Monday, 18 January 2021

Interview with Chloé Brandt

Monika: Today I am talking to Chloé Brandt, a Swedish transgender artist and vlogger that documents her transition on social media. Hello Chloé!
Chloé: Hello, thanks for reaching out!
Monika: Could you say a few words about yourself?
Chloé: I was born and raised in Sweden. I live in a little town called Eskilstuna with my boyfriend and our new family member a kitten named Lusse. Right now I’m studying my last year at college aiming for a bachelor's degree in culture and media production, I work extra at a nursing home, and I also paint and sometimes show my art at exhibits. And then there's social media haha. So it’s a lot to juggle around.
Monika: Why did you decide to share your transition details on social media?
Chloé: When I started transitioning I was looking at transgender women mainly on YouTube but I had a hard time finding someone who lived in Sweden. So I thought to myself that this is my responsibility. The situation for transgender women is so different around the world, and you can feel so lonely on your journey. Hence my plan was to make a place where I could share that knowledge through documenting my life, making Swedish transgender people feel like they’re not alone or weird for feeling this way like you can have a normal day-to-day life.
I think some cis-people don’t get that we can have ambitions and be successful and be relatable to cis-gendered people also. I also get the feeling that a lot of transgirls also feel like they’re not valid, even though we have all the right in the world to feel meaningful and have a purpose.

"The hardest thing about coming out was
being misgendered at work, in school,
and by friends."

There have also been so many accusations from people that say “the government in Sweden lets young people get sex changes left and right without hesitation” and that gets me even want to share more of my HRT, and there’s a whole psychological process, and then “real life” test that takes forever to get through. During this time you also fight a lot against self-hate and discomfort, and don’t get me wrong, we are blessed for having medical care that helps us trans people but there’s still a battle that cis-gendered people will never understand. That is why I hope my voice will provide some understanding.
Monika: Your YouTube vlog is done primarily in Swedish. Have you ever considered doing it in English?
Chloé: Of course, I have! Then you get a broader audience but there’s always something holding me back. Primarily I wanted to feel connected with the Swedish transgender society and maybe they wouldn’t support me if I did a switch, or maybe my English isn’t good enough or I would just make a fool of myself. But of course, I have considered it multiple times. My boyfriend is also pushing me for a switch in language but I don’t know haha, it’s a big scary step to take.
Monika: Do you get many questions from your audience? What do they ask for?
Chloé: Mostly they ask for advice on transitioning or if I can be their friend.
Monika: What was the strangest question that you answered? :)
Chloé: The strangest question I ever have gotten was from a gender-confused person who was wondering if I also got turned on by dressing up in women’s lingerie. I don’t think any true transsexual women would get turned on in underwear because for me being in female clothing was never something sexual. It was more of being true to yourself or feeling whole. So that type of questions I do get sometimes and I feel like it's good to ask people with trans experiences If you have questions about that. However, sexual questions from people I've never met are always kind of weird.
Monika: Apart from your vlog, you nurture your interests in art, don't you?
Chloé: Yes I do. I think I have been doing art as long as I've been doing YouTube. My passion for art started when I was 5 and I was in kindergarten. I think it was me, painting my reality of myself because it was always about women, back then about princesses and witches. I wanted to become either one of them and admired their boss-lady energy. And from that my art evolved to the paintings that I do today, which is a fairytale sometimes, dark but beautiful portrait of a transwoman, very abstract of course. Art is my way of letting go of bad energies, kind of like meditation
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?
Chloé: I think I've only gained from coming out. I'm more of myself, more confident and by being myself I have gotten the most amazing friends that I think I would never have gotten If I continued with my past life. I think not being myself would have ended in suicide or worse living an unhappy life.
The hardest thing about coming out was being misgendered at work, in school, and by friends. Every time it happened it felt like being shot in the chest. It's really the most painful thing I know, and I have nightmares almost every night about being misgendered by the people I love.

Monika: Are you satisfied with the effects of the hormone treatment?
Chloé: Yes and no, because I think it's hard to feel like it's enough. I sometimes doubt that I pass when I go out in public. But without hormones, I would have been so unhappy. My body has changed but it's not like a miracle has happened. I still want to get surgeries in the future to feel more "right" with my body. My mind is the thing that has changed most with hormones. I feel less scared and more at ease. I feel more true in my bones.
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?
Chloé: I struggle a lot with this and I am not the kindest to myself. I try so hard to please a society that sometimes I forget that it's okay to walk outside without makeup on my face. I have tried step-by-step stripping of my securities, like at the beginning of my transition I would wear heavy make-up and have the longest extensions in my hair, and always wear heels but with time I've understood that femininity and being a woman is so much more. You can wear jeans and sneakers and throw away the extensions because that's just something to hide behind.
However, it is my way of coping with my fears of not passing, and sometimes on a bad day little hair extensions on my head can give me the confidence I was lacking, and it's okay to use these gadgets because without them we wouldn't survive.
Monika: Are there any transgender role models that you follow or followed?
Chloé: Laverne Cox on ‘Orange is the New Black’ was the first transgender woman I've ever encountered, so of course I've looked up to her. Caitlyn Jenner’s coming out was also a big help because it was happening alongside my journey. Her docu-series ‘I am Cait’ was a big comfort in those trying times. I've also looked up to Gigi Gorgeous who I wanted to be so bad. I thought she was so beautiful.

