Monday, 24 May 2021

Interview with Angela Scholl

Monika: Today I am talking to Angela Scholl, a young American transgender woman from Texas that documents her transition on social media. Hello Angela!
Angela: Hey Monika! 
Monika: Could you say a few words about yourself?
Angela: Of course! As you said, my name is Angela Scholl, and I'm a 23-year-old non-binary transwoman from Texas, USA. I started my transition just over two years ago on March 14th, 2019, and have been out publicly since June 30th, 2020, although I had been posting online long before that.
I've known that I was transgender since my adolescence, and had many instances of trying to come out in my teenage years, only to return to the closet due to factors such as family, friends, or personal beliefs.
I'm a big advocate for people feeling that it's okay to be themselves authentically. I'm also a recent graduate from Texas A&M University in College Station, where I studied Industrial Distribution, and I currently work in Sales!
Monika: Angela is a nice name. Why did you choose it?
Angela: I always loved the idea of having a longer name that could be shortened. There was something that sat so well with me about having a name that felt more official for professional or formal settings but could also be easily modified to something more casual when in the company of friends. When I first knew that I was transgender, I was actually drawn to the name "Cassandra" (Cassie for short), but it did feel a little too regal considering my origins.
The name "Angela" (shortened to Angie) came to mind a few years later when I was watching Season 12 of American idol, where one of the finalists was named Angie Miller. She and I candidly don't have much in common, but there was just something about that name that intrigued me. I remember lying in bed after watching one of the episodes and audibly saying ”Hi, my name is Angela", and something just rushed over me, this warm, tingling feeling of "rightness". It was like there was this small part of me that finally awakened when I said that name, and it's just resonated with me ever since.
Monika: What inspired you to share your intimate life moments on social media?
Angela: I want to share my journey because I know how helpful it was to have that visibility when I was younger. I grew up in a very traditional, conservative, Christian household, and I didn't know anybody that was LGBTQIA+, let alone transgender. It was almost a topic that was treated as non-existent, where if we just didn't speak of it, then maybe it wasn't real.
I always knew that something was different about me, but I never had the terminology to explain it until I gained personal access to the Internet at the age of 11. I very quickly turned to searching for answers to the feelings that were consuming me, and I found myself on Susan's Place Transgender Resources, Yahoo! Answers, and YouTube. It was there that I first heard the term "transgender", and it's stuck with me ever since. My family and friends were not very supportive at the time when I tried telling them, and so I ran back away to the online world.

"I want to share my journey because I know
how helpful it was to have that visibility when
I was younger."

As with most people I know, my time in middle school wasn't a particularly positive experience, and this was only compounded by enduring puberty I knew that I didn't want. The combination took a toll on my mental health, largely due to constantly being reminded by people dear to me that my feelings were "wrong" or "inappropriate". I wasn't really satisfied with how any aspect of my life was going, and so I relied largely on other people and their journeys.
There were many instances during this time where I would feel like I had no hope, and so I would just watch other people's transition timelines on YouTube for hours, dreaming about when I could be in a similar spot. There were so many other people online getting to be their true selves, and it became my inspiration when I felt like I had none.
Monika: That is why you wanted to come out?
Angela: Yes, I decided that I wanted to be public about my transition. Unfortunately, I know that my experience was not exclusive and that there are many other people that grew up knowing nothing about why they felt what they did. There are so many people that come from families and situations where the entire LGBTQIA+ community is spoken of only in hushed whispers, and the mere idea of differing from what's considered "typical" regarding sexuality or gender is taboo.
Furthermore, there are many people worldwide that simply have never met a transgender person, and I truly believe that's the reason why there are so many misconceptions about our community. Hopefully, by being visible myself, somebody else can find the inspiration or education that others provided to me.
Monika: Do you get many questions from your followers? What do they ask for?
Angela: I do get a few, much more so on apps like TikTok and Reddit than I do on Instagram. A lot of the questions are from people that are not a part of the trans community, and so they are mostly based on curiosity or clarification.
There are so many people in the world that just don’t know much about what it means to be trans, and so a lot of the topics revolve around dispersing myths or misconceptions. Every so often, I’ll get a question or two from other trans people, and most of those are general guidelines. These are more along the lines of coming out advice, hormone expectations, or how to manage the feelings they have.
That said, I do wish I got more questions. I’m by no means an expert, but I am a teacher at heart, and there are few things that I enjoy more than helping people learn. Anything I can do to help spread more information about our community is a good thing in my eyes.

"I had some hardships with coming
out, but not as much as some of
the other people in the community."

