Monday, 27 March 2023

Interview with Jamie Shiner

Monika: Today I am talking to Jamie Shiner, an American activist, and former politician from Wisconsin. Jamie was the first transgender delegate to the Democratic National Committee in the history of Wisconsin politics, and she was elected in a contested election to represent Congressional District 8 of Wisconsin. In addition, Jamie was the second vice chair of the Democratic Party of Brown County and she ran for the office of the second Vice Chair of the State Party and Democratic National Committee.
Jamie is a 50+ year member of the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 324 of Michigan. She operated some of the biggest construction equipment that is used. Her specialty was operating large cranes. She was a CCO Licensed Crane Operator at one time. Yes, she tried really hard to be a tough guy for over 30 years and it never worked for her. SheI took early retirement when she went full time and went into nursing as a CNA. Hello Jamie!
Jamie: Hello Monika!
Monika: Could you introduce yourself to our readers?
Jamie: I am 69 years old, born in 1953 in a small town in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. At the age of 4, I realized I had a body that did not match my inner self. I hid it as my greatest secret for most of my life. I got married in 1978 and had one daughter in 1985. I stayed drunk quite often to bury who I know I really was. I never crossdressed during this time of heavy drinking.
In the mid-’90s, the drinking caught up with me and I had to quit for health reasons. I started crossdressing about 2 weeks after I quit drinking. The GID re-emerged with a vengeance. I still kept my greatest secret from everyone. In 1999 I got online for the 1st time and typed “Transsexual” into a search. For the next few hours, I was amazed. I was not the only one. One could transition. And I was never the same since. I found a therapist, and I got letters in a hurry. I got on HRT.
In 2005 my spouse left me and I moved to Green Bay, Wisconsin. On May 6th I had FFS and the following January Dr. Bowers did my SRS. I was a woman finally. I presently live with my partner and love Teresa, who is Intersexed. I love her dearly as we are a perfect match. I love to act in plays and sing on stage, I do a dandy Peggy Lee impersonation. I now enjoy my retirement and I am so thankful I look as good as I do.

June 2013. Running for the 2nd vice chair of the State Party,
speaking to almost one thousand people.

Monika: Are you still active in US politics?
Jamie: In 2016 I ran for DNC to represent the State of Wisconsin. This was my last Hurrah, I had had enough and decided to retire from politics and enjoy with my partner what was left of my life.
Monika: How do you perceive the attitude of the administration of President Biden towards transgender Americans?
Jamie: Joe Biden is the best friend that Transgenders and all LGBTQ folks have. I know he will watch all our backs and try to protect us all from the horrors the Republicans have in store for us. Every day I read of more state laws being passed by these unknowing people against the transgender communities of this country.
Monika: You follow quite closely the US politics. Putting aside President Trump’s administration, is there any difference in the way the Republicans and Democrats address the needs and rights of the transgender community?
Jamie: It's Night and Day! The Democratic Party stands for the basic right of all Americans to live the best life they can. With hormone blockers and HRT applied to stop wrong puberty, the transition will be a lot easier for the young. The Republicans oppose any treatment for transgender people under 18 years old. Most do not believe in gender change. Many of these ignorant people have no business messing with any medical procedure they do not understand.
At the 2012 Democratic National
Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Monika: American politics is based on the interaction with different interest groups that wish to pursue their specific goals. How successful is the transgender community in this respect?
Jamie: In some States, with fairly cut districts the legislatures can become friendly. The gerrymandered districts like in Wisconsin can produce a minority rule in the State Legislature. Wisconsin Republicans get about 40 % of the vote and end up with two-thirds of the seats. Until fair districting is applied in this State, it is difficult to beat the system.
The only thing that activists can do is make sure the friendly Representatives understand our plight. We do not have the numbers so some of us will have to be loud. I wish I had the Fire in my Belly I used to have but it has been reduced to a flicker. Good Luck to all those that follow in my footsteps.
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?
Jamie: The problem in our community is that many of us just want to live out our lives in peace and that is all I want at this time. I am a Woman in every way and that is what I want most from society. Many of us do not want to be a public spectacle. I didn’t but I became one. To out yourself in front of over 1000 people is mind-blowing. I feel I did my part, I tried very hard to make an impression on the Democratic of Wisconsin. I only hope that I did.
Monika: What is your general view on the present situation of transgender women in American society?
Jamie: A bit worse in some States and better in others. Michigan, my birth State just passed a bill that protects Transgenders and all LGBT people. If the Democrats are in charge, transgender people are a lot safer. I feel for my Sisters and Brothers living in States like Florida and Texas. California, New York, Oregon, and Washington states are good places to be.
I fear the upcoming State Supreme Court election in Wisconsin. If the liberal candidate loses, we are in trouble. She would be the only firewall to stop the Super Majority Republicans from passing a load of anti-transgender laws as many states have done throughout America.
Monika: Do you think that in our lifetime we could live until the day when a transgender lady could become the US President? Maybe Sarah McBride?
Jamie: Who knows I doubt I will last long enough to see it happen. I will settle for any liberal woman to get elected President. Transgender rights are in retreat in this country at this time. I hope young people can do something to reverse the present trend.

In 2015 we lead the Democrats group in the Superior Wisconsin Pride parade.
My Partner Teresa designed the Unicorn on the ends of the banner.

