Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Interview with Roxanne Manzone

Monika: Today it is my pleasure and honor to interview Roxanne L. Manzone, a Florida Department of Transportation Roadway Inspector from Ocala, Florida. Hello Roxanne! 
Roxanne: Hello Monika!
Monika: Could you say a few words about yourself?
Roxanne: I retired from Law Enforcement here in Ocala, Fl, and have lived here for over 40 years, and grew up in New York. I am a “Car Girl” and enjoy displaying my car in car shows. I volunteer at a local soup kitchen once a week. I am a model train enthusiast, and I custom paint scale model trains.
Monika: I saw your short story in The New York Times series titled “Transgender Today.” Why did you decide to come out to the general public?
Roxanne: My attitude is that there is so little information about the Transgender Community, we are all responsible to be visible in a positive way, many people have never met a transgender person, and I want people who meet me to have a positive impression. I wanted people to see that we are everyday people too.
Monika: You transitioned into a woman in your 50s. Have you ever regretted doing this so late in your life?
Roxanne: No, regrets, I believe in “things happen for a reason”, so we all transition at different times in our lives, I was ready at 57. I finally came to accept who I was a few years prior. I gave myself three years to the complete transition and stuck to it. I finally transitioned at work on 06/15/2015.
Monika: At that time of your transition, did you have any transgender role models that you followed?
Roxanne: No, not really. I think what motivated me were girlfriends I met in the LGBTQ community, seeing their changes, and had numerous discussions about hormones and surgery. I came to the realization, “why not me” to be my authentic self.
Monika: Are there are any transgender ladies that you admire and respect now? 
Roxanne: My close girlfriend, Cindy. We both have paralleled each outer in our journey since we first met back in our early cross-dressing days. We both refer to each other as “Transition buddies” We talk often and are our support system over the years.

I won the chili cook-off at work in 2016.

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? 
Roxanne: Yes, I lost contact with my two adult daughters, grandchildren, my sister, and ex-wife. Am I sad? somewhat, in retrospect, I know I could have done a better job at explaining my transition to my daughters, but at the time of my divorce, I didn’t have a lot of knowledge of what I was going through. They looked at my decision as being selfish, putting me ahead of them and my ex.
I felt I was at a point of “why should I be grumpy to keep three other people happy”. The pressure to be your authentic self never went away; it increased as I got older in life. Besides, they are missing out on a much nicer, better person. I am blessed with retired friends, Model Train club members, co-workers who knew me prior to my transition and support me.
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?
Roxanne: I think we in the community are beginning to be more visible than ever, and more are “coming out of the closet” Each one of us who are out are knocking down misconceptions and misinformation on what a Trans person is. I think we just want people to understand we are not “freaks”, just regular people who want to be happy and live their lives and contribute to society. I firmly believe the people I meet have no issues with me being Transgender. I feel American society is becoming more accepting. 
Monika: On the other hand, the restroom war is raging on and transgender women are killed on the streets…
Roxanne: Here in the United States, we are the target of the Conservative religious right. With the legalization of same-sex marriage in the USA. We are now their scapegoats. It is especially dangerous for transgender women of color, many have been murdered, and with the current President and his administration, they are rolling back protections for our community we cannot look to the present Federal Government for protection, it will have to be through the Judicial System.
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?
Roxanne: Given the present leadership in Washington D.C. they are trying to remove LGBTQ from society, all references and programs to assist LGBTQ Americans on a Federal level have been removed or “left to the States.”
The current administration is actively hostile towards the LGBTQ Community based upon their comments, actions, and appointments and their open support and admiration of known Anti- LGBTQ organizations.
There have been comments and articles about Transgender issues having nothing to do with Gay issues in the LGBTQ community. But that seems to be a very small group with that opinion. All of us under the LGBTQ banner are under attack from the hateful, extreme right-wing politicians.
Monika: What do you think in general about transgender news stories or characters which have been featured in films, newspapers, or books so far?
Roxanne: There have been several positive depictions of Transgendered Americans, exclusively on Cable television, however, Hollywood has a long way to go to recognize Trans actors and give them roles that are authentic.
Monika: Do you participate in any lobbying campaigns? Do you think transgender women can make a difference in politics?
Roxanne: I did testify in 2015 to a sub-committee concerning a “bathroom bill” in the Florida Legislature, and spoke against an anti-Transgender local school board hearing. Again, the more visible we become, especially politically will only help move us forward.
Monika: Do you think that in our lifetime we could live to see the day when a transgender lady could become the President of the USA? Or the First Lady at least?:)
Roxanne: I seriously doubt that.
Monika: Do you like fashion? What kind of outfits do you usually wear? Any special fashion brands, colors, or trends?
Roxanne: Typically, I dress casually, you’ll always find me in jeans. I haven’t worn a dress in a long time.
Monika: I have read somewhere that cisgender women were liberated thanks to the development of contraceptive pills whereas transgender women are free now thanks to the development of cosmetic surgery, so they are no longer prisoners of passing or non-passing syndrome …
Roxanne: “Passing” is something that gets me mad. Why do we have that pressure? As long as we are happy with ourselves, that’s all that counts in my opinion. Unfortunately, most health insurance policies exclude anything to do with gender change, so many go without surgery.

At a local car show.

Monika: What do you think about transgender beauty pageants?
Roxanne: I don’t really care… 
Monika: Many transgender ladies write their memoirs. Have you ever thought about writing such a book yourself?
Roxanne: No, not really. I did have a story in our local newspaper featuring myself and three other local Transgender people. I’ve been in this town for 40 years and wanted my story out, so I was thrilled when the reporter contacted me.
Monika: Could you tell me about the importance of love in your life?
Roxanne: since my divorce, I have found I am content being single, I’m not actively looking for a relationship. Will see what the future holds.
Monika: Are you working on any new projects now?
Roxanne: None.
Monika: What would you recommend to all transgender girls struggling with gender dysphoria?
Roxanne: Seeking out others in our community, with the internet, you can find many resources, it is important to know that you are not alone. Seek professional counseling, I did that and it was one of the best things I’ve ever done. Find and make friends with someone in your same situation, and close friend is invaluable.
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?
Roxanne: We are all different but we have to face the reality of what we can and cannot do. Some are fortunate to have the financial resources to physically transition, many do not. And surgery isn’t the answer for all Transgender people. We all have to be happy in our skin (though it’s the wrong body), ultimately, if you are happy in your heart and soul, your beauty will shine, and be proud of whom you are.
Monika: Roxanne, thank you for the interview!

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

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