Wednesday, 3 March 2021

Interview with Erin Grace

Monika: Today I am going to chat with Erin Grace, a British software engineer and transgender woman from Manchester, the United Kingdom, that documents her transition on social media. Hello Erin!
Erin: Hello Monika!
Monika: Could you say a few words about yourself?
Erin: I’m a 27-year-old transwoman living in Manchester with my cats! I started transitioning when I was 25, for a second time, after a first failed attempt when I was 20.
Monika: Why did you decide to share your transition details on social media?
Erin: A few reasons really! After having failed and detransitioning once, I think having a semi-public record of my transition out there serves not only as a sort of memory of how far I’ve come but acts as a statement of intent that I don’t intend on giving up or failing this time. I’m here to stay.
Aside from that, I’ve been so lucky on Reddit to have had nothing but love and support - I even met my ‘IRL’ best friend on one of the trans communities there when I reached out looking for help! She’s been like an adoptive trans mother to me. I love her dearly.
One other thing to add might be that I think it’s super important for us as transwomen to normalize our existence and our transitions. We exist, we transition; this is nice and normal and if we’re lucky, we can even be beautiful!

"I think it’s super important for us as
transwomen to normalize our existence
and our transitions."

Monika: Do you get many questions from your followers? What do they ask for?
Erin: A few! Mainly about my hair - I don’t do anything special - I just try to not use heat on it and wash it the right amount! Also sometimes about my skin! To which I reply I just moisturize, wash it and take makeup off as soon as possible! I guess drinking water helps! I do also get asked generally for help by others dealing with gender issues, but I always seek to defer people to professional counselors - I’m not qualified!
Monika: What was the strangest question that you answered?
Erin: I’m not sure really! There’s the classic being asked about my genitals to which I’ve taken to channeling my inner Belle Delphine and trolling with ‘wouldn’t you like to know’ or ‘that would be telling’.
Monika: At the very beginning of our chat, you mentioned that you detransitioned when you were 20. Do you regret it?
Erin: Of course. Who wouldn’t? It was extremely traumatic.
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?
Erin: I’d say so, in my own way. I was in a long-term relationship that simply wouldn’t work with me transitioning. We tried many ways to maintain our relationship, with me transitioning and even detransitioning. In the end, it simply wouldn’t work, and despite much trying, I couldn’t ignore my mounting dysphoria.
I also have some quite religious family members whom I haven’t even told about my transition, so I guess I won’t be interacting with those people anymore. Ultimately the hardest thing I found about coming out was overcoming my own sense of shame.
Monika: Shame? What shame?
Erin: Internalised transphobia and self-loathing.
Monika: Was your mother surprised by your transition?
Erin: Of course, at most, she may have suspected I was gay, but people really didn’t know what it was to be a transwoman when I came out in 2014. That was before ‘the transgender tipping point’. Before Caitlin Jenner even!
Monika: Do you resemble her physically or mentally?
Erin: My mother? I think in many ways yes!
Monika: Are you satisfied with the effects of the hormone treatment?
Erin: I wouldn’t give up HRT for the world, and I’m so glad for everything it’s done, but that being said I’m sure we always want more changes and for things to happen faster. The transition has so much waiting. I’d also say that people can put too much emphasis on HRT! It’s not the solution to all of our problems, just part of the solution!

"Ultimately the hardest thing I found about coming
out was overcoming my own sense of shame."

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?
Erin: I think pushing for trans acceptance over conformity is a start, but that being said things can be so hard when we don’t pass. I’m not really sure how to make things easier. 
Monika: Are there any transgender role models that you follow or followed?
Erin: For sure Natalie Wynn; and her YouTube channel Contrapoints - she is basically the source of all-trans truth to me right now. Whenever I see someone ignorant to trans issues, I just point them her way. Her ‘Gender Critical’ video is stunning.
Monika: I love her! I admire the way she talks about so many aspects of being trans. These are very important topics and yet she is able to add some flavor by theatrical background or outfit she wears. And as we speak she has got 1.23 million subscribers!!! Absolutely amazing.
Erin: She’s an inspiration and an invaluable resource for me to refer people to.
Monika: Do you remember the first time when you saw a transgender woman on TV or met anyone transgender in person?
Erin: I think the first trans person I can remember was Nadia Almada from Big Brother. She won and she was aces. It was nice to see an actual real transwoman on television, other than the horrible monster/comedy representations often played by cis women, or worse cis men in fictional TV shows. As for real life, I have a lot of trans friends who (when we’re allowed) I see a lot, I think it is important not to just rely on virtual digital trans spaces. 
Monika: What do you think about the present situation of transgender women in your country?
Erin: The United Kingdom seems particularly bad for TERFism (Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminism), I think it’s a hangover from our still present classist society and our legacy of print journalism coupled with our conservative government and right-wing media that has allowed wealthy middle-aged cis women to acceptably promote anti-trans sentiment.
It’s very worrying honestly; JK Rowling is the prime example. Her faux ‘concern’ and thinly veiled dog whistles are the perfect excuses for people to pile in on disliking and fearing trans people, in particular, trans women. The fear-mongering is so real and like with a lot of bigotry, so unfounded.
Monika: And I would say it is really disappointing that we are attacked by cis women. Any reason women attack women?
Erin: I think it’s classic bigotry. Fear of the unknown. A sense of disgust at the other. Just like homophobia, xenophobia, racism, and antisemitism. Everyone needs a dog to kick and in the UK right now the fear-mongering and moral panic in the media whips otherwise uninformed people into a frenzy against us. We are made to be the Dangerous Other. 
Monika: Do you like fashion? What kind of outfits do you usually wear? Any special fashion designs, colors, or trends?
Erin: I really don’t think I have a clue when it comes to fashion, but I do my best! For the most part, I just try to wear things that are form-flattering, given my odd transwoman dimensions. I really like long semi-casual, semi-formal shirt dresses with long sleeves; I have a lot of those.

