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.
Monika: Do you get many questions from your followers? What do they ask for?
Lera: Not really. Unfortunately, I’m getting many messages from thirsty men, which is obviously bad because I do not even sexualize myself in my photos or videos. And just a small number of messages from people who have been inspired by me, and that's why this is so precious to me. I wish I had more messages from people that I inspire, instead of getting all this harassment stuff.

"The only one thing that really matters is
how you feel about yourself. First of all, you
need to find your own peace, to fall in
love with yourself."

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?
Lera: Fortunately, I didn't experience it in my life. My closest relatives accepted me because I was like that my whole life, so my transition wasn’t a surprise for them. My friends supported me as much as they could, which is something that I’m thankful for. I do believe in karma and all this stuff, so I guess this may be a reason why I’m struggling with getting famous online, you know. I think I am already a fully-fledged happy person and all this acceptance and support I have in my life are anyway better than millions of followers. 
Monika: Did your mother accept you as a woman?
Lera: Yes, she did. And I’m thankful for it a lot. But this wasn’t an easy way and it didn’t happen in one moment. We worked on it a lot and now our relationship is great. She's a fantastic woman.
Monika: Are you satisfied with the effects of the hormone treatment?
Lera: Yes I am. I have taken them for a year, and I have my 'cherries' grown, you know; that’s all I wanted actually. My face and body haven’t changed much. I just gained more weight. However, I was always chubby, and the only time I was skinny was the time when I had a serious eating disorder lasting for 4 years. At those times I was really unconfident, unhappy, depressed, etc. as anyone who's fighting against this. So now I'm happy to be a curvy woman, and I want to show it and make other curvy women feel better about themselves.
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?
Lera: The only one thing that really matters is how you feel about yourself. First of all, you need to find your own peace, to fall in love with yourself. You will see how fast you will go from all these judgments because in general, I think this is all in our own heads. People are selfish, and everyone mostly thinks about themselves. So if someone struggles a lot with this dysphoria thing, the therapist is the first doctor you go to visit, not the plastic surgeon. I can’t say I’m against all types of plastic surgery, and I accept people who really need it but I can say this is not a solution.

"Femininity is not about appearance only. Transition is
sometimes a struggle, but it's worth it."

Monika: Are there any transgender role models that you follow or followed?
Lera: Definitely yes. Laverne Cox and Nikkie de Jagger (NikkieTutorials) are my role models. Not going to say I wanna be them, I’m just inspired by them. I've followed those women for years and somehow they helped me to love myself, be myself and be proud of myself. This is who I want to be to people, and become my own role model.
Monika: Did you follow the story of NikkieTutorials and how she came out as transgender? 
Lera: At first when this video came on the air I was like “No way! You’re kidding!” And also I was like “this is not funny, girl”, but when I fully saw this and all the following videos about the story I was really impressed with this. Not just because she’s feminine and beautiful etc, at first place it was her strength that impressed me. I think she’s a really nice person and she definitely deserves what she has.
Monika: And in Russia? I came across some articles about such women as Varvara Strange, Veronika Svetlova, Juliana Romanov, Juliet Mon, Zhanna Wilde, or Erika Kisheva.
Lera: I don’t know them, except Erika Kisheva, but she is not my role model.
Monika: Do you remember the first time when you saw a transgender woman on TV or met anyone transgender in person?
Lera: Yeah the first time I saw a transgender woman on TV was Erika Kisheva in the reality show that made her famous in Russia.
Monika: What do you think about the present situation of transgender women in your country?
Lera: The whole situation with LGBTQ+ community in Russia is complicated, but many things in Russia are complicated because of our government. Also, Russian transwomen I knew or met weren't the most sophisticated persons, you know. In this case, I really think we should start enhancing our community and then get to the government. I don’t know why but there is a lot of hate inside our community, and this is strange and sad to me, looking at how friendly and nice such communities are in the US or Europe.
Monika: How about the Russian health system? Is it ready to provide health services to the transgender community such as GRS or FFS?
Lera: I heard a lot of bad stories about some health services but I have not encountered them myself. Just a case of my luck I guess.

"Every time I do my makeup I want it to be more
creative and cooler than the previous time."

Monika: Do you like fashion? What kind of outfits do you usually wear? Any special fashion designs, colors, or trends?
Lera: I like watching fashion stuff in the movies or music videos, but I’m not into fashion, to be honest. I like to wear more comfy clothes and I don't follow any trends. Just makeup trends. Also, this is still a complicated situation with plus-size clothes in Russia and even Europe so I’m even glad I'm not a fashionista.
Monika: Do you often experiment with your makeup?
Lera: Of course. Every time I do my makeup I want it to be more creative and cooler than the previous time. And of course, I practice the techniques I already know and try to upgrade my skills. But sometimes I just do something usual for me, which I know will 100% work for me.
Monika: By the way, do you like being complimented on your looks?
Lera: Yes that’s precious. Any act of kindness is precious.
Monika: Are you involved in the life of the local LGBTQ community?
Lera: No, not at all. When I was younger, I was a part of this community, but then our “no LGBT law” was introduced and the community happened to end. As I said before there is no real community here, and this is mostly about partying and dating, not about our rights. 99% of those people at parties are still “in the closet”.
Monika: Could you tell me about the importance of love in your life?
Lera: I always thought that the love of a man is really important to me but I always had a bad experience in relationships. When I really started to love myself and found my own harmony I was no longer interested in a relationship, but I do not deny it, and if I find someone special one day, it will be great.
Monika: Many transgender ladies write their memoirs. Have you ever thought about writing such a book yourself?
Lera: A book? No. I share stories of my life on my YouTube channel. Not everything of course, and actually I’m not even ready to tell everything, but I have a lot of time to talk about it in the future when I get more viewers.

"I want to grow up as an artist and content maker, an
 this is literally the main thing I want to do in my life."

Monika: What is your next step in the present time and where do you see yourself within the next 5-7 years?
Lera: I don’t know where I will be in the next 5-7 years because I never thought I will experience all that I did like in the past 7 years. So I hope I will be healthy and happy. Of course, I want to grow up as an artist and content maker, and this is literally the main thing I want to do in my life. I hope I will find my specific path and become successful in it. 
Monika: What would you recommend to all transgender women that are afraid of transition?
Lera: Again - to find your peace first. Femininity is not about appearance only. Transition is sometimes a struggle, but it's worth it. I guess we need to talk to each other, support each other, not only trans women I mean, all women. Sisters, not cis-ters if you know what I mean. Support is a cure to everything, so these women need to find a strong friend’s shoulder and they will not be afraid anymore, I hope.
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?
Lera: Yes I agree. But sometimes, like in my case, an operating table is not a goal at all. I don't want an operation, even with all this pressure about it. All people are different and unique, and every person decides where their dreams should start.
Monika: Lera, it was a pleasure to interview you. Thanks a lot!
Lera: My pleasure and thank you too, Monika, for this opportunity. That’s my first interview in English! Best wishes to you and the readers of your blog!

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

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