Tuesday, 15 December 2020

Interview with Brooke


Monika: Today I would like to share the story of Brooke, a Canadian transgender woman that documents her transition on Reddit.com. Hello Brooke!
Brooke: Hi Monika, it’s a pleasure to speak with you!
Monika: Could you say a few words about yourself?
Brooke: Sure, I’m a 38-year-old Canadian woman. I am blessed with a beautiful fiancé and daughter, and like everyone else, I’m just trying to find my own little slice of happiness in life.:)
Monika: Why did you decide to share your transition details on Reddit?
Brooke: Well, mainly because my formative years were long before the Internet and the information accessible there. It was due to sheer ignorance that my own transition was delayed for so long, so I wanted to do what I could to provide as much information as possible for those questioning.
Monika: We all pay the highest price for the fulfillment of our dreams to be ourselves. As a result, we 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?
Brooke: I think we all pay a price, some more than others. My marriage was a casualty of my transition, and subsequently, I only get to see my daughter half the time now. I know I should be grateful for how lucky I was to keep even 50% custody, but there is something to be said about coming home and your child not being there half the time.

With her sweetie.

My family for the most part have been incredibly supportive, especially my sister, but my relationship with my father has suffered significantly. I had done some research prior, so I was at least aware of the potential repercussions of my choice, but I still took steps to mitigate potential negative outcomes as much as possible.
I would say the hardest thing about coming out was the anxiety of telling my family. I was raised Roman Catholic and was unsure of how certain people would take it, so that played a lot into those fears.
Monika: I guess your daughter is the most important person for you. I read your post in which you were writing that before your SRS you were worried more about your daughter than the operation itself ...
Brooke: She is my world. I would think it is rather common for parents to feel that way about their children. I didn’t want my daughter to be worried or upset or feel like I abandoned her (she was 4 at the time, how does one explain to a child that age that they cannot see their mother?)
Monika: Your SRS was performed by Dr. Brassard in Canada, right? Why did you decide to have it there? Many ladies prefer going to Thailand instead ...
Brooke: Truth be told, I could never afford to have the surgery done overseas. If my province’s healthcare didn’t cover the surgery, I likely would not have been able to have it at all. That’s it, plain and simple. I was just lucky that our local option is still world-renowned and I have to say I’m more than pleased with the result.
Monika: How did your daughter react to your transition?
Brooke: Well, I was very lucky that my daughter was very very young when I decided to transition (under 2), so she’s only known me as mom. It makes things so much easier. :)
Monika: Do you get many questions from Reddit readers? What do they ask for?
Brooke: I get a lot of questions, how I started, how hard it was, is it worth it, all the basic things that run through our minds. A lot of the time they’re just grateful to see someone a bit older to have an idea of their own transition results I guess. :)
Monika: What was the strangest question that you answered?
Brooke: I can’t think of anything incredibly strange offhand, but it’s very unfortunate how often questions start innocuous and innocently enough and divert into incredibly personal sexual questions/advances. :(
Monika: Are you satisfied with the effects of the hormone treatment?
Brooke: For the most part, yes. There are always days and times though that I wonder what it would have been like to transition earlier before 'testosterone poisoning' ;) I think a lot of trans people always have a bit of regret over not being able to transition sooner, it's not uncommon to see posts on Reddit from people that are only 16 and still asking if it's too late. 
From another standpoint though, I try not to let it bother me too much missing out on so much because I had children late in life. Had I transitioned earlier, I don't think I ever would have got to be a mom.

In the previous life and now.

Monika: 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?
Brooke: It's a little silly that something so out of our control is so encompassing for many. I remember once I was at a trans support group meet-up and was told by one of the members that I can’t appreciate the trans experience appropriately as I had 'passing privilege'. I was so angry, as if it made my experiences and thoughts less deserving, or that I didn't belong. 
Passing shouldn't matter, but for many (myself included sadly) it does. I think the idea of passing has been conflated with attractiveness and unfortunately, we live in a society right now that is filtered (quite literally) in a way it's never been before. Cosmetic surgery definitely can help, but it's not an end to all problems.
I currently have had 3 surgeries, and there are still days that dysphoria kicks my butt. As far as coping, the best we can hope for is supportive friends and family, and a good therapist :)
Monika: Would you recommend FFS to all ladies suffering from dysphoria?
Brooke: I can’t really speak much on it as I was talked out of my own FFS by my surgeon, my surgeon simply did a nose job; but I think if your face is something that’s triggering your dysphoria and you want to take steps to alleviate that, then, by all means, go for it. Personally, I feel FFS should be covered by government healthcare instead of private insurance but that’s another story I guess.
Monika: Are there any transgender role models that you follow?
Brooke: It's funny you bring this up because prior to this week, I would have said "I don't think so". I mean, I followed the Madwife, Maria Crevelling, for a long time as I love League of Legends. Seeing a trans woman in the pro scene was pretty amazing, sadly she passed just last year, however.
This week though, someone I looked up to very highly (and admittedly crushed on very hard in my younger years) happened to announce they are trans as well. I'm speaking of Elliott Page, a fellow Canadian. Seeing all they've done in their advocacy for LGBT rights over the years always endeared them to me, so this week was a pleasant surprise!
Monika: Of course, I heard about Elliott. Amazing news! What do you think about the present situation of transgender women in your country?
Brooke: I think that Canada is a fairly safe space for trans people, but that varies case by case obviously. Personally, I've only had one real negative experience due to my being trans. 
In Canada, our health care is governed provincially instead of nationally, however, so that can result in different coverage depending on where you live, and even then, there is a struggle for access to care. I have friends who were on waitlists for almost a year to get HRT just due to the patient backlog.
I, unfortunately, can’t speak to the experience of our FtM brothers, but in regards to MtF, SRS is really the only thing covered. Many provinces state that breast augmentation is an eligible expense, but the requirements for eligibility are so rigid I've only known one person to meet the criteria, and it's because their doctor lied for them. It's a bit sad when your primary care practitioner has to resort to that to get their patient the care needed.

