Thursday, 28 January 2021

Interview with JaiLynn Joanna Desvignes

Monika: Today I am meeting JaiLynn Joanna Desvignes, an American transgender activist, model, and YouTube vlogger and influencer. Her vlog 'To Whom It May Concern' chronicles her own transition and provides recommendations to the transgender community all over the world. Hello JaiLynn!
JaiLynn: Hello Monika!
Monika: Could you say a few words about yourself?
JaiLynn: Sure... My name is Jailynn-Joanna, originally from New York and currently residing in the Bronx. I am a niece, a daughter, and a friend who loves living life and loves the life I’ve been given. 
Monika: Why did you decide to share your transition details on social media?
JaiLynn: When I began my transition several years ago, it was a very lonely journey in the beginning and I had to do a great deal of the research and journeying on my own. I also met other trans folk along the way who felt the same way but didn’t have the courage to share the most intimate details of their lives.
So I had an idea; I wanted to create a space where I could share my journey and let it all hang out, the good, the bad, and the ugly. The hope is that no one would ever feel lonely again after hearing my story and in doing so, allow people a chance to see themselves in me; and it was one of the greatest things I’ve ever done thus far.

"Any relationship built on a secret or lie can't
last and the only way to forge meaningful and
lasting relationships is through the truth."

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?
JaiLynn: In the beginning yes. I lost everything including my job, home, friends, and even my family but I had to realize something. Any relationship built on a secret or lie can't last and the only way to forge meaningful and lasting relationships is through the truth. Once I began to live in my truth, I found true friends, a new job, and home and my family came back into my life slowly but surely. It was extremely difficult but I have to say, the hardest thing was the loss of the old relationship between my mother and me and the building of the new one. It’s been challenging, life-altering, and rewarding and I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.
Monika: Your mother could not accept you as her daughter?
JaiLynn: My mother is a 62-year-old woman of color and this entire experience has been hard for her. Her generation is a stubborn one and let’s just say it’s been a challenge. Of course, she loves me, but the understanding part has taken some time. I had to learn patience through this experience, both patience with her and myself. I had to take myself out of the equation and put myself in her shoes and realize the depth of her fears and sadness. I had to give her the time she needed and during that time, I was able to grow into myself.
We understand each other on a deeper level now because we had to shed our fears and resentments of each other and get to know each other truthfully without fear or hesitation and it’s been a beautiful experience and she accepts me for me as I do for her. Our bond is unbreakable and our experience of each other is special and unique to us. There is nothing greater than my mother's love. She loves me, the real me. And I love her deeper now than ever before.
Monika: Are you satisfied with the effects of the hormone treatment?
JaiLynn: I am! Obviously, since I started my medical transition later in life it has been a bit of a struggle but through the struggle I have found the real me that was always there. I look in the mirror and then at old photographs of me and it’s amazing what time, happiness and perseverance can do to the body and soul. I am so much more comfortable in my skin and I’m thankful.

"I look in the mirror and then at old
photographs of me and it’s amazing what
time, happiness, and perseverance can do
to the body and soul."

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?
JaiLynn: That’s a great question. Here in the US, passing can be as dangerous as life or death in some communities, and as a woman of color, I am hyper-aware of the struggle we face as a community and society. We must face this head-on with patience and understanding because trans folk have always and will always be a part of society and it is our job to greet the world with kindness in our hearts and strength in our souls because every day we live our lives out loud and in public, we normalize the community while educating along the way.
When people look at me I smile and they smile back. I had to realize that maybe I wasn’t as important as I thought I was and that just because someone is looking at me, it doesn’t mean they’re thinking something negative, maybe they think I’m beautiful, and that changed my entire life for the better! The more we make ourselves known with dignity and respect the more we can escape the fear of the past while facing the future head-on together. Hypermasculinity and femininity are fading away and the gender lines are becoming more and more blurred, which is a wonderful thing.
As people, we are all judged by our appearances and our femininity and masculinity or lack thereof but if we can lead by example and just continue to move forward with pride and dignity, no matter how feminine or masculine we are, humanity will embrace all of us because they will have no choice!
Monika: Are there any transgender role models that you follow or followed?
JaiLynn: Yes, definitely! Janet Mock and Angelica Ross are very inspirational to me as we share similar experiences. I find them both intelligent, provocative, and beautiful in various ways.
Monika: Do you remember the first time when you saw a transgender woman on TV or met anyone transgender in person?
JaiLynn: OMG yes! Unfortunately, the first time I was exposed to the trans world was through adult entertainment, which is why I was so scared to admit my truth to myself as it gave me a false impression of the trans experience. Gladly I was able to meet trans women during my college years and they exposed me to the truth, light, and love of the community. I knew I had found my tribe.

