Saturday, 27 March 2021

Interview with Jamie Berthon

Monika: Today I am going to host Jamie Berthon, an Australian model, videographer, future personal trainer, social media influencer, and transgender woman that shares her transition story on social media. Hello Jamie!
Jamie: Hey Monika, I'm hoping to explore myself through this as much as anyone else wants to listen.
Monika: Could you say a few words about yourself?
Jamie: Well, I'm Jamie and I am trying to kick start my career as a model, and learning about fitness to eventually become a personal trainer along with it. I started hormones in January of 2019 and properly came out in January of 2020. Along with those huge moments for me, I've been enjoying life to its fullest.
Monika: What inspired you to share your intimate life moments on social media?
Jamie: I have had a lot of great friends over the Internet that I have helped in certain aspects, mostly regarding fitness. I want to share my experiences and knowledge to hopefully inspire other trans men and women to grow as themselves. That's the main reason I'm studying to become a personal trainer too, to help trans people be comfortable in the body they have, as I have found a lot of joy in fitness myself.

"For me, the hardest thing about coming out was
the pressure I put on myself."

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?
Jamie: For me, the hardest thing about coming out was the pressure I put on myself. I was fortunate to have loving friends and family that supported me through my transition, but I had a lot of pressure by myself to ‘do things right’ I suppose. By that I mean, look a certain way, talk a certain way, act a certain way. Eventually, I got comfortable enough that I didn’t feel like I have to act differently around people for them to accept me.
Monika: Was your mother surprised by your transition?
Jamie: She was very surprised by my transition. She always thought I wasn’t very girly growing up and it came out of nowhere, which I agree I wasn’t, but always had those feelings deep down, acting in private. She was a bit weird about it at first, trying to make sure it was the right thing for me, but she came around realizing it was the right thing for me.
Monika: Are you satisfied with the effects of the hormone treatment?
Jamie: I am happy to an extent. It’s easy to look at the things that you still feel bad about and hope for more, but it has shaped me into someone I’m comfortable being. Looking at the things that have changed for the better makes me infinitely happier than I was since before the hormones. With them along with a good exercise plan, I’m happy with where I’m at and wouldn’t change it.

"I’m happy with where I’m at and
wouldn’t change it."

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?
Jamie: I, unfortunately, don’t have a good answer for this. I think it’s important for all trans people to pass well, but being confident in yourself whether you do or don’t is the most important thing in my opinion. No one should be seen as any less for getting any surgery to make them happier as happiness is one of the most important things in life.
Monika: Are there any transgender role models that you follow or followed?
Jamie: I follow Valentina Sampaio, Carmen Carrera, and Gigi Gorgeous as my go-to role models. Each of them having their own unique styles and things they do for the trans and other LGBT communities.
Monika: Do you remember the first time when you saw a transgender woman on TV or met anyone transgender in person?
Jamie: I don’t remember the first time specifically. It wasn’t really something I thought about before around the time of transition. I remember being more aware of just how many trans people there are in the world after starting though. We’re everywhere and it’s something to normalize.
Monika: What do you think about the present situation of transgender women in your country?
Jamie: In the big cities it’s something that’s pretty accepted and most people won’t think twice about it. In the more rural areas, it’s probably more frowned upon, or at least seen as different. Living in a fairly rural area, going out in a dress or skirt is a lot scarier than going out in the more accepting places of the city. We’re becoming more progressive though, which is an amazing thing. Some states are better with trans people than others, such as Victoria that allows easy changes to birth certificates and name changes, whereas New South Wales requires you to have undergone Gender Reassignment Surgery to be able to change the gender on your birth certificate. Something I hope changes in the future as I know of many great trans women in Sydney that would benefit from such a change.
Monika: What kind of outfits do you usually wear? Any special fashion designs, colors, or trends? In most of your photos, you are dressed in black or red.
Jamie: I like to go for tighter fitting clothes as I feel more confident with how I look and feel. I don't subscribe to any particular fashion brand or label as being picky can make it more difficult to find good clothes. My go-to are tight sleeveless shirts as I feel it best suits my look. Black is also definitely my go-to as it's easy to find good clothes in that color, however, I love wearing bright light blues as it's my favorite color and I am trying to expand my color variety.
Monika: Do you often experiment with your makeup?
Jamie: Makeup is something I don't usually put a lot of effort into and don't have a lot of practice with. I will wear it for a fancy night out but try to go with a plain look most of the time. I like being a bit more natural in a lot of cases, which is how I feel with my voice as well as I don't put a lot of effort into changing it.

