Monday 5 June 2023

Interview with Meja Foss

Monika: Today I would like to introduce Meja Foss, a British woman, fitness and fashion blogger living in Norway, documenting her transition on social media. Hello Meja! Thank you for accepting my invitation.
Meja: Thank you, Monika, the pleasure is all mine! 
Monika: Could you say a few words about yourself?
Meja: Sure! I’m Meja, I just turned 47, and I started HRT 2 years ago on the last day of May 2021. I live on a farm in rural Norway with my partner and two children.
Monika: What inspired you to share your intimate life moments on social media?
Meja: Trans representation is so important - I know because it was something I myself desperately needed to see when I was pre-transition, in order to understand who I could become post-transition. It’s very difficult to be what we can’t see. So now I feel very privileged to have the opportunity to give back to the trans community and be a middle-aged, visibly trans woman happily living her best life in the hope I can inspire and give courage to other trans people, who have perhaps yet to make the leap.
Monika: Do you get many questions from your social media followers? What do they ask for?
Meja: I get a lot of “Hey”, “Hi”, “How are you”s from guys mostly, I ignore them for the most part. But other women do like to ask where some of my outfits are from. When early or pre-transition girls ask for advice regarding HRT, or are just hoping for encouragement, I am always very happy to help. Those interactions are the reason my DMs are always open.
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?
Meja: Losing the relationship I had with my wife as her ‘husband’ is the highest price I’ve had to pay. We are still together but our relationship has changed drastically. I miss what we had together very much. I’ve lost most of my friends from the UK. I think moving to Norway was partly responsible but this was the final nail in the coffin. However, I actually believe I was trying to engineer my life into a situation where I didn’t have so many people around me, in order to give myself the space to do what needed to be done. I’d quite like to reconnect with some of them maybe, but I’m not really sure how to go about it.
"Trans representation is so important."
Monika: Why did you choose Meja for your name?
Meja: The very first day after I had committed to my transition I found a website of Norwegian names. I skipped towards the middle of the alphabet and quite quickly Meja leaped out at me. I liked it because it works well in English too, and it derives from an Old Norse word meaning Force or Strength. I knew I’d need that for what was to come.
Monika: Was your family surprised by your transition?
Meja: Not really. My wife has always known this about me, and I came out to my parents and brother when I was 17. I first tried to transition when I was 22, then again in my early thirties. After initially attempting to talk me out of it because they didn’t want it to jeopardise my marriage, my parents came around when I explained that this was simply something I had to finally do.
My brother was happy for me immediately. I’ve always tried to be honest about my feelings (‘I want to be a girl!!!’) with the people I love. So while my wife did not feel betrayed, it was still a lot to deal with. Ultimately my family has been incredibly supportive.
Monika: Are you satisfied with the effects of the hormone treatment?
Meja: Yeeeeaaahhh…. mostly. Remember I’m only two years in so I expect this to be an ongoing thing for a while yet but I really wish I could have started so much sooner, purely from the point of view of having a more malleable body that would more eagerly respond to HRT. Having said that, the changes I have got - softer skin, finer hairs, no more guy-stink, BOOBIES!, etc - have been well worth it. Still working on the fat redistribution!
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?
Meja: My feelings are that passing as cis is overrated. Lots of cis people don’t even pass as cis (!) so perhaps it’s not the holy grail we should be aspiring to. Passing is a self-made cage, a way to hide from a hostile world, and while I can understand the desire to pass from the point of view of self-preservation, I believe that it’s perfectly valid to be a non-passing trans man or woman and still be considered beautiful. Being trans is inspirational! It shows us what is possible when the chains of cishet-normative society are thrown off and a person forges themselves, through sheer will alone, into who they were truly meant to be. Let’s not pass! Let’s be trans, beautiful, and proud.
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?
Meja: I don’t really remember, no. I’ve known I was trans (even though I lacked the language to properly elucidate it) since I was 5 or 6 years old. I desperately wished I was a girl. But my parents dismissed my initial push-backs and so I tried to just get on with the job of pretending to be a boy. I got really good at it actually, but it was always an act. What little representation I did see on the tv was overwhelmingly negative: tired old tropes of pathetic transsexual prostitutes, of deceptive and mentally ill men in dresses. I didn’t recognise myself in any of that shit - that cishet propaganda. But I knew who I was.
"I’ve known I was trans since I was
5 or 6 years old."
Monika: Did you have any transgender sisters around you that supported you during the transition?
Meja: Yes. I’ve made so many good friends during my transition, lots of them through Twitter. Their support and friendship have been invaluable and I will always treasure them. A good friend accompanied me to Hamburg for my VFS, and another amazing woman came to assist me in Istanbul for my recent BA and 2nd FFS. I’m always blown away by how generous and warm the trans community is and I will forever be grateful for their on-going support and friendships.
Monika: What do you think about the present situation of transgender women in the UK and Norway? Is there any difference in the way we are perceived in both countries?
Meja: It’s difficult to get a clear picture of how we are perceived, because in my experience there is a vast difference between how we are treated on social media compared to the real life experience of being out and about in public. Keyboard warriors tend to get very quiet when they no longer have a keyboard to hide behind. Both in Norway and the UK on one of my regular visits, I have generally only been treated with kindness, respect, and friendliness. Doors are held open for me, and delivery drivers flash me big cheeky smiles. 
There is certainly transphobia out there, and sadly many other trans women, ones not as privileged as I am, have to bear the brunt of it. But I firmly believe that it is still a tiny transphobic minority of very loud bigots who make our lives difficult, rather than the vast majority of decent people who believe trans men are men, trans women are women, and we deserve to be afforded the same basic rights and respect as everyone else.
Having said all that, especially in the UK, many of the institutions of government, media and healthcare are deeply and troublingly transphobic. However, the transgender genie is well and truly out of the bottle and there’s no putting it back in now, therefore these systems must change or be torn down. What we are likely seeing now is the raging death roes of the old regime, desperately trying to uphold ancient patriarchal systems no longer fit for purpose. I welcome its imminent demise.
Monika: Do you like fashion? What kind of outfits do you usually wear? Any special fashion designs, colors, or trends?
Meja: Haha I LOVE fashion! I perpetually have too many clothes that I’m constantly struggling to fit in my wardrobe(s)! I have a particular penchant for figure-hugging knitted jumper dresses, but I also love floaty, floral, lace - basically if it’s feminine I’m there for it. 
Dresses are amazing because the right dress can create and augment a fabulously feminine silhouette. It can raise your waistline, make your legs longer and shrink your shoulders. But I just like all clothes and enjoy shopping and finding bargains. I’ll take comfort over style generally, unless the style and occasion is so fabulous that a little discomfort is worth it (see high-heels). I’m also very excited at the prospect of all the expanded wardrobe possibilities that GRS will bring. Tight shorts here we come!!
"Being trans is inspirational!"
Monika: Do you often experiment with your makeup?
Meja: Yeah I do. I’ve been using makeup since I was 17 (mostly in private, sadly, but not anymore of course), and I’m always interested in trying out new ideas that I see on Insta, Tiktok, or wherever. New eyeliner and eye techniques are something I’m always interested in.
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?
Meja: Definitely. They say imitation is the highest form of flattery, in which case I have flattered a lot of women! From friends and acquaintances, street fashion, shop window displays, models on social media, etc. All provide a rich and never-ending source of inspiration for me.
Monika: By the way, do you like being complimented on your looks?
Meja: Yes, I really do. I’m not shy about enjoying the validation that compliments give me. When men compliment me it’s nice. When women compliment me, I melt.
Monika: Do you remember your first job interview as a woman?
Meja: I own my own company(s) so I’ve had business meetings, attended investor events and chatted virtually with potential clients, but I’ve not had a scary job interview yet. I’ll let you know how it goes if I ever end up in one, although tbh I’m not sure I’m exactly employable anymore!
Monika: When I came out at work, my male co-workers treated me in a way as if the transition lowered my IQ. Did you experience the same? Do you think it happens because we are women or because we are transgender? Or both?
Meja: I’ve not experienced it, no. I’m yet to have the pleasure of humiliating a man who would try to do this to me but I relish the opportunity.
Monika: What would you advise to all trans women looking for employment? 
Meja: This is a tough question and I’m not sure I’m qualified to answer it. In my experience trans women are some of the most creative, passionate, and intelligent people out there and, perhaps it’s wishful thinking, but I would like to think a good employer would recognise this. 
Monika: Are you involved in the life of the local LGBTQ community?
Meja: I live on a farm in rural Norway. As such, my opportunity to be involved in a local LGBTQ community is limited. But what there is of it I do try to be involved in, yes.
Monika: Could you tell me about the importance of love in your life?
Meja: Love has been responsible, for better or worse, for a large portion of the major decisions in my life. My first attempt to transition back in ‘98 was partly thwarted by the fact I’d just met the most wonderful girl who I wanted to spend more time with. She became my wife and we’ve now been together for 25 years. Love kept me with her and gave me the strength I needed to keep the facade of my maleness going for all those years. And in many ways they were good years actually! I can’t help but wonder what my alternate life would have been like - the one where we never met and I successfully transitioned much earlier. 
But one thing is certain, despite all my unhappiness, my depression, and my struggles, my life has not been lacking in love. Now, post-transition, I feel I can finally begin to embark on the journey to love myself, something I never truly could imagine before.

