Monday, 23 August 2021

Interview with Aliyah Tam Casari


Monika: Today we are going to the sunny state of California where my guest is living. I would like to introduce to you Aliyah Tam Casari, a U.S. Air Force veteran and air traffic control instructor that shares her story on social media. Aliyah and I are going to talk about being trans and the challenges related to her fascinating journey towards womanhood. Hello Aliyah!
Aliyah: Hello Monica! Thank you for inviting me to your interview and I’m very happy to be here and share my life story.
Monika: Could you say a few words about yourself?
Aliyah: I was born in 1965 in a small town called Hazleton, Pennsylvania. Around the age of eight years, I realized something was different about myself. I was interested in playing with the girls and doing things all girls do. Thus, there’s a whole story in between up until the age of about 52 that I began my transition as a transgender female.
Monika: I have interviewed many ladies but none of them was an air traffic control instructor. Is it a difficult job?
Aliyah: At age 18, I was struggling with myself and decided to join the Air Force to be a fighter pilot to prove to myself that I still was a man but actually I knew I was a woman inside and I was struggling with that. Unfortunately, I failed the written test in which the Air Force said I was going to be an air traffic controller which I had no clue what that meant LOL. Suffice to say I learned that career and performed this career for 32 years, four of which were in the Air Force, and the rest with the federal aviation administration working both in the air traffic control tower and the air traffic control radar room.

"At age 18, I was struggling with myself and decided
to join the Air Force to be a fighter pilot to prove to
myself that I still was a man."

I retired in 2019 just before the pandemic. Air traffic controllers are forced to retire at the age of 56 but you can retire younger under certain conditions. About four months ago I was offered to come back to the radar facility in which I had worked as an air traffic controller to now instruct others that transferred to this facility. Both being an air traffic controller and an air traffic control instructor is a very complex and difficult job. Paying attention to detail and being concise with control instructions is paramount to taking chaos in the skies and on the ground to make orderly and safe flowing air traffic.
Monika: What inspired you to share your intimate life moments via social media?
Aliyah: Since I began to transition, I was inspired by others around me that were going through the same thing. I wanted to share my experiences with others on social media not only to educate but to inspire and give confidence to other trans people going through what I am going through.
Monika: You have a beautiful name. Why did you choose Aliyah for your name?
Aliyah: Almost 20 years ago before I even began my transition I knew my name would be Aliyah. I was very much in love with the singer Aaliyah and her music and unfortunately, she was killed in an airplane crash at a very young age. This inspired me to take on her name but drop one ‘A’ from it out of respect for her. I was devastated by her death especially knowing what I know about air traffic control and I would’ve not let her get on the plane.
Monika: I guess most of us could say that we wish we had transitioned earlier. Do you feel the same?
Aliyah: I most definitely regret that I did not transition earlier nor did I have the means to back in the late 60s early 70s. On top of that, I was deathly afraid of society and what they might do to me if they found out I was trans.

"I most definitely regret that I did not transition
earlier nor did I have the means to back in the late
60s early 70s."

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?
Aliyah: This was the most difficult part of my transition. In fact, I wasn’t ready to come out when I did come out because I was forced to come out. Someone found a picture of me showing male and female sides on social media and they were passing it around at work. Therefore I decided I had to come out to show the world that I was a woman not just a man in a dress. That was the most difficult part of coming out that I was forced to. Afterwards I lost almost everyone and I mean everyone. Family and supposed friends, colleagues you name it. But since then I have slowly made a new family of friends and it’s getting better.
Monika: Are you satisfied with the effects of the hormone treatment?
Aliyah: When I first went on hormones they started me off on patches and then I went to pills but now I am on biweekly injections. I find that the injections are much better. I think everyone reacts differently to hormones but for me, I do feel better internally and I think modest changes have happened to my body because of it.
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?
Aliyah: Almost on a daily basis I look in the mirror and I can see images of my past self. I most certainly agree that I deal with the non-passing syndrome. So far the only way I feel I can cope with this is just to accept the fact that people always clock me. And if they say something I will confidently reply yes I am a proud trans woman! What’s the old saying it’s like water off a duck's back?

"So far the only way I feel I can cope with this is just
to accept the fact that people always clock me. And
if they say something I will confidently reply yes
I am a proud trans woman!"

Monika: Are there any transgender role models that you follow or followed?
Aliyah: Yes, very much so. I follow Plastic Martyr, Laverne Cox, and Nikita Dragon just to name a few.
Monika: Do you remember the first time when you saw a transgender woman on TV or met anyone transgender in person?
Aliyah: Yes, I think in the movie The Crying Game (1992).
Monika: What do you think about the present situation of transgender women in your country?
Aliyah: I feel like things are getting better but it’s still a mixed bag depending on where you live. We’ve made some progress inroads but I still would like to see equal rights in every facet.
Monika: Do you like fashion? What kind of outfits do you usually wear? Any special fashion designs, colors, or trends?
Aliyah: I absolutely love fashion! In fact, I’m obsessed with it. I feel so free now to be able to choose feminine clothing. During the week when I go to work you'll usually find me in skinny jeans with a lovely blouse top on. On the weekend I love to dress up in fashionable dresses I purchased from Revolve or Venus.
Monika: Do you often experiment with your makeup? 
Aliyah: I always experiment with makeup. In fact, only recently have I hooked up with a famous Los Angeles makeup artist who taught me how to do my own makeup which is very refreshing.
Monika: By the way, do you like being complimented on your looks?
Aliyah: I absolutely love getting compliments and it reaffirms my journey to womanhood!

"I absolutely love fashion! In fact, I’m obsessed
with it. I feel so free now to be able to choose
feminine clothing."

Monika: Are you involved in the life of the local LGBTQ community?
Aliyah: to some extent yes I often support my trans sisters at events and I often go to places where they work such as restaurants or bars or dance clubs.
Monika: Could you tell me about the importance of love in your life?
Aliyah: well as many of us are aware, being a trans woman has its limitations with love. It seems that most men are very fearful of us or the men that want us to use us as toys or experiments while most women don’t understand at all and shy away from us completely. So, I am always in search of love but it’s harder for me because I am lesbian.
Monika: Many transgender ladies write their memoirs. Have you ever thought about writing such a book yourself?
Aliyah: I have thought of this but I have not taken those steps yet. In fact, I would like to start a YouTube channel to share my experience with the world.
Monika: What is your next step in the present time and where do you see yourself within the next 5-7 years?
Aliyah: As far as my transition goes I’m almost finished. I'm just on a waiting list for my gender reassignment surgery in March of next year. And then I’m just going to enjoy my retirement and possibly live in Thailand.
Monika: What would you recommend to all transgender women that are afraid of transition?
Aliyah: I would tell them, yes it is scary and it is a huge step and you might lose everything but I feel that the ultimate happiness and freedom of being who you truly are outweighs any of these difficulties.

"Transition is scary and it is a huge step and you might
lose everything but I feel that the ultimate happiness
and freedom of being who you truly are outweighs
any of these difficulties."

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?
Aliyah: I wholeheartedly agree with the statement! I always tell myself I would rather burn out following my dreams and hopes rather than waste away.
Monika: Aliyah, it was a pleasure to interview you. Thanks a lot!
Aliyah: Thank you for giving me the opportunity to share my experiences with you and it’s been my pleasure. I hope that we can do more interviews in the future.

All the photos: courtesy of Aliyah Tam Casari.
© 2021 - Monika Kowalska

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