"My dream used to be to become a fashion
designer until I found my passion in arts."

Monika: And in Sweden?
Chloé: The first transwoman I saw on Swedish television was Vanessa Lopez, who was a contestant on Big Brother 2011. That was really the first time I learned about being transgender.
And when I started transitioning, it was Inés Fransescas on Instagram who was a woman I admired and sought inspiration from. She was also very supportive of me during my journey, for which I am so grateful.
Monika: You have a nice name. How come you chose this particular name?
Chloé: I always loved that name so it was really natural when it came to choosing. After my name was legally changed, I looked up the meaning of the name which was “blooming flower” and I felt very connected to it because for the first time in my life I was blooming. 
Monika: What do you think about the present situation of transgender women in your country?
Chloé: I think it’s a lot better than in other countries but we still have a long way to go. The waiting time for psychiatrists in this field is long, and it takes years sometimes to get the right treatment. We also don’t have any kind of facial feminization treatment in Sweden, which I feel would give us as transwomen more security in society. However, we still get a lot of the treatments almost for “free”, which is not the case in so many other countries. 
Monika: Do you like fashion? What kind of outfits do you usually wear? Any special fashion designs, colors, or trends?
Chloé: I love fashion! My dream used to be to become a fashion designer until I found my passion in the arts. Right now I’m really into a regular T-shirt and jeans but would love to wear more dresses and heels in the future. White and yellow are my favorite colors for clothing, and anything that makes a statement I would wear!
Monika: What do you think about transgender beauty pageants?
Chloé: I really don’t have an opinion. I think the girls are so beautiful, and it is good for them. I think it’s great to have something that shows the beauty of transwomen, even though it puts us in a box, but that’s the state of the world right now. People need categories for people to understand where they’re coming from.
Monika: By the way, do you like being complimented on your looks?
Chloé: Haha I’m a sucker for compliments but I get awkward when I have to respond because I think I’m a little shy. Monika: Do you remember your first job interview as a woman? Chloé: Yes, I was so nervous but I tried to seem confident. I believed in myself which paid off because I got the job.
Monika: What would you advise to all transwomen looking for employment?
Chloé: Really try your hardest to prove that being trans is an advantage more than a setback. There’s so much strength in us that can't be visible in cis-gendered people. Our lives have been a struggle from the very start and we got the perspective of both genders. And if I should look at myself, I feel that I try my best to be the greatest. I can prove all people, who are judgmental to trans people, wrong.

"It's so important to grasp that you can have a normal
life as a trans woman with love, studies, work and
a home with or without the surgery."

Monika: Are you involved in the life of the local LGBTQ community?
Chloé: No, not really. My activism is only on social media. I guess I'm kind of a lone wolf and I really don't like labels. So I turn myself away from these kinds of places strategically, but I have done a lot of interviews in the local and international media here in Sweden. I work alone and If I ever feel like I need support from my community I know where to turn to. 
Monika: Could you tell me about the importance of love in your life?
Chloé: It's so important. For the longest time I thought I was gonna live alone forever, and after I broke up with my ex, I had one year for building myself up and at the same time for becoming a woman. Then, my boyfriend, Karl came out of nowhere and without his support and daily compliments on my looks I wouldn't know how my journey with hormones would have gone. It's such a rollercoaster emotionally.
I also have gender dysphoria, which makes me feel so ugly and unworthy of love sometimes. Karl really loves me for being me. I had only been on hormones for two months when we met and looking back on myself, back then I wasn't really that pretty.
But also the love from my friends and family was very important, especially during going for therapy and waiting for hormones and ID changes. They were my rock, which allowed me to go through everything.
Monika: Many transgender ladies write their memoirs. Have you ever thought about writing such a book yourself?
Chloé: Yes, actually I started one but then I stopped because I felt kind of not good enough but someday I hope I will pick it up again. :)
Monika: What is your next step in the present time and where do you see yourself within the next 5-7 years?
Chloé: My next step is to finish my studies and wait for my bottom surgery date. The waiting days are so long but soon I'm there. And in 5-7 years, I really hope I will be working with something creative, and if my boyfriend and I are still together, I hope we will be married, and we will adopt a child. I really want the picket fence life, maybe a cozy house in the woods but then I need to get a driving license, and that I'm not so keen on, haha.
Monika: What would you recommend to all transgender women that are afraid of transition?
Chloé: Have safety first and do what you can do to be happy. Take baby steps behind the scenes if you're too afraid and search for people that are in the same state of mind as you. Share your struggles and achievements with each other. There are great forums for that on social media outlets as Facebook, Instagram, and Reddit. Don't forget that you deserve to be true to yourself and be happy.

Chloe's vlog on YouTube.

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 transgender people doing. Our dreams should not end on an operating table; that’s where they begin. Do you agree with this?
Chloé: I totally agree! We deserve all our dreams to be true, no matter where we are in life. It's so important to grasp that you can have a normal life as a trans woman with love, studies, work, and home with or without the surgery. We as transpeople need to know that we are a part of society. We will always be.
Monika: Chloé, it was a pleasure to interview you. Thanks a lot!
Chloé: The same to you. This has been very insightful for me to reflect on all these questions, so thank you, Monika!

All the photos: courtesy of Chloé Brandt.
© 2021 - Monika Kowalska

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