"Only once you transition can you look back and realise how
empty and limited life was in the Before Times, and how
difficult the struggle really was."

Monika: Many transgender ladies write their memoirs. Have you ever thought about writing such a book yourself?
Meja: Sure! I enjoy creative writing and wish I had more opportunities to flex my writing muscles. However, I’d worry the market is a little saturated. I think there are so many good autobiographies out there already, penned by more interesting and amazing people than me. And perhaps my imposter syndrome is well-developed enough!
Monika: What is your next step in the present time and where do you see yourself within the next 5-7 years?
Meja: In 45 days, as of writing, I will be in Thailand on a cold, hard operating table getting my bits re-arranged. My hope is that this will be my final gender-affirming surgery. After that I will be spending 1.5 months in Thailand recovering before returning to Norway. That is currently my event horizon, beyond which my future is obscured. My hope is that my future comes more clearly into focus once I’m on the other side.
Monika: What would you recommend to all transgender women that are afraid of transition?
Meja: I understand that it’s often a scary prospect. But the chance to live as your true self is not to be dismissed lightly. Only once you transition can you look back and realise how empty and limited life was in the Before Times, and how difficult the struggle really was. Transition gives one a chance for peace, contentment, perhaps even happiness. And finally, if you think you aren’t strong enough, I bet you’ll be surprised.
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?
Meja: Yes. Transitioning, HRT, surgery, they are all a means to an end, not the end itself. The goal is to reconfigure our meat wagons to better match our subconscious sex. What we then choose to do with our newfound selves, that is up to us and the possibilities are suddenly infinite.
Monika: Meja, it was a pleasure to interview you. Thanks a lot!
Meja: Any time Monika. I wish you only the best in life.

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

No comments:

Post a Comment

Search This Blog