Tuesday, 22 December 2020

Interview with Hannah Decker

Monika: Today my guest is Hannah Decker, a Canadian transgender woman that documents her transition on Reddit.com. Hello Hannah!
Hannah: Hello Monika and thank you for contacting me. It never occurred to me that anyone would want to interview me but I’m happy to share my story.
Monika: Could you say a few words about yourself?
Hannah: I am a 59-year-old freelance photographer/designer living in Canada. I have been married for over 20 years to a wonderful woman. I transitioned socially 9 months ago and started on hormones almost 6 months ago.
Monika: Why did you decide to share your transition details on social media?
Hannah: I did it for one reason. To hopefully inspire others who are doubting themselves like I was. I usually post in r/translater because I’m “older” and I found that people of my age needed more inspiration and hope than younger people. When I receive comments saying I have inspired them I feel so good. Unlike many people, I make a point of posting before and after photos to show the incredible change that can happen when you believe in yourself and follow your heart.
Monika: Do you get many questions from your Reddit readers? What do they ask for? 
Hannah: I do get some questions from time to time, yes. When I first started posting photos I would get asked how long I have been on hormones and they were surprised when I answered that I hadn’t started yet. This helped my confidence and inspired them so it was a win for everyone. I have somehow managed to avoid getting any negative comments at all.
Monika: What was the strangest question that you answered? :)
Hannah: I haven’t really had any questions I would consider strange. Everyone has been extremely complimentary and nice to me. I do make a point of trying to reply to every comment. I feel very fortunate because I know of many others who have received hateful comments for absolutely no reason.

"Unlike many people, I make a point of posting before and after
photos to show the incredible change that can happen when you
believe in yourself and follow your heart."

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?
Hannah: Yes there is often a very high price to pay. My immediate family has been 100% accepting (as I knew they would be). My friends and clients have all been 100% accepting as well. The only person that is not 100% on board is my wife. It’s understandable, of course. When I first told her I liked to wear women’s clothes two weeks after the first time I ever did, she did not react well. I won’t go into the details but it was a very difficult time. After a while, I told her I wanted to speak with a gender therapist and she agreed it was a good idea. My conversations with the therapist confirmed what I already knew… I am transgender. I told my wife I would present female 100% of the time if it were up to me.
I started presenting female more and more and eventually socially transitioned nine months ago. I told my wife I wanted to start hormones and that the gender therapist was willing to give me a referral to my doctor. My wife agreed, and almost six months ago I started. I immediately felt a sense of calm and peace. As time has gone on things have progressed with my wife to the point that we go makeup and clothes shopping together. In her ideal world I would go back to being the invisible grey blob I used to be but she sees how much happier I am. It is an ongoing discussion and often cause of stress for both of us.
Monika: Are you satisfied with the effects of the hormone treatment?
Hannah: Yes I am very pleased. I started noticing smooth skin very quickly and the mental aspect was almost immediate. Coming up on six months, some things are getting bigger and some are getting smaller :) I am getting used to my breasts being extra sensitive and hurting all the time. It doesn’t bother me at all though since it means it’s working. I have also noticed reduced body hair and what does grow is softer and sparser. I love it.
Monika: I am very happy for you, as for some older trans women the effect of hormone therapy is often unsatisfactory. Did you undergo a special regimen?
Hannah: It’s still early but I guess I’m lucky in that regard, Things are coming along nicely. I am not on any special regimen. 4mg Estradiol (2mg a day sublingually) and 25mg of Cyproterone daily.

I think it’s important to dress for your age
to some degree but that doesn’t mean you
can’t be stylish when you’re older."

