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 guidepost."

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 two. 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.

"Everyone wants to be loved whether they
will admit it or not. The real trick is loving
yourself enough to be okay with yourself

Monika: Did you de-transition the first time?
Renae: Yeah in my early 20's I had a pretty rough go with the 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 guidepost. 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 anymore. Needless to say, we cleared all that up for him and he is super happy that I get to be me.
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 States 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, colors, 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 reds, 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 things."

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 than 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

No comments:

Post a Comment

Search This Blog