Thursday, 27 May 2021

Interview with Kelly Denithorne

Monika: Today I am going to interview Kelly Denithorne, also known as Nadine Spirit, an American maths teacher, blogger, podcaster, transgender advocate, and happy wife that documents her transition on her blog called Unordinary Style. Hello Nadine!
Kelly: Hi Monika. Thank you so much for wanting to interview me. I super appreciate being included amongst so many other fabulous humans.
Monika: Could you say a few words about yourself?
Kelly: I chose to transition in the summer of 2017. My first few steps were to get a gender therapy specialist as well as my first hormone provider. I changed my hormones July 3rd, 2017. However I didn't actually socially and legally transition until a year later on June 28th, 2018. I am now in my 4th year of my transition. I remain married to my lovely wife of 25 years. And I continue to teach at the same junior high school that I taught at prior to my transition.
Monika: Why did you choose Nadine Spirit for your nickname?
Kelly: Initially I chose the name Nadine Spirit as an anonymous blogging name. When I first began blogging it was in 2010 and I was deeply in the closet. I had the standard fears of many transgender humans and was sure that if anybody found out anything about my gender variance that they would shun me and I would lose everything in my life.
The only one who really knew me, well as much as I knew myself, was my wife. At the time I chose the name of Nadine I just liked the name and Spirit came from the fact that back then I smoked American Spirit cigarettes. When I signed up for my blogger account I randomly put those names together and Google accepted it.
It wasn’t until I actually began to use the name Nadine in real life that I realized that it wasn’t me. I didn’t seem to own the name of Nadine, even though I had blogged under that name, and had begun to be known online as Nadine, for about 6 or 7 years. When I finally decided to actually legally change my name, I went with Kelly as my wife and I realized that it fit me far better.

"I personally had tremendous fears
associated with transitioning."

Monika: What inspired you to share your intimate life moments on your blog?
Kelly: I chose to begin blogging as at the time I thought of myself as a transvestite. I know that is not currently a popularly used word, but at the time that was pretty much the only language I had. I wasn’t living as myself full time, I didn’t even know there was “real me,” or that there would even be such a thing as full time. Lol.
I was strictly a part time dresser who thought I was male because that was how I was identified at birth. However when I began searching the Internet for other people who identified as I did, I struggled to find good representations. What I found was an overwhelming amount of over-sexualized images. What I did not find were others that appeared to face their gender variance the same sorts of ways that I was trying.
At the time I also happened to really enjoy fashion blogs but when I searched for fashion blogs with any sort of gender variance I could not find a single one. This began my blog, Unordinary Style.
Now I have changed quite a bit over the years since I started my blog, and the intent of my blogging has changed as well. Now, after so many years I can look back and see my blog as an abbreviated diary of my transition from transvestite, to full time trans woman.
Monika: Do you get many questions from your followers? What do they ask for?
Kelly: I get a few questions from time to time on my blog, but surprisingly not many. One of the more common things that people tend to write to me about is finding the courage to overcome fears associated with transitioning.
I personally had tremendous fears associated with transitioning and I have found over the years that much of my blog writing focused on overcoming those fears. Much of what I encourage is bravery and courage to get out and face your fears. Through doing that, eventually you will find confidence.
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?
Kelly: I have been very fortunate in my transition and I have lost very little. The best protection I have is living in a state where it is illegal to be fired for being transgender. Thus I have kept my job as a teacher, thankfully. I have not had any loss of family members but I did lose a few friends who could not imagine the reality I was sharing with them.
Truly for me, the hardest part of coming out was realizing that my employer could legally discriminate against me. Even though it is illegal to fire me, my employer does not have to pay for any of my medically necessary care, if they deem that care to be due to being transgender. So legally they do not have to pay for any doctor, therapy, medication, procedure, or surgery, which is challenging for sure. Mainly because it makes me feel so “other.”

"The hardest part of coming out was realizing that
my employer could legally discriminate against me."

Monika: Was your wife surprised by your transition? Did she accept it?
Kelly: My wife and I actually met when we were 8 years old. We began dating when we were 15 and got married 10 years later when we were 25. I have known that I am transgender on some level since I was about five years old. However, I tried hiding it and denying it for a long time. I wasn’t very good at it as pieces always leaked out from around the edges. When I began wearing women’s clothes in my early 20’s the first items came from my wife’s closet, with her consent. Neither of us really knew what was going on, we just thought it was a fetish.
The thing was that I was honest with her and upfront right from the start. I didn’t have the right words, I didn’t know the outcome, but I tried as best as I could to talk to her about what I knew when I became aware of it. So, 30 years after we began dating when I did finally transition it wasn’t really much of a surprise. She is totally accepting of it, but going through a transition is tough for both people in a relationship. We are both in therapy, and we are both happy to continue to work on our marriage together as a team. But any relationship is a lot of work, with a transition, the work is multiplied tremendously.
Monika: Are you satisfied with the effects of the hormone treatment?
Kelly: That’s a tough question, but the easy answer is yes! However the more complex answer is, it’s complex, haha. I am totally grateful for everything that hormone treatment has done for me. I love the changes my mental and physical body has gone through, and continues to go through. Sometimes I just wish they were a bit more. So far the only surgery I have had is an orchiectomy, but I am also planning on having a GCS next summer. 
I am still undecided if I will have any visible cosmetic surgeries. Most likely I won't as I am trying to work hard to accept as much of my original self as I can. Not to say that modifying any parts of ourselves is a bad thing. I am not against that, nor against anyone who chooses to do as much surgery as they possibly can. But I personally do not want to get caught up in chasing happiness. It is a difficult road to balance. Let’s say, I’m trying to be satisfied with the effects of hormone treatment.
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?
Kelly: Undeniably hormone treatment has been the number one thing I have done that has helped my personal ability to pass, but I was going out in public as myself for about ten years prior to any hormone therapy. During that time, I passed in almost all situations. There was an occasional stare, or an occasional rude employee, but for the most part I survived perfectly fine in the real world, having no hormone therapy and no surgeries. Many people that observed me from afar, through my blog mainly, told me they felt that was a sign of how easily I pass.

"I feel fortunate that in the United States we have
protections that many other countries do not have."

However, that is really discounting what I think is the largest thing that helped me to pass, confidence. The most times that I did not pass were closer to when I first started going out, and that was mostly because I was acting nervously. Which I think attracts attention way more than any gender cues.
People often say to me that they would like to find confidence before they venture outside, which is very sad because I don’t think that will ever work. In my personal experience, in order to gain confidence, one needs to have courage and bravery. You need to get out there and face your fears. If you do it enough times, eventually you will find confidence.
Monika: Are there any transgender role models that you follow or followed? 
Kelly: My largest role transgender role model is Jessica Lynn. She is a lovely transgender woman who has traveled the planet educating the world on transgender issues. She inspired me to begin reaching out to local colleges to start giving my own speeches on what it is to be transgender.
Monika: Do you remember the first time when you saw a transgender woman on TV or met anyone transgender in person?
Kelly: The first openly transgender human that I saw on TV most likely was Eddie Izzard when she did a comedy routine on HBO called Dressed To Kill. The first openly transgender human that I met was my now friend Jennifer. We had met previously on an online message board. She reached out to me and asked if I would like to meet and have lunch.
Monika: What do you think about the present situation of transgender women in your country?
Kelly: I feel fortunate that in the United States we have protections that many other countries do not have. That being said, we do have some direct discrimination that many face as well.
Currently in the US there are many attempts to make it illegal to medically treat transgender youth. As well there are many attempts to ban transgender females, of any age, from female sports.


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

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