Monday, 10 May 2021

Interview with Catriona

Monika: Today I have invited Catriona, a Scottish transgender lady, LGBTQI+ advocate, gamer, and photographer that documents her transition on social media. Hello Catriona! 
Catriona: Hi Monika, thank you for having me.
Monika: Could you say a few words about yourself?
Catriona: I am a 37-year-old transwoman from Glasgow, Scotland. I began my transition at the age of 34 and began documenting it shortly after.
Monika: Why did you choose Catriona for your name?
Catriona: Quite simply if I had been assigned female at birth, Catriona would have been my name.
Monika: What inspired you to share your intimate life moments on social media?
Catriona: There is still too much misinformation and incorrect assumptions about what it is to be a transgender person. By sharing snippets of my life and experiences I hope to show people that whilst I am a transgender woman that is only a small aspect of my life.
My life is completely ordinary, I go to work, pay my bills and enjoy my weekends. As such most of my posts have nothing to do with being trans outside of the hashtags I use.

"There is still too much misinformation and incorrect
assumptions about what it is to be a transgender person."

Monika: Do you get many questions from your followers? What do they ask for?
Catriona: I get a lot of questions every week from my followers and as my page grows the number of these has been increasing. Questions range from asking about my personal experiences and background to asking for advice about how to transition and what to expect when they start.
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?
Catriona: The most difficult aspect of coming out was admitting it, both to myself and then to others. To say those words "I am transgender" out loud is terrifying at first. I'm fortunate however that I didn't really lose anything by coming out. Living in Scotland we have many protections in place by law that protect people from discrimination particularly professionally.
As far as my employer is concerned they were very supportive and we worked together to facilitate my coming out to my colleagues in a manner that was comfortable for me.
My friends were all supportive and in fact, my social circle expanded, which I put down to being able to finally be true to myself. The majority of my family were very supportive also.
Monika: Were your parents surprised by your transition? Did they accept it?
Catriona: My mother had passed away from cancer a few years before I came out so I never got the chance to tell her or let her see who I truly was. I know, however, she would have supported me without question. Not being able to tell her is the single biggest regret I have.

"The most difficult aspect of coming
out was admitting it, both to myself
and then to others."

My father was surprised by my coming out, he had no idea at all that I had suffered from dysphoria for most of my life. Unfortunately, however, he was unable to accept my transition and cut off contact with me soon after.
Monika: Are you satisfied with the effects of the hormone treatment?
Catriona: There are always areas of my body that I wish were better, but that's the same for everyone regardless if a person is cis, trans, etc. Overall I'd have to say yes, I'm very happy with the effects HRT has had.
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?
Catriona: This can be a touchy subject, as a woman who "passes" I understand that I have a privilege that some do not. Being honest with yourself, what you want, and what you expect from your transition is key to self-acceptance. Educating the general populous on what it means and is to be transgender can create an accepting society and environment that allows others to become more comfortable in themselves.
Monika: Are there any transgender role models that you follow or followed?
Catriona: Anyone who is out there being themselves is a role model in my eyes. Some people chose to blend into the crowd and quietly live their life, those people are role models by showing us that it is possible to transition and live an ordinary life.
Others choose to put themselves out there or advocate/educate for greater acceptance, again those people are role models for taking up the mantle to fight for others. Whatever path a person chooses, I consider them a role model as they were brave enough to take control of their life for the better.
Monika: Do you remember the first time when you saw a transgender woman on TV or met anyone transgender in person?
Catriona: It would probably have been on a talk show like Jerry Springer or Ricki Lake. I never knowingly met other transgender people until after I began transitioning.
Monika: What do you think about the present situation of transgender women in your country?
Catriona: The situation in the UK is complicated. I live in Scotland where we have our own devolved government, and where many issues such as Gender Recognition Act reform are devolved issues (the responsibility of the Scottish Government).
We were also the first nation in the world to introduce LGBT+ education into the curriculum in 2020. As such I am in a far more tolerant environment than other parts of the UK where a vocal minority and biased press are given too much space to spread anti-trans rhetoric.
Monika: Do you like fashion? What kind of outfits do you usually wear? Any special fashion designs, colors, or trends?
Catriona: I don't really know much about fashion, most days you would find me in leggings and a hoodie. Whilst I do wear other colors 90% of my wardrobe is probably black! I am trying to spread my wings with fashion but as someone who spent the first 34 years of their life in jeans and a t-shirt, it's a foreign concept to me.

