Friday, 17 March 2023

Interview with Rebeckah Loveday

Monika: Today I have the pleasure of talking to Rebeckah Loveday, an inspirational Australian transgender advocate and activist from Melbourne, actress, fashion model, beauty pageant queen, and radio personality on Joy 94.9. Hello Rebeckah!
Rebeckah: Hi Monika! Thank you so much for the warm welcome and introduction. I really appreciate the opportunity to speak with you.
Monika: You are a woman of many talents. How would you define your vocation?
Rebeckah: Thank you, Monika. I really enjoy all the different avenues I embed myself in. I have always had a passion for helping others, and currently, I am working in Community Services supporting people experiencing homelessness. Alongside that, I do a lot of work within the trans community, creating projects that benefit the trans community through advocacy, awareness, and community collaboration. I think in a nutshell, I define my vocation as being a trans advocate and social activist.
Monika: Many of us live the lives of wives, mothers, and daughters, trying to forget about our past. You have decided to be an advocate of transgender rights and be vocal about our positive image in society. Have you ever felt the temptation of being in the closet, being a woman rather than a transgender woman?
Rebeckah: It is interesting because for many years I lived a “stealth” lifestyle after my transition but when I moved to Melbourne from Sydney 7 years ago, that all changed for me. I realised that I needed to be accepting of my womanhood, as a woman of trans experience. I held onto a lot of internalised transphobia based on the way I was made to feel about myself as a reflection of the way trans people are treated in society, including myself. I came to the realisation, that in order to overcome this, I needed to first accept myself if I expected others to accept me for the woman I am.
I firmly believe that we can be a wife, a mother, a daughter, a partner, have a career, be an activist, be loved and so much more, regardless of our gender identity. I think forgetting about our past and who we were prior to our transition is dangerous, because who we are and where we have come from have helped to shape who we are today, and for that, we should be thankful. Trans women are women and the more we separate this distinction, the less society will accept us as the women we are.

"I realised that I needed to be accepting of my
womanhood, as a woman of trans experience."

