Tuesday 8 March 2022

Interview with Penelope Alizarin Conley

Monika: Today I have the pleasure and honor of interviewing Penelope Alizarin Conley, an American singer, musician, model, and transgender woman that shares her transition story on social media. Hello Penelope!
Penelope: Hello Monika! Thanks for having me.
Monika: Could you say a few words about yourself?
Penelope: I’m a transgender woman from Massachusetts, USA. I’m a musician, model, bicycle mechanic, and parent of two wonderful children. I’m so honored to do this interview.
Monika: Are you a professional musician? How would you define your music?
Penelope: Yes. I guess I’m a professional musician although I’ve never had lessons. I’ve been writing songs, and/or been in bands for most of my life without lessons. I’ve received some media and airplay over the years so I guess that’s kind of “professional”.
I would describe my music as eclectic. I try my best to explore different styles ranging from ethereal, pop, goth, and alternative. I wrote and play all my latest material so it really depends on what I’m feeling when I’m about to record. Overall I drive to emphatic lyrics, built in every melody.
Monika: What inspired you to share your intimate life moments via social media?
Penelope: I was looking for support and community. I had tried other sites and support groups but Instagram has been the best so far. I’ve made genuine friends and I’m quite shocked by the attention. I’ve never been afraid of honesty but to my surprise, I’ve found other folks on Instagram who really seem to connect with me and I’m elated! Empathy is always the best policy.
"Empathy is always the best
Monika: Do you get many questions from your social media followers? What do they ask for?
Penelope: I wish I had more questions from people who actually want to connect socially and not aggressive horny folks who just want to send me explicit photos or are looking for a hookup. I’m sure I’ll never say “sure, great dick pic, and I really love your bad grammar. Let’s hook up.”
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?
Penelope: The hardest thing about coming out has been finding my place. Hiding away for such a long time made it difficult for me to connect. I struggled to find community and I still do. I’m older and I often feel like I waited too long. I see so much beauty around me in the trans community and feel like I’ll never be a part of it even though no one has directly told me I’m unwelcome, I feel unwelcome.
Monika: Was your family surprised by your transition? Did they accept it easily?
Penelope: Most of my family has made no attempt to really support me. Were they surprised? Yes and no. My parents are 50/50 so I guess it could be worse. I will say that I've been lucky for what little I’ve gotten from them. I know I shouldn’t settle for the bare minimum but I try to think of their perspective. I was hiding so much from them for so long that they might not ever fully accept who I’ve always been inside. I’m not sure my family will ever fully understand but if I sit and think about it, it will eat at me. I try to just think of my kids, my love for them, and trying to just survive. Even though at times I’m barely making it. 
I have been not taken seriously at job interviews and missed out on a lot of opportunities for a career. Although I enjoy what I do, I’ll have to live with knowing I may never be able to get anything better. I still get misgendered and it’s usually at work from people I deal with but luckily never from my employers or coworkers.
Monika: Are you satisfied with the effects of the hormone treatment?
Penelope: I’ve been somewhat lucky and surprised by the effects of HRT. I’ve only recently started progesterone but have been on spironolactone, estrogen, and finasteride for three years. After about a year on my medications I plateaued in my body changes and after two years completely stalled out. I received breast augmentation last year and I’m waiting on my doctors for FFS so it’s still a work in progress.
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?
Penelope: Although I do struggle with passing/not passing, I really don’t be like using the word “passing” because it makes me feel as though I do not pass. If I have to try so hard I must be failing because I don’t meet a ridiculous standard. I am the toughest on myself because of what I see around me as being better than I am. I’m often the first to doubt myself so I use makeup, lengthy routines, weight loss, skin care creams, online tips, hair removal, and many other over-the-top processes to fit in. In reality, I’m older, not financially well off, and spent far too long in hiding so now I’m literally paying for it. I’ve been transitioning medically for three years and I feel like I’ll never be done with it.
"I have been not taken seriously at job
interviews and missed out on a lot
of opportunities for a career."
Monika: Do you remember the first time you saw a transgender woman on TV or met anyone transgender in person?
Penelope: Sadly I have not met any transgender celebrities. Transgender women in media is being slowly being more recognized and it’s fantastic. Growing up I wasn’t exposed to transgender people until my late teens. What little I saw was terrible representation. Usually, people making fun of us or treating us as crazy, weird, or worse - villains. Luckily things are getting better but there’s still so much to be done.
