Monday 20 March 2023

Interview with Taylor Van Malsen

Monika: Today I have invited Taylor Van Malsen, an American gamer, golfer, artist, happy mother and wife, and transgender woman that documents her transition on social media. Hello Taylor!
Taylor: Hello Monika! Typically it's just "American Transgender Woman who likes to play video games and golf," but I like the way you said it much better! Makes it sound like I'm good enough to do that stuff professionally.
Monika: Could you say a few words about yourself?
Taylor: Sure! I'm a 31-year-old woman, who lives in West Michigan with my wife Sarah and daughter Valerie. In my free time (like we said earlier) I really like to play video games and go golfing. I also enjoy drawing and have always dreamed of a career as a tattoo artist. Oh, and I'm transgender.
Monika: What inspired you to share your intimate life moments on social media?
Taylor: I would have to say it was the people who did it before me. For the first 28 years of my life, I was too scared to live authentically, I always drew inspiration from other trans people who documented their experiences, they gave me hope. I knew how important they were to me, so I wanted to pass that on to others.
Monika: Why did you choose Taylor for your name?
Taylor: Taylor is actually my given name. People would always be like "that's a girl's name!" and I would just think to myself "I know." It's kind of weird, I never really liked my name until I transitioned, but as I was looking into changing my name I was realizing that I was actually starting to identify with it for the first time. There are definitely some positives and negatives to keeping your (gender-neutral) name. Credit cards, work emails, job applications, etc. all things that I didn't have to rush to change, or worry about filling out. I'm also never 'dead named' and everyone calls me Taylor.
On the other hand, sometimes I feel like I never had that "closure" of leaving my past with my given name. The other downside of keeping my gender-neutral name is when people might be unsure of my gender, they can't use my name to help them out - even if they are trying to be respectful. Same thing but worse with phone calls, because they only have my voice to go off of... Anyway, I'm actually in the process of changing my middle name and sex marker on my legal documents. My court date is this week!
Monika: Do you get many questions from your social media followers? What do they ask for?
Taylor: I get a good amount. Mainly about steps I took in my transition. How I started, how old I was, what surgeries I've had, etc.. But the ones I think are most important, are when people are concerned about their relationships - with friends, family, significant others and so on. When I first started posting on social media, it was on a shared profile with my wife Sarah - Happily Ever Trans. We wanted to help others by sharing our experiences, and navigating through transition, because the transgender individual isn't the only person who has to navigate a transition. Those are the ones I really want to respond to. And then of course you get questions about other things... I don't even humor those people.
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?
Taylor: I could probably talk about this subject for a long time, but let's just say - when it comes to family and friends, I didn't pay too high a price... The hardest thing about the actual coming out part was working up the courage to actually say the words in person or click the button on social media. Putting yourself out there. The unknown was also very scary. How will people react? How will it affect your personal and professional life? How can you afford all the procedures, the clothes, the name change, etc? So many unanswered questions, until you take that leap and figure it out. I believe people won't find true happiness if they are hiding who they actually are.
Monika: Was your family surprised by your transition?
Taylor: I would say that on average people were surprised, but not knocked off their feet. I only had one family member who was like - Oh yeah, that makes sense. Which was kind of surprising to me. I thought there would be more of that, especially because my family openly described me as "metro" growing up.
"I would say that on average
people were surprised, but
not knocked off their feet."
Monika: Are you satisfied with the effects of the hormone treatment?
Taylor: Overall, it's been ok. Some people seem to get all the luck in that department, but I would say most people get lucky in one or two areas and the grass is always greener. Let me explain what I mean.
For me, I didn't get much breast growth or fat distribution (especially on my body), but I did have great results when it came to body hair loss. I don't grow much facial or body hair at all, but I look at others with great fat distribution and wish for that (when they might wish they had better hair loss). I take both estradiol and spiro orally, so maybe if I tried injections I could get different results. Who knows?
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?
Taylor: I struggle with this every day. I often feel like I'm just an "imposter" and no one sees me as I see myself. It really hurts. I typically give people who know me more slack in the misgendering department, but when it happens repeatedly it kind of makes you wonder if that's just how they see you... how the world sees you...
When it comes to coping with this, I usually lean on loved ones or do something to take my mind off things and make me feel better. It's important to know that you are more than just your gender.
Monika: Do you remember the first time you saw a transgender woman on TV or met anyone transgender in person?
Taylor: I do remember the first time I saw a trans woman on TV. I was really young, at my grandma's house. I have no idea what the program was but it had a woman who was talking about her experience as a transgender woman - but they probably didn't use that terminology back then. I just remember my grandma going to change the channel and I was just in awe like my dreams suddenly seemed like they were attainable.
I asked my grandma if it was possible for someone born male to become a woman, but she didn't want to talk about that and moved on... Anyway, when it comes to meeting a trans woman in real life, it only happened once. That I know of. I live in a really conservative area, and I've only met one openly trans woman. I've met others in my area online, but we have yet to meet up or anything. I really hope to some day though!
Monika: Are there any transgender role models that you follow or followed?
Taylor: Of course! I would say the majority of people I follow on social media are transgender. They inspire me every day! I live in a really conservative area and it's nice to see that others are going through some of the same stuff I am and watching their smiles grow more and more as time goes on.
Monika: What do you think about the present situation of transgender women in your country?
Taylor: It's not great. I actually just read that this year might be the worst year for transgender rights in history. Lots of restrictions on trans youth and transgender people in sports. It's kind of disheartening to constantly read about all the bad things going on in the world... but I know that the transgender community is resilient and I'm hopeful that things will get better.
Monika: Do you like fashion? What kind of outfits do you usually wear? Any special fashion designs, colors, or trends?
Taylor: Sure! But I'm clueless when it comes to fashion. Ha, I usually describe my style as "athletic chic," which I don't even know if that's a real thing, but I really like comfy clothes. And since I was a soccer player growing up and a golfer now, I have a lot of that athleisure-type stuff. I think my favorite outfit right now is a golfing outfit I wear sometimes. A black or grey shirt, with a pink skirt and thigh-high socks that match the color of my shirt. Pink and black are my favorite colors.
Monika: Do you often experiment with your makeup?
Taylor: On a very rare occasion. I don't think I'm great at makeup but I try new things every now and then. Pretty much everything I know is from a couple YouTube videos or Sarah - who has a totally different face than I do. I just don't seem to have the time to put makeup on every day. I like to sleep so I don't usually give myself enough time before work, and on nights and weekends, we usually just stay in - especially in the days of Covid.
That's the other thing, I started living full time a couple weeks before the lockdowns started in 2020 - and with a one-year-old at the time! Definitely an interesting time for transition. I would like to get better at more dramatic looks though. I feel like even when I wear makeup, it's like an "everyday look" that's very minimal. Maybe someday!
Monika: By the way, do you like being complimented on your looks?
Taylor: Of course! Who doesn't? I feel like it's actually super important to tell people when you think they look nice. I struggle a lot with insecurities and I'm sure most, if not all people feel the same. Just having someone compliment you like "hey, you look nice" goes a long way.
Monika: Do you remember your first job interview as a woman?
Taylor: I do. I am always a nervous wreck when it comes to interviews, but that one had more reasons to be so. I'm always so self-conscious about myself. But later, after I got the job my coworkers told me on multiple occasions that when they first saw me they just thought I was a beautiful woman. It made me feel so good about myself, and maybe I should give myself some slack and walk with my head held high.
Monika: What would you advise to all transwomen looking for employment?
Taylor: Just fake it until you make it. And I'm not talking about your gender or anything. I mean that you should act confident even if you aren't. I also think that you shouldn't reveal the fact that you are trans, unless you want to. You are a woman, you don't have to justify that to anyone else. Just go in and be yourself.
In my experience being trans actually opened 'some' doors. Some companies like having a diverse workforce and I'm able to join groups or committees and speak from experience. Definitely not saying all places are like that though, and you'll even find some jerks at the places that do. Surround yourself with people who lift you up.