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?
Angela: I had some hardships with coming out, but not as much as some of the other people in the community. I had my fair share of friends, family members, pastors, and therapists alike try to shove me back in the closet and tell me that my emotions were wrong, abominable, and sinful, and more than once, they succeeded.
For nearly a decade, I ran through this vicious cycle of flipping between embracing who I was and desperately loathing myself. This led me to spiral, seeking out anything that could satisfy this pit within. I turned to alcohol, toxic relationships with friends and significant others, and self-harm, yet time and time again, I’d be left lower than when I started. I lost all will to continue more than anyone should have to.
Once I concluded I had to transition if I ever wanted to be happy with myself, I started hormones, and later came out publicly. While most of my friends were accepting, others were not. Nearly everyone I had grown close to when I was young left, and several of my friends from my summers working at a religious summer camp immediately blocked me or slandered me to our other co-workers. I thankfully didn’t face any physical repercussions as a result of coming out, but I’m still working through the tolls it took on my emotional and mental well-being.
Monika: Were your parents surprised by your transition? Did they accept it?
Angela: Surprised would certainly be one way to put it. When they first found out that I was trans over a decade ago, they were understandably confused. They had both come from very traditional backgrounds and had been taught through their lives that being any part of the LGBTQIA+ community was morally and ethically wrong. Their first reaction was to get me to a therapist as quickly as possible so that they could figure out what was going on with their child. I proceeded to have a series of therapists over the next eight years all try and “fix” me.
Every time that I would finally get to a point where I was alright with my status as a trans person, they would find out and eliminate any trace of it. To this day, I still don’t know what they would do with every clothing item, cosmetic, or indication of my femininity they found. They were one of the main driving forces that continually pushed me back into the closet each time I would try to come out, largely due to perceived threats to my financial stability and habitation. I ran away from home a couple of times, only to return under the premise that I would find some way to purge my sinful thoughts.
When I came out publicly this past June, they didn’t hesitate to remind me how unnecessary they thought it was, and how much my identity was damaging their social status. To this day, they still persistently deadname and misgender me, believing that I’m not actually trans. I’ve been told explicitly that they believe I’ve been lying to myself for so long, I’ve completely lost the ability to distinguish between the lies and reality. As you can imagine, we are not on the best terms, but I can’t quite bring myself to completely cut them out. I truly want them to come around, but I’m unsure that they ever will.
Monika: Are you satisfied with the effects of the hormone treatment?
Angela: Largely, I’d say yes. I still do frequently look in the mirror and think that I’ve made no progress, and that may be a reality that I’m stuck with. I have seen my body every day, and so I have had a lot of time to get used to the changes. It’s mostly when I look back where I can see how far I’ve really come, and looking at older photos and comparing them to where I am now is one of the most affirming things. Furthermore, everything mentally has been wonderful. I went from repressing every single emotion that I had to actually being able to embrace what I feel.

"I believe, collectively, we have to realize that
there is so much more to somebody’s identity than
how they present physically."

That said, I do still have different surgeries on my mind, and I worry to this day about how other people read me. I mentally evaluate how I appear to every person I come across, and I usually assume the worst. I am still a large person, and so that definitely doesn’t work in my favor. However, I know that my identity is not a function of my ability to pass. The hormones have helped physically and mentally, and I know they’ve done a lot more than I give them credit for.
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?
Angela: I think that what we really need to do is unlearn a lot of the views we have as far as how we define masculinity and femininity. We worry about passing because we are concerned with presenting in accordance with how we believe a masculine or feminine person should appear. At its roots, “passing” is determined by what society believes that a person should look like based on their gender. In that sense, we reduce the identities of “man”, “woman”, or any and all things in between to their mere physical characteristics. We debase someone’s gender to see if they match what we think they should appear as. If we can get to a place societally where we don’t automatically assume a correlation between gender and presentation, then I think we would worry a lot less about passing.
I believe, collectively, we have to realize that there is so much more to somebody’s identity than how they present physically. A lot of us know this consciously, but with many things in life, it is so much easier to apply this mentality to anybody other than ourselves. We try to shove ourselves into these boxes of “masculine” or “feminine” when there is really no objective standard as to what either is. Clothes are just fabric, cosmetics are just powder and liquid, and any other thing in this world is not off-limits to gender just because society tries to denote it as such. We try so desperately to fit into these arbitrary labels, but they are constantly shifting and adapting. If we focus our passing on these labels, we will always fail to reach them because we are trying to hit a perpetually unpredictable target. Instead of trying to conform to what other people tell us to be, we should just do what satisfies us and reflect who we are.
Against what the concept of passing would tell us, we are not invalidated in our genders by anything that other people can perceive. We are so much more than just our bodies, and yet we so commonly let how other people see us strip us of our validity, our confidence, our worth. We need to break free of this mentality, and nothing more than radical self-affirmation will suffice. We are not a function of how we look alone. We are not just what other people choose to define us as. There is nothing that anybody has that is too masculine or feminine for the gender they are. We are valid, real, worthy of our own compassion. We are simply ourselves, and if we can embrace who we are, unapologetic to what anybody thinks we should be, then nobody can take away our identities.

"We are not a function of how we look alone.
We are not just what other people choose to
define us as."

Monika: Are there any transgender role models that you follow or followed?
Angela: Of course! When I was younger, I definitely looked up to different trans celebrities, such as Carmen Carrera, Laverne Cox, Jazz Jennings, Andreja Pejic, Jenna Talackova, and Caroline Cossey.
Different YouTubers were also hugely influential in my youth, such as Zoey Zoco, Gigi Gorgeous, BrooklynBeauty, Claire Green, Maya V. Henry, minorqback, Princess Joules, Brookie’s Life, Sarah n’ Dipity, Kayla Ward, and Melony VonKruz. Having so much representation when I was younger really gave me hope that transitioning was possible.
As for people that I follow currently, a lot of the other trans people that I know are ones that I first saw on Reddit, and I believe you’ve even interviewed a few of them! Most of them do post fairly regularly on Instagram, and so I’ll list some of their usernames below for anyone that’s looking for role models that I personally look up to within our community! 
Some of them are as follows: kyrieisnotaguyrie, sh_casheu, evaech0, suddenlysamantha, the.lady.blaire, no.tears.left.anymore, livlove54, awallflower_inbloom, acutereality, th3sloaneranger, ash_is_cake, erin.grace.168, ericaforeverafter, and meganbound. Hopefully, that’s a good start!


All the photos: courtesy of Angela Scholl.
© 2021 - Monika Kowalska

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