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.
I found a very unique opportunity with YouTube because I got to share my story and also share photos and videos of some of my experience as well. I had most of my surgeries in Thailand - and the surgeon I had was not well known to many people in this part of the world. I wanted to change that. I was also able to arrange it so that my Canadian Insurance paid for some of my procedures that I had done in Thailand.
"I decided to share my transition
on line because I thought it
would be a good opportunity
to help other people."
Since I have started my YouTube channel, I have helped more than ten people get access and make an informed decision on choosing the same surgeon as me in Thailand. My surgeon was Dr Kamol. 
Monika: Why would you recommend him? 
Monica: I liked his technique - and that he focused heavily on aftercare as well. In the most sought after clinic in Canada, they ship you away after a week of surgery. I feel that is too soon. Your first few weeks should be focused on recovering, not traveling.
Monika: I know that his hospital is always full of girls and women from the whole world. Did you like interacting with those ladies during your stay there?
Monica: I met some lovely people from all over the world who had shared some of their experiences with me. I met a girl who was with her mother (she was about 22 years old), and I was also able to share my story and experience with both of them. It was such a special moment to me. For parents of trans children, sometimes they always want the best, but don’t understand. I was able to give some personal insight to her.
Monika: Do you get many questions from your YouTube followers? What do they ask for? 
Monica: I get a fair amount of questions about my transition and more importantly my surgery. The most common question I get is about the price. "How much did this cost?" It is such a unique question to me that me saying the answer isn't going to help anyone else. I live in a place where I have been fortunate enough to have medical insurance that covers out of country surgery. I had my surgery in Thailand, and not many people can say they had that option. I just wish people would take that question and direct it to the hospital that they want surgery at and not me.
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?
Monica: I have been very blessed with a supportive family and friends. The only price I paid to fulfill my dreams in reality was time. I wish I had done it so much sooner. The hardest part about coming out was my own anxiety. I was afraid to let myself be happy. Once I was able to get past my anxiety, I wanted to live my life. I wanted to be strong for myself and for my friends.
The first thing I did for that was to start my legal transition - and that included changing my legal name to Monica, and also getting my gender marker changed on my passport and other documents. I was so happy when all of this was done (about ten years ago now).

