Monday, 7 December 2020

Interview with Eleanor

 
Monika: Today’s interview is with Eleanor, an American software engineer and transgender woman that documents her transition on Reddit.com as eleanorPDX. Hello Eleanor!
Eleanor: Hi Monika, thank you for interviewing me today!
Monika: Could you say a few words about yourself?
Eleanor: I live in Portland, Oregon, with my wife Evan and our cat Percy and dog Riley. We're originally from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, but we moved to Oregon five years ago because Oregon is much more accepting of LGBTQ people than Oklahoma is. We have not visited Oklahoma in several years due to safety concerns. For employment, I'm a software engineer.
Monika: Why did you decide to share your transition details on Reddit?
Eleanor: Before I started my transition, I was already a Reddit user. I found the transtimelines sub-reddit and saw so many people becoming so much happier being able to live their lives the way they wanted. It gave me the confidence to start my transition.

Before and after the transition.

After starting my transition, I started posting pictures of my transition to transtimelines and was overwhelmed by the amount of positivity. The transtimelines community has really helped me through my transition.
I hope my photos and other people's photos on transtimelines help encourage people to live their best life.
Monika: Do you get many questions from your Reddit readers? What do they ask for?
Eleanor: I get asked often about transitioning by people considering transitioning. The questions are usually about what prescriptions I'm taking and how I got a prescription for them.
Monika: What was the strangest question that you answered?😀
Eleanor: Just about every time I post something either on Reddit or Instagram, I'll have a random guy message me. I was once asked by someone if they could worship me lol. I always say no thanks to the weird questions and block the sender. :)
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?
Eleanor: It was difficult coming out to family and friends, but I knew most of them wouldn't mind. What I gave up is the ability to see them often. I don't feel safe in Oklahoma, where many of my friends and family live. Because of this, I rarely get to see any of them. I get to see my parents once or twice a year when they visit me in Oregon. Other than that, I haven't seen many of my friends and family for years. I'm sure I'll see everyone again someday, though. :)

At the lake with her wife - pre-transition photo.

Monika: How did your wife feel about your transition? Was she surprised?
Eleanor: By the time I told my wife I was transgender, I was already presenting pretty femme. I was regularly painting my nails, I had grown my hair out, a lot of my wardrobe was women's clothing, and I was experimenting with makeup, so by the time I told her, she wasn't very surprised and told me she basically already knew.
Monika: Suddenly instead of a depressed husband, she found herself in the marriage with an attractive and happy woman. Some spouses find it difficult.
Eleanor: My wife was extremely accepting and has been my biggest supporter. I got really lucky finding her. :)
Monika: You are a software engineer. How do you cope with working for the industry that is so dominated by men? :)
Eleanor: It's unfortunate that the tech industry is dominated by men, but it seems to be getting better all the time especially on the west coast. Through my time in the industry, I have worked alongside many cis and trans women. I hope the industry continues to diversify. 
Monika: Do you remember your first job interview as a woman?
Eleanor PDX: Yes, I was extremely scared to do the interview because I had only been working on voice training for six months or so. I was also worried the interviewers would treat me weird. However, everything went fine and there wasn't a reason for me to get so worked up! :) You get more and more used to being around people as your true self the more you do it! It's just hard at first.

At the waterfall with her wife - another pre-transition photo.

Monika: What would you advise to all transwomen looking for employment?
Eleanor PDX: I started applying for work as me while working another job as my old self. On my resume, I listed my pronouns as She/ They to kind of hint that I'm trans. If a company sees your pronouns and doesn't want to contact you, then you probably don't want to work there. However, I've only used this method for tech jobs.
Monika: On the other hand, it is amazing to see so many talented transwomen in the high tech business: Lynn Conway, Kate Craig-Wood, Rebecca Heineman, Megan Wallent, just to name a few of them ...
Eleanor: It's inspirational transwomen like these that give me hope that one day I will become a leader in my industry just like them.

One-year transition (right).

