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 I 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. Hyper masculinity 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.

"Hyper masculinity 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, colours 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 modelling?
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 photo shoots 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 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.
Monika: You do not avoid talking about sex. I wonder why this topic is so often neglected. We have the same needs as cis women but it seems it is a kind of taboo.
JaiLynn: It seems taboo because trans women are often sexualized and seen as taboo, so speaking about our sexuality can also be seen as taboo and that’s the exact reason why I speak about sex the way that I do. My goal is to normalize it. We are all human beings and our bodies are so much more alike than not and my hope is that we can grow to see ourselves in each other and realize how much we as women have in common. Sex is a wonderful part of life and we need to be able to share with each other more, especially when it comes to matters of the heart and intimacy. 
Monika: What is your view on transphobia against women of color? It is so heart-breaking to read about all those acts of violence.
JaiLynn: I am a trans woman of color, and I’ve always sought to bring more attention to this issue but here in the US, people of color are viewed in a negative way at times and our stories don’t tend to carry as much merit or seem to get the exposure they deserve. It’s frustrating and it infuriates me to see bland stories take up air time while my sisters keep dying.
I recently filmed a short documentary called To Whom It May Concern (available on my YouTube channel) that’s dedicated to all of the women we lost to violence in hopes of bringing awareness to the problem but until we all as human beings truly address the issues of racism, privilege and toxic masculinity, this will unfortunately continue. I will continue to use my platform to bring awareness to the issue and I pray we all (trans folk and allies alike) will do the same until trans women of color stop being killed once and for all!
Monika: On your vlog you also shared your experience with FFS. What expectations did you have when you decided to undergo this operation?
JaiLynn: My expectations have been met in that I wanted to soften the effects of testosterone and bring more attention to the femininity of my features that were already there. My doctor, Bella Avanessian, did a fantastic job at bringing the subtle feminine essence of me to the forefront in a soft and natural way where I feel much more comfortable in my skin!
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?
JaiLynn: Each surgeon approaches it in their own way. My surgeon and I came up with a plan together that worked for us. I originally decided to go subtle with just a few changes but I thought on it hard and knew that this was my chance to truly see my dreams fulfilled so on the day of I told her to do her absolute best, even if she had to go a bit more intense while still giving a natural appearance, and she did just that. She went a bit more intense with my nose and lifted my lips and I couldn’t be happier with the results. I guess you and your doctor have to do what works for you.
Monika: In your Vagina Bible post, you were very emotional about the incoming GRS... 
JaiLynn: It’s the end of a long journey so of course the emotions are extremely raw. I am in a place that I could have never dreamed of 20 years ago and it’s almost unbelievable that I made it and I am doing it the right way. The thought of total body alignment is both exciting and surreal and I’m humbled and thankful beyond belief for a chance to live my life completely mind, body and soul. The universe is smiling on me and I have a sense of gratitude and completion that I pray every person on the planet can experience for themselves! 2 days ago, my dreams were fully realized, so my life can truly begin.
"The thought of total body
alignment is both exciting and
Monika: Could you tell me about the importance of love in your life?
JaiLynn: Love is one of the most important energies in the world. I learned many years ago that love is not a noun, but a verb. It’s not about the word, it’s about the action. I do my best to include love in everything that I do and hope for the same in return.
My mother and aunt's love are very important to me and the love of friends means everything. My hope is to find it in a special relationship with a significant other as well, and things are looking good so far. “If you can’t love yourself, how in the hell are you gonna love somebody else” - RuPaul. So I had to learn to love me first! That’s the greatest feeling in the universe.
Monika: Many transgender ladies write their memoirs. Have you ever thought about writing such a book yourself?
JaiLynn: I have. It’s one of the reasons I started my YouTube channel. I wanted to document my experiences so yes, I’d love to write a memoir one day.
Monika: What is your next step in the present time and where do you see yourself within the next 5-7 years?
JaiLynn: I had my GRS/SRS 2 days ago, so that will be taking up a huge portion of my near future, and I see myself hopefully married, with a beautiful home and fulfilling life as I’ll be 50 in 7 years so I’ll be traveling, having amazing experiences and living the best life possible.
Monika: What would you recommend to all transgender women that are afraid of transition? 
JaiLynn: What I would recommend is a great deal of soul searching. Look deep within and be patient with yourself and the answer will reveal itself. Ask yourself if you truly need this in order to live your best life. If this is something you need and believe in wholeheartedly, then fear will not be able to hold you back because fear is the killer of dreams.
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?
JaiLynn: I do. My dreams began the moment I woke up from my first procedure and the world of possibilities opened up like never before. I had no idea what life had in store for me, all I had to do was trust that life would not let me down. And I was right! I took advice from other transgender women, but I did what works for me and I made my own transition story, and it’s been beautiful.
Monika: JaiLynn, it was a pleasure to interview you. Thanks a lot!
JaiLynn: Thank you! It’s been an absolute joy, and I wish you love and light!

All the photos: courtesy of JaiLynn Joanna Desvignes.
All photos taken by: Dennis Madigan.

© 2021 - Monika Kowalska

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