Tuesday 27 June 2017

Interview with Ava

Monika: Today’s interview will be with Ava, a transgender woman with a strong social media presence via her Instagram, Reddit and YouTube pages. Hello Ava!
Ava: Hello Monika!
Monika: Could you say a few words about yourself?
Ava: Of course! I work for Carnival Cruise Line as an entertainer; I travel the world, meet people from all around, and get paid to have fun. I’m also an insufferable nerd and gamer. When not working, I’m either gaming or finding a recipe to cook up to share with my family. I also run a YouTube channel for people who experience the phenomenon ‘autonomous sensory meridian response’, also known as ASMR.
Monika: Why did you decide to share your transition details on Reddit?
Ava: It began as a place to reach out to people in similar situations to me, trying to gauge how the community thought my transition was going. I have few friends who are trans themselves, and so this became a window to the community in which I felt the validation I felt I needed at the time to help me along.

Monika: I am sure you get many questions from your Reddit audience. What do they ask for?
Ava: I often get people asking about my glasses, believe it or not… apparently they’re pretty cool, haha! I’ve received questions about my working on ships and how that is as a trans woman. Living on ships is almost a mini-society, so there are lots of different opinions and dynamics at play there.
Monika: What was the strangest question that you answered?
Ava: Luckily, I haven’t had one of those… not yet, anyway! I’ll let you know if that changes!
Monika: At which stage of the transition are you right now?
Ava: This is a question I don’t like to answer... people are always concerned with the stage of a trans person’s transition and whether or not they have had/will have/are happy with surgeries.
Monika: Are you satisfied with the results of the hormone therapy?
Ava: I am, for the most part. I believe every person can be critical of themselves, though. We all have our days.
Monika: Are there any transgender role models that you follow?
Ava: Definitely! Laverne Cox, for obvious reasons. I think she’s done great things for our community. A friend of mine, Charlie Martin, too. She is a fantastic race car driver and recently competed on the UK version of Ninja Warrior.

Just another day in paradise with my parents.

Monika: We all pay the highest price for the fulfillment of our dreams to be ourselves. As a result, many of us lose our families, friends, jobs, and social positions. Did you pay such a high price as well? What was the hardest thing about your coming out?
Ava: I’m extremely fortunate in that all of my friends family, and acquaintances I’ve met before and after my transition began have been wonderful. My case is rare, and I understand it isn’t the same for most people.
My family, especially my mother and father, are incredible people. I look up to them and love them very much for how they adapted to what was a huge change for not just me, but every individual involved in my life. The hardest thing, surprisingly, was the ‘coming out’ itself.
Monika: What do you think about the present situation of transgender women in your country?
Ava: Trans women in The U.K. are incredibly underrepresented. There’s rarely any coverage in media unless you go looking for it yourself. Luckily, we do have the NHS health care service and private care, too. The systems are tight and take a while to move through, but transitioning is not something to be taken lightly and I believe that whilst the end goal of a person’s transition is to have that goal be now, it shouldn’t be rushed. 
Monika: What do you think about transgender stories or characters which have been featured in films, newspapers, or books so far?
Ava: I would like for more trans voices to be seen and heard in all aspects of the media. I want to see more trans folk playing cis roles, just as is the case with cisgender folk playing trans roles.
Monika: Are you active in politics? Do you participate in any lobbying campaigns? Do you think transgender women can make a difference in politics?
Ava: With my job, I’m often out of the loop, so to say. I only have access to the outside world when on vacation from work or when I get a chance to catch up in port. So, not as involved as I could be, no. I would like to think we can, but I believe that the world still has a way to go before that happens as we all would like it.
Monika: Are you involved in the life of your local LGBTQ community?
Ava: Not much, no. As I said earlier, I don’t have many trans friends myself.
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?
Ava: I believe so. I still at times hope there is a day when the need for this community is no longer necessary. Everybody just ‘is’ and that’s that. Perhaps not in my lifetime.
Monika: Do you like fashion? What kind of outfits do you usually wear? Any special fashion designs, colors, or trends?
Ava: I’m so glad you asked. I’m a little bit of a shopaholic. I never used to be until about 6 months ago, though. Gaming was overtaken by clothes as I’ve started to develop my own style more, which usually consists of anything 90s-esque; high waisted jeans, band t-shirts coupled with a heeled ankle boot, through to my more elegant evening looks which are usually tailored jumpsuits with statement rings from Etsy crafters and Aldo heels.
Monika: What do you think about transgender beauty pageants?
Ava: I haven’t followed them often, so I can’t comment on this. But I believe pageants in themselves to be art, and I love art! All for the art.

Always channeling the 90s.

Monika: Could you tell me about the importance of love in your life?
Ava: Love has changed for me during my transition, quite a bit. As soon as I started my transition I believed then ‘goal’ was to find a good-looking guy and affirm myself as the woman I was and live happily ever after. Which I did, for a time. A relationship turned sour and it wasn’t a good time for me during the aftermath of it ending, and I really struggled. I realized that it wasn’t what I wanted, but that being with that person made me feel confident, wanted, and sexy.
Nowadays, I get that from myself, and my family. My family cares about me greatly and I love them. I learned to love myself again as I did prior to my transition, and a romantic relationship for me now is a way to enhance my life, not give it purpose.
Monika: Many transgender ladies write their memoirs. Have you ever thought about writing such a book yourself?
Ava: I’ve actually started doing this. I’ve had an incredibly colorful life, even for only being 24 (25 in July!) and I would love to share my experiences with the world. 
Monika: What would you recommend to transgender women that are afraid of transition, discrimination, and hatred?
Ava: Life's tumultuous, it can be cruel, whether you transition or not. To live a life and be seen for who you are truly, rather than hiding and being afraid of what happens to you, or what people may think of you is not a life lived.
Monika: What is your next step in the present time and where do you see yourself within the next 5-7 years?
Ava: I’m currently, as I mentioned previously, working on a ship as an entertainer. I see myself there presently and want to work up to becoming a Cruise Director within the fleet. If something else comes along? I’m going where the wind (or ocean, in my case) takes 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?
Ava: I do, and I don’t. Dreams begin all the time in your life. Our dreams begin when we are born either on an operating table or not, and we follow those dreams throughout life as new dreams are formed. In the literal sense, each trans person dreams of getting to a certain stage of transition, and that may be via surgery, but it also may not. Dreams encapsulate our whole life.
Monika: Ava, it was a pleasure to interview you. Do you have any social media accounts that people can catch up with you on?
Ava: Likewise. Thank you so much for reaching out to me. People can follow me via my Instagram @avesthom, my YouTube channel via Ava Elizabeth ASMR, or my Reddit handle, avasmr.

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

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