Wednesday 16 December 2020

Interview with Ella Marques

Monika: It has been three years since my last interview with Ella Marques, a Portuguese-American writer living in Boca Raton, Florida. In 2017 Ella published her biographical book ‘I was born a boy, from Venus. It’s time to be yourself’. Today’s interview has been triggered not only by the fact that I missed her but also her two newly-released books: “Coming home to Venus” and "Eva's world". Hello Ella!
Ella: Hi Monika, It is such a pleasure to be here with you.
Monika: How are you holding up in the pandemic times?
Ella: Business-wise it has been a disaster but from my own personal perspective it has been an incredible year. I usually travel a lot, about every second week and in March we had a lockdown here in the US, so I took advantage to finish my second book “Coming Home to Venus”, then I got the idea to write a fiction novel Eva’s World.
At the end of 2019, a group of friends and I started a YouTube channel and Facebook Page called Trans-Gurus, it has been quite a success, we have now over 19 000 followers on Facebook, and it is a reference page for many transgender people all over the world. We have people from so many countries, USA, UK, Philippines, Egypt, India, Pakistan, Germany. It is quite incredible and very moving to try to help the community. Pandemic has been a big source of inspiration in many ways and it gave me some time to help our great community.

Available via Amazon.

Monika: In “I was born a boy from Venus” (2017) we could read about the beginning of your transition. Is it why you felt that your next book “Coming home to Venus” (2020) should cover the next steps up to gender reassignment surgery?
Ella: Yes, Coming home to Venus is a book about change. About becoming yourself, the steps to becoming fully yourself, in this case being a transgender woman. I hope many trans people read the book and take it as a roadmap for transition and many cis people understand what is change in the history of a trans woman.
Monika: How did you divide those steps in the book?
Ella: The steps in the book came more or less chronologically, starting with trying to understand my gender dysphoria up to gender reassignment surgery, and becoming yourself in the real world. It talks about counseling, support groups, Hormone replacement therapy, passing and acceptance, family and friends, name and paper changes… most things that are dealt with during a transition. I think it is a very interesting read for all that are transitioning and for people interested in the transgender theme.
Monika: The beginning is about your dysphoria and the support received from Dr. Carol Clark. Were you happy about the way she addressed your situation?
Ella: Dr. Carol Clark is a brilliant professional, and expert in transgender people and transitioning. She has lead the transgender support group in south Florida for over 20 years, one of the first ones, she teaches Ph.D. students in transgender studies and sexual therapy. She is really very special. For more information please go to her website.
For me she was so important from the first day, she did not tell much, I was doing most of the talk about myself, my feelings, and my youth. The rest came by itself, the support she gave me and my family was very precious. She opened the doors that society forced me to close inside myself, and I finally accepted what I always knew and tormented me for decades.
It is so important to work with people that know what they are doing when you are a transgender person. Unfortunately, too many specialists have no idea about our issues, leading to unsatisfactory conditions for everybody. And this applies as well to surgeons, endocrinologists, and other people that deal with our community.
Monika: The start of hormone replacement therapy was the most exhilarating part of the transition for me, especially when I could see its effects. Did you feel the same?
Ella: Oh yes sister! Hormones are very powerful. Yes, it is not the speed in what they act, but the incredible ramifications of all of you. The physical changes, skin, hair, breasts, sensitivity are very important, but the psychological changes are overwhelming, the moods, the sensitivity you develop for situations, and what is around you. For me and with time, the most important factor of HRT was the fact that I felt at peace with myself and I felt good. All of a sudden my creativity was flourishing, the contact with other people was easier, the world changed completely and I even started to write.

In her kingdom.

