Sunday, 2 July 2017

Interview with Jessica Harrington

Monika: Today it is my pleasure and honor to interview Jessica Harrington, an inspirational American woman from Reno, Nevada. Hello Jessica!
Jessica: Hi Monika. Thank you for having me. 
Monika: Could you say a few words about yourself?
Jessica: I am a 42-year-old trans woman. I have been in transition for almost 5 years and while it’s has been amazing being free, it’s also been the hardest time of my life.
Monika: At what age did you transition into a woman yourself? Was it a difficult process? 
Jessica: I started transition when I was 38. The process itself wasn’t that difficult. I did my research for years beforehand. I knew what I needed, who I needed to talk to, and about what everything would cost me.
Monika: At that time of your transition, did you have any transgender role models that you followed? 
Jessica: I did not. I didn’t even know another transgender person at the time. I had seen websites and tried talking to people online, but everyone was so secretive or fetishized it as just a sexual “experiment” to help get them off. I quickly gave up hope of meeting anyone else like me.

Meeting Lavern Cox at UNR.

Monika: Are there are any transgender ladies that you admire and respect now?
Jessica: There are a few such as Lavern Cox, whom I had the pleasure of meeting two years ago. Janet Mock, Martine Rothblatt, Jamie Clayton, and Laura Jane Grace. All absolutely amazing women who are making a difference for all of us, and showing the world that we are real people with dreams, goals, and lives that are just like everyone else’s.
Monika: We all pay the highest price for the fulfillment of our dreams to be ourselves. As a result, many trans women lose their families, friends, jobs, and social positions. Did you pay such a high price as well? What was the hardest thing about your coming out? 
Jessica: The hardest thing was one of the worst things to happen in my whole life and it continues today. The morning of my first estrogen injection, my wife of almost 20 years, gave me a big hug, said she loved me and that she would see me when I got home. 
However, when I returned home, she was gone. As was all the money in the bank accounts, cars, furniture, clothes, everything. She had even torn up the check that was to be sent to Dr. Bowers for my gender reassignment surgery. She had left me broke and homeless with a severely damaged spine.
For almost 5 years I’ve been living under a bridge. Every so often I find a place to stay for a week or two. As I have no friends, no family, and no way to change my situation, my life continues to go nowhere.
Monika: The transgender community is said to be thriving now. As Laverne Cox announced, “Trans is beautiful.” Teenage girls become models and dancers, talented ladies become writers, singers, and actresses. Those ladies with an interest in politics, science, and business become successful politicians, academics, and businesswomen. What do you think in general about the present situation of transgender women in contemporary society? Are we just scratching the surface or the change is really happening?
Jessica: There are a few changes that are actually happening for the betterment of the trans communities. However, until we can find a way to stop the hate and stop people from killing us, nothing will ever truly get better.

Only 6 months of HRT.

Monika: The transgender cause is usually manifested together with the other LGBTQ communities. Being the penultimate letter in this abbreviation, is the transgender community able to promote its own cause within the LGBTQ group?
Jessica: I can’t really comment much on this question. The LGBTQ community here isn’t really friendly towards the “T”. Most of them feel we are just “pretending” in order to take something from them. 
The “L” believes we are trying to trick them into sex with a “man”. The “G” is mad because we are getting rid of the only part of our bodies that they find useful. So unless we are actively fighting for something that directly benefits them, they don’t want us around.
Monika: What do you think in general about transgender news stories or characters which have been featured in films, newspapers, or books so far?
Jessica: The media in all its forms should ONLY use actual trans actors for trans parts.
Monika: Do you participate in any lobbying campaigns? Do you think transgender women can make a difference in politics?
Jessica: Being transgender does not make one any better or worse at anything. Those that believe it does, are the ones that try to keep us from succeeding.
Monika: Do you think that in our lifetime we could live to see the day when a transgender woman could become the President of the USA? Or the First Lady at least? :)
Jessica: I sure hope so.
Monika: Do you like fashion? What kind of outfits do you usually wear? Any special fashion brands, colors, or trends?
Jessica: There is a lot of factors that help me decide what I wear for the day. How I feel, where I’m going, who will be my primary interaction. Usually, it’s dressy casual. I always like to look good when I go out into public. Pink! Pink is my everything as far as colors go. Literally, 80% of my wardrobe is pink. Used to be 100% black, but I’m trying to mix it up a bit. Lol.
Monika: What do you think about transgender beauty pageants?
Jessica: I have never seen one. Though I think it’s amazing that my sisters are winning beauty pageants in countries around the world.

Love an empty pool!

Monika: Many transgender ladies write their memoirs. Have you ever thought about writing such a book yourself?
Jessica: I learned a long time ago that nobody cares what I have to say. So unless someone asks, I don’t bother.
Monika: Could you tell me about the importance of love in your life?
Jessica: Love? What’s that?
Monika: Are you working on any new projects now?
Jessica: I spend most of my time helping others begin the transition. Everything from telling them what to expect, who to see, what’s truth and what’s not, going with them to their first doctor’s appointment, if they live close enough, to helping them with makeup and finding the right clothes for their body type. It’s not really a “project”, I just love helping people be free and avoid the things I had to learn the hard way.
Monika: What would you recommend to all transgender girls struggling with gender dysphoria?
Jessica: There is no one thing. We all find our own ways to cope with it.
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?
Jessica: For some, it’s a true statement. Some put everything on hold until they “complete” themselves. Others feel that they will never be done, that they are never going to be good enough. The transition should be a part of your life, not all of your life.
Monika: Jessica, thank you for the interview!

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

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