Tuesday 9 March 2021

Interview with Isabelle Lindén

Monika: Today I am going to interview Isabelle Lindén, a Swedish transgender woman and an aspiring social media influencer that shares all her transition stories on Instagram. Hello Isabelle!
Isabelle: Hi Monika! The funny thing is when you call me an ”influencer”. I assure you I'm not. I tried to be one but it didn't work out. After blogging for so many years, now I'm just someone that likes taking photos and posting them on Instagram and stream on twitch, thebelasaga (well I am going to switch to that name anyway)
Monika: Could you say a few words about yourself?
Isabelle: Of course, to tell you who I am I must tell you who I was. I had Everything: family, wife, two kids, nice stable income, car, etc.
Now I don't know who I am anymore after being fired from my job, left by my wife, crashed financially, and left in debt for life. Family and friends left me all because I came out as transgender. I do suffer from depression and anxiety, not just because of who I am but more for what has happened.
However, I do have (had) a girlfriend. And no, I do not see myself as a lesbian. I have always been and probably always will be pansexual; to be more exact asexual, sex-positive, and pansexual.
Unfortunately now, because of depression, I only play video games on twitch. I would love to feel better and pick up photography again, as I did have it as a side job. And there are lots of things I want to do but don't have the mental strength for.
Monika: Isabelle is a nice name. Why did you choose it?
Isabelle: Well thank you! I don't know, I just like it. Many years ago I dated two girls (not at the same time) with that name. And I just like it. There is no reason.

"Family and friends left me all because
I came out as transgender."

Monika: What inspired you to share your intimate life moments on social media?
Isabelle: I did a blog about my journey before, I liked it a lot! But I felt so alone and it didn't attract too many followers. I felt that blogging was a dying thing, now with all the vlogging projects.
And my thought then was ”If I ever could help just one transgender person with my stories, just one, it would be all great. So they don't go through what I did". It would seem worth it. I can sacrifice my life moments for someone else.”
Monika: Which aspects of your transition could be interesting for other trans women? 
Isabelle: Well I don't see my transition so different from others, it's just that all these stories need to be heard. Just to feel that you are not alone, even though it's hard to see and feel a connection from someone across the world, different age, and religion, we are all the same. You are not alone!
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. You paid it as well. Do you think you could have done it differently?
Isabelle: I often think about what I could do differently. But I did the best that I ever could, and would probably not do it better. I might have done it much earlier though, I'm kind of old so that's the only thing I can think about. I often wonder if it was all worth it. I do not have an answer to that either I'm afraid. I do feel more comfortable in my own body, but at what cost!
Monika: Are you satisfied with the effects of the hormone treatment?
Isabelle: Well, I can't see much difference. But I do pass. So I would say I'm pretty satisfied. I mean it isn’t perfect; it’s really not. But for a girl of my age, it is really nice.
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?
Isabelle: I think it's mostly in your head. Cis women come in all shapes and sizes. We are all different. So I think it's an issue that we need to work in our heads, not by cosmetic surgeries. Sure I feel insecure if I pass or not sometimes. But I am me and that is the most important thing. There are a lot of people that don't accept you because of who you are. I just eliminate them from my life. Yes, that is really hard. And I am all alone. But it is me who is going to live and die in this body. My house, my rules!
Monika: Are there any transgender role models that you follow or followed?
Isabelle: I think that is a funny question. I do not want to disrespect anyone. But I really don't care. I mean I don't care about trans or not. Trans is not who I am, it's a hiccup, it is a problem I had or I have. I can see people and I have never felt the need to fit in and seek comfort from another trans. I'm a woman and I seek comfort and help from other women. 
But anyway, there is one woman I follow on YouTube. She is called Maya Henry. She is trans, and I did seek out her for just that. But I stayed on her channel for her content and stuff. But it's not like a role model. I don't have any role models at all. I'm in a pretty dark place in my head at the moment and don't see anything good in people and life.

"I have always been and probably always will
be pansexual; to be more exact asexual,
sexpositive, and pansexual."

Monika: Do you remember the first time when you saw a transgender woman on TV or met anyone transgender in person?
Isabelle: I'm kind of old, so there were no trans people around me when I grew up. So I never really knew that that was possible. So when the Internet became widely available I googled it or I guess it was Yahoo back then. And it took a long time before I saw someone. And by then I already knew who I was and what I was, so it wasn't that big of a thing. But I think it was an interview with Kim Petras. It wasn't an "ahaaa" moment, but it was nice to see that it was possible to still live and have a future.
Monika: I guess Kim’s transition was revolutionary because she was one of the first teenagers that started taking hormone blockers before reaching puberty. What was your view on this?
Isabelle: It is not what most transgender want to hear. Starting the transition before 18 is a good thing if you know that you are transgender. However, getting hormones and surgeries, most of the time isn't that great. It's a difficult thing that will hurt so many no matter what. And being young is hard enough. I already knew I was transgender. But I'm not sad I had to wait. I'm sad that I made the choice to wait for almost 40 years but that's on me.
Monika: What do you think about the present situation of transgender women in your country?
Isabelle: Well they say that Sweden is a good country when it comes to being trans, and it is better than many countries. I don't have to pay for everything myself. And we got laws and stuff. But the mentality isn't really there. I got fired from my workplace, which is one of the biggest companies in Sweden, and I did file a police report, but no one really cared. And even if the health care is free I've been in the system and waiting for almost 10 years, and I still do not have it all done.
I tried suicide a couple of times just because of the long waiting time. And what goes on when I use public toilets, nobody really cares. And when it comes to dating, no one really wants to date a trans woman either. But I probably won't get beaten and killed for being trans, so that's something. The thing that scares me most is someone trying to rape me and see me as transgender and kill me instead.
Monika: Do you like fashion? What kind of outfits do you usually wear? Any special fashion designs, colors, or trends?
Isabelle: Naaah, I don't really care, I am not that kind of a woman. But probably because I don't feel like I have any options or money. I do use gaff panties from China and baggy pants. I try to stay away from too much pink, I really love pink. But I don't want to monetize trans and I just don’t wear pink all the time. When I do get the snip, I will have jeans and tights like 24/7. Other than that I'm kind of neutral.