Monika: Are there any transgender role models that you follow or followed?
Penelope: I follow Layna Bloom, Dominique A.R. Jackson, and Hunter Schafer to name a few. I think they are fantastic but I’m more on Instagram to meet trans women. I’m more likely to mean in real life, be friends and find a community.
Monika: What do you think about the present situation of transgender women in your country?
Penelope: Right now in Texas a terrible governor is trying to make a case that allowing your child to seek HRT is child abuse. The US in the last few years has seen laws regarding Trans rights be reversed. Things are not awful and I hope they do not get worse.
Monika: Do you like fashion? What kind of outfits do you usually wear? Any special fashion designs, colors, or trends?
Penelope: I love fashion and have tried out modeling online to mixed results. I’m pretty partial to gowns, dresses, and lingerie by top designers. I’ve been fortunate to receive some gems through modeling but my career has stalled. I’m lucky for the time I had with modeling but sadly it looks V like that’s over for me.
Monika: Do you often experiment with your makeup?
Penelope: I played around with makeup until I found something that works for me. I rarely alter it because I’ve finally found my look after years of trying.
Monika: By the way, do you like being complimented on your looks?
Penelope: Being complimented on for my looks is nice but I never let it go to my head. I’m moderately OK as far as looks go so if someone says otherwise, I have trouble believing it. If I’m that attractive how come I’ve spent so much time single?
Monika: Do you remember your first job interview as a woman?
Penelope: I always have trouble when I go to interviews. I’ve been turned away from good jobs because I am trans. My first interview was to be a middle school art teacher. I was well qualified but got turned away. They didn’t tell me why but I knew.
Monika: What would you advise to all transwomen looking for employment?
Penelope: Have confidence in yourself. It might take a little bit but if you’re qualified based on merits but they turn you away, it’s their loss.
"I love fashion and have tried out
modeling online to mixed results."
Monika: Are you involved in the life of the local LGBTQ community?
Penelope: Where I live there isn’t a huge lgbtq+ community. I’ve always wanted to be a part of it and find a few resources occasionally but if I really want to be active I’d have to travel and that is not often feasible. I participate when I can but also being a parent makes it difficult at times. I have hope that I’ll find somewhere I’ll fit.
Monika: Could you tell me about the importance of love in your life?
Penelope: I’m fortunate to have the love of my children. They are who I care most about and that will never change. Aside from their love, I have always dreamed about deep romantic love. A love where the world just falls away and it’s just them and me, completely enveloped in each other’s affection. Alas, I’m still waiting.
Monika: Many transgender ladies write their memoirs. Have you ever thought about writing such a book yourself?
Penelope: My memoirs are already out with every day of life I live and share my story. For each other trans person's story I hear I become more involved and more appreciative of amazing people in the community.
Monika: What is your next step in the present time and where do you see yourself within the next 5-7 years?
Penelope: In the present time I’m living in the present which I feel is really important. For too long I was focused on the past and it led me down a very dark path. As for the future, I just want to see my kids grow up in a better world and I hope to raise them to be open and understanding. As for me, love and contentment is my main goal and it’s all ever really wanted.
Monika: What would you recommend to all transgender women that are afraid of transition?
Penelope: I thought when I came out that I would lose everything and everyone that meant something to me. I realized it’s not about them, it’s about what’s best for me. No one was going to save my life. I had many nights crying worried that I’ll always be alone. In reality, I realized that I’m not alone. It took time snd work but I’ve built up a small community and they have been wonderful. Find the strength to do what’s right for you, it will not be easy at first but I hope I’m there on the other side cheering you on.
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?
Penelope: Living your truth is vital. How you approach your life is up to you no one can tell you what’s best for your truth. Everyone is so different and if you approach your transition like it’s a competition I hope that it’s what’s really right for you and wish you the best. I’m far from an authority on how you pursue your truth. Wholeness can only come from you, within your very soul. You have to know what that is because no surgery can do that for you. Really know and love yourself and let that guide you. It’s also easy to say but being yourself is the most rewarding thing you can do. It allows you to see what really has to exist in the world. Whatever you do I hope you have support and love. I’ll be here cheering for you either way. 
Monika: Penelope, it was a pleasure to interview you. Thanks a lot!
Penelope: Thank you. I’m deeply honored to be asked. I love all of you.

All the photos: courtesy of Penelope Alizarin Conley.
© 2022 - Monika Kowalska

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