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?
Jamie: I had many friends before I transitioned and now I have only one who accepted me as I am. He meets me at clubs for Karaoke every week and we have fun chatting about old times in Escanaba, Michigan. I am now the sole survivor of the family and it hurts to realize I am all that remains. I have a daughter and 2 grandchildren. One grandson who is 6 and my granddaughter Hadley who is 8 years old. Recently I asked her, "Do you know who I am?” She said: “You are my Mother’s Dad”. I cried when I heard that.
Monika: Was your family surprised by your transition?
Jamie: Most of them disowned me for it. My Father ignored it and my Mother barely tolerated it. My younger brother, though not OK, accepted me as is. My ex did all she could to get even for what she felt was the fact I tricked her into thinking I was a man.
Monika: Time is said to heal all wounds. Do you keep in touch with your ex-wife?
Jamie: No I do not. She decided to void our divorce agreement and take half of my pension before it was originally agreed to. She did this when I was down from FFS. I never could find a lawyer to fight this as I was cleaned out financially as a result and fell under the thumb of a dishonest woman who pretended to be my friend. This woman cleaned out about a dozen seniors of their life savings including My Mother and Myself.
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?
Jamie: Passing is a lot more than looks. You are a sum of yourself your mannerisms, your voice, your appearance, and so on. I pass well and I walk, talk, act and look like a female. I am so thankful I attained this goal. I do not like men as they treated me as a plaything, not as a real person. I am not a plaything for anyone. I love my partner and she is all I need.
With Dr. Bowers on 6 May 2006, about 7 months later
I was on her operating table.
Monika: You mentioned that you had your SRS with Dr. Bowers. I had mine done in Thailand, and I am very satisfied with the results but I guess it is much easier when this kind of surgery is done by a surgeon who underwent her SRS herself. Was it one of the reasons you chose Dr. Bowers?
Jamie: Yes, it was and I did not want to leave the country. Dr. Marci is a wonderful surgeon. Everything she did for me works beyond expectations. I finally enjoy sex after almost 40 years of wondering “Is That All There Is?” as the Peggy Lee song goes. I will always remember waking up from the surgery and Dr. Bowers asking me if I hurt. I said Yes I do, It burns. The Doctor then said I know. Yes, she did. I remember playing Cribbage with the Doc and losing. I told her sure Ya won as you have me all doped up. I was Dr. Bowers’s first surgery in 2007. So I must be #1 in Bowers’s Girl Class of 2007.
Monika: Putting the pain aside, what did you feel after the operation? Completeness? Euphoria? Happiness? My friend used to say that it was like a switch from black and white to colored photos.
Jamie: I felt relief, Finally the nightmare was over. No fear of being arrested and put in a cell with males. No fear of being found out in a restroom or locker room. After FFS and breast implants, I looked good but still was not where I needed to be. After SRS I only had one problem, my sexuality. Straight, Bi, or Lesbian? Men were attracted to me and I had no idea how to deal with them as a woman. I learned the hard way quite often but I learned. After some experimentation, I settled on the fact I still preferred a woman as a partner.
Monika: In my case, it took me more than a year to get used to my vagina. It was a real self-discovery in all aspects. How was it for you?
Jamie: It took me a lot longer. At first, I felt I had made a big mistake as everything was so damn numb. I hated dilating as it hurt. I had sex with men and it was not that enjoyable. I finally found my partner and we experimented to find what works best for me. Eventually, we found it and my climax was unbelievable. I now love sex as I have a loving partner. I love this woman a lot.
Monika: It is amazing to see the increase in awareness about SRS benefits for transgender women. In the 1950s, there were only a few hundred women that underwent SRS whereas based on the statistics from the Second Type Woman blog, there are more than 2 million of us already, which is something that can be very true, as I live in a small town and there are three of us, and there might be more that live in the closet.
Jamie: I will bet there are a lot more than anyone would believe. I was just under Dr. Bowers’s 200th SRS. I have no idea how many she has performed nowadays. I am presently trying to get my medical insurance to pay for some more surgery to get rid of the look I have from the FFS as I hate it. All the girls who went to this surgeon look almost the same. We look like sisters and twins. I hope I can get this fixed on my insurance as there is no way I could afford it out of pocket. I am also trying to restore my scalp hair with stem cell treatments at this time as the HRT has regrown a lot of it. Always something. Maybe I can get a BBL I have always wanted it too.
Together with her partner Teresa.
Monika: Although SRS in the teens and twenties has been common in Asia and South America for decades, we are still lagging behind in Europe and the USA in this respect. I had mine in my thirties and you in your fifties. Our life could have been so different if we could have done it in our teens. What are the main blockers? Law? No parental support?
Jamie: I have always wished blockers could have been available in 1965. I would have wanted them without hesitation at the age of 12. I wanted to be a girl since I could remember. I wish I could have attended high school as the person I knew I was instead of pretending I was someone I was NOT. I wanted long beautiful hair as many of my classmates had. My Dad copped off my hair every 2 weeks till I was in high school. Even then he kept it short on me.
At 16 by today’s standards, I could have started HRT and blossomed into a decent-looking young woman. Shortly after 16, I turned to alcohol and weed as a comfort. This ruined my young life. I feel I could have been an outstanding woman instead of a mediocre unhappy male. How I wish it could have been different. What the Republicans are trying to do to young people with GID is Child Abuse plain and simple. I have been there and it isn’t pretty having to grow up hating oneself. They have no idea what it is like and pretend to support young people with these horrific laws.


All photos: courtesy of Jamie Shiner.
© 2023 - Monika Kowalska

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