Thursday 28 April 2022

Interview with Celeste

Monika: Today I have invited Celeste, an American student from Chicago and transgender woman who documents her transition on social media. Hello Celeste!
Celeste: Hi Monika! Thanks for having me!
Monika: Could you say a few words about yourself?
Celeste: I’m a 22-year-old trans woman from Chicago. I’m currently in college working towards a degree in designing and building theatre sets and I love it! I really like cars and architecture and love taking walks and watching movies.
Monika: What inspired you to share your intimate life moments on social media?
Celeste: Especially in early transition, I had very few moments where I looked in the mirror and felt like I looked like a girl and felt "cute". When I had those moments, I wanted to post them and celebrate it. As time has gone on, I have felt more confident in my appearance and my posts have been more for the purpose of inspiring "baby trans" (Early or pre-transition folks) and also getting some validation when I have especially dysphoric days.
Monika: Why did you choose Celeste for your name?
Celeste: Oh jeez it was kinda tough deciding on it. My mom is a big fan of unusual and uncommon names (As am I) and Celeste was on the list of baby names had I been AFAB. In addition, I write fiction on the side and had used the name for one of my characters. Every time I wrote her name, I always thought what a nice name it was and it stayed in the back of my head.
About two years ago, I realized I had outgrown my old chosen name as it still had ties back to my deadname and was looking for something fresh and different. I was stuck between Celeste and Charlotte, but everyone I talked to about it said how much Celeste fit me better.

"Especially in early transition, I had very few
moments where I looked in the mirror and felt
like I looked like a girl and felt "cute"."

