Saturday, 12 August 2017

Interview with Aleana Robins

Monika: Today it is my pleasure and honor to interview Aleana Robins, a former skier, grave digger, performance car driver, small business owner, farmer, artist, radio announcer, blogger, parent of 7 children from Riverside, California, and the author of the biographical book titled “The Shadow of Ally” (2016). She lives in Launceston, a city in the north of Tasmania, Australia. Hello Aleana!
Aleana: Hello and thank you for taking the time. I promise you can ask anything but I will not promise you will like my answer (smiles). Though I would love to say that the start of my journey began in California but I have lived all over the western side of the US. I moved to Australia in 2002 to be with my former spouse.
Monika: Could you say a few words about yourself? The number of your talents and jobs is really awesome …
Aleana: I grew up in a middle-income family with a mother who did not know how to care and a father who was lost in his battles with PTSD from Vietnam. I think in some ways my teenage years while dysfunctional was also a place where I gained so many talents. I have enjoyed playing several musical instruments learned to have a love for music and the arts that have only grown in age. I love skiing and the sound of fresh powder under my skies. I am a proud parent of seven children, I know people think wow a breeder, lol. But I would not change their love and the experiences that come with them in my life for all the Tea in China.
Monika: Why did you decide to write your autobiography?
Aleana: I am very different from a lot of people when they start Transitioning. I don’t dead the past. I am very thankful for what Allen did, I know it sounds like I have two lives in one shell. But to me, that is the only way I can make sense of why I am like I am. When I started my transition as an adult; I say in my book it was an experience to have Allen protecting Ally. I don’t think I would have made it to this point in my life if it would not have been for the amazing strength of Allen. He went through hell several times just protecting me. So, killing him off was not right but saying thank you and here is his story was. It also allowed a chance to heal from all the past pain that Allen had to suffer in protecting Ally (me).

Available via Amazon.

I also wanted people to know that while Allen went through so many issues to get me to a safe point where I could live he should not be forgotten and nor should his struggles. As with a lot of the Trans community we all face some form of backlash at one point or another. His struggles show that it can be worth it in the end. So here I am writing my own book in my own life thanks to him. Even now as I write this tears flow in thankfulness for him.
Monika: Which aspects of your experience can be useful for other transwomen?
Aleana: Believe in yourself, this is so very important as many will not. There is a Latin quote that was told to Allen so many years ago and I have kept it close to my heart as well “Illegitimi non carborundum” which loosely translated means “Don’t let the Bastards grind you down”. Yeah, we as the Trans community will face huge hurdles but we need to hold our heads high, we are worth it.
I don’t really want to plug my book too much but “The Shadow of Ally”. The experiences that Allen and I went through are far too many to list in such a short time. I encourage people to take the time and have a read. I also took the time to address questions that so many people have about being Trans and a bit of advice for younger Trans as well.
Monika: At what age did you transition into a woman yourself? Was it a difficult process?
Aleana: My Transition is not one of simplicity Allen tried so many times to allow me to come to life (so to speak). But every time it was met with some sort of violence. The final time that it happened resulted in a large amount of violence towards Allen and the last of the children at home. It was so bad that the choice to flee was made in the dead of night fearing for our safety. It was at that point that Allen said enough is enough and stepped aside. Allen was 45, I never thought I was going to be able to come out of the shadows. I made sure to educate myself on all the psychological and physical issues surrounding my stepping out of the shadows. I don’t feel like I was in a closet as I was always with Allen and even to this day Allen is with me. BTW, I don’t have Multi Personality Disorder, it is just a way to describe what my life is like. Two sides of the same coin so to speak.
Monika: At that time of your transition, did you have any transgender role models that you followed?
Aleana: When I was young and questioning what the hell was going on in my head and body I saw The Renée Richards story and it all clicked. It made sense I was not a freak or anything else derogatory. But in my little town, I could not find any resources so I started to research the term “Transsexual” and at a point, I hit a wall of knowledge until the age of 20ish. But by then Allen was in full protection mode. I wish there would have been body-positive role models but they were in the shadows as well. But as I teach my children we must be very careful who we choose as role models. There are so many different vipers in the tall grass of life.

The Renée Richards story.

