Saturday, 27 February 2021

Interview with Renae

Monika: Today I am going to interview Renae, an American IT specialist and transgender woman that documents her transition on social media. Hello Renae!
Renae: Hello Monika! It's nice to meet you. I must say your blog is wonderful and it's nice to see so many other women like myself, getting great representation. I know it can be a beacon of hope for so many of us that may still be in the closet.
In addition to Reddit, I share my experience on other social media, including Facebook and Twitter as well.
Monika: Could you say a few words about yourself?
Renae: Certainly! I am a mother of 4 kids and I have been married to my wife for 9 years. I work in IT in a moderately sized town of about 43,000 people in the Midwest. It's a fairly conservative town but there is a rather progressive area I frequent about 40 minutes away. That is where most of my friends live.
Monika: It must be a challenge to take care of 4 children. :)
Renae: My goodness, yes. Thankfully one of them is fully grown but just the three that live with us are quite a handful. No rest after work but I love them dearly, and I know that I am contributing to help make the future inclusive for trans folks by just being their parent. 
Monika: Why did you decide to share your transition details on social media?
Renae: I can't reiterate it enough, representation, representation, representation! There is never enough. Whether it's trans-women, trans-men, non-binary folks or anyone else under the LGBTQIA umbrella.

"I feel I have been fortunate in this aspect of my transition
and I sympathize with those that don't. I haven't felt a great need
for cosmetic surgery because I don't get any hate from strangers.
That is my guide post."

