Thursday, 24 December 2020

Interview with Bobbi Dare


Monika: Today it is my honor and pleasure to interview Bobbi Dare, a Canadian poet, writer, and transgender activist that documents her transition on Reddit.com. We are going to chat about her amazing journey to womanhood and other related topics. Hello Bobbi! 
Bobbi: Hi Monika, good to be here thank you for inviting me.
Monika: Could you introduce yourself to the readers of my blog?
Bobbi: First of all I want to say that Bobbi Dare is a pen name that I have used for about 20 years. I am an out trans woman so I will share that my real name is Roberta Jane Heggie. I am 56 years old and I live in Toronto, Canada.
Professionally, I work in technology as a senior project/ program manager for diverse companies and I am a member of PMI - The Project Management Institute. I do volunteer work for PMI, being a past president of the Toronto Chapter, currently, I am the Chair of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion for PMI Toronto and the Executive Director for the Chapter.
Monika: Why did you decide to share your transition details on social media?
Bobbi: Vanity. No, not really. When I came out to my spouse of 28 years her reaction was very emotional. She blamed me for everything that had gone wrong with our marriage, accused me of lying to her (about being trans), and tried desperately to control every aspect of my coming out (such as my attire). I tried a few outlets to try and cope with my feelings, so I started a vlog on YouTube, which I didn't keep up very long.
Next, I set up an account on Medium with a Twitter profile and Instagram Profile I used to share the content. I started writing poetry which I posted to Medium and linked to my social media to try and gain followers. It didn't work. Turns out there is not a huge market for sad depressing, self-critical poetry. I tried to monetize the page on Medium but I got nothing. 
Eventually, I gave up and just started posting sexy photos on Instagram and Twitter. I did get some reaction to these photos but the negativity I encountered on these platforms pushed me even further down the rabbit hole of depression and late last year I became super depressed and suicidal.

"I now believe I am ready to share my
story again."

Also, I did the inevitable comparison of myself to images of young trans women and as a 55-year-old woman, two years into medical transition, I did not compare so well. By September of last year, I realized I had to get off social media all together so I deleted Instagram, Twitter, Medium, Pinterest... Maybe a few others... all except for Facebook, which I made private to my friends only. The Reddit profile that you found was my initial attempt to foray back into social media because after a year of working on myself (medically and emotionally).
I now believe I am ready to share my story again. I have had a lot of positive feedback from my posts on Reddit, many older trans women who are struggling with the shame, the fear, and the dysphoria, and look at me and my posts for inspiration. Knowing that my story helps others gives me the charge I need to keep going and the strength I need to ignore the trolls and haters.
Monika: 18 January 2021 will be your rebirth? I have seen your communication on Reddit about the scheduled SRS operation.
Bobbi: My upcoming gender-confirming surgery is on January 18th, about 4 weeks from now, and yes, I am excited, but not perhaps in the way you assume. It was the summer of 1973 when I first envisioned myself as a girl and dreamed about having this surgery. I was 8. So I have been waiting to have this done for 48 years.
When I began my medical transition with my first estrogen tablet in Jan of 2018, I launched into an immediate campaign with my doctors, to move my transition forward and get the letters I needed for insurance coverage quickly, this surgery is covered by our state medical insurance that we refer to as OHIP here where I live in Ontario.
It's been a long journey from there and I have become more introspective about the meaning of this surgery to my life overall. It is important but I am already looking down the road into next year and beyond as to how the rest of my life will be.
Monika: It is the most critical surgery for us, though some of us decide not to undergo it... How did you prepare yourself for it from the mental point of view?
Bobbi: There was a time when I would have agreed with you about this being the most critical treatment for trans women, but now I am not so sure. I first came out to my spouse in 1997 and I openly (well with her full knowledge that is) went out socially as Bobbi to the nightclubs and bars of Calgary, Alberta, with my friends, many of whom were trans.
At that time "The Surgery" was the goal, in addition to getting the "candy" (estrogen). Some girls entered into their transition with a mindset that was detached from reality and failed to comprehend that there was a whole life after surgery, some were disappointed and I know a few who de-transitioned because of these feelings. I was determined not to do this to myself. 
Fortunately, here we are in 2020 and things have changed dramatically. Attitudes have changed, I no longer have to worry overly much about "passing" in order to find housing or a good job and this is the reason that many of us decide not to have GCS, or even HRT for that matter because society has changed. I am prepared for the surgery, both before and after, because I have had so long to consider what I want and to build my new life around the transition.
Monika: What hopes or expectations do you have afterwards?
Bobbi: I have a career, I do volunteer work that I find fulfilling, I work with my community as an advocate and activist, I have a voice that gets louder and stronger each day and I do not intend to hide in the shadows and "pass." I have a taste of what it feels like to help others with their journey and I will continue that work. I know that having GCS is not an end-game for trans women, it's not even necessary anymore for things like getting a new birth certificate issued, I have already done that 2 years ago.
However, I am realistic; I know that I may have to travel this dangerous world, a world where there are hateful and violent feelings towards people like me, so having the surgery offers me protection. With a Canadian Passport that says female, a birth certificate that says female, and anatomy to match (because those new body scanners can see EVERYTHING!) I can travel most places in relative safety.
But, that was not my main reason for the surgery of course; I want this, I have wanted it for the last 48 years, and knowing that I am having it done in a little more than 4 weeks is meaningful as a major milestone in my life. I am 56, I may live another 40 years, I want to make the most of those remaining years being who I am, with the body I should have had from birth, free (well mostly) of the crippling gender dysphoria that I have dealt with for most of my life.

"I want to make the most of those remaining years being who I am,
with the body I should have had from birth..."