"Hypermasculinity and femininity are fading
away and the gender lines are becoming more
and more blurred, which is a wonderful thing."

Monika: What do you think about the present situation of transgender women in your country?
JaiLynn: I think that just as any misunderstood minority, we have come so far but have so far to go. I think the visibility has increased but we need more. More positive and powerful representation of trans folk in all forms of media and politics will normalize the community. We have so many amazing opportunities for trans folk but it’s usually only available in the larger cities like New York and Los Angeles. It needs to be nationwide and of course worldwide.
The violence against trans women of color must be given the attention it deserves so that it can be eradicated from society, and these things take time. I just hope that we are on the right track and that each of us can use our platforms to promote change, love, and respect for all.
Monika: Do you like fashion? What kind of outfits do you usually wear? Any special fashion designs, colors, or trends?
JaiLynn: I LOVE fashion! Fashion is a huge part of my life. I guess you can call my style boho chic meets street urban glam. I love flowy tops and leggings with heels, form-fitting sexy dresses, gorgeous coats, high-waisted pants and boots, sandals, and more. I adore fashion!
Living in NYC I’ve had access to some of the major designers but I’d have to say my favorites are the independent designers who make one-of-a-kind garments that give me a style all my own. Henry Picado of Este&Chlo is one of my personal friends, and he‘s made me some of the most beautiful garments I’ve ever worn. It’s wonderful having amazing friends.
Monika: Have you ever tried some modeling?
JaiLynn: I have thought about modeling. I’ve done a bit here and there for my beauty blog and have also done a few spontaneous photoshoots with friends, who knows what the future holds. I have huge dreams and goals and modeling could be included for sure. At my age, I want to be able to do things I’ve always dreamed of without fear or hesitation.
Monika: What do you think about transgender beauty pageants?
JaiLynn: I think that they can be a wonderful way for transgender women to express themselves and have their beauty recognized but I feel we should have a chance to be included and validated in all types of pageants in order to normalize us further. Women are women and we are all uniquely beautiful and should be seen as such.
Monika: By the way, do you like being complimented on your looks?
JaiLynn: I do but it’s taken some getting used to. Sometimes it’s challenging to see myself as others see me, so when people say I’m beautiful, I accept it, I am grateful and I let that little girl within me revel in it just a bit as I smile and greet the world with my head held high.

"Women are women and we are all uniquely
beautiful and should be seen as such."

Monika: Do you remember your first job interview as a woman?
JaiLynn: Yes I do! I’ve always been the woman I am today, even when I was male presenting but when I was both female internal and female-presenting, it gave me a level of confidence I had only dreamed of. I owned who I am, I came in with confidence and self-assurance and landed the job as a PR rep for a fashion line. It was both liberating and validating and solidified my decision to walk in my truth.
Monika: What would you advise to all transwomen looking for employment?
JaiLynn: Be confident in who you are, no matter what. Always be honest and as open as you can be because there is a world out there that is ready to embrace you, you have to believe that you deserve it and it will come. And with every no, there is a yes just around the horizon, so don’t give up and stay strong.
Monika: Are you involved in the life of the local LGBTQ community?
JaiLynn: Yes I am. It’s been challenging lately because of the pandemic and before the quarantine I always made sure to lend a hand where I was needed whether it meant mentoring a young trans girl as she began her journey or attending local events and functions. Once the world opens up again, I plan to continue to do my part in any way that I can.


All the photos: courtesy of JaiLynn Joanna Desvignes. 
All photos taken by: Dennis Madigan.
© 2021 - Monika Kowalska

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