It is also a nice place to gather experienced and diverse opinions and resources. There isn't exactly a "how to" guide when it comes to transitioning, nor should there be. Each person has different needs and expected outcomes, which brings me back around to my original point. If someone similar to my situation were to google a question I have asked on Reddit in the past they may stumble onto the answer or advice they needed.
I tend to seek out groups on Facebook or folks on Twitter and give advice to my trans-siblings as well. I also think it can help cis people have a glimpse of what it's like for trans people and maybe learn a thing or too. The enemy is ignorance, not people.
When it comes to posting images of myself it can really be a boost in confidence when people comment on nice and encouraging things. Especially when dysphoria is hitting hard that day, kind words have the potential to turn it around sometimes.
Posting images also works like having a living record of my physical transition. I update my profile picture exactly once a month on Facebook so I can look back at how far I have come.
Monika: Do you get many questions from your Reddit readers? What do they ask for? 
Renae: The most common ones. Things like when did you know you were transgender and how, are you getting the "surgery".
Monika: What was the strangest question that you answered?
Renae: I can't think of any that would qualify as "strange". What comes to mind with this question would be more on the invasive side. Things like did you lose breast mass when you de-transitioned the first time, do you use your "penis". All the ones that are nobody's business.
Monika: Did you de-transition the first time?
"Everyone wants to be loved
whether they will admit it or not.
The real trick is loving yourself
enough to be okay with yourself
Renae: Yeah in my early 20's I had a pretty rough go with transition. It caused some great issues with my mental health because of the fairly conservative area I live in. The world has changed a lot since then, and I can't complain about all the great friends I have made this time around.
Monika: Are you satisfied with the effects of the hormone treatment?
Renae: I have been fortunate I believe but there are always things I wish would have more improvements like my hips and butt as well as my cheeks on my face. But it affects everyone differently. So what can you do?
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?
Renae: I have had a mix of good and bad that has occurred since my coming out this time. I am not on speaking terms with my father or brother. But one thing you learn when you come out is who your real family is and who you're friends really are.
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?
Renae: Well, I feel I have been fortunate in this aspect of my transition and I sympathize with those that don't. I haven't felt a great need for cosmetic surgery because I don't get any hate from strangers. That is my guide post. Sure there are plenty of things I wish I could change but on my salary with the number of children I have it's hard to afford.
Monika: How did the children react to your transition?
Renae: My twin girls were very excited because they had another girl in the house and my son was mostly worried that he couldn't be a boy any more. Needless to say we cleared all that up for him and he is super happy that I get to be myself.
Monika: Are there any transgender role models that you follow or followed?
Renae: The shining star of our community would have to be Laverne Cox. Of all the trans women in the limelight it seems she has her priorities straight.
Monika: You have a nice name. How come you chose this particular name?
Renae: It took me a while to settle on this name. I always liked it and thought it was pretty. I know that it's mostly spelled Renee but I like how Renae looked better. I read that it stood for born again and I thought it was pretty fitting. Now I couldn't imagine going by any other name.
Monika: What do you think about the present situation of transgender women in your country?
Renae: I feel like in the US we are in a better situation than some other countries but I believe we have a very long way to go before equality is truly achieved. It is really nice to see trans women in more prominent political positions as of late. Sarah McBride was recently elected to the United State Senate and I couldn't be more proud.
Monika: Do you like fashion? What kind of outfits do you usually wear? Any special fashion designs, colours or trends?
Renae: I love fashion. I have recently been losing a lot of weight so my wardrobe has been cycling out like crazy but I love black and white patterns and tend to wear a lot of red, blues and purple. It has been nice to wear stuff a little more fitted and lower cut. It makes my confidence go way up.
Monika: Do you experiment with your make-up?
Renae: I try to always learn new techniques because I love learning and I really like messing around with make-up. It's fun to be able to use my face to express my artistic ability.
Monika: What do you think about transgender beauty pageants?
Renae: As far as adult ladies are concerned, sure I think it's great but I don't really think kids under 10 should be put in those types of things. I feel like it can put them in a state of mind where they have to be the prettiest to be loved and there can be only one that can claim the title. I feel like it can ruin a child's self esteem and they shouldn't have to worry about that at such a tender age. But I believe this goes for all children not just trans but cis kids as well. By the way, Toddlers and Tiaras is a horrible show and should have never been put on the air.
"When it comes to posting images of
myself it can really be a boost in
confidence when people
comment on nice and encouraging
Monika: By the way, do you like being complimented on your looks?
Renae: Sure, it's quite a confidence booster. ️
Monika: Do you remember your first job interview as a woman?
Renae: My first one was over 13 years ago so not really. But I just had one the other day it seemed to go pretty well. I even made one of the interviewers laugh.
Monika: What would you advise to all transwomen looking for employment?
Renae: Persistent attitude is key. You don't have to tell them you are trans. If they don't hire you because you are trans then you probably wouldn't want to work for bigoted people anyways.
Monika: Are you involved in the life of the local LGBTQ community?
Renae: Yes, I am. There is a local support group for trans folks and we meet twice a month. I have made many like minded friends because of this, and I am very grateful that it exists. I would have a much harder go in my transition without them.
Monika: Could you tell me about the importance of love in your life?
Renae: Everyone wants to be loved whether they will admit it or not. The real trick is loving yourself enough to be okay with yourself alone. It may be a bit hypocritical for me to say that though since I am married. But if you can do that you can achieve just about anything. 
Monika: Yes, you have been very fortunate with keeping your marriage intact. Not all spouses are so emphatic.
Renae: My goodness, yes. I feel sorry for those that haven't that kind of luck but I say to them you will find your one, just keep your head up and love yourself. It will be a beacon of light for who you are meant to be with.
Monika: Many transgender ladies write their memoirs. Have you ever thought about writing such a book yourself?
Renae: I have thought about it a lot but there are just parts of my life that I am really just not willing to share with the whole world. Maybe when I'm 85 or something I will feel differently but only time will tell.
Monika: What is your next step in the present time and where do you see yourself within the next 5-7 years?
Renae: Well, I hope to get one of the jobs I just interviewed for and we plan to move to a more liberal city, which is more welcoming to those under the LGBTQIA+ umbrella very soon. But 5-7 years is way too hard for me to think about at this point. Hopefully enjoying my new town and new job!
Monika: What would you recommend to all transgender women that are afraid of transition?
Renae: Don't put it off any longer then you have to but also don't jump in without a plan and a group of friends who really have your back.
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?
Renae: Wholeheartedly. Operations are not the end of one's transition through life, merely a milestone along the way.
Monika: Renae, it was a pleasure to interview you. Thanks a lot!
Renae: Thank you for having me.

All the photos: courtesy of Renae.

