Monday, 22 May 2023

Interview with Alice

Monika: Today I am talking to Alice, a Belgian girl, comics fan, and blogger that documents her transition on social media. Hello Alice!
Alice: Hi Monika! Glad to have the opportunity to do this!
Monika: Could you say a few words about yourself?
Alice: Of course! I started transitioning a bit more than two years ago and came out on my socials last year. On my Instagram, I love to share stuff that I like such as comics, video games, music, films, and my travels (I love discovering new countries). But I also use this platform as a way to document my journey as a trans woman.
Monika: What inspired you to share your intimate life moments on social media?
Alice: When I started this journey, it was important to look up to other girls who had transitioned before me. Understanding I wasn’t the only one going through this really helped me feel valid - without other trans girls’ stories, I would probably still be closeted right now, not knowing what to do or how to put words to my feelings. It’s always been very clear in my head that once I’d feel comfortable enough to do it, I’d be visible on socials. To me, visibility is a statement: it says “We’re here, we exist, and we understand you”.
Monika: Do you get many questions from your social media followers? What do they ask for?
Alice: Actually, yes! A lot of girls come to me because they saw one of my posts and they need some help with their own journey, or because they’re going through some of the same stuff I’ve been through, etc. I’ve always been someone who loves to help and to me, it simply makes sense to be there for my trans siblings. There’s such a feeling of mutual aid and solidarity in our community, I just love to be a part of it.

"When I started this journey, it was important
to look up to other girls who had transitioned
before me."