Monika: Do you get many questions from your social media followers? What do they ask for?
Celeste: Not a whole lot actually! When I do, it’s either a creep asking me gross stuff or it’s an early transition trans woman asking me a question about transitioning. I exclusively answer the latter and I’m always happy to do so! I didn’t meet another trans woman until I was already out and didn’t have many trans women to turn to when I was early on on HRT. I decided I wanted to be the "older trans" who gives guidance to someone else since I never had that.
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?
Celeste: I consider myself incredibly lucky that I didn't have anyone really oppose my transition too badly. Only a few things stick out in my mind as being really upsetting. One was I was worried about coming out to a certain family member as I wasn't sure how he'd react. He recently passed away however and a part of me wishes I had told him before he left.
Another was when I first came out to my parents, they expressed support, but didn't want me to begin on hormones until I was 25 (I was 19 when I came out) as they said the brain wasn't fully developed. I tried to push further at them about this, asking why that mattered and if they were saying it could be a phase. Each time, they couldn't form it into words, but they were very stubborn about this idea. It took an entire year of me repeatedly talking to them about it and many times of me calling from my dorm room, crying, because I felt so manly and disgusting and awful about myself and I desperately wanted to keep T from having any more of an effect on me than it already had. Eventually, they changed their minds and they now say how much happier I am on HRT and that they didn't initially understand.
"I consider myself incredibly lucky
that I didn't have anyone really
oppose my transition too badly."
The last thing that really sucked was I took a gap year in my schooling during the start of COVID and wanted a job. I applied at a place under "Celeste", had to call and come into the store a few times to get an interview. I was told I had a good chance at a job, but was ultimately denied. Out of curiosity, I applied to a similar place under my deadname and saying I was a man. I got a call a week or two later and came in for an interview and was hired by the end of it.
I started HRT on the 3rd day of that job, quit around month 11, and never came out (except to a few coworkers). The pay was good and I was getting hours, but I knew a lot of people there wouldn't accept me (They already barely accepted me as a "feminine man"). It was not healthy for my mental health and I'm glad I left. I especially knew it was bad when I started referring to myself in my head as my deadname and he/him again.
I'm sorry that's not a clear answer, but I don't have a definitive "worst", but there are a lot of little things. Whether it be uncertainty if you'll be accepted after coming out, being given support but with a caveat, or coming out and being happy with yourself, but needing to go back into the closet for nearly a year.
Monika: Was your family surprised by your transition?
Celeste: It wasn't a huge leap for my parents as I already had expressed the feeling of being gender fluid for about 4 or 5 years prior (I identified as such, but basically didn't tell anyone, nor did I dress or present as anything other than a cis man. It was my way of trying to explain the thoughts in my head of wanting to be a girl). My brother was surprised at first and thought I would be better off as a man, but quickly changed his mind and accepted me. My extended family was surprisingly supportive albeit a bit surprised.
Monika: Are you satisfied with the effects of the hormone treatment?
Celeste: Yes! Though I wish some things would speed up, especially in the breast department. However, I understand these things take time.
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?
Celeste: Oh gosh, this is a hard one to answer. Letting go of the instinctual importance of passing is hard. Something that helps me is to remember that sometimes cis women have trouble passing and that sometimes they don't feel or look "woman enough".
In terms of how we are perceived by cis people, I think the best way to combat being treated differently whether we pass or not is educating cis people about how we are still women even when we aren't passing, or on HRT, or even presenting. We've always been women.
Monika: Do you remember the first time you saw a transgender woman on TV or met anyone transgender in person?
Celeste: In terms of the first time I saw a trans woman in person, I actually wrote a post about the event as it made quite an impact on me, so I hope you don't mind me copying it and putting it here.
Dear trans woman I saw on Father's Day,
It was 2014, and I was 14 years old and I hadn’t figured out who I was yet.
You and I were in the crowded convention hall on Father's Day.
I was running a display at a table and you were walking around the floor with another young woman, maybe a girlfriend or maybe just a friend.
You were wearing a cute green dress and you had chipping red nail polish.
You were walking from display to display with your DSLR around your neck and you snapped pictures from time to time of interesting displays.
You never came close enough to my table for us to make eye contact or exchange words. 
Instead I looked at you across the hall.
Maybe I was just a 14 year old gawking at someone who was different, but I think deep down, a part of me was jealous.
Maybe I wished I could be like you.
You didn’t seem to care what people thought of how you looked.
You seemed confident and happy.
You seemed to be enjoying yourself all the same and not letting anyone get you down. 
Sometimes I think about you, girl in green.
I hope you’re doing well.
Monika: Are there any transgender role models that you follow or followed?
Celeste: I don't follow a whole lot of celebrities anyway, but seeing Hunter Schafer on magazine covers, in advertisements, and on TV always makes me so happy.
"I do like clothes, but I am not the
most fashionable person out there."
Monika: What do you think about the present situation of transgender women in your country?
Celeste: It's a bit rocky at the moment. Fortunately, I live in a state that is not likely to have legislation put against me, but I fear for my siblings in more conservative areas and especially trans folks under 18. There are a lot of bills coming out against queer folks, and especially trans people, and it just hurts my soul to see.
Monika: Do you like fashion? What kind of outfits do you usually wear? Any special fashion designs, colors, or trends?
Celeste: I do like clothes, but I am not the most fashionable person out there. Most of the time, I'm working in a wood shop or I rolled out of bed to go to class, so I wear just t-shirts and jeans. However, when I get the chance to dress a little nicer or girlier, I will. My go-to tends to be jumpsuits, rompers, and long cardigans. I end up wearing a lot of jewel tones and black.
Monika: Do you often experiment with your makeup?
Celeste: Not a whole lot actually! I don't do my makeup unless I'm feeling really good that day or I'm going out somewhere special. Even when I do, I usually just focus on doing fun eyeliner. I've found makeup isn't totally my thing, and I'm ok with that!
Monika: By the way, do you like being complimented on your looks?
Celeste: I doooo. Usually, because it gives me some gender euphoria and I like feeling pretty.
Monika: Do you remember your first job interview as a woman?
Celeste: I don't remember a lot of it. It was a bit awkward, but my transness never came up. It is possible that he thought I was a man named Celeste, though. Sadly, I've had interactions like that before while trying to present feminine.
Monika: What would you advise to all transwomen looking for employment?
Celeste: Don't do what I did. Don't go back into the closet for a job. It's not worth it. Be true to yourself. If your job doesn't want you to be presenting, find a new job.
Monika: Are you involved in the life of the local LGBTQ community?
Celeste: Not as much as I used to be. I think it is decently common to want to flock to groups and the community as a "baby trans", but as you gain friends from these groups and you mature, you stray away from the groups. I did the same thing, and I probably will have very minimal communication and interaction with the community in the coming years.
"I'm absolutely a lover at heart and
wear my emotions on my sleeve."
Monika: Could you tell me about the importance of love in your life?
Celeste: Love is very important to me. I'm someone who likes to love and wants to be loved. I try to give as much love as I can to my family, friends, and partner. My family and friends love and support me back and it means the world to me.
I'm also incredibly lucky to have a loving girlfriend who supports and accepts me for who I am. I'm absolutely a lover at heart and wear my emotions on my sleeve. It's gotten me heartbroken and hurt before, but it's just how I'm wired.
Monika: Many transgender ladies write their memoirs. Have you ever thought about writing such a book yourself?
Celeste: It has never crossed my mind. To me, I haven't lived an interesting enough life to warrant a memoir. Also, I've barely lived my life thus far. If I were to write my memoir now, I'm sure I'd be missing a ton of things that would happen in the future.
Monika: What is your next step in the present time and where do you see yourself within the next 5-7 years?
Celeste: I like to think I've evolved past my "baby trans" phase and at the moment, I just want nothing more than to blend in and be like all the women around me. I've pretty with how I present and I want to stray a bit away from identifying as "trans woman" and more just "woman", if that makes sense. In the next few years, I hope to do what many young women my age do: graduate college, get a job and an apartment, and keep dating my lovely girlfriend.
Monika: What would you recommend to all transgender women that are afraid of transition?
Celeste: My best days pre-transition are around the same caliber as my worst days after transitioning. I have new problems now, of course, but I'm at least presenting as the real me and I'm not pretending to be someone I'm not.
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?
Celeste: I agree with it for the most part. For me, personally, none of my dreams involve an operating table, but we should try not to compare ourselves to other people. Our dreams are our own and if we let other people tell us how to dream, then they aren't really ours. If you try to please everyone, you won't be happy. I've learned not to hold back on being me. This is my one life. It would be a shame to spend it as anyone other than me.
Monika: Celeste, it was a pleasure to interview you. Thanks a lot!
Celeste: Thank you for having me! The pleasure is all mine!

All the photos: courtesy of Celeste.
© 2022 - Monika Kowalska

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