"When I first began transitioning, I hadn't dated or
been in a relationship for a number of years."

Monika: Do you often experiment with your makeup?
Catriona: At the beginning of my transition I did, not so much now, I've found as time goes by I wear less and less makeup. Before it was a crutch to help me pass in public, but as HRT took effect, I felt I didn't need it anymore and I saved it for special occasions.
Monika: By the way, do you like being complimented on your looks?
Catriona: I suppose I do like it but it also makes me feel awkward receiving them. It is not something I'm used to at all.
Monika: Do you remember your first job interview as a woman?
Catriona: I've not had a job interview for many, many years as I've been with the same employer for 20 years.
Monika: What would you advise to all transwomen looking for employment?
Catriona: I wouldn't recommend anything different from what a cis person would do. In the UK and Scotland, we have strict anti-discrimination laws that employers must follow. So you should be hired based on your abilities, if a person was to be denied employment due to being transgender then legal action can be taken.
Monika: Are you involved in the life of the local LGBTQ community?
Catriona: No, I am not. However, I do provide informal support to a number of individuals both online and in real life. But nothing with any local organizational body.
Monika: Could you tell me about the importance of love in your life?
Catriona: When I first began transitioning, I hadn't dated or been in a relationship for a number of years. Soon after I began my transition, I began dating again, and I met some really amazing people but nothing really clicked as far as a long-term relationship was concerned. Eventually, I was finding the time and effort of dating to be too much work and I took myself off the market so to speak.

"Anyone who is out there being
themselves is a role model in my eyes."

Prior to my transition, I had made good friends online with someone called Chrissy (genderfluid, she/her). We shared a number of interests and eventually, our online friendship became a real-life one. We hung out as friends etc. and eventually we took our friendship to the next level and started a relationship, which has now been going on for 2 years strong. I couldn't imagine my life without Chrissy now. She has supported me from day 1 and I feel like she was the final piece of the puzzle in my life. So love is very important to me.
Monika: Many transgender ladies write their memoirs. Have you ever thought about writing such a book yourself?
Catriona: It's not something I've really thought about. I don't consider myself particularly gifted in writing and to be honest, I don't consider my life to be of any greater interest or excitement than anyone else. That said, never say never, I may consider doing something of the kind in the future.
Monika: What is your next step in the present time and where do you see yourself within the next 5-7 years?
Catriona: At 37 years old, I consider most of my life goals are completed already; so I suppose for the near future I want to have completed my transition, have a career I love, and possibly married.
Monika: What would you recommend to all transgender women that are afraid of transition?
Catriona: Only you can decide when the time is right. For me, that took 34 years to take that leap. Until that point I had a million and one reasons why I wouldn't admit the truth and do something about it, fear of rejection by friends and family, hate towards me, fear of stepping away from the status quo, etc.
The decision to transition is not one that is done lightly, some of my fears did come true but ultimately I had to make the decision for myself because, in the end, I wanted to live my life authentically, that's why we go through so much pain, effort, and sacrifice. We do it because we deserve to live a good life.
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?
Catriona: I don't see being transgender as having any effect on my potential one way or another. My actions and desires are what drive my potential, I just happen to be someone who is transgender. It's a very small part of who I am overall, and it doesn't dictate my life or my aspirations in life.
Monika: Catriona, it was a pleasure to interview you. Thanks a lot!
Catriona: Thank you very much for taking the time to talk to me.

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

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