Wednesday, 8 September 2021

Interview with Natalie

Monika: Today I have the pleasure and honor of interviewing Natalie, an American IT professional and transgender woman that shares her transition story on social media. Hello Natalie!
Natalie: Hi Monika and thank you for reaching out to me. I am happy to share a bit of my story.
Monika: Could you say a few words about yourself?
Natalie: I am a full-time IT professional, occasional illustrator, photographer, writer, programmer, mountain biker, puppeteer, and... I could go on for a bit. I have a bunch of hobbies that for the most part are visual and creative.
Monika: What inspired you to share your intimate life moments via social media?
Natalie: When I first realized I was a woman and decided on transition is the answer to me back in 2007-2008, there was very very little out there in terms of positive stories, access to information or just documented stories. It felt like all you heard about were the cartoon depictions of trans women in media like Jerry Springer or vomit moments in comedies. It felt so empty and hopeless. It made me give up.
One of the big things that changed in the interim between giving up on transition in 2008 and trying again in 2019 was seeing all the people who shared their experiences. The visibility of people living well through transition, especially those who also struggled with weight as well, inspired me to take the time to document my own transition in as much detail as possible.
I wanted to show people what was possible through my own story and maybe help someone who maybe can relate themselves to where I started pretransition and get the little seed of hope to push them to take action.

"When I first realized I was a woman and
decided on transition is the answer to me
back in 2007-2008, there was very very
little out there in terms of positive stories."

Monika: Why did you choose Natalie for your name?
Natalie: To be honest, I was pretty lazy about my name. It was a choice between Natalie and Natalia. I choose both because they were more or less a feminized version of my deadname. I didn't particularly dislike my deadname but to me, social passing and being gendered correctly during random phone calls and emails where strangers will go with the traditional gendering of your name was important to me.
Monika: Do you get many questions from your social media followers? What do they ask for?
Natalie: Not a whole ton beyond the occasional question about my weight loss strategy (calorie counting), if I have had any surgeries (not yet), and what my HRT regime is. I do answer a lot of publicly posted questions though. The most common of those questions being unsure about the validity of their own gender identity, which of course is always valid regardless of what it is.
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?
Natalie: I am very fortunate to be privileged in terms of finances and having a great community of found family and friends who have supported me. I wish I could say the same about my blood relatives as well but they are mostly neutral to negative but I was never especially close to them and did not rely on them emotionally or financially prior to transition.

"The visibility of people living well through transition,
especially those who also struggled with weight as well,
inspired me to take the time to document my own
transition in as much detail as possible."

Monika: Were your parents and family surprised by your transition? Did they accept it easily?
Natalie: My parents were surprised but I was not surprised by their surprise. I was very secretive in most aspects of my life, they hardly know me. My parents are a bit old so it's taken some time but they are gradually embracing me as their daughter. I am not sure they would if my transition did not go as smoothly as it did and they do not know I have plans to follow through with bottom surgery. I hope things continue to improve over time but I do not expect them to.
Monika: Are you satisfied with the effects of the hormone treatment?
Natalie: For the most part? I think I got a very good hand and if this were the extent of what hormones can do for me I would be satisfied. There are some things I would change about myself but I do not believe it is possible without surgical intervention.
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?
Natalie: The need to pass is a bit of a vain curse isn't it? The worst part of it is that you don't get to decide when you pass, the world does. When I began the transition I had to make a deal with myself that I might never pass but I had to try to be my most authentic self possible. As time went on, HRT and practicing the feminine craft naturally led me to being gendered correctly more often than not and then eventually... Always.
It's been over a year since the last time I was misgendered by a stranger and yet I still question myself. I still see the old me and I do not think any amount of HRT or surgery will fix that. I think time and lived experience will ease the tension over time. Maybe that's just wishful thinking.
Monika: Are there any transgender role models that you follow or followed? 
Natalie: I am unsure if I would call them role models, I don't really aspire to be transgender but there are definitely some people who have inspired me or taught me a ton like Andrea James and Zheae Rose. I also look up to many friends I have met along the way that are otherwise private people but have had a big impact on my journey.

"The worst part of it is that you don't get to decide
when you pass, the world does."

Monika: Do you remember the first time when you saw a transgender woman on TV or met anyone transgender in person?
Natalie: It was probably Jerry Springer I am sorry to say. It left an extremely negative view towards myself and colored my outlook on what it meant to be trans for a very long time. The first time I met a trans woman (that I am aware of) was waiting at a bus stop coming home from work. I had figured out myself by then but I was too nervous to say anything and I didn't want to embarrass them.
Monika: What do you think about the present situation of transgender women in your country?
Natalie: The United States is a mixed bag, waiting times and overall access are relatively easy but options and public support vary hugely depending on where you live. I am from the southwest on the border with California so we have a nice balance of protections and nearby access to health services but it could be better since we only have the most basic requirements for insurance coverage and few local providers. The people have been good to me overall even prior to passing.
Monika: Do you like fashion? What kind of outfits do you usually wear? Any special fashion designs, colors, or trends?
Natalie: I am a sucker for Torrid, their clothes played such a big role in improving my self-image and I have yet to find any brand that is as comfortable, durable, or a reliable fit. 
Monika: Do you often experiment with your makeup? 
Natalie: Sometimes? I experimented a ton early into my transition to learn the craft but I have mostly settled into a flattering routine that is quick to get on in the morning. My hair however is an ongoing experiment.
Monika: By the way, do you like being complimented on your looks?
Natalie: I do! I am a sucker for dorky compliments and being looked at.
Monika: Do you remember your first job interview as a woman?
Natalie: I have not interviewed for a job since transitioning.
Monika: What would you advise to all transwomen looking for employment?
Natalie: I wish I knew, I might be looking for a new job in the intermediate future.

"I am a sucker for Torrid, their clothes played such
a big role in improving my self-image"

Monika: Are you involved in the life of the local LGBTQ community? 
Natalie: I don't interact too much with the LGBTQ community where I live, besides occasionally volunteering for an LGBT community center. In the physical world I really just don't think about or interact much with LGBTQ spaces.
Monika: Could you tell me about the importance of love in your life?
Natalie: It is extremely important to me, I would not have gotten as far as I have if not for my partner of the last 9 years.
Monika: Many transgender ladies write their memoirs. Have you ever thought about writing such a book yourself? 
Natalie: I am unsure what I would say. I think my life is really just starting and I have a ton of experiences yet to come. Maybe eventually I will when my life starts to wind down but I think things are just beginning for me.
Monika: What is your next step in the present time and where do you see yourself within the next 5-7 years?
Natalie: The next big step is bottom surgery for me this coming January. After that who knows, the rest of my life maybe? Helping my partner finish school, maybe changing jobs myself. It's difficult to see what all might be next while I am fixated on that big thing. 
Monika: What would you recommend to all transgender women that are afraid of transition?
Natalie: is a fantastic resource and a major help to several people in my life struggling with their feelings and identity. The world is a better place now for us than it has ever been and people overall are kind and decent. It's difficult but absolutely worth it to feel alive.

"I think my life is really just starting and I have
a ton of experiences yet to come."

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?
Natalie: I certainly do. Being transgender is an inflection point in my life without a doubt but I am far more than my gender identity and my transition. I have stories to tell and art to make, people to be close to, and all sorts of questions I want to be answered. This is only a new beginning.
Monika: Natalie, it was a pleasure to interview you. Thanks a lot!
Natalie: No problem, I had a great time talking with you.

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

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