Monika: Are you satisfied with the effects of the hormone treatment?
Monica: I am very satisfied with the hormone treatment - I started hormones I think almost 12 years ago now. I started noticing results within 2 weeks. The hormones helped me deal with my body dysphoria and love myself a little bit more.
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?
Monica: So many people put emphasis on passing or non passing - I like to use the term blending - some people want to blend in and some people do not. Society puts so much effort into a stereotype that you need to blend in to be successful and happy - and that is not the case. Sure, I have had some surgeries and can wear makeup to feel extra special. But so many people chase this idea that passing = beauty. It isn't. I spent ten years wearing makeup every day to try to fit this standard and realize that I am the most happy when I don't wear any.
Surgery is not always going to be the option for everyone or everything. It can do a lot, but it isn't a magical potion. Some things cannot be changed so easily like a voice, or height, or bone structure. You can be a beautiful person with a bad voice and that is OK. Some people have medical reasons that prevent them from having surgery or even taking hormones. That doesn't stop them from being trans. Finding happiness with the body and things you can't change is important. Celebrate them. Being happy is better than being perfect.
And lastly - DO NOT chase trans trends just because one trans person does something does not mean another trans person has to do the same thing to be happy. Surgery was meant for treating dysphoria not for being perfect, passing or beautiful.
Monika: I cannot agree more. I know many late transitioners that followed transgender teenagers on YouTube and thought that they would look young and beautiful as those girls. However, reality bites.
Monica: Surgery should never be 100% expected, as nothing is always going to be perfect. We do our best with what we have and that is what we should hope for. Being realistic when we set goals is so important.
"I have been very blessed with
a supportive family and friends.
The only price I paid to fulfill
my dreams in reality was time."
Monika: Are there any transgender role models that you follow or followed?
Monica: I didn't grow up with any trans influences, but when I started finding trans people online and through social media - Amanda Lepore became a role model because she was so different and unique and fearless for her time.
My role models are all of the trans people who don't have faces, who transitioned before me - who helped pave away for me and for future generations to be able to transition safely. I know I have helped many people love themselves and start their own trans journeys, but we still have a long way to go before the idea of being transgender is normalized and accepted.
Monika: Do you remember the first time when you saw a transgender woman on TV or met anyone transgender in person?
Monica: The first trans person I ever saw on TV - I was in high school, her name was Nina Arsenault. I have her book. She is very lovely. She is a Canadian Transgender Icon for her time - famous for her extreme amount of plastic surgery in the 2000's. I was at a nightclub when I was 20 years old and saw this statuesque woman - and at the time I didn't know she was the person I saw on the television. She was striking and so beautiful in her own way. I didn't even know what transgender was at the time - but I was so fascinated by her energy. Within that own fascination I learned more about myself in this process.
I had always known I was different but I didn't know what It was until or how to describe that feeling until I was older. When I met her, everything really helped make sense to me. And then I saw this movie TransAmerica, and everything happened. I knew instantly that my dream could turn into a reality.
Monika: ‘Transamerica’ (2005) was a good movie. Which elements of the story did you find really inspiring?
Monica:I didn’t know anything about trans culture when this movie was released, this opened my eyes to part of the process with surgery, access to surgery, hormone treatment, the counselling and medical assessments and living life as an out pre-op woman. This was one of the movies that helped escalate my transition.
Monika: What do you think about the present situation of transgender women in your country?
Monica: Canada has some very notable trans women mostly all of them who gained fame through YouTube - and I am happy for them. Any trans woman who has an influence and an audience helps normalize trans people for everyone else. We get to be role models for other people - and that is so important. When I was younger, I had no trans role models when I was in school, I wasn't taught about what transgender was. Kids today just know.
I am very blessed that transitioning is pretty accepted where I live in 2021 - It is pretty streamlined to get access to medical professionals, get access to hormones, surgery or even legally transition. It wasn't as easy as it is now as it was more than ten years ago when I started.
Monika: Do you like fashion? What kind of outfits do you usually wear? Any special fashion designs, colours or trends?
Monica: I like fashion when I have the money for nice clothing. I am always into grey and black clothing. I fancy beautiful heels and pencil skirts. I have big feet- size 12 so I always have to order my shoes on the Internet LOL, but I am also tall. I love my long legs and arms, so clothing that highlights those makes me happy. I will randomly throw in a pop of color to contract my mostly black wardrobe. I do usually add a pop of color with my makeup though as I do have a stronger background in makeup.
"Any trans woman who has an
influence and an audience helps
normalize trans people for
everyone else."
I will use this opportunity to give a personal makeup tip for everyone: focus on one thing. Focus on eyes, or focus on lips. It doesn't have to be perfect but simple is always better than too much but have fun with it.
Monika: What do you think about transgender beauty pageants? 
Monica: Transgender beauty pageants aren't in my area at all. I had only heard of them through friends of friends but never experienced seeing one myself.
When I was in Thailand, I met Miss Transsexual Australia International (I just won't say what year to protect her privacy). I think it is great to promote trans excellence but one shouldn't try to compare to someone else's goals as we all have our own unique journeys.
Monika: By the way, do you like being complimented on your looks?
Monica: I like being complimented on my appearance, just a simple "you look nice, or you have great eyes" or something is nice, it makes me smile. If someone tells me, "I didn't know you were trans, or good job" - I probably wont take that as a compliment. I do take pride in how I look, and know it took a very long time to get to this point - more than ten years.
Monika: Do you remember your first job interview as a woman?
Monica: My first job interview as a woman gave me anxiety because I didn't know If i was going to be judged based on my appearance or my experience but I didn't let that discourage me from applying for the job. I hope my experience and behaviour and manners are strong enough to get me the job - and they did.
Monika: What would you advise to all transwomen looking for employment?
Monica: If you are starting to look for a new job, or new job as a trans individual, focus on your goals and what you seek. One of my American friends had her entire transition paid for by her insurance by taking a job at a Starbucks. I hope your strengths will be the reason you get a job - and don't let that discourage you. Don't let the self sabotaging narrative of "I didn't get the job because I am trans" dictate your life.
Sure it is easy to see that and think that - but it's not always the case. In 2021 so many jobs are online now that what you look like or sound like will have little impact on you getting hired for one job or another. Also, focus on your legal transition - this is so important. Having "proof" you are transgender such as legally transitioning will always work in your favor.
Monika: Are you involved in the life of the local LGBTQ community?
Monica: I used to be involved a lot with the Trans community, but now I find I am able to help people more and on a global scale - by helping people online. I know my YouTube videos have helped a lot of people get information about my surgeries and about my doctor. 
Monika: Could you tell me about the importance of love in your life?
Monica: I've been in a relationship and have lived with my partner for 6 years. As I have gotten older, I find it is important to surround yourself with good people and good energy. 
Monika: Many transgender ladies write their memoirs. Have you ever thought about writing such a book yourself?
Monica: I used to do a lot of online blogging and I have thought about writing a book. I would like to share my story with people, but also be able to help educate at the same time. 
"I do take pride in how I look, and
know it took a very long time to get
to this point - more than ten years."
Monika: What is your next step in the present time and where do you see yourself within the next 5-7 years?
Monica: In the next 5-7 years, I would like to see myself moving to a smaller city. I've lived in the city for half of my life, and I really seek a smaller, more simple life now. I would still also like to help people find the strength to transition. 
Monika: What would you recommend to all transgender women that are afraid of transition?
Monica: For anyone who is afraid to transition - I ask what they are afraid of? Are they afraid of happiness, finding themselves freedom, or are they in a situation where they risk safety - because that is understandable.
Being trans is valid. You can transition many different ways, socially transition, medically transition with hormones or surgery and legally transition such as a new name or gender marker on an official document. Access to information as a trans person who is afraid to transition is something that is too common - so many people don't know how to start or where to look, and this is why I like to make content, to help give people those first few steps.
Nobody needs to rush or force a transition until they are ready. I think transitioning as fast as possible is preferred because then they just get to live the rest of their lives. I've met people who transitioned as teenagers and others in their 50's and 60's. Both for different reasons but with all the sacrifices they were all very happy.
I strongly advise speaking to medical professionals about medically transitioning, as a doctor at least in North America is going to do the most to help your transition such as signing legal documentation, gender change and providing hormone replacement therapy and giving referrals to surgeons.
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?
Monica: I think your friend Gina is very smart. I had surgery because I had dysphoria. I researched surgeons and formed my own opinions. I've met people who have had surgery, not because they had dysphoria but because they see someone else doing that. Surgery for me was only one part of the process. Now, I have a lot more freedom and I am so happy about that.
Monika: Elle, it was a pleasure to interview you. Thanks a lot!
Monica: Thank you so much for giving me an opportunity to share my story and for the interview, Monika.

If you want to find more about Elle Rows or her journey, click to find her YouTube channel or @ellerows for any of her socials.

All the photos: courtesy of Monica Rose.

© 2021 - Monika Kowalska

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