Tuesday, 20 July 2021

Interview with Katerina


Monika: Today I have the pleasure and honor of interviewing Katerina, a Russian social media influencer, linguist, and transgender woman living in Kyiv, Ukraine that shares her transition story on social media. Hello Katerina!
Katerina: Hello Monika! Thank you for the offer to participate in your project. You're doing a great job!
Monika: Could you say a few words about yourself?
Katerina: I started my transition about 10 years ago. Then, after graduating from the university, I started working as an escort. What an irony to go into such a profession with a master's degree! However, for transgender people, this is often the only chance to make money for the transition, at least in Russia. I underwent hormone therapy, had several plastic surgeries, officially changed my documents to female, and moved from Moscow to Kyiv (Ukraine), where no one knew me.
Monika: What inspired you to share your intimate life moments via social media?
Katerina: On the Internet, you can show who you really are. But in ordinary life, especially in countries such as Ukraine or Russia, one can't speak about it openly, because it is dangerous. I am not ashamed that I am a transsexual, but I value my life and health, so I can only talk about my transsexuality on the Internet, and outside of it, I need to hide it with all my might.

"I am not ashamed that I am a transsexual, but I
value my life and health, so I can only talk about
my transsexuality on the Internet"

Monika: Why did you choose Katerina for your name?
Katerina: When I started working in the escort industry and first posted an ad on the main sex services site in Moscow, all the other names were already taken. So I didn't really choose. Just like genetic women do not usually choose their own name, it is given to them at birth. It was given to me when I started earning money for the transition to become a woman. I find it symbolic. And I really like this name.
Monika: Do you get many questions from your followers? What do they ask for?
Katerina: They mostly ask for sex :) Most of my followers are men and they know that I used to work in the sex industry. Although I left escorting a long time ago, my photos and videos are still on the Internet and this is how most people know me.
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?
Katerina: Yes, I did. And loneliness was the hardest thing. It still is. I left my whole previous life and I don't really miss it, but I still regret having to cut off everything. It would be better if I could integrate into society without losing: my family, friends, acquaintances, and all other people from my past, as well as career and professional development opportunities.
My diploma was useless then and it could not help me make the transition, which required too much money, and I can no longer return to the profession and start all over again, now I have another past that will not allow this.

"My diploma was useless then and it could not help me
make the transition, which required too much money."

Loneliness has always been my companion, at the beginning of the transition I suffered from it very much. Then new acquaintances appeared. Although I still have not been able to create a family. This is the problem of most transgender people. But I don't lose hope. It's impossible to live without hope. Even if, deep down, I understand that my past leaves almost no chance of marital happiness.
Monika: Are you satisfied with the effects of the hormone treatment?
Katerina: No. Due to health problems, it had to be very light and short, and I had to undergo surgery to get breasts. Fortunately, I have naturally low testosterone, so very few cosmetic procedures were required. But if I decide to do a full SRS, I will have to go through a more thorough course of hormone therapy, of course.
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?
Katerina: This is a real problem, especially in countries with low tolerance, where a bad passing causes not only personal psychological problems but also social ones. I managed to somehow overcome uncertainty, frustration, despair, but unfortunately, I can not give any advice on this matter, because this is all too individual. I can only say that you shouldn't rely heavily on cosmetic or plastic surgery, the main femininity and beauty are inside us, no matter how trite it may sound. Let your inner woman come out, she knows better what to do than your practical male brain.
Monika: Are there any transgender role models that you follow or followed?
Katerina: I think no. I'm just trying to be myself.

"Loneliness was the hardest thing. It still is. I left
my whole previous life and I don't really miss it,
but I still regret having to cut off everything."

Monika: When I was trying to find some information about well-known transgender women in Russia and Ukraine, I could find quite a few names. For example, Masha Bast, Alina Petrova, Veronika Svetlova, Varvara Strange, Juliet Mon, Erika Kisheva, Zhanna Wilde. So it seems that the Russian and Ukrainian transgender communities are visible to the public. 
Katerina: Some of them are escorts, some are activists. There is very little publicity in any of the cases, they are known only in a very narrow circle. And of course, they have no influence on public opinion.
Monika: In many countries, transgender women become celebrities, especially those that take part in different reality shows or fashion events. Does it happen in Russia and Ukraine?
Katerina: No. There are several drag queens, but they are not celebrities, they perform mainly in gay clubs, and if they are invited to television, it's only as clowns to entertain the audience, and not to raise important social issues. That's how I see it anyway.
Monika: You are a smart lady, and you look like a million dollars. Have you ever considered becoming an actress or model?
Katerina: Thanks a lot, Monika. But for me, no such activity is possible because of my past as an escort. In addition, if I do become a public person, it will only be as an activist for LGBT rights.

"If I do become a public person, it will
only be as an activist for LGBT rights."

Monika: Do you remember the first time when you saw a transgender woman on TV or met anyone transgender in person?
Katerina: Oh yeah! It was in England, in a small coastal town called Worthing where I studied during the summer school holidays when I was 16. I'm not sure if it was a transsexual, rather, it was a transvestite, because it was obvious that this is a man in disguise (and dressed in such a deliberately provocative way).
Anyway, it was the first transgender person in my life and the experience was incredible. He or she was standing outside a bar (probably an LGBT bar) and smoking, with bright makeup, wearing a shiny silver dress, high heels, black wig. I looked at him or her like an alien because in Russia or Ukraine this would have been impossible in broad daylight. Here such a person would be torn to pieces by an angry crowd.
I think he or she smiled at me and said something as I walked by. This transgender was approached by another who came out of the bar. I really wanted to stop and look at such an unprecedented sight, but my friends carried me further. They laughed and I hated them, but I also had to laugh at the men in disguise, like everyone else, although I admired them so that other teenagers would not think that I liked them, otherwise the bullying could start. 
But something has changed in me since that day, those transgenders never left my head. They showed me that one can be himself or herself without fear of prejudice, which I had never dreamed of before, and this gave me courage and strength.
Monika: What do you think about the present situation of transgender women in Russia and Ukraine?
Katerina: It is better than it was 10-15 years ago, but still lamentable. The consciousness of society is changing very slowly, ancient prejudices are rooted in it from generation to generation.
Only 30 years ago, such people were sent to prisons or psychiatric hospitals, and many people who are now 40-50 years old still remember this. They grew up with the consciousness that having different sexuality is a crime, which is reprehensible and shameful, and they passed it on to their children.
In Russia, the situation is even worse, there is a discriminatory law prohibiting the promotion of homosexuality, under which, if you wish, you can pull up anything you want. Something must be done with all this, but I don't know what, because this discrimination is supported at the state level. It is beneficial for the government to support it in order to have the sympathy of the conservative electorate, which is in the majority. It is easier to manage people this way, and the people's free thinking is destructive for this corrupt system.

"The consciousness of society is changing very slowly,
ancient prejudices are rooted in it from generation to
generation."

Monika: How about young generations in Russia and Ukraine? What is their attitude to transgender women?
Katerina: The same as the older generations. Prejudice is inherited from parents and supported by the government, as I said. To be different in this aspect is still considered shameful and wrong by most people here regardless of age.

END OF PART 1

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

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