Tuesday, 27 April 2021

Interview with Aeme Benali

Monika: Today I am going to interview Aeme Benali, a non-binary person, community worker, vegan and queer individual, and social media influencer from Montreal in Canada. Hello Aeme!
Aeme: Hi Monica, thank you for the invitation!
Monika: Could you say a few words about yourself?
Aeme: I am Aeme, pronounced like A.M; I am a trans non-binary person from Montreal. I manage the Facebook page La Mafia Trans. I am also a sober, vegan, and queer individual who works as a community worker with the LGBTQ community.
Monika: What inspired you to share your intimate life moments via Instagram?
Aeme: I was always inspired by the body positive movement and the effyourbeautystandard who helped me a lot to grow up my esteem and accept my unique trans body. I think it’s important to show different body types. I was really shy before my transition because being identified as a man and having a curvy «feminine» body was hard for me to accept.
Seeing different positive models helped me as a trans model to show my unique body hoping that I could help other persons who struggle with their trans identity. We are all unique and beautiful and we don’t have to be in the norm to be loved and respected.

"After starting my «transition» I was especially
scared about the job."

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?
Aeme: In my case, it was the opposite. I was on burn-out after a break-out and I cut my relationship with my family. At the same time, I got sober and I had nothing to lose. I was so depressed. I wanted to take care of myself and that helped me to connect with my true self, and I managed to do it. After starting my «transition» I was especially scared about the job. I stayed unemployed for two years and I was scared to come back to marketing and business.
So I was really lucky to find a job as a community worker in an LGBTQ organization. I started my OnlyFans to help me transition and pay some debt because my community worker salary just pays my regular bills. I met my girlfriend two weeks before starting hormones. I was so scared to tell her but everything was OK.
Monika: Are you satisfied with the effects of the hormone treatment?
Aeme: Hell yeah! I am totally satisfied. I was waiting for that so long. The first day I took hormones I felt serenity. Sure I lost some libido with hormones but the rest is totally positive. I especially see the change on my face that looks more feminine.
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?
Aeme: Oh as a non-binary person I don’t care about passing or not. The most important thing for me is to be satisfied with myself. I am also really tall (6’4) and I can’t change that. My goal is to be myself, a non-binary trans person, and cis women aren’t the «model» for me. My models are wonderful trans people of different genders, sizes, and colors. For me, transgender individuals are, in general, hotter than cis people.

"As a non-binary person I don’t care
about passing or not."

Monika: Can you name some of the role models that you follow or followed?
Aeme: I love Ruby Rose, Rain Dove, Addison Rose Vincent, Shay Neary, Laverne Cox, Ts Maddison Hinton. I have too many role models in my community, haha.
Monika: Do you remember the first time when you saw a transgender woman on TV or met anyone transgender in person?
Aeme: I remember when I saw for the first time Dana International in a magazine. I was like oh my god, she’s so beautiful. It was in 1998 and she just won the Eurovision contest. 
Monika: What do you think about the present situation of transgender women in your country?
Aeme: I live in Canada and there is still some discrimination against transgender people, especially non-citizens who can’t change their name and the gender mark on their ID. We are lucky compared to other countries but transphobia exists and transphobia kills.
Monika: Do you like fashion? What kind of outfits do you usually wear? Any special fashion designs, colors, or trends?
Aeme: Oh I love fashion but I am not a fashionista. My favorite color is yellow and I love sweatshirts from a Montrealer designer called Pony, as a plus size I love Additionelle, a Canadian brand.
Monika: Do you often experiment with your makeup?
Aeme: Oh well, sure, but I am not a big user of makeup. I use it more often for my OnlyFans than on a regular basis. My girlfriend helps me a lot with that, otherwise, I am more tomboy, my makeup is really soft.
Monika: By the way, do you like being complimented on your looks?
Aeme: 100% and I also love when people don't know if I am a boy or a girl. I love to be a positive model for people who are asking about their gender identity, and I have to be a different model for society in general. And having an OnlyFans brings me a lot of compliments and I love that people love my unique body.

"I love to be a positive model for people who
are asking about their gender identity."

Monika: Do you remember your first job interview as a non-binary person?
Aeme: Yes, I do remember it. They asked me about my pronouns; it was in an LGBTQ2s+ organization so it was great, and this is where I am working now.
Monika: What would you advise to all transwomen looking for employment?
Aeme: To find a place trans-friendly, maybe join a place with other trans persons. And we say trans women because trans is an adjective.
Monika: Are you involved in the life of the local LGBTQ community?
Aeme: Yes, I am involved as a community worker, but I stopped the voluntary stuff. I was really involved with the trans community but some drama discouraged me and especially a cis man who was the president of a trans organization and who was really not informed about the trans community; it was such a bad experience.
Monika: Could you tell me about the importance of love in your life?
Aeme: I am really happy with my girlfriend and our three dogs and a dove. We have been together for two years and a half and we plan to be married in one or two years.
Monika: Many transgender ladies write their memoirs. Have you ever thought about writing such a book yourself?
Aeme: I am not a transgender lady so my story doesn't have anything special and I am not a good writer.
Monika: What is your next step in the present time and where do you see yourself within the next 5-7 years?
Aeme: I need stability actually, so I hope I will be with my girlfriend, working for the same organization, and the most important staying sober.

"I was born non-binary and operation isn't
necessary for trans folks."

Monika: What would you recommend to all transwomen that are afraid of transition?
Aeme: As I am a non-binary person, my recommendation is for all trans folks. Transition isn't easy but it's the best present you can offer to 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?
Aeme: I was born non-binary and operation isn't necessary for trans folks and we can be happy without hormones and operation. I hate transmedicalists.
Monika: Aeme, it was a pleasure to interview you. Thanks a lot!
Aeme: Thank you a lot, I hope I help someone and please make an effort to be more inclusive for people who don't identify as trans women.

All the photos: courtesy of Aeme Benali.
© 2021 - Monika Kowalska

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