With her fiancé.

Monika: Do you remember your first job interview as a woman?
Brooke: I do, it was for the role I'm currently in now. It was nerve-wracking as you can imagine. Job interviews are hard enough as is, but when it's your first time interviewing as the opposite gender, it adds a certain degree of anxiety to it that isn't present otherwise hahaha.
Monika: What would you advise to all transwomen looking for employment?
Brooke: Push yourselves, never stop learning, especially if the education is free. Hope for the best :)
Monika: Do you like fashion? What kind of outfits do you usually wear? Any special fashion designs, colors, or trends?
Brooke: I do enjoy fashion, but unfortunately I would say my sense of style is sadly underdeveloped. I love jeans, I probably own close to 20 pairs in various styles and colors, and can commonly be seen in colder months wearing jeans, tall boots, and leather jackets.
In the summer, however, I love my sundresses and rompers. Color-wise, while I love purple, unfortunately, it's not a good color for me. I look better in wintery hues (blues look nice on me).
Monika: What do you think about transgender beauty pageants?
Brooke: If I'm going to be 100% blunt, I am not a fan. Trans participants in a general beauty pageant? Fantastic. Providing our own pageant however only reinforces a divide between trans and cis women and doubles down on the notion that we're not 'real women'. I don't identify as a trans woman, just a woman.
Monika: Are you involved in the life of the local LGBTQ community?
Brooke: I've done things like Pride, and went to our local trans peer night, but things have been kinda on hold this year, unfortunately.
Monika: Which aspects of Pride did you enjoy most?
Brooke: Probably how cheerful everyone was, it was like everyone woke up in a great mood that carried through the day :)
Monika: Could you tell me about the importance of love in your life?
Brooke: I think love is incredibly important. Everyone needs love. I'm lucky to have the love of my fiancée, my daughter, and the rest of my family. My fiancé has been my rock, I think having someone special like her makes all the difference :)
Monika: You have mentioned a special relationship with your sister. How much did she support you during your transition?
Brooke: She was the first one I told outside my ex-wife. She is a nurse with 3 children (and one was a newborn at the time), but when I asked if she could meet to discuss something important, she dropped everything and met me that night with my niece in a baby sling at a coffee shop. Ever since she's been there for me every step of the way. There is no single thing that's huge, it's all the little things that add up; she immediately started referring to me as her sister, introduced me to skin/haircare, fashion tips, sat down with her children, and explained how I am not their uncle but their aunt, etc.
She's also been the one in my family to make sure I am not alone, she visits me as often as she can, and always invites me to visit as well (prior to Covid-19 regardless). Considering that when I began my transition I moved about 200km from her, she is the only one in my family to consistently visit. I love her.

A bit hungry but looking cute.

Monika: Many transgender ladies write their memoirs. Have you ever thought about writing such a book yourself?
Brooke: Never in life. I just don't think I'm interesting enough to write about to be brutally honest.:)
Monika: What is your next step in the present time and where do you see yourself within the next 5-7 years?
Brooke: Next step is finally getting to marry my fiancé once this pandemic is over. :) In 5-7 years, I see myself prepping my lil girl to start high school, and trying to be the best person I can be. :) 
Monika: What would you recommend to all transgender women that are afraid of transition?
Brooke: To not fear the change. Not to sound like a fortune cookie, but life is always changing regardless. You have to look at yourself and think "when I'm at the end and reflecting on my life, can I live with the regret of never taking a chance?". You will know your circumstance and situation better than any, but don't let fear run your life. :)
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?
Brooke: Absolutely, I'm almost 40, and it feels like I'm just starting anew with my life. There are so many little incidents and occurrences that you'll see through new eyes with wonderment. :)
Monika: Brooke, it was a pleasure to interview you. Thanks a lot!
Brooke: The pleasure was mine, Monika :) Stay safe!

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

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