Monika: It is very interesting how you referred to passing. I guess we are said to be prisoners of passing or non-passing syndrome. Although cosmetic surgeries help to overcome it, we will always be judged accordingly. How can we cope with this?
Bobbi: Some of us pass very very, some do not. Some of us try very hard to pass and some do not. Sometimes those who do pass very well are clocked. It can be so very stressful if we are trying very hard to pass and yet we are clocked; it tears you down because the news that you've been clocked usually comes in the form of being misgendered. I tell myself it doesn't matter, just walk on by - but I am lying to myself because it does hurt. Someone misgendering me feeds that little bitch in my head that tells me I’m ugly, that I look like a man in a dress, that I should just give up. Depression, suicidal thoughts, depression, and another day or two wasted feeling worthless in a deep dark hole. It's hard.
I don't think I have any real answers because finding your way out of the pit of despair is easy--or not--depending on your current state of mental health: if you have a supportive partner, if you have a roof over your head, etc. I am lucky enough to have a supportive partner and a network of friends I can talk to, but not all of us are so lucky. I have reached out to mental health resources on occasion, but depending on where you live and your financial situation this may or may not be a viable solution.
In Toronto, there are several groups that exist to help LGBTQ+ people cope with the reality of being who we are in this cruel world, the 519 Centre for example on Church St (519 Church) :) Long answer to just say: don't try to handle it yourself and reach out for help... by there you are.
Monika: Are you satisfied with the effects of the hormone treatment?
Bobbi: OMG... OMG... OMG!! yes. Last year I switched from tablets to weekly injections of estrogen valerate (10 mg/week if anyone is interested) and the difference is like night and day! I was very dissatisfied with my progress up to about July 2019, then after that, the changes in my body started to accelerate. It was obvious that I was not getting enough hormone prior to that and the reason was doctors being overly cautious. Fortunately, I am still reasonably young and healthy so my doctor agreed to up my dosage and I am so very thankful.
The changes have been nothing short of miraculous, because now, 17 months after starting injections, most of my dysphoria is gone. I look in the mirror now and actually see the woman who was hidden for so long. Of course, I have had other help along the way in addition to HRT: I had - a Brazilian butt lift (which involves liposuction with body sculpting with the harvested fat), lower facelift, hairline lowering, eyebrow raise, lip lift, breast augmentation, rhinoplasty, chin/jaw reconstruction and an orbital (around the eyes) shave. 
Monika: Are there any transgender role models that you follow or followed in the past? 
Bobbi: My first transgender role model, the only trans woman I was aware of at the time, was Caroline Cossey (Tula). When she was outed by the media in 1981 following the Bond film and all of a sudden there was someone I could aspire to... on some level because keep in mind, I was still deep deep deep in the closet in 1981 (I was 17 at the time) and wrestling with desires that drew me down one path and fears, self-doubt and self-loathing that kept me from going that way. In many ways I envied her, but as much as I wanted to be her I also saw in horrific detail how the media tore her apart. Unfortunately, she became my object lesson to never tell anyone.
In 1991 however, she entered my life again when she did the spread in Playboy, I read her story and was fascinated by her transition from a geeky skinny kid to the beautiful woman she is. I was in university at the time and this was one of those turning points for me; the student union had a medical plan for full-time students and I could have gone to the clinic, been assessed, and potentially started HRT in 1992-3. But I didn't; I found love and I submerged myself in that relationship for the next 28 years (1990 to 2018).
Even after coming out to my spouse in 1997, going through assessment in Alberta, getting the doctor's letters I needed--after all that--I still couldn't end my marriage after I told her I wanted to transition in 2002. She would not even consider being married to me once I started HRT--that would be the end. I struggled with this decision and ultimately made a poor one when I put the transition on hold for the next 15 years.
In the intervening years, I tried to stay away from transmedia until in 2017 I couldn't stand it anymore and I came out again while living in Toronto. This time it was for good and even though it ended my 28-year relationship I could no longer hold back. My role models at this point were everywhere: watching YouTubers like Stef Sanjati and GiGi Gorgeous forced me to take a look at myself, my life, the wasted time, a relationship that had slowly grown distant, local trans women who shared their stories with me... so many people that gave me the courage to examine my life and choose a different path. Sorry - long answer but it was a journey.

"I read her story and was fascinated by her
transition from a geeky skinny kid to the
beautiful woman she is." Source: twitter.com

Monika: I agree totally. Caroline Cossey has become one of the most inspirational and iconic figures for all of us! How about the Canadian ladies? I am familiar with the story of Diana Boileau and her biography "Behold I am a Woman Now" (1972), and more recently Jenna Talackova, a model and television personality, who successfully waged a legal battle to be allowed to compete in the Miss Universe Canada.
Bobbi: I was too young, I think, to have heard about Diana in the news at the time, I was 7 in 1972, and my realization wasn't until a year later. But even so, I would not have likely picked up and read a book like Diana's story until the late '90s in any case.
Other than Caroline my next early exposure to trans women was pornography. I remember a porn star by the name of Sulka (I think her name is a play on words for the name Seka - who was a famous cis-gender porn star around the same time) whose career was in the '80s. 
Other references that I found were also in men's magazines where I found perhaps 2-3 stories with transgender characters or themes. Books like Diana's never made it to the bookshelves of stores I would have shopped at in Victoria, BC where I grew up - a very small conservative government town.
I did hear about the story of Jenna's legal battle with Trump, but it was not until years later after I finally came out in 2017.

END OF PART 1

 
All the photos: courtesy of Bobbi Dare.
© 2020 - Monika Kowalska

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