© 2021 - Monika Kowalska

Thursday, 25 February 2021

Interview with Willow-Jayne Davies

Monika: Today I am going to introduce to you Willow-Jayne Davies, a British makeup artist, nail technician, and beauty pageant queen from Swansea in Wales. She is Miss Swansea Sparkle 2016-2019 and Miss Voluptuous UK finalist 2020. Hello Willow-Jayne! 
Willow-Jayne: Hello gorgeous! How are you?
Monika: Could you say a few words about yourself?
Willow-Jayne: My top three most used words/phrases are: “it is what it is “, “Same to be honest “ and “lovely”. I’m not necessarily saying that my vocabulary is limited, it’s that I don’t need a dictionary to choose from because my top three work in all types of conversation.
Monika: Willow-Jayne is not a common name. Why did you choose it?
Willow-Jayne: When I was around eight I was rushed into hospital for an emergency operation (testicular torsion), and as I was slowly being put under the anesthetic and wheeled to the operating theatre, my mum had said “You’re going to go in as William and come out as Willow“. At that point it wasn’t a laughing matter, and I thought she was being serious.

Tuesday, 23 February 2021

Interview with Ashley-Marie Eden

Monika: Today I am meeting Ashley-Marie Eden, an Australian illustrator, writer, musician, engineer, poet, and thinker. Hello Ashley-Marie!
Ashley-Marie: Hi Monika!
Monika: How are you holding up in the crazy pandemic times?
Ashley-Marie: Fairly well all things considered. I work for a fantastic company in the defense and aerospace industry, and in an 'essential services role' so they looked after us very well and made arrangements for us all to work from home over a secure network. 
Personally at first I found the sudden change from a busy city office working life to one of almost total isolation quite difficult, especially because I live alone as well, but we adapt and move forward as best we can I guess.
Monika: Ashley-Marie is not a common name. Why did you choose it?
Ashley-Marie: Hmmm, to be honest I can't really tell you. Everyone just calls me Ash of course but as to why or where it came from I don't recall.

Sunday, 21 February 2021

Interview with Nadia

Monika: Today I am going to interview Nadia, an American hair stylist and beauty expert, former entertainer from Orlando, Florida that shares her transition story on social media. Hello Nadia!
Nadia: Hello, how are you?
Monika: Could you say a few words about yourself?
Nadia: Well I am 44. I’m a services district educator for Ulta Beauty. I started my transition in 2005. So I will celebrate 16 years in April.
Monika: Nadia is a nice name. Why did you choose it?
Nadia: This name was given to me by my drag mother when I was a performer. It was a name I always loved as a kid. I love the movie Nadia based on the life of Nadia Comaneci. 
Monika: Yes, I remember the movie. Nadia Comaneci was a famous Romanian gymnast. Were you good at gymnastics?
Nadia: I was an ok gymnast. I taught myself a lot as a kid. All the things I wanted to do I was told “no” you can’t because that’s for girls. But that was with everything that I liked and wanted to do. I did enjoy watching the Olympics growing up and always hoped and wished I could do all those things that the girls did.

Friday, 19 February 2021

Interview with Jasmine Anderson

Monika: Today I am going to host Jasmine Anderson, a qualified hairdresser, part time model, and social media influencer from Brisbane in Australia. Hello Jasmine!
Jasmine: Hello Monika! Thank you for the opportunity to share my story with you. I applaud you for all the great work you are doing with this blog.
Monika: Could you say a few words about yourself?
Jasmine: Well I’m a 34 year old transwoman from Australia. I’ve been transitioning for 3 1/2 years medically and have been married to a lovely man for just over 2 years now. I was lucky enough to meet him a month into my transition. I like to live life to the fullest and appreciate every moment I have on this earth. I hope I influence others' lives in a positive light.