"I've been looking for a minimalist capsule
wardrobe that fits a photographing gamer."

My fashion isn't really there. I try to get inspired, so it has to fit my lifestyle. I've been looking for a minimalist capsule wardrobe that fits a photographing gamer. When I lived in Spain (I was homeless, and lived with my mother-in-law). I did use a lot of dresses, but in Sweden, it's too cold for that.
Monika: Do you often experiment with your makeup?
Isabelle: Experiment and experiment. I know what looks good on me. And I don't use makeup that much anymore. I did at first. I do love makeup and when I do something I do use it, but if I just go down to the store I won't. That's not how I used to be though. Before when I was much more insecure I couldn't go anywhere without tons of makeup. Now I know better. I look really good, well decent at least. That's not a thing I'm so insecure about. It's more my weight and other body parts.
Monika: By the way, do you like being complimented on your looks?
Isabelle: Ohhh yes! Of course, I do. Who wouldn't? I would love for a man to just stare at me like a piece of meat, not that extreme maybe, but yeah. What goes through my mind when someone is looking is that they think I do not look good though and someone is looking at me because I don't ”pass”, which is silly because that's not so important. The thing that is most important is that you love yourself.
Monika: Do you remember your first job interview as a woman?
Isabelle: Yes I do. And I got the job. However, I needed to quit it for other reasons. But it wasn't a big deal. I wrote in my job application that the workplace needs to be HBTQ (LGTBQ) friendly. And the boss there was gay himself. So that I was trans, it was nothing. You would probably never guess that I was born of a different gender if you just look at me. My voice however tells a different story.
Monika: What would you advise to all transwomen looking for employment?
Isabelle: Well trans or not trans, just be yourself. Always! Yes, you might not get work. Hell, I've been homeless for a long time. But not being me is not a thing I can do anymore. If it is a serious company, they will look for the right person, not the gender or sexual orientation. It's better for your health to not work in a toxic place then.
Monika: Are you involved in the life of the local LGBTQ community?
Isabelle: No, I'm not. I was. I used to be a photographer for pride events a few years ago. But my mental health did not allow me to continue this.
Monika: Could you tell me about the importance of love in your life?
Isabelle: Oh love! Well, today I just ended a relationship. Well, there is only one thing that is more important than love, being yourself. Is that what I'm supposed to write, say and feel? But so many times I would go back, pretending to be a man. Just to get five more minutes with the love of my life, which sadly isn't the one I broke up with today.
Love, I think, is really rare. Many people accept someone and they think that it is love. But when you've been in love, you will never stop loving, no matter what they do or say. They will be your family even if you have been divorced for four years. Love is when you love that your ex-girlfriend got a new partner, so she is not alone. Love is when you love someone even if they never call. Love is the thing that makes me get up in the morning. Love is when you miss the way that they screamed at you. Love is when you can drop everything in a heartbeat if that person needs any help.
Yes, my love is broken. And I can never love again. Love is the best thing in the world, and I'm happy that I once had it. Even if I'm sad, I'm glad that once in my life, I had it all. Once I had love.

"Trans or not you should always, always strive
to be better than yesterday."

Monika: Many transgender ladies write their memoirs. Have you ever thought about writing such a book yourself?
Isabelle: Now that is so funny you would ask because I started writing the other day. I've had a lot of thoughts and ideas and I think that I have a different approach to not just being trans, but life as a whole. This first book though is focused on something else. It's a fantasy book with a sprinkle of my experience. It's a dungeons and dragons themed world with a cursed male dwarf.
Monika: What is your next step in the present time and where do you see yourself within the next 5-7 years?
Isabelle: Well currently I'm so depressed and having a hard time to see anything in my future. But I'm working on my book, more to just get my head focused on something. But I will be done with all of my operations and stuff this year. Just rehab that is waiting at the end of this year. In my life, however, I would really love to live in a van. Yes, I would love to live in a campervan, working on the 2nd part of my book. That would be lovely.
Monika: What would you recommend to all transgender women that are afraid of transition?
Isabelle: That's OK to be afraid! But don't let fear control your life! All amazing things come through concurring fear. It is hard and it will break you many times. But we aren't defined on whether or not we fail. It's how we get back up, this is what counts. Yes, it takes ages. It takes way too long, but you can't rush a good cupcake. Stay strong! How could anyone love or accept you if you don't love and accept yourself!
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?
Isabelle: Indeed, I do. I feel like my dream isn't done when I do all my ops. My life is paused until I get my life. And a big note. All the transitions won't make you magically better. A lot of it is in your head. And trans or not you should always, always strive to be better than yesterday. Keep dreaming! Keep calm and carry on!
Monika: Isabelle, it was a pleasure to interview you. Thanks a lot!
Isabelle: The pleasure was all mine! I loved it. It made me think and evolve. Sometimes it's hard to focus on how little we achieve every day until we look back and see how far we have come. Good luck and remember everyone always be yourself, you are amazing!

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

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