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 my 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 daytime TV, like the Jerry Springer show or other things that were posed as more of a "freak show".

"I think the sad truth of the matter is that when you
transition you lose more than you ever thought."

Monika: Do you get many questions from your followers? What do they ask for?
Kimberly: Yeah! I get a fair number of questions. There are a couple of common questions that get asked very often. For example, people ask what I have done surgery-wise. Some people want to know what hormones feel like, some people want to know what's going on "downstairs".
I also get questions where I can feel that the person has really confided in me. For example, I've had people open up to me about how their parents or spouse have been giving them a hard time. We all know that acceptance is a rare commodity for trans people. I really try my best to be an older sister or motherly type of person.
Monika: What was the strangest question that you answered? :)
Kimberly: I think it has to be "what is the something that made you cry after HRT". To give context to this, it is very common for MTF trans people to feel an overwhelming amount of new emotion after starting hormone therapy.
This question hit me hard because I recall a time where I found an advertisement for heart medication to be a moving emotional experience. I believe the drug was called Lipitoir. In the ad, I saw an older couple walking on the beach together and I broke down crying. I really thought their love was magical. 
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?
Kimberly: I think the sad truth of the matter is that when you transition you lose more than you ever thought. I've lost pretty much all of my family, excluding my mother and a single cousin. I have lost all of my friends from pre-transition. I lost my white male privilege, which I never thought about until it was gone!
All this said I would never change a thing. As trans people, we have to pay for things that are given to most people. I feel that even after losing so much my heart still goes out to the people who lose things such as their spouse, children, and sometimes their homes.
"My mother was very 
surprised, in fact, she was
not really sure what
a transgender person
even was."
I got sidetracked, but to answer the question I think the hardest thing about coming out is seeing the people who claim to love you, start to hate you for something that you can't change.
Monika: You mentioned your mother. Was she surprised with your transition?
Kimberly: My mother was very surprised, in fact, she was not really sure what a transgender person even was. In about a month she started to come around, I bought her some books and started to show her myself the way I wanted to be seen.
Monika: Are you satisfied with the effects of the hormone treatment?
Kimberly: Yes, I think so. The thing about hormones is that they only take you halfway there. I think many trans people regard them as some magical pill that solves all your problems.
I like to think that the most meaningful changes it made were to my self-confidence. Once you start feeling a little bit better it's important to stick to a really strict diet and exercise regimen.
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?
Kimberly: I think it's really important to never hide away and bide your time while you "improve" yourself. I think we can all relate to the fear of not passing. For example, when we want to go grocery shopping or something and you pick yourself apart in the mirror for hours, you cycle through 5 different outfits and do your make-up twice over, and when it's all over you leave the house and immediately walk back in out of fear.
It's really important to "Just Do It" as NIKE says. It is a fact that passing privilege is very real. My advice for people who don't quite pass is to take baby steps and see that the world is not as scary as it sometimes seems.
When I was starting out, it helped me to start slow, walk around the block, then around the neighborhood, then go to a store, then you just sort of keep going until you're not afraid anymore.
Monika: Are there any transgender role models that you follow or followed?
Kimberly: I absolutely love Samantha Lux. She is a transfem YouTuber who makes informative trans-related content. I also love Hailie Sahur, she is an American actress best known for her role in ‘Pose’.
Monika: Do you remember the first time when you saw a transgender woman on TV or met anyone transgender in person?
Kimberly: I think it was the Jerry Springer show. That would be my first time seeing a transgender person. I believe I was 10 years old or something. I remember it being really hurtful for me because I saw the way that she was treated. The premise was that she tricked some guy into falling in love with her.
I now realize how hurtful these shows can be for trans youth. The presence of this woman made me feel very conflicted and looking back on it I think occurrences like this partly postponed my transition.

"I actually love fashion, in fact, I went to college
for jewelry and fashion design."