Wednesday, 17 February 2021

Interview with Kimberly Kennedy

Monika: Today’s interview will be with Kimberly Kennedy, an American transgender woman and social media influencer from San Francisco, California. Hello Kimberly! 
Kimberly: Hi there, I'm really surprised and honored that someone would want to interview me.
Monika: Could you say a few words about yourself?
Kimberly: I am a 23 year old transgender woman. I started my transition in the senior year of college. So it's been about 2 years so far.
Monika: Why did you decide to share your transition details on social media?
Kimberly: There are many reasons I have been sharing my story on Reddit. First I wanted to share my details on Reddit because I love the thriving communities that exist on the platform. In regards to why I wanted to share my personal story, I really think it's good for trans people, specifically the younger trans kids to see that life can be OK for a trans person in America. I think that many trans people my age were only exposed to the idea of a transgender through trashy day time TV, like the Jerry Springer show or other things that were posed as more of a "freak show".

Monday, 15 February 2021

Interview with Sandra Krogh-Bjerke

Monika: Today I would like to introduce to you Sandra Krogh-Bjerke, a mental trainer and coach from Norway. We are going to touch upon her transition, inspirations, and challenges as a transgender woman. Hello Sandra!
Sandra: Hi Monika! Really excited and grateful to have this opportunity.
Monika: Could you say a few words about yourself?
Sandra: Just a few words? Oh my, where to start? Haha... I´ll start with my identity which has been the same over my whole life. I am a helping and caring woman that can connect with anyone and find solutions to their problems.
Monika: Sandra is such a lovely name. Why did you choose it?
Sandra: My old name, what someone calls a deadname, was not so different. My name was Sondre when presenting as a man. When I was young, about 13 years old, I was already very aware of me being a girl. I looked for a female name that I could feel comfortable with. At that time the German artist Sandra (Cretu) was very popular and I could really relate with her soft but determined artist personality. Also Sandra means "the helper/defender of the people'' and that really fits me well. On the inside I was Sandra from the age of 13, even though I didn't come out before October 1st 2018 at 41 years old.

Saturday, 13 February 2021

Interview with Chelsea Poe

Monika: Today it is my pleasure and honour to interview Chelsea Poe, a Dutch American producer and director of experimental queer art films, adult movie actress, artist and trans activist. Hello Chelsea!
Chelsea: Hello Monika!
Monika: You are a woman of many talents. Do you see yourself more as a producer or an actress?
Chelsea: I see myself as a performer who is lucky enough to have the means to produce. The content trade model has really taken hold and the amount of gigs that performers usually get is not enough to not produce your own content. I think the industry has shifted much like most of the entertainment industry to being decentralize. 
Monika: Are you more Dutch or more American?
Chelsea: I grew up surrounded by Dutch people and Dutch culture growing up in Holland, Michigan, so it makes up a large part of my identity. I feel as I got older and moved to California so much what I assumed were American things were actually Dutch things.

Thursday, 11 February 2021

Interview with Cameron Laventure

Monika: Today I would like to invite you for a meeting with a talented woman who writes and directs her own movies. Cameron Laventure is an independent filmmaker and writer wi­th an MFA from NYU Tisch School of the Arts. 
Hello Cameron!
Cameron: Hi, Monika! Thanks for speaking with me today.
Monika: How are you holding up in the pandemic times?
Cameron: Quarantine has been hard, but I’ve been luckier than most. My brother Brandon and I co-write and co-direct all our projects, and fortunately we’ve been able to shelter at home, building a writing portfolio while we search for paid screenwriting work.
It breaks my heart that so many people in my country, including relatives and dear friends, aren’t so lucky. So many of us are exposed to senseless risk because our government won’t just pay us to stay home. I carry a lot of anger over that. I try to channel it into my art, and into activism when I can.

Tuesday, 9 February 2021

Interview with Monica Rose

Monika: Today I am meeting Monica Rose, a Canadian make-up and hair artist, and transgender YouTube vlogger. It has been almost 4 years since she launched her Elle Rose vlog where she chronicles the most important moments of her transition. Hello Monica!
Monica: Thank you Monika for the opportunity to interview me and give me a chance to share my story.
Monika: Could you say a few words about yourself?
Monica: I currently live in Toronto, Canada, and I grew up on Vancouver Island in a small town called Port Alberni. I moved to the "big city" so I could pursue an education. I have, as you know, a background in hair and makeup, and as a hobby I live stream a lot playing video games.
Monika: Why did you decide to share your transition details on social media?
Monica: I decided to share my transition on line because I thought it would be a good opportunity to help other people. I started my transition more than ten years ago when very little information was available for people who wanted to transition, and to change a legal name or to update the gender marker on a passport would be very difficult if not impossible. I wanted to be able to share how I was able to do it to help other people as well.

