Thursday 11 March 2021

Interview with Violet-Jane

Monika: Today I am going to host Violet-Jane, an American young design artist, and transgender woman from Rochester, NY, that shares her art and transition story on social media. Hello Violet-Jane!
Violet-Jane: Hello, Monika, thanks for reaching out!
Monika: Could you say a few words about yourself?
Violet-Jane: Absolutely, so I am a 27-year-old non-binary transgender woman. I am a design student, artist, chef, and writer. I am hard-of-hearing and I am bilingual (English and American Sign Language). I'm a lifelong student and community advocate.
Monika: Do you cook professionally or only for yourself?
Violet-Jane: I used to cook professionally but between a growing disability and how the environment damaged my relationship with food I had to leave the industry when I was 25. I currently cook for myself but I do my best cooking when it is for people I love and care about. Be it partners, family, friends, or my community I strive to nourish them. Many of my friends who I had to leave behind when I moved missed my cooking a lot so I started recording informal cooking shows for them so they can hear me talk and enjoy my food again.
Monika: What kind of art would you like to nurture?
Violet-Jane: I think I like creating art that makes people feel seen. Whether it is in my paintings, embroidery, sculpture, drawings I just want folks to feel a relationship with my art. I also want to make things that feel good to hold, I am a very tactile person and I like to convey that in my design work.

"Kissin' halfling lesbians". More
about Violet-Jane's art @violitjart.

Monika: What do you usually portray in your art?
Violet-Jane: I like to portray people in love, the connection between people. I like to use the fantastical to evoke magic in the mundane. I want people to see themselves in my artwork.
Monika: Did the transition change you as an artist?
Violet-Jane: Honestly I've been transitioning to some degree since I was a teenager, so it's hard to see it influencing my artwork specifically. But I think my perspective as a transgender person does allow me to play with traditional beauty standards. It has made me an outsider and in a lot of ways, I think it is what has made my artwork unique.
Monika: Violet is a nice name. Why did you choose it?
Violet-Jane: My full first name is Violet-Jane, and the story behind how I got that name is a little long. But basically back in like 2010, I did a Facebook poll on a list of names I liked and I almost went with Alice but ended up settling on Violet with Jane being my middle name. My father did not originally approve of me being trans (he's now a big supporter and defender of mine) and he told me I needed to "quit this Violet-Jane nonsense!" So me being spiteful I decided I'd let him name me as Violet-Jane hahaha! I feel in a lot of ways Violet-Jane suits my personality and I like the country gal sound of it.
Monika: What inspired you to share your intimate life moments on social media?
Violet-Jane: Growing up there weren't a lot of out trans people, so I didn't even know that what I was feeling (that I was a girl) was something that others felt too. When I met my first trans person, my mind exploded. I was a part of an LGBTQIA+ youth support group and I started mentoring the younger kids and I learned how valuable it is to see someone like you out there and thriving, so I took that very seriously. I want other trans folks out there, young and old to know that what we feel is real and that there is value and beauty in pursuing those feelings and learning more about ourselves.
Monika: Do you get many questions from your followers? What do they ask for?
Violet-Jane: I do often get questions, mostly about how I do my makeup, especially as I'm working on cultivating a unique look. I also get a lot of questions about my hormone regimen/length of time on hormones.
Monika: What was the strangest question that you answered?
Violet-Jane: Aside from the usual questions many of us get from the uninitiated, it's hard to think of a particularly strange question. Then again I taught queer sex education for a while and it's hard to get me to think a question is particularly strange or shocking!

"When I met my first trans person, my mind

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?
Violet-Jane: It's funny. I came out a little over a decade ago and I definitely paid a high price then. I was only a kid and I had a lot of pushback and tension from my family and community. But I feel like now I'm slowly being reimbursed for that cost. The friendships I have made are with folks who are beautiful and are people of great character. Even after many years of fighting, I am now closer to both of my parents than ever before.
I think the hardest price though was that of my physical and mental health having come out in such an unsupportive environment. I have health issues stemming from eating disorders and reckless behaviors I took part in while I was younger and was unable to take HRT. Overall though I think I'm slowly getting to a point of net positive if that makes any sense!
Monika: Was your mother surprised by your transition? Did she accept it?
Violet-Jane: In some ways yes, she was surprised but she was also asking me if I was trans in the months leading up to me coming out. She didn't accept it at first but she quickly became my biggest advocate and best friend. I started hormones far from home and when I went back for my brother's wedding she was so surprised by how much I changed, but she was also so happy!
Monika: Are you satisfied with the effects of the hormone treatment?
Violet-Jane: I am very satisfied with the effects! I recognize I reacted better to them than many of my trans siblings, but also there is A LOT that doctors don't talk about being possible. HRT has been an absolute gift to me.
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?
Violet-Jane: I'm only recently coming to terms with this. While I know my privilege as someone who passes pretty well for a woman, I still struggle a lot with fully embracing the non-binary aspects of my gender presentation. I'm figuring out what is ultimately ME, without the Eurocentric, white, patriarchal standards of womanhood. Makeup has been the most liberating factor. I'm known for doing a more alternative, offbeat style, and that gives me comfort. Weirdly enough, shaving half my eyebrows and shaping them like a Romulan from Star Trek has helped the most, hahaha!

"A bunch of spooky little doodles".
More about Violet-Jane's art @violitjart.