Monika: Your acting career started with the role of Nicole Vonlee Titlow in Deadly Women - Gambling Lives Away (2015) by John Maverty. Nicole is a transgender woman who needs money for gender affirmation surgery and helps to murder a millionaire with the promise of money for her surgery, ending up in a male prison. It must have been an emotional challenge to portray such a role.
Rebeckah: This was an incredibly exciting time in my life as acting was something I always wanted to pursue and I finally had my break in Deadly Women. Playing Nicole did challenge me emotionally as I knew the story shared of Nicole's life was based on true events and a real person (Nicole). The reality for transgender women wanting to get surgery is that it can be really expensive and finding the funds to have surgery can be difficult.
I used my own personal lived experience to be able to get my mind into the character of Nicole, as I wanted to give her story the credit it deserves. I was fortunate enough to be cast alongside an incredible actor Barbara Bingham who coached me through the experience. Barbara is an amazing woman and I felt very blessed to have her by my side along with the rest of the cast and crew including John Maverty, who is an incredibly talented Director.
Monika: Your second movie Love Is Not In The Glass (2017) by Dave Krunal is about Cait, a transgender woman who struggles to find a partner and acceptance as a transgender woman. Dating is not easy for us, I know something about it myself ...
Rebeckah: Dating as a transgender woman can be really challenging. For me personally, I have been fortunate enough to have some really positive dating experiences alongside some not-so-great experiences. I feel the reality for transgender women to find a loving and accepting partner can be really difficult but if you continue to pursue your search for love, I firmly believe that there are people in this world that will love and accept you just as you are.
I believe the most important thing to do when dating is to keep yourself safe. Meet in public places, tell someone where you are going and do your research on the person you are getting to know, especially if you have met them online. Again with my role as Cait I used my lived experience in dating to get into character for the role. Dave and the team were really supportive of me and it was a lot of fun making Love Is Not In The Glass.
"Dating as a transgender woman
can be really challenging."
Monika: In your other movies, Zombie Sharkageddon II (2017), Deadly Women - Twisted Desires (2018), and Underground (2019), you stopped playing transgender characters. Was it intentional?
Rebeckah: I think a lot of the time transgender people can be typecast into roles. On one hand, this is fantastic but on the other hand, we don't need to be placed into a box. There are some really talented actors that identify as transgender and our talent should be seen beyond our gender identity.
Interestingly the story of Deadly Women's Twisted Desires and the character of Kayleigh was that she actually is a transgender woman, but this was not shown in the final production of the episode. I like to think that my own talents go beyond my gender and having the experience of not playing transgender characters has really helped me to expand on my craft.
Monika: When can we again see you acting?
Rebeckah: During the lockdown, the Film and Television industry came to a halt. I was lucky enough to be involved in a Tones and I music video (Lonely) and I also played the role of Sandra Pankhurst in the documentary "Clean", directed by Lachlan McLeod.
Clean tells the story of Sandra, who was a transgender advocate, public speaker, and business owner to a trauma cleaner business based in Melbourne. Sandra was also a dear friend of mine and an incredible woman but unfortunately, she passed away in 2021 due to health issues. I felt really honoured to be able to play her in the recreations of her life and I hope that I did her justice and made her proud. Clean had its world premiere at SXSW film festival and was released in 2022. Clean was actually the closing night film for Melbourne International Film Festival and has been played in cinemas all across Australia and broadcast nationally and internationally.
Monika: You are also active in beauty pageants for transgender women. You hosted Miss Gay & Miss Trans Australia International, an Australian-based international beauty pageant for female impersonators and transgender women that aims to promote inclusion, diversity, and equality for LGBTIQA+ people. I love pageants myself but some activists criticize the concept of transgender beauty pageants, pointing out that they lead to an obsession with youth and beauty. What would be your answer to them?
Rebeckah: I think that beauty standards are forever changing and it is really important to be comfortable with who you are, and your body and to not compare yourself to other people. There is no reason you cannot be an activist and a pageant queen. I don’t think it is just pageants that make us obsessed with youth and beauty. It is through society, social media, and that women need to conform to societal expectations of what it means to be beautiful. Each and every one of us holds beauty and it’s a matter of defining what beauty means to you that is important and embracing your flaws.
Monika: You are a beauty queen yourself and you can boast some successes as well
Rebeckah: I never thought of myself as a beauty queen and although I loved being involved and hosting and judging pageants, I never thought to enter them myself. I really loved being involved with Miss Gay and Miss Trans Australia International and in 2020 I decided to enter Miss Trans Global, a digital pageant for trans feminine people. This was such a fun and incredible experience and I was titled Duchess Global 2020, 1st Runner up, alongside Mela Habijan from the Philippines who was crowned Queen Global 2020.
Following my success in Miss Trans Global, I then went on to be the National Director for Miss Trans Global Australia the following year. In 2021 I crowned the incredibly talented and beautiful queen Addison Harper from Darwin Northern Territory, Miss Trans Global Australia 2021. Both Mela and Addison have continued to advocate for transgender people and have been really successful in their own right in showing visibility for transgender women, showing that you can be both an advocate for trans rights and a pageant queen concurrently.
"I never thought of myself
as a beauty queen."
The beauty of Miss Trans Global is that there are no restrictions on who can participate, meaning that anyone that identifies as a trans feminine person can participate. I think beauty standards are changing and pageants are aware of this and they need to progress with the times of inclusivity.
Monika: When competing in the pageants did you have any support in terms of outfits, make-up, and hair stylist? Many girls are afraid to take part in the competition because of this cost…
Rebeckah: You are right, competing in beauty pageants can be very expensive! When I was competing, I borrowed dresses from friends or designers and I did my own hair and makeup. I used to be a hairdresser and have done my own makeup for years, so this definitely came in handy. I also had my dear sister Sasja Sydek help me with filming, photography, and styling. I definitely would not have been as successful in Miss Trans Global without her help! Thank you Sasja!
Monika: However, the most challenging aspect of participation in beauty pageants is our sense of body imperfections. The thought of exposing my body in a bikini in the presence of the audience and media would be a bit paralyzing for me, I must say. You look like a million dollars yourself but what would you advise other girls?
Rebeckah: When I filmed for Miss Trans Global, it was the middle of winter here in Australia, and Melbourne gets really cold! It was also during a major lockdown, so I knew filming would be tricky. I filmed my swimwear component for the competition outside iconic landmarks and destinations in Melbourne, including Luna Park and St Kilda Beach. It was freezing and Sasja helped me to film the swimwear component for the competition. I wore a trench coat and at the very last second, I dropped the trench coat and we filmed. It was really fun but we also didn’t want to get in trouble for being out during a lockdown! I think body positivity and feeling comfortable in your own skin play a huge part in confidence. We all have insecurities but I think it’s important to just own it, love the skin you’re in and have fun!
Monika: Have you ever thought about participating in the Miss International Queen in Pattaya, Thailand – the most spectacular beauty pageant for transgender ladies from all over the world?
Rebeckah: Haha I actually have! After Miss Trans Global, I really did consider this but I decided that I wanted to focus on other aspects of my life and career including my advocacy, acting, and modeling. I would love to go one day though and support all the girls competing!
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?
Rebeckah: This is a big question! I think for transgender people, the most important thing to remember when on your journey and during your transition is to remember that you are doing this for you, to live as your most authentic self, and to be happy. We do sacrifice a lot when transitioning and I definitely was not immune from this. My parents struggled with my transition initially but are incredibly supportive now.
"We do sacrifice a lot when
transitioning and I definitely
was not immune from this."
I have been outed at work and lost work just for being transgender, and I have also had my fair share of abuse from society and love interests in my life. I think when we have so many elements of life against us it can be hard to keep the focus on what is important, and what is important is that you are living your truth and a life that is yours. The transgender community is incredibly strong, resilient, and powerful, and remembering that there are always people that will love and support you along your journey and in your life, is really important.
Monika: We are said to be prisoners of passing or non-passing. Although cosmetic surgeries help to overcome it, we will always be judged accordingly. How can we cope with this?
Rebeckah: I like to believe that the concept of passing or no passing is in the past. Of course, we are made to feel we need to conform to what it means to be a woman or a man but times have changed a lot. The transgender community is really diverse and we have many intersectionalities that make us uniquely different and beautiful. Surrounding yourself with people that love and accept you just as you are will help. If you decide to get cosmetic surgery or any form of surgery, do it for you and because you want to, not because you feel you have to based on the pressures of society and what it means to be beautiful or a woman.


All photos: courtesy of Rebeckah Loveday.
© 2023 - Monika Kowalska

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