and put everything down on paper. Once I’m at a point where I can safely say my second puberty’s over there’s a very good chance I’ll write my own memoir.
Monika: What would you recommend to transgender women that are afraid of transition, discrimination, and hatred?
Hailey: It’s hard to think of any advice or words of comfort for people that don’t come off as a cheesy cliché, but I do know that surrounding yourself with friends and family is an incredible way of alleviating the slow and arduous process that is transitioning. That isn’t an option for some people, which is soul-crushingly horrible, but there are people out there who can and will care about you.
You should try your best to make new friends that are actually worth something, whether it’s an online pen pal or a group of people at a nearby LGBT club, and then supplement that with a good therapist. Anyone who says you’re deluded or tries to invalidate who you are is frankly an oxygen thief that isn’t worthy of anyone’s companionship. You, however, are amazing.
Every trans person out there is changing the world as we know it with each and every breath. Every step we take is a revolution. As cringeworthy as that might sound, it’s true! The world isn’t ready for us but every day more people start to understand who we are. We make Earth a more tolerant and pleasant place. In time I think no one will be afraid of stepping outside of what society expects and being who they truly are.

It can be hard to see a girl in the mirror rather
than my old self, but it's definitely an improvement.

Monika: What is your next step in the present time and where do you see yourself within the next 5-7 years?
Hailey: My next step is to become more confident while out in girl mode. At the moment I’m so panicky and paranoid that I would never be able to hold down a full-time job or proceed with college. I need to acknowledge that most people probably don’t even notice me and get on with my life.
In the next 5 – 7 years I want to have moved into a nice, cozy house alongside my adorable boyfriend. I want a steady, enjoyable job in animal care or English literature and I want to be a complete, undeniable girl in every physical aspect. Still waiting on boobs!
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?
Hailey: Definitely! Transgender is an adjective. It’s a single descriptor. It’s only one part of who we are, and we all have the power to go out there and do whatever the hell we want if we’re stubborn enough. Transition is only one, a short stage of a trans person’s life. It’s an obstacle and then the world’s our oyster after that.
So I suppose another bit of advice to other trans folk is to be patient! It’ll all be over soon.
Monika: Hailey, it was a pleasure to interview you. Thanks a lot!
Hailey: No, thank you!

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

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