Friday, 3 February 2017

Interview with Caisie Breen

Monika: Today it is my pleasure and honor to interview Caisie Breen, transgender writer, the author of the biographical book titled “Songbyrd: Becoming She” (2016). Hello Caisie!
Caisie: Hello Monika. Thank you for taking the time to interview me.
Monika: Could you say a few words about yourself?
Caisie: I’m 61 years old and have been married to the same lovely woman for over 36 years. We have two adult sons and are owners of a small plumbing and electrical service company in Portland, Oregon.
Monika: Why did you decide to write your memoir?
Caisie: Frankly, I think it’s one of the boilerplate recommendations given to transgender people by our therapists, early on, as a way to help us transition. I got my advice years ago and immediately began keeping journals.
Monika: Which aspects of your experience can be useful for other transwomen?
Caisie: Wow! Read my book. There are so many things. But if I had to pick a couple, I’ll start with the, “Do I pass?” Phase.
This is especially relevant for those of us who wait until later in life to transition. When I first came out, my hair was still short and I wasn’t comfortable wearing dresses in public yet. I was more, androgynous – wearing woman’s slacks and tops. And the crazy thing was, I was always asking Brenda, “do I pass?” – “are those people staring?”. Hell, no I didn’t pass and of course, they were staring. My sweet Brenda always played it down though. But it was true! So, for those who don’t want to stand out and feel like a freak (like I did early on), wear that dress. Like they say, paint or get off the ladder.

"Songbyrd: Becoming She"
available via Amazon.

Second, and this is big, as wonderful as it feels to finally become authentic, you must realize that someone will be mourning the loss of the old you and that’s totally legit. For me, Brenda had been married to the male, Bill Casey for 30 years and I was well into my transition before I fully understood her loss. We need to be sensitive to those we love and understand their pain.
On this note, and I may be the lone ranger here – but I would never have made such a transition without the full support of my wife. My book goes into it well.
Monika: At what age did you transition into a woman yourself? Was it a difficult process? 
Caisie: I was somewhat of an odd duck here too. My gender had been suppressed so long and hard, that it took two other people saying something, to get me to finally get it. I was 55.
Monika: At that time of your transition, did you have any transgender role models that you followed?
Caisie: My first heroine was Christine Jorgensen. I first read about her, then saw the movie about her. This was way before I knew about my own gender issues.
Monika: Are there are any transgender ladies that you admire and respect now?
Caisie: About a year after coming out, I heard about Jenny Boylan and became a big fan of her writings. I was especially fond of her book, “I’m Looking Through You.”
I was just beginning my memoir and when I found out that Jenny was visiting the West Coast, I flew down to San Francisco to meet her. She gave me some priceless advice regarding my memoir which I followed to the letter.
Monika: What was the hardest thing about your coming out?
Caisie: For me, it was the broken relationships I didn’t see coming. I knew there may be a few casualties but the ones who dissed me were very much unexpected.

With Jenny Boylan.

Monika: The transgender cause is usually manifested together with the other LGBT communities. Being the last letter in this abbreviation, is the transgender community able to promote its own cause within the LGBT group?
Caisie: Yes. I don’t get involved in politics anymore so I won’t elaborate other than to say, if we want it to happen and are willing to do the leg work, anything is possible.
Monika: What do you think in general about transgender news stories or characters which have been featured in films, newspapers, or books so far?
Caisie: I think things are rapidly improving.
Monika: Do you participate in any lobbying campaigns? Do you think transgender women can make a difference in politics?
Caisie: I stay away from politics but of course, women are making a difference.
Monika: Do you like fashion? What kind of outfits do you usually wear? Any special fashion designs, colors, or trends?
Caisie: I’m not really into fancy fashion. I buy most of my clothes online. I particularly like the Liz Claborne line at JC Penny’s. And pastel pink is my favorite color.

The past and presence.

Monika: What do you think about transgender beauty pageants? Some activists criticize their values, pointing out that they lead to the obsession with youth and beauty.
Caisie: I have no problem what so ever, with them.
Monika: Could you tell me about the importance of love in your life?
Caisie: Love is the engine that makes life work.
Monika: Are you working on any new projects now?
Caisie: Yes. I’m writing a sequel to my book called ‘Bit’s & Pieces’.
Monika: What would you recommend to all transgender girls struggling with gender dysphoria?
Caisie: Patience with yourself and others.
Monika: Caisie, thank you for the interview!

All the photos: courtesy of Caisie Breen.
© 2017 - Monika Kowalska

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