Monika: Are there any transgender role models that you follow or followed?
Violet-Jane: A lot of the gals I followed when I first came out as a teen are unfortunately not present online anymore. However, the people I love the most, who gave me the confidence to be myself are: pretty much every transmasc and trans man in my life, and the kids I mentored. They are my heroes to the core.
As far as famous folks I am growing to adore the work of Blu del Barrio, especially in Star Trek: Discovery. The way they talk to Ian Alexander in that show reminds me of my kids so much. They are both amazing trans actors!
Monika: Do you remember the first time when you saw a transgender woman on TV or met anyone transgender in person?
Violet-Jane: The first time I saw a transgender woman on TV was a character from the soap opera, All My Children. I didn't identify with her at all and figured that was just some weird soap plot. I met my first transgender person when I was 14 years old at a party hosted by someone in my queer support group. They blew my mind and within a week I knew for certain my experience was real and I wasn't the only one who had this experience. It was a profound moment in my life.
Monika: What do you think about the present situation of transgender women in your country?
Violet-Jane: I will be honest I'm terrified. British TERF rhetoric has made its way into discussions between local politicians. I worry about transgender kids in states like Montana where laws are being passed that will certainly harm them. But more than anything I worry deeply for the transgender women of color in our country. We need to do more to protect them, they have always been the backbone of our community and they deserve nothing less than our absolute respect and protection.

"There is a lot of value in romantic love but
my love for and from my friends has been the
greater force in my life."

Monika: Do you like fashion? What kind of outfits do you usually wear? Any special fashion designs, colors, or trends?
Violet-Jane: I love fashion, it has been a lifelong passion of mine and something that informs a lot of my art and how I view the world. As a femme lesbian, I typically go for a hyper-feminine presentation that slides between goth/punk to sweet elementary school art teacher, haha.
I love long skirts and sundresses anything that accentuates my long figure. I love the cottage core trend, I think it's super cute and I look best in deeper, earthier colors like mustard, forest green, maroon, and brown.
Monika: Do you often experiment with your makeup?
Violet-Jane: I took a hiatus from doing a lot of makeup for a while, but since I've gotten the hang of it, I've felt I have been changing something up and experimenting with new shapes every time!
Monika: By the way, do you like being complimented on your looks?
Violet-Jane: I do! Hahaha, I'll admit to that.
Monika: Could you tell me about the importance of love in your life?
Violet-Jane: I think my understanding of love has evolved a lot over the years. But I think love in all of its healthy forms is valuable to live a healthy and meaningful life. There is a lot of value in romantic love but my love for and from my friends has been the greater force in my life.
Monika: Do you remember your first job interview as a woman?
Violet-Jane: Oh goodness, this was a long time ago! I can hardly remember it but it was nerve-wracking to be sure, luckily it was a low-stakes retail job.
Monika: What would you advise all trans women looking for employment?
Violet-Jane: Honestly? I'm looking for advice in this realm. I find every new job interview to be very nerve-wracking due to my trans identity and often having to be confronted with my dead name and often being misgendered.
Monika: Are you involved in the life of the local LGBTQ community?
Violet-Jane: I moved to a new town a couple years ago and I am just starting to put in roots here in this community. I miss doing outreach and activism, and I especially miss working with queer youth and providing that support. Hopefully, when the pandemic is finally managed I can start doing that work again!
Monika: Many transgender ladies write their memoirs. Have you ever thought about writing such a book yourself?
Violet-Jane: I think it would just read as a collection of tall tales or a particularly long country-western song hahaha. I prefer to stick to writing fiction and putting aspects of my experience into them! Also, American Deaf culture places a lot of value in passing down stories by telling them with our hands so I'm sure I'll pass a few down that way.

"I hope to teach the younger generations of
transgender folks about our history and hopes
for the future."

Monika: What is your next step in the present time and where do you see yourself within the next 5-7 years?
Violet-Jane: Oh golly, right now my main priority is just recovery and therapy. But in 5-7 years I want to be working in a woodshop and making ceramics while looking gorgeous as hell and making people smile.
I hope to teach the younger generations of transgender folks about our history and hopes for the future. I want to teach them that what we are is beautiful and wonderful and that there is a place for us here.
Monika: What would you recommend to all transgender women that are afraid of transition?
Violet-Jane: I had to think about this quite a bit. Because when we talk about transition and what it means for us as transgender women, we often only talk about the medical side of it. However, it starts so much earlier. I first came to terms with being trans at 14, but I didn't start hormones until I was 25. But I was transitioning that whole decade. I took steps in and out of the closet at various times but that was all transition.
But if you're scared of starting hormones, let me tell you this: It is reversible, if you find out it's not for you, don't fret too much, you can get off of them with some help from your doctor.
If you're scared of rejection, that's completely valid, but try to build yourself a support network of people who will love you regardless of your hormone status. They'll be your bedrock, and those that reject you aren't worth your radiance. I've done it, it hasn't always been easy but it was so, so worth 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?
Violet-Jane: I believe that it begins much earlier. Our dreams begin the moment we have those dreams. I don't know if I will ever be able to afford lying on an operating table, as an artist there just aren’t the funds in my bank account and as an American there just isn't the government infrastructure to help me get there. But what I can do is make do with what I have and enjoy and experience the vast spectrum of womanhood available to me. My dreams guide me, but my experience makes me the woman, the human being I am today, and will become.
Monika: Violet-Jane, it was a pleasure to interview you. Thanks a lot!
Violet-Jane: Hey, it's been a pleasure and an honor. This interview had me thinking a lot about my experience and where I'm going, so thank you!

All the photos: courtesy of Violet-Jane.
© 2021 - Monika Kowalska

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