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?
Hannah: We are our own harshest critics for sure. I wish I could see myself as others do but 58 years of seeing a man’s face staring back at me is hard to get past. I currently have no plans for facial surgery. I’m fortunate that I don’t have a masculine jawline or pronounced brow bone. I also am not trying to look like a supermodel and what I already see is such a vast improvement over what I used to look like that I am very satisfied with the way things are. Ask me again in a year or so and I may have a different answer though.
Monika: Are there any transgender role models that you follow or followed?
Hannah: The people I look up to the most are the friends I make on my discord server. I have had so many long deep conversations with many of them trying to encourage them and let them know they are not alone. I have never met so many courageous people in my life. I don’t really follow the trans community as a whole much partly because I’m still fairly new to this but also because I have so many things vying for my attention that I just don’t have the time.
Monika: When was the first time that you saw a transgender woman and thought to yourself that you could be the same?
Hannah: I never thought of it that way. I probably saw plenty of transgender women and never knew it. For me, it was more seeing a beautiful woman and realizing that I wanted to be her rather than be with her. The first time I thought this was a real possibility was when I was sitting in a coffee shop by myself and all of a sudden it dawned on me that this was possible. The world didn’t end and no one was staring at me. I remember that moment vividly.
Monika: What do you think about the present situation of transgender women in your country?
Hannah: I think I’m lucky to live in such an accepting country. I have never had a single negative comment when out in public. I don’t know how much of that is because I pass and how much is because everyone is so accepting but either way it’s fantastic. I don’t advertise I’m transgender but don’t try to hide it either.
Monika: Do you like fashion? What kind of outfits do you usually wear? Any special fashion designs, colors, or trends?
Hannah: I love fashion, it’s one of the main things I like about being a woman. I spend a lot of time thinking about outfits and what goes with what. I am not flashy but love to look “well put together”. That is the best compliment I can get. I think it’s important to dress for your age to some degree but that doesn’t mean you can’t be stylish when you’re older.
This brings up another point… my wife gets annoyed with me for dressing well to go to the mall. She says she feels underdressed. I can totally understand her point and I explain to her that firstly It makes me feel very happy, and secondly, she could go out wearing sweats and no makeup and still look more feminine than me :)
Monika: During the transition, you managed to get very slim. What has been the secret of your diet?
Hannah: I fasted intermittently, 18 hours no food 6 hours of food. During that 6 hours, I cut way back on portion size. There is no secret really. You have to accept that cravings will be there and use mind over matter to fight them. I also found that ridding the house of all snack foods really helped.
Monika: By the way, do you like being complimented on your looks?
Hannah: What woman doesn’t? I’m still not used to it but it feels great to me. I put a lot of effort into looking the best I can so when someone compliments me it feels pretty amazing. 
Monika: What do you think about transgender beauty pageants?
Hannah: I never thought about it and didn’t know it was a thing. I have no problem with it but doubt I would watch one.
Monika: Do you often ask your wife for fashion or make-up tips?
Hannah: No, in fact, I give her tips. I have done her makeup a few times as well. She doesn’t enjoy makeup nearly as much as I do probably because she has had access to it her whole life. She never asks for fashion tips and I learned a long time ago that suggesting clothes for her to wear can be dangerous.

"I put a lot of effort into looking the best
I can so when someone compliments me
it feels pretty amazing."

Monika: Are you involved in the life of the local LGBTQ community?
Hannah: Not really because all of this including socially transitioning happened during COVID. I have been told I would make a good advocate for the transgender community but haven’t had any opportunity as of yet. I’d be happy to share my story with anyone who wants to listen.
Monika: Could you tell me about the importance of love in your life?
Hannah: Not to sound too cliché but loving yourself is priority number one. I have been married for 20 years and have to admit that the spark doesn’t burn as bright as it used to but we have become best friends in a way. I strongly feel that you can’t live your life to please someone else. No one’s happiness should be at the expense of another’s.
Obviously being loved by another is a basic human need for most people but you can’t expect someone to love you if you don’t love yourself.
Monika: Many transgender ladies write their memoirs. Have you ever thought about writing such a book yourself?
Hannah: Yes I have. It has been suggested to me by a few people but I still feel like I’m still at the beginning of my journey. I will definitely consider it as time passes and I have more interesting things to say.
Monika: What is your next step in the present time and where do you see yourself within the next 5-7 years?
Hannah: The next step is to get electrolysis completed on my face. I have had about 50 hours of work done and there is still a long way to go. I am waiting for COVID restrictions to lift. I plan to work on my voice at some point but don’t consider it to be a high priority. I don’t have a low male voice.
In the next 5-7 years I hope to be settled into my life as a woman and still be married to the woman I love. I currently don’t have any plans for SRS or any other surgery so it’s basically just continuing the way I am right now. If the first 6 months on HRT and 9 months socially transitioned are this good then I expect to be the happiest I have ever been in my life.
Monika: What would you recommend to all transgender women that are afraid of transition?
Hannah: I get asked this lot and I always say that at some point it becomes a leap of faith. I see so many people asking “Am I transgender?” on Reddit. You will probably never have a definitive answer with zero second thoughts. Imposter syndrome happens to everybody. You need to ask yourself what the consequences of not transitioning are. Only you can decide what’s right for you but when depression and thoughts of “what if” are constantly in your head I think it’s time to talk to a gender therapist. They won’t tell you “yes you are transgender” or “no you shouldn’t transition” but they do know the right questions to ask you so that you can come to the right decision.
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?
Hannah: I totally agree with this. Life is not a video game where you get to respawn when you die so you had better make the most of it while you’re here. I try not to think about what life would have been like if I had figured this out sooner but instead look forward to a life of joy and peace that I have never experienced before. We all have our own journey to follow and there is no one correct path.
Monika: Hannah, it was a pleasure to interview you. Thanks a lot!
Hannah: Thank you for interviewing me and people can follow my journey at hannah_decker if interested. Take care!

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

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