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?
Alice: I’m glad to say that my family and most of my friends stuck with me in the hardest times. I can’t really say transitioning took a “lot” from me on a social level and I feel so fortunate for that. I’ve made new friends, and explored new things - it really feels like it’s been giving instead of costing me. And that’s the kind of message I want to share.
Yes, transitioning is hard, coming out to people may not lead to the answer you wanted, you may lose some friends and relatives and the world may be a more dangerous place to live in. But there’s also a huge amount of happiness in our trans experience that needs to be highlighted.
Monika: Why did you choose Alice for your name?
Alice: It’s actually a short story: I was in my room, searching for a Reddit username that would contain my new fem name. I looked across my bed and on my shelf was the game Alice - Madness Returns. I thought “Why not Alice?” and it immediately clicked. It just felt right as no other name ever did before - I knew it was the one. I even got Alice from this game tattooed on my arm because of this!
Monika: Was your family surprised by your transition?
Alice: Yes. So much. Even if I never felt right in my body, I was good at hiding it. Over the years, I tried to fit in a stereotyped masculine representation of what “being a guy” seemed to be to me. The last few years before my egg cracked, I was at my peak in denial. I tried to look so masculine, it would never have crossed my relative’s mind that I may be a trans girl. So at first, they were quite shocked since it was such a surprise. But seeing me now, I think they understand I’m finally able to be my true self.
Monika: Are you satisfied with the effects of the hormone treatment?
Alice: I’ve got mixed emotions about it. It’s been two years and I’m struggling to have good hormonal levels. My former endocrinologist never seemed to care that I had basically no hormones left in my body most of the time, which made me feel so depressed and tired… and didn’t provide the physical changes I was hoping for. I’ve put a lot of energy into trying to fix it and find which kind of HRT method would be right for me, and I’m still experimenting. But hormones don’t define our whole transitions. Thankfully, FFS did way more to my face and made my dysphoria (almost) disappear completely.
"At first, I felt quite alone because there
weren’t any trans people I knew around."
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?
Alice: Dysphoria is what I struggle the most with. Passing helped me a lot to erase it, almost to a point where I feel good about the image I reflect most of the time. But some days, I will look into the mirror and feel like I look like a guy. And I think that coping with dysphoria is a huge process. I have no clue how to overcome it, except by getting closer and closer to my comfort point day by day - meaning trying to match my mental image of myself.
Monika: Do you remember the first time you saw a transgender woman on TV or met anyone transgender in person that opened your eyes and allowed you to realize who you are?
Alice: I think it was Laura Jane Grace from Against Me. I was a teen when she transitioned and it really awakened something in me - but it felt uncomfortable because I was starting to ask myself some questions I wasn’t sure I wanted to answer. I feared these feelings and wanted to bury them. I guess the fact that I grew up in a very cis heteronormative environment in the 90s molded my brain into believing these thoughts were supposed to be shameful.
When I was young, trans people were not represented like today and were only shown in the media as a parody of themselves, constantly mocked or used as a pun to a bad joke (looking at you, Ace Ventura). It took a while to understand that I wasn’t some kind of freak this society wanted me to believe I was, and icons like Laura helped me feel valid and truthfully represented.
Monika: Did you have any transgender sisters around you that supported you during the transition?
Alice: At first, I felt quite alone because there weren’t any trans people I knew around. I joined Reddit to get in touch with people like me, and joining these communities has been like finding a second family I didn’t know I had. Thanks to my socials, I made a lot of friends among trans sisters from all around the world.
Monika: What do you think about the present situation of transgender women in your country?
Alice: I’m lucky because my country is quite tolerant and accepting towards LGBTQ people. Sometimes, it’s still hard to find our way into our obsolete healthcare system, and that would be the only complaint I have. Like changing my name and gender on my ID was quite fast and easy, with no real hassle. On the other hand, I’ve had a lot of issues with doctors who had no clue how to talk or treat trans people and I think there’s a lack of education here on the matter.
Monika: Do you like fashion? What kind of outfits do you usually wear? Any special fashion designs, colors, or trends?
Alice: I do! I started experimenting with clothes at the beginning of my transition, trying to find my own style - at first, I was really shy and wore more androgynous clothes, mostly trying new colors. Gradually, I realized that feeling good in my own skin allowed me to broaden the range of clothes I could wear. At first, I wouldn’t wear dresses because it made me feel more dysphoric - now, I feel cute in them and wear dresses almost all the time!
I would qualify my style between softgoth and egirl, with a touch of a more classic alternative style. I mostly love black tones and pastel colors. I noticed that ever since I began wearing more feminine clothes, buying them made me feel good, as it’s a way to express myself. Before, I would spend not much on what I’d wear and all my money went on games, goodies, etc. Now it’s the exact opposite - because I feel like I’m finally wearing clothes that make me feel good.
"I’m glad to say that my family and most of
my friends stuck with me in the hardest times."
Monika: Do you often experiment with your makeup?
Alice: Makeup is the other way round. I started wearing it all the time to hide the more masculine features of my face. Even if I love playing with eyeshadow, liner, and everything, it was always a kind of shell to protect my passing. This was shattered after FFS. I noticed that I was way less insecure about my face, and it allowed me to present daily with very light makeup and feel good about that. Of course, I still love to doll up and I have a lot of cosmetics at home - but now, it’s more of a way to express myself.
Monika: I remember copying my sister and mother first, and later other women, trying to look 100% feminine, and my cis female friends used to joke that I try to be a woman that does not exist in reality. Did you experience the same?
Alice: I did! I’ve always referred to my mother as my role model. It even felt weird because I didn’t understand why when I was younger (and not clear about my transidentity). When I started my transition, I gathered pictures of women who I loved the style or who I wanted to look like later. I think it’s natural, you’re searching for models and goals to achieve.
But coming back to your friend’s comment - I’ve been told that a lot of times too. When it’s all new to you, you want to experiment with everything and directly be super feminine, even if it doesn’t feel natural. All those years of repressed femininity are finally behind - isn’t it normal that you’d want too much of it at first? I have the feeling a lot of girls I’ve talked to experience this. It’s like at first, you want to be a “woman”, whatever that means. Along the way, you understand that it’s less about becoming some stereotype than becoming who you really are.
Monika: By the way, do you like being complimented on your looks?
Alice: Duh, yes I do! People often tell me I look confident but truly, I’m not. Being complimented won’t make me full of myself. It’s more about consolidating the faith in who I am and how I present. I’ve spent more than two decades feeling ugly and not in phase with myself - it’s good when the wheel finally turns.
Monika: Are you involved in the life of the local LGBTQ community?
Alice: I’m involved in a transfem collective where we help each other and get to meet new people. I feel like it’s natural within our community, to be there for our siblings. I’ve talked about it earlier, but this feeling of mutual aid and solidarity between LGBTQ people is really important to me.
Monika: Many transgender ladies write their memoirs. Have you ever thought about writing such a book yourself?
Alice: Maybe it’s the imposter syndrome talking, but I’d feel like “Who am I to write a book about myself? Isn’t that self-centered?”. On the other hand… As far as I remember, I’ve always loved writing. When I was a kid, I used to write fantasy novels and wish I’d be a writer someday. Mainly I love doing art and if it’s not been with books, I’ve always found ways to express myself (through music, doing video work, etc.). Maybe I’ll go back to it someday. As I said earlier, trans representation is important and there are never too many books about our trans experiences.
"Now it’s time to start living as the
woman I’ve always dreamed to be."
Monika: What is your next step in the present time and where do you see yourself within the next 5-7 years?
Alice: My first year of being out was focused on dealing with the social transition and having my FFS done. Now that I’ve ticked this box and I feel comfortable enough in my skin, I want to experiment with all the possibilities I’ve set aside until today. Being a model, singing as a female vocalist, maybe try acting too… Last year was about finding myself - this year and the next will be more focused on who I want to become. I’d dream, in 5 years, to be working full-time in arts.
Monika: What would you recommend to all transgender women that are afraid of transition?
Alice: It is scary. I was afraid too and I almost gave up. But it’s the best decision I’ve ever made. It allowed me to go from a witness to the main character of my life, it’s like I was really born at this very moment.
Of course, it’s a long, often hard and difficult journey - but it’s so, so, so worth it. And fear may sometimes overshadow something more important: the joy, the euphoria, the indescribable feeling transitioning may bring to you.
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?
Alice: Definitely. It’s my motto for the future. Surgeries helped me finally feel good about myself, but they were not the destination of my journey - now it’s time to start living as the woman I’ve always dreamed to be.
Monika: Alice, it was a pleasure to interview you. Thanks a lot!
Alice: It was a pleasure to finally be able to do this! Thanks for the opportunity, Monika.

All the photos: courtesy of Alice.
© 2023 - Monika Kowalska

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