Monika: Are you satisfied with the effects of the hormone treatment?
Eleanor: I'm very satisfied with hormone therapy! Though it does not completely eliminate my dysphoria, I look back at old photos of me and am filled with happiness that I no longer look the way I did. Hormone therapy is one of the best things that has ever happened to me. 
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?
Eleanor: Dysphoria is something I feel every day. There isn't a day that goes by that I don't worry about passing or not passing. It's rough. I try to tell myself every day that I'm valid and beautiful but this isn't always helpful. I hope to one day get cosmetic surgery because there are many aspects of my body that I don't like. I know this won't completely eliminate my dysphoria, but I hope it helps. Until then, I'll just keep moving forward.
Monika: You do not have any reason to feel dysphoric! You look absolutely beautiful. But I must admit that, at least for me, this overwhelming drive for 200% femininity is difficult to tackle ...
Eleanor: Aww, thank you! :) and I totally agree! It can be tiring to present as femme as possible all the time.
Monika: Are there any transgender role models that you follow?
Eleanor: One person I follow is Natalie Wynn and her YouTube channel Contrapoints. I like that her videos are presented as a theatrical research paper. Her take on life and overall confidence are inspiring. She is someone I look up to.

Finally me!

Monika: Yes, indeed! Natalie is great. I love her style, which is full of a sense of humor and flamboyant costumes. She addresses many interesting aspects of how transwomen are perceived in the USA. What do you think about the present situation of transgender women in your country?
Eleanor: Many parts of the United States are trans-friendly, with the West Coast being the most friendly. In Portland, where I live, I have never been harassed and feel extremely safe. I think things would be different living in a more conservative area like the southern United States, though. Though places like where I live are great for transgender people.
I believe there is still room for improvement, especially when it comes to healthcare. The majority of healthcare insurance available does not cover many transgender healthcare needs. Surgery, trans-related doctor visits, and even sometimes Estrogen is not covered by many insurance companies leaving many transgender people to pay out-of-pocket.
I will add that healthcare as a whole in the United States is awful, though.
Monika: Do you like fashion? What kind of outfits do you usually wear? Any special fashion designs, colors, or trends?
Eleanor: One of my favorite shows is Project Runway, but other than that, I don't really keep up with the latest fashion trends. I do find myself buying darker and darker clothes. I recently dyed my hair black as well. My wife jokes that I am going through a goth phase.
Monika: Are you involved in the life of the local LGBTQ community?
Eleanor: I am! I'm part of a group called Trans in Tech. When I first joined the group, I was applying around for programming jobs. I was really scared to apply and interview for jobs as my true self. Many members of the group gave me advice and encouragement to find a job as me. The group really helped me feel supported and not alone. :)
Monika: Could you tell me about the importance of love in your life?
Eleanor: The first thing I think of when I hear the word love is my wife. She is so important to me and makes me so happy. I'm lucky to have her in my life.
Monika: Many transgender ladies write their memoirs. Have you ever thought about writing such a book yourself?
Eleanor: I haven't but that sounds like a fun project to start!

Another selfie.

Monika: What is your next step in the present time and where do you see yourself within the next 5-7 years?
Eleanor: My next steps are continuing my transition and learning to love myself more. For the future, I see myself further in my career with more responsibility. I see myself and my family happy and healthy.
Monika: What would you recommend to all transgender women that are afraid of transition? 
Eleanor: The thought of transitioning can be scary. Before transitioning, I was afraid I would lose people, I was scared I wouldn't be able to find employment, and I was worried I would regret transitioning. However, I couldn't be happier that I transitioned.
My advice is, if transitioning is something you really want, you should go for it! It will show you who in your life truly loves you, and you owe it to yourself to be true to yourself.
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?
Eleanor: I do agree with this! For me, transitioning isn't the end goal. It's the beginning of my journey as me.
Monika: Eleanor, it was a pleasure to interview you. Thanks a lot!
Eleanor: It was wonderful speaking with you! Thank you so much!

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

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