Monika: During your transition, you did not isolate yourself from the external world. You started to organize dinners for other transgender ladies ...
Ella: Yes, our community is not easy going and there are still many people that live in the closet or live very lonely lives. Many issues have to do with the stage of transition and contact with other people. Yes, it is quite standard that in the first phase you struggle with your transition, slowly you master it and when you are at the end of transition you go stealth, you just want to be incognito and live your real self. I get that and respect it. In my case, I decided to help the next generation of transgender people, organizing dinners, going to support groups to give advice, and now with Trans-Gurus. It is a way to pay back what other people did for me.
Monika: When we contemplate a facial feminization surgery we always face two options: to undergo extremely deep changes to be feminine and beautiful or light changes to be feminine but preserve something from our character. Is there any third option?
Ella: You know some people are luckier than others in this respect. And that applies to both trans and cis women. I was lucky that I never had very masculine features, so not much need for me, and I like to still show my character. But this is very personal, in reality in our case has a lot to do with yourself and your dysphoria.
Some cis women are models and most are not, some transgender women are very passible from the beginning and others not. But whatever it is, what motivates this type of surgery is your feelings. I have a very good friend that looked very passable to the point that some of my cis girlfriends did not realize she was trans, and that without makeup. Well, she had to have FFS because it was not enough for her, and she looks incredible now.
No, I do not believe that there is a third option, I believe that that there are hundreds of possible options between zero and 100%.
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?
Ella: I think we are prisoners of our own Dysphoria, yes passing is very important too, but it is the way you look at yourself. I see most of the time that the passing syndrome is mainly motivated by the way you look yourself in front of the mirror, but this is not enough.

Cute lady in a beautiful sari.

Let me try to explain what I mean, passing is not only related to the way you look, the behavior is very important as well, the talking, and I don’t mean pitch alone but the words you use and how you talk. You can be a not-so-beautiful feminine-looking transgender woman and still pass in society. But when a transgender person looks in the mirror, she (or he) wants to look at the evolution from the dead person she (or he) was. If you see some leftovers of your previous life, you want to remove them. Ok sometimes it is vanity as well, we just want to look attractive, nothing wrong with that.
I know many gorgeous feminine trans girls that when they open their mouths it is clear that they do not pass. All is a choice.
I am lucky to see my mother when I see myself in the mirror.
Monika: Apart from the physical appearance, what else did you inherit from your mother as a woman? Did she have a chance to see you as a daughter?
Ella: Oh, my tears run down when I think of her. She passed away some years ago, before my present transition. She was a fantastic person, someone I loved very deeply, but somehow we always had our issues.
When I was very young at the age of five I knew I was a girl, well this was in the early 60’s so you can imagine what was the acceptance then. I used to steal my sister's clothes, I was mostly caught and there were penalties. She never stopped telling me that I was a boy and had to dress like a boy and play with boy’s toys. It never left her mind.
One of the reasons I left my country was because I never gave up my true gender, and she knew it all the time. Just before she died she told my sister, give my mink coat to your brother. She had finally accepted that I was a girl. I have many things from my mother, not only the appearance but as well many things I do like her. I miss her a lot.
Monika: How about your sister? Did she know about your feminine side?
Ella: Oh yes she did know about my feminine side from the beginning. When I was very young, many times when they found me with their clothes they would lock me in the bathroom, naked for one hour or so. Later when I came up to her to say I was going to transition, she just said “That makes sense, and I will always love you.” All my family has been very supportive.
Monika: In the book, you touch upon how the transition impacted your professional life. Do you remember your first job interview as a woman?
Ella: I am very lucky to live in a country where transgender people are actually quite well accepted. Before I finished my paperwork, I looked like a woman but still had male papers. I saw it as embarrassment, but the people that gave me the job were quite OK with it, telling me to update my paperwork when all is over, which I did.
In many interviews, you have to present your professional attitude and not necessarily your gender. Yes, you have to present yourself as a respectful person and play the role correctly, but it should be a professionalism that is important. And I must add it depends a lot on the job you are applying for, it can go both ways, for some jobs, being transgender can be an advantage.

International Meeting 'Women and Entrepreneurship', Miami, 2019,  
incl. Ella Marques, Rajée Rajindra Narinesingh, and Meghna Lama.

Monika: What would you advise to all transwomen looking for employment? Is it worth mentioning that we are transgender?
Ella: I would say it depends on your stage of transition. If you finished transitioning, your papers are up to date and the job you are applying for has no relation with past experience, why bother saying you are transgender? I visit clients all over the world, I am certainly not telling them about my transition to most of them. Just follow your gut feelings. 


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

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