"Valentina Sampaio is one of my biggest sources
of inspiration."

Monika: Do you have your favorite models?
Jamie: Valentina Sampaio is one of my biggest sources of inspiration. Being the first Trans woman as Victoria's Secret model has really driven me to believe that transgender people are going to become better represented in modeling and media, which is part of the reason why I want to put myself out there more, to normalize being trans and add some more representation. I definitely have some other favorites but I tend to focus on models that have a similar look or style so I can get good ideas on outfits and fashion that would suit me best.
Monika: Valentina Sampaio is one of many trans girls that have become successful as fashion models. Do you think that we are witnessing a fundamental change in the way we are perceived by the fashion industry?
Jamie: We are definitely seeing a change in the fashion industry. I think being trans in the fashion industry has a lot of benefits but also negatives. There are sometimes going to be those people discriminating against you, but there are in my opinion more people that are willing to be open to change and accepting of you.
Monika: By the way, do you like being complimented on your looks?
Jamie: I'm an absolute fiend for getting compliments, haha. Being in a positive mindset from getting complimented or even giving compliments is one of my favorite feelings. I have a lot of self-doubts within myself and someone giving me a positive affirmation always feels good. So I always try to compliment people if given the chance and hope their day gets a little bit brighter.

"Love is very important in my life."

Monika: Do you remember your first job interview as a woman?
Jamie: I honestly haven't had any job interviews as a woman. I have had the same jobs since before I transitioned, which are filming rugby league and working retail. The closest I've had to a job interview was being scouted by a modeling agency so it doesn't give me any good examples, haha. Everyone has been really understanding and welcoming though which is very heart-warming.
Monika: What would you advise to all transwomen looking for employment?
Jamie: I'm honestly the wrong person to be asking about this, but finding somewhere with welcoming people that you can be true to yourself would have to be the biggest priority in my opinion.
Monika: Are you involved in the life of the local LGBTQ community?
Jamie: Not actively. I went to the group sessions most months before Covid-19 hit, at the Gender Centre in Sydney. It was great to hear and learn from everyone else's experience and I highly encourage going to anything similar. I want to do more for the LGBT community in the future, however.
Monika: Could you tell me about the importance of love in your life?
Jamie: Love is very important in my life. While I'm not actively in the dating scene, I cherish the friendships that I have made and built upon since starting my transition. Having my good friends from high school all being accepting and coming closer because of it, and making a new best friend in 2020 who has been the single greatest friend, and support I've had. I love them all and wouldn't trade them for anything.
Monika: Many transgender ladies write their memoirs. Have you ever thought about writing such a book yourself?
Jamie: I've never thought of myself as interesting enough, or having the knowledge required to write such a book. Maybe when I've grown more as a person and have better knowledge and experience to share I will.
Monika: What is your next step in the present time and where do you see yourself within the next 5-7 years?
Jamie: My current step is to focus on my modeling career. I have been making good strides with agencies, photoshoots, and even with my own mindset to be able to better succeed. I see myself being (hopefully) a large name and inspiration within the fashion industry and trans communities. Opening my own gym that is gender inclusive and working with trans people to help them feel comfortable in their bodies.

"My current step is to focus on my
modeling career."

Monika: What would you recommend to all transgender women that are afraid of transition?
Jamie: Surrounding yourself with people that would be cool with you transitioning is always the most important thing I think. Having that support group of people that you can be around, and that you can fall on when you're feeling down can help an immense amount. Apart from that, almost every trans person I've heard mentions it has wanted to start sooner. Taking that plunge is scary but future you will thank you for it.
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?
Jamie: Yeah I kind of agree with this. Having completed your transition shouldn't be your 'end' goal. It is an important step for your future, but I see it as making yourself comfortable and natural so you can live the rest of your life doing what you want, how you want.
Monika: Jamie, it was a pleasure to interview you. Thanks a lot!
Jamie: Thank you for the opportunity, Monika. It was lovely speaking with you, and answering your questions.

All the photos: courtesy of Jamie Berthon.
Main photo credits: Sam Clare Johnson.
© 2021 - Monika Kowalska

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