Monika: Are there are any transgender ladies that you admire and respect now?
Aleana: In 2014, I was watching YouTube and stumbled upon Laura Jane Grace. Don’t really recall how or why but listening to her story at the time I started to feel a kindred spirit. Then as time rolled on I met a real Hero who to this day I have even had the chance to chat with a few times Cate McGregor. The Strength that these wonderful women showed me is that I could do it if they could so I am working on it.
I make no excuse for my views on Caitlyn Jenner. But I feel that even to this very day I say “No thank you” for her help. I was so very hopeful when she stepped out of her shadows that she could have been a powerful force for change. But in the end, she turned out to be a festering sore that pops up time in again.
So, I say this to every young trans person out there, choose wisely. There are some amazing role models to listen to like Janet Mock, Cate McGregor, Jazz (there is a beautiful young lady, wise beyond her age), Renee Richards, Laverne Cox, and the list goes on and on. But choose wisely to whom you listen to and follow. Choose those whose character is above reproach but even heroes have flaws. Just make sure those flaws are ones that you can live with.
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?
Aleana: When Allen was 12, 14, 16, 18, 35 and at 45 he told his mother how he was feeling and it did not go well and in fact, it opened up a huge amount of neglect and abuse that was always hidden from the public eye as well as his Father. Allen tried so many times to win her acceptance but in the end, it never happened. I have even had a run-in with her while she was on her death bed. That was not only the only cost Allen and I had, we lost our sisters who followed the hate of their mother. In fact, one of them fanned the flames of hate to great extents. Allen and I lost contact with two of our Daughters. I also lost a small number of friends though looking back that they were not real friends. Though I am very blessed that a core group of friends “Leaves” have hung in there and shaded me from a lot of pain and empty times.
There is a huge cost to be true to oneself that is not always able to be seen at the planning stages of coming out of your shadows. But you can buffer the harm they cause but making good choices in those to whom you called friends and loved ones. Don’t be afraid to cut off those who spill forth their hate. Being True to yourself is above all, is the wisest choice, I am not the first to say this. I would rather have a friend who knows who they are and are honest than a person like Donald Trump.
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?
Aleana: Wow, I am sorry but I disagree with those who are saying we are thriving. The Youth suicide rate is still hanging in there at about 40%. Governments are actively trying to harm the Trans community, for example, the US and bathroom bills. In less than six months 17 transwomen have been murdered. What we are seeing is a popularity contest for acceptance. Meaning that if you are a perfect beauty, rich, extremely talented, or just plain lucky you’ll make it.

Allen talking to Son G.

This is not reality; the truth is that no matter whether you are MtF or FtM, hormones play hell on the body. So not everyone can look 100% the way they feel inside and some have to learn to come to terms with it and in current society, this pressure is very difficult. Some countries don’t support health programs assisting the Transgender community. Gender-affirming surgery is not covered in healthcare programs and it is considered cosmetic. So, costs to assist the Trans community are out-of-pocket expenses.
What would be Thriving would be that health care is fully covered, that governments stop passing bills that harm, we stop seeing job discrimination, and we stop being compared to the Cis-gendered. Then let’s look at the topic again….
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?
Aleana: I think in a perfect world we could see that the Gender issue did not exist and thus the “T” would not need to be a part of the current LGBT+ communities. It is not perfect by any means and we have a lot to benefit from being grouped with others who are fighting for their own rights as well as there is strength in numbers. While they help support us we should support their needs. To also look at the fact that some of us reside in more than one letter of that acronym.
Monika: What do you think in general about transgender news stories or characters which have been featured in films, newspapers, or books so far? 
Aleana: Okay I hope your readers are sitting down. I really avoid mainstream news, TV shows, and most movies. I do however pick and choose what news is important and normally not from the mainstream.
I love to listen to the Young Turks on YouTube. As for how the Trans community is portrayed, I think it is very simple based upon where in the world you are at. In Australia, I feel very safe and secure. Though if I was in the US I feel that the media has a large amount to answer for with its continued fear-mongering and how it portrays the Trans community as a whole. When Bathroom bills are being proposed and the evidence says they are worthless the media should help in the squashing of them. But the truth is they fan the fears of the uneducated populace. I also believe that 90% of the world's religions have a lot to answer for with their passive-aggressive stance towards the LGBT+ communities.

Aleana with Son H.

As far as a film is concerned, I am still in shock at the use of cisgender people in trans roles. I refuse to watch films that do that. I was saddened to see the loss of Senses8 this year. Though I am still very proud to see Lavern Cox in her roles. But I am a big fan of Doctor Who and Game of Thrones, lol.


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

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