"The technology industry has a history of
being welcoming and accepting of transwomen."

Monika: Do you often experiment with your makeup?
Erin: As much as I can! My core life philosophy is about learning through experimenting and variation, and always being willing to fail and look silly. Otherwise, you won’t try and you won’t learn or improve. Gotta start somewhere.
Monika: What do you think about transgender beauty pageants?
Erin: I don’t really know enough about them to give an opinion! As long as these things are done in the spirit of consensual competition I’m sure they’re OK, but I always found the hyper-competitive nature of child beauty pageants potentially somewhat problematic! 
Monika: By the way, do you like being complimented on your looks?
Erin: Of course! I am tragically dependent on validation!
Monika: Do you remember your first job interview as a woman?
Erin: I do! I was openly trans to them, and since I have done many where it’s not relevant to mention my gender, so it’s hard to know if I ‘passed’ or not! I try to keep things focused on the work and skills.
Monika: What would you advise to all transwomen looking for employment?
Erin: The technology industry has a history of being welcoming and accepting of transwomen, and it is mostly a meritocracy, so I’d always recommend that, even though it’s cliché.
Monika: Are you involved in the life of the local LGBTQ community?
Erin: I was a little prior to the pandemic, since then I’ve just taken to posting about my experiences on Instagram whilst in lockdown. @erin_grace_168
Monika: Did the lockdown trigger any change in the way you started to perceive the world and your own situation or status as a transwoman?
Erin: I’ve always been cynical so sadly no, I view the world and in particular the UK negatively; probably a lot more so, so maybe it has changed my view - for the worse. My own situation has been lucky; I’m not a stereotypical transwoman. I am a software engineer so I haven’t lost my job.
I have however lost confidence in terms of passing because I simply don’t interact with many people at all. Losing that constant brutally honest feedback of a bus driver calling me ‘darling’, or if I don’t pass ‘mate’ is unsettling and erodes my confidence.
Monika: Could you tell me about the importance of love in your life?
Erin: Love is extremely important, it’s important to note it comes in many different forms. I feel like I was effectively raised by another transwoman who made space for me in her life during an extremely painful and vulnerable time of my own. That’s a kind of debt you can never repay.
Monika: How did she help you?
Erin: I credit her with my success at transition. She was an invaluable source of support without whom I may have succumbed to some unhealthy tendencies or even given up again. 
Monika: Many transgender ladies write their memoirs. Have you ever thought about writing such a book yourself?
Erin: I honestly don’t think my life is that interesting, but I guess the idea of creating some kind of diary has crossed my mind. I do think it helps other trans people to share our experiences.

"Love is extremely important, it’s important to
note it comes in many different forms."

Monika: What is your next step in the present time and where do you see yourself within the next 5-7 years?
Erin: Hopefully carry on the transition, hit a few milestones but we’ll see. I like where I am in life so maintaining something secure and stable with slight improvements would suit me. 
Monika: What would you recommend to all transgender women that are afraid of transition?
Erin: Think, plan, put yourself in a good position and then move forward bravely and swiftly. Focus on progress, not perfection.
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?
Erin: I do, just like transition won’t solve all your problems. I believe it’s not healthy to think of surgery as suddenly solving all of life’s problems, just specific ones that help in the grand scheme.
Monika: Erin, it was a pleasure to interview you. Thanks a lot!
Erin: Thank you! I’m very flattered you’d think I’m worth being interviewed!

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

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