Monika: What do you think about the present situation of transgender women in your country?
Kimberly: I live in the USA and to put it shortly the situation is pretty bad. I think I would rather talk about the things that need to change rather than dwell on the people who make trans life harder.
The first and most important thing that needs reform is EDUCATION!! Children and adults need to be educated and exposed to the idea of transgender. I would love to see a sex education class for LGBTQ+ kids. God knows I had no clue what was going on until later in life. I think the lack of knowledge and disinformation is a plague.
I had someone just the other day send me hate mail. He was under the impression that all trans women are trans because we were molested or raped as children, LIKE WHAT!!!!. While that incident was really bizarre someone obviously taught him that info, and that is the issue.
Monika: Do you like fashion? What kind of outfits do you usually wear? Any special fashion designs, colors, or trends?
Kimberly: I actually love fashion, in fact, I went to college for jewelry and fashion design. My personal wardrobe is pretty wide, but my favorites are low-cut tops and skinny jeans. I adore sweater dresses, any dress with a cinched waist, I love booties with a high heel, and wedges. I own only one choker oddly enough but I'm quite fond of it. LOL
Monika: Do you often experiment with your makeup?
Kimberly: Oh yeah!! I really love makeup and do it for my friends sometimes. I think it's a good creative outlet, and it feels nice to look pretty even when you're just laying around the house.
Monika: What do you think about transgender beauty pageants?
Kimberly: I don't really know that much about this topic, but I think my opinion is that we should just have regular pageants and if trans women want to compete, go for it! Unless we're talking about Ballroom, in that case, I'm a big supporter.
Monika: By the way, do you like being complimented on your looks?
Kimberly: I absolutely love it! Given it comes from the right person.
Monika: Do you remember your first job interview as a woman?
Kimberly: That's a tough question because I've never had one. I was unemployed for a while, and now I sort of work for myself.

"I think that society often shames men for
being with trans women and because of this,
I have often found myself to be a secret."

Monika: Are you involved in the life of the local LGBTQ community?
Kimberly: Sadly I have been doing most of my activism online. My issue is that I moved to San Francisco recently during the pandemic.
In the past, I was always a big supporter and attendee of pride marches and other LGBTQ gatherings. I plan to be way more active when we are able to have physical meetups.
Monika: Could you tell me about the importance of love in your life?
Kimberly: Love and my love life are complicated issues. I think that it's pretty common for a lot of trans women to have some problems in the dating world.
At this moment I am currently single and am pretty satisfied. However, love is super important to me. I haven't been able to find a special someone who can accept all of me.
I think that society often shames men for being with trans women and because of this, I have often found myself to be a secret.
On another note, I think the friendship between two trans people can make a huge difference in someone's life. I can't stress how nice it can be to talk with someone who is going through the same or similar things as yourself. I truly believe that transition is twice as hard when you don't have a good support system in place. 
Monika: Do you have such a transgender friend yourself?
Kimberly: Yes I do, I don't want to dox her or anything but she has been a great person and support system throughout everything. It's nice to have someone who doesn't see you as different or weird in any way.
Monika: Many transgender ladies write their memoirs. Have you ever thought about writing such a book yourself?
Kimberly: I have been thinking about doing something similar but not quite a memoir. I really would love to have a platform or blog where I can share all sorts of things. The main premise is that it’s a kind of field guide to being a young transgender woman in America. In this guide I would cover all sorts of things like building confidence in yourself, being safe and knowledgeable with your sex life. I would touch on non-medical ways to transition, as well as many logistical things such as how to talk to your doctor and what type of steps you need to make before starting hormones. I aim to cover all of the things I wish I had known when I was growing up.
Monika: What is your next step in the present time and where do you see yourself within the next 5-7 years?
Kimberly: Well, my next step is to expand my platform, possibly move to Tik Tok. I am interested in possibly starting a support group in the Bay area.
In the further future, I would really love to do some charity work, possibly start or join a foundation that helps LGBTQ+ youth.
In my personal life, I would love to settle down and possibly have a baby before I turn 30. I have always wanted to be a committed wife and mother before anything else.
"In my personal life, I would love
to settle down and possibly
have a baby before I turn 30."
Monika: What would you recommend to all transgender women that are afraid of transition?
Kimberly: I would stress the fact that there is never a good time to transition and that the same problems will arise no matter what time you transition. It's important to do a lot of self-reflection and try to lessen the internal transphobia we all feel about ourselves.
In addition, if you are able you should go to therapy or possibly a free support group. It is crucial that you explore yourself and your identity even if it's such a small part of you. What I tell people is that a seed is easy to remove from the ground, but if you let it grow for a long time you have a full-grown tree to get rid of.
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?
Kimberly: Absolutely!! I think we are all born as completely different people than the person we gradually become. It is super important to never do anything because it's imposed upon you. At the end of the day, we all know what feels good and what does not.
Monika: Kimberly, it was a pleasure to interview you. Thanks a lot!
Kimberly: Thank you so much!! I am really honored to be a part of this project and hope that at least one thing I said could be of use to someone. Bye!!

All the photos: courtesy of Kimberly Kennedy.
© 2021 - Monika Kowalska

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