Sunday, 7 February 2021

Interview with Kamila

Monika: Today I am taking you for a journey to the East Midlands region of England where I am going to chat with Kamila, an inspirational woman from Poland. Kamila is a transgender activist and successful business support analyst in the British civil service. I am going to chat with her about her experiences of being a transgender woman both in Poland and the UK. Hello Kamila! Dzień dobry!
Kamila: Dzień dobry Monika! First of all I would like to thank you for your invitation to take part in this project. I'm humbled by your invitation.
Monika: Could you say a few words about yourself?
Kamila: As previously stated by yourself, I am originally from Poland. However I have been living in the United Kingdom since 2005. The whole reasoning behind the move was to transition and become the person I am today. Most of you would be probably aware of Poland’s transphobic approach and lack of LGBTQ+ acceptance.
I am a 34 years old, civil service employee who is bubbly, outspoken and a little bit glitzy. Like a glitter tornado!

Friday, 5 February 2021

Interview with Alexandra Chandler

Monika: Today I am hosting a very special woman. Alexandra Chandler is an American politician, lawyer, and former senior analyst at the Office of the Naval Intelligence. She is also an advocate for equality for LGBT people, especially transgender youth, immigrants and people of color.
Currently she holds the position of Policy Advocate at Protect Democracy, a nonpartisan nonprofit organization with an urgent mission: to prevent democracy from declining into a more authoritarian form of government.
In 2018, she took part in the Democratic Party primary, running for election to the U.S. House to represent Massachusetts' 3rd Congressional District. Alexandra is married to Catherine, her high school sweetheart, and they have two children. Hello Alexandra!
Alexandra: Hello Monika! So glad to virtually meet you and those reading, wherever they are and whenever they do! 
Monika: How are you holding up in the pandemic times?
Alexandra: Relatively well, thank you. The truth is, we (speaking of our family) are very fortunate. My wife and I both have flexible (if intense this year!) and secure jobs that allow us to work from home and with some ability to reshuffle our hours around. We are both in good health with no major risk factors for COVID, as are our kids.
Yet that said, it is hard, as it is for all of us. There are so many moments where I feel I cannot be fully present as a mom or as a professional, because even with an amazing employer, there are times when I have to do both, with the addition of trying to be a half way decent part-time elementary school teacher and IT support for my son doing remote school. I am also such an extroverted person, and I miss the in-person interaction with friends, I miss seeing bands in concert and dancing, I miss eating in restaurants.

Wednesday, 3 February 2021

Interview with Damnlera

Monika: Today I am going to interview Damnlera, a young trans girl, digital illustrator, and social media influencer from Russia. Hello Lera!
Lera: Hello Monika! Thank you for the opportunity to do this interview.
Monika: Could you say a few words about yourself?
Lera: I’m a transgender woman. I transitioned 11 years ago. I work as a digital illustrator. In addition, I post on my YouTube channel and Makeup Art Instagram.
Monika: What inspired you to share your intimate life moments on social media?
Lera: The idea of making someone become more confident about themselves is very much inspiring for me. I want to inspire people of any age, gender or nationality to be what they really are and be proud of it. We are all beautiful and we are all talented, so making people feel great about themselves is what I really want to do.

Monday, 1 February 2021

Interview with Kara Norwood

Monika: Today’s interview will be with Kara Norwood, an American transgender activist that documents her transition on Hello Kara!
Kara: Hello Monika. It is my pleasure to meet you and I look forward to this interview and where it takes us.
Monika: Could you say a few words about yourself?
Kara: I will do my best to keep it brief. I am a multifaceted woman with a very dynamic background. In my life I have been a tattoo artist, soldier, physics research assistant, motorcycle enthusiast, speed demon, IT Director, entrepreneur a few times over, a son and a daughter, a father as well as a mother.
Now most recently I have become the godmother to a close friend's daughter. I do have plans for more things in the future presuming I live long enough. I think a life span of 250 years would do just fine.

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