Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Interview with Lyra

Monika: Today’s interview will be with Lyra, a young American video blogger that documents her transition as ButterfLyra on YouTube. Hello Lyra!
Lyra: Hello Monika! 
Monika: Could you say a few words about yourself?
Lyra: My name is Lyra and I'm a 20-year-old transgender woman. I love music, fashion, flowers, and most of all I love people.
Lyra: I was tempted not to, but the reason I did was because of the amount it inspired me to see other transwomen who transitioned on YouTube. People like Violet, Princess Joules, and other amazing women really helped me discover who I was. I wanted to give back to the community that made me the person I am today.

Free from fear.

Monika: I am sure you get many questions from your YouTube audience. What do they ask for?
Lyra: The most common question I get is how to start the transition. It's an odd question to answer because it varies from person to person, and I have made videos documenting what I did to start mine.
The best I can do to help people with these kinds of questions is to remind them that they can never lose sight of who they are. Even if transition seems impossible as long as they keep their end goal in mind their dreams can become reality.
Monika: What was the strangest question that you answered?
Lyra: I receive many questions from far away countries and people who don't have the most fluent English.
Many of them have questions that are incredibly hard to answer and sometimes strange, usually something like "How is it possible for a man to look like a woman?" I don't know why I answer some of these questions but I try to. Educating people that women come in all shapes and sizes is a big deal.
Monika: Do you write scenarios for your videos or do you just improvise?
Lyra: Usually I improvise, funnily enough, I should really be more organized with my channel and thought but the channel is more of a hobby than it is a structured project. I like to just make videos that I'm inspired to make rather than feeling like I'm forced to do something.
Monika: At which stage of the transition are you right now?
Lyra: I am almost 3 years on Estrogen, but almost 6 years into my feminization process. Transition starts before HRT and learning skills like makeup and fashion didn't come quickly to me.
Almost 4 years ago I went on Hormone blockers, and despite my occasional doubt and dysphoria, my transition has been incredibly smooth. I underwent SRS this past November, and so technically I would consider my transition complete. Then again, we women are never going to stop changing ;)

Many faces.

Monika: Are there any transgender role models that you follow?
Lyra: Laverne Cox. She is everything, I even had the privilege of meeting her while I was up at UCI. A lot of popular transwomen talk the talk but don't walk the walk. Laverne manages to represent the people that she supports and comes from in a way that a lot of celebrities don't do once they're famous. I also admire Carmen Carrera, Isis King, and many many more.
Monika: What was the hardest thing about your coming out?
Lyra: Coming out to myself. Denial is a strange drug, in that it's way too easy to get caught up in it and let it distract you from your true feelings. I was always wanting to be a woman, ever since I was a little kid, but it was terrifying to me. Transition is one of the most terrifying things to be faced with, but once you start stopping is even more terrifying. Never have I looked back though, I really do love what transition has brought me.
Monika: What do you think about the present situation of transgender women in your country?
Lyra: I am extremely worried. Even as a California baby I suffered a lot of discrimination before reaching a certain "passable" level. Society is so vanity-obsessed that transwomen who have trouble passing have a significantly harder time than transwomen who don't. AND even despite that there still are people who harass me for my identity. Politics aside this country is emboldened to pick on minorities right now, and trans people are one of those minorities. We need to stand up for them.


Monika: What do you think about transgender stories or characters which have been featured in films, newspapers, or books so far?
Lyra: Honestly I don't know of many transgender characters. The ones I do know of are often portrayed as drag queens or junkies or a mix of both. I have trouble relating to the media portrayal of the transwoman because it doesn't always reflect what we are.
I feel like a transwoman is just the same as a regular woman, and I just don't feel as though I see a trans character that isn't constantly made out to be some type of alien.
Monika: Are you active in politics? Do you participate in any lobbying campaigns? Do you think transgender women can make a difference in politics?
Lyra: No I am not. The closest I am to politically active is my Facebook page. I would be much more politically active if I felt safe. Unfortunately, I don't really feel like politics is a safe space for transwomen right now, and so my part involves voting and spreading my message as best as I can. Beyond that, I don't feel safe.
Monika: Are you involved in the life of your local LGBTQ community?
Lyra: I still sometimes go to local events with my LGBTQ community but for the most part I'm a hermit.
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?
Lyra: I believe so, but it's hard because the LGBTQ community can be very divided. The queer community feels very distant from the gay community, and it can be hard to be caught between that as somebody who no longer identifies as either of those terms.


Monika: Do you like fashion? What kind of outfits do you usually wear? Any special fashion designs, colors, or trends?
Lyra: Fashion is everything; I used to work at Kohls so most of my clothes are from there, but lately I've been a yoga geek so my style has adjusted towards that.
My colors are almost always blues and purples but I've thrown in a pink or two. Jewelry, stacks of bracelets, bangles gems up and down is what I'm into lately. And head accessories! Love me some boho bandanas ;)
Monika: What do you think about transgender beauty pageants?
Lyra: I love beauty pageants and I would love to see/be a part of one!
Monika: Could you tell me about the importance of love in your life?
Lyra: I have a boyfriend of almost 2 years and he is incredibly important to me. If I had it my way I would marry the guy, but we're gonna get through college first. My family, I also love them very much, especially my mom.
Monika: Many transgender ladies write their memoirs. Have you ever thought about writing such a book yourself?
Lyra: Oh I'm too young to write a memoir. Maybe once I've seen the world I will but for now, I'll stick to making my silly videos XD.
Monika: What would you recommend to transgender women that are afraid of transition, discrimination, and hatred?
Lyra: Fear is never a reason to do anything. Transitioning is going to be on your mind for a reason, and if you choose to ignore your true desire you won't be able to let it go. You can't hide your identity for the sake of other people. Plus, there are many ways to "transition in stealth." I've even talked about that in some of my videos.

"How to: Feminizing my voice as a transgender woman" via YouTube.

Monika: What is your next step in the present time and where do you see yourself within the next 5-7 years? 
Lyra: College. I intend to get a Bachelor's Degree in some area of science, and I am currently finishing yoga teacher training, so I may be a realized yogi by then! Being in tune with my body and mind is very important to me.
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?
Lyra: Completely agree! The operating table is never the ending, only the beginning! There is so much to do, so much to see, so what's wrong with taking the back streets? ;)
Monika: Lyra, it was a pleasure to interview you. Thanks a lot!
Lyra: Thank you so much for choosing to interview me! I am both honored and thankful for your time and I wish you the best.

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

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