"The hardest thing about the actual
coming out part was working up the
courage to actually say the words in person
or click the button on social media."

Monika: Are you involved in the life of the local LGBTQ community?
Taylor: At the moment I'm not. Transitioning during a pandemic and my own shyness have prevented me from joining anything. That and my life is crazy busy these days. But I really would like to. Like I think I mentioned before, I've only ever met one openly trans person in real life. Everything else has been online, you know like everything is in a pandemic.
Monika: Could you tell me about the importance of love in your life?
Taylor: Love is everything. I don't even know where to start with this. When it comes to being transgender I don't know where I'd be right now if I didn't have the love and support of those around me, and I hope others have the same kind of support. Knowing that people loved me as a person, and that my gender didn't matter was such a good feeling. Love is so powerful. We need to spread it as much as we can.
Monika: Many transgender ladies write their memoirs. Have you ever thought about writing such a book yourself?
Taylor: It has crossed my mind a couple times, but never really been something I took seriously. I think I'd much rather write fiction. Maybe a kids or young adult book that didn't necessarily focus on the trans experience, but with a character or themes that provide education, acceptance and/or inspirational feelings to the reader.
Monika: What is your next step in the present time and where do you see yourself within the next 5-7 years?
Taylor: Transition wise, I'd really like to work on my voice. There's also surgery or 2 that I have my eye on so I've got to save up. Other than that, I'm not really sure. I'm just taking everything one day at a time.
Monika: What would you recommend to all transgender women that are afraid of transition?
Taylor: To anyone who isn't openly out yet, I would always recommend going to see a therapist. I think you still have to anyway if you want to start HRT, but the ability to talk out your feelings with a trained professional is priceless. It might also be helpful to join some groups in your community and surround yourself with people who accept you for who you are. Having support from people near you might be all you would need to start your journey.
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?
Taylor: I like the first part! You should be yourself and find what makes you happy. But I feel like the 2nd part kind of contradicts what was said in the beginning. Sure, dreams may be realized on an operating table - but not every trans person wants to get surgery, and that doesn't make them any less valid. Everyone's journey is unique, and there's no time frame for anything. Just keep working towards your own happiness and you'll get there one day!
Monika: Taylor, it was a pleasure to interview you. Thanks a lot!
Taylor: The pleasure is all mine! Thank you for having me!

All the photos: courtesy of Taylor Van Malsen.
© 2023 - Monika Kowalska

1 comment:

  1. Thank you Taylor for this interview. You give me hope for my marriage. I wish you well in your journey.


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