Tuesday 8 August 2023

Interview with Jessika Janene

Monika: Today I have invited Jessika Janene, an inspirational American woman from Pittsburgh, PA, a creative professional, businesswoman, and founder of Jessika Janene Creative. Hello Jessika! Thank you for accepting my invitation.
Jessika: Thank you for interviewing me, Monika. I think this platform you’ve built is amazing and allows all of us trans people to see that we are not alone.
Monika: Could you say a few words about yourself?
Jessika: I am a child of the 70s, born in ‘67 I grew up in the aftermath of the summer of love. I believe now I was always meant to live life as a woman but my egg didn’t crack until 2020. We had no words for it when I was a kid, in hindsight I can see all of the signs I was trans.
Monika: What inspired you to share your intimate life moments on social media?
Jessika: In the beginning of transition I feel it is important to try out your new self, to dress the part and walk the walk. Feedback and being seen are important. It felt safer than going out and testing my new look and persona in real life. I was petrified and felt like an imposter at first. I used Reddit and then Instagram to introduce myself to mostly kind people on those platforms. I also think it is a duty to be visible for other trans people just beginning their journey. If I can do it, so can anyone else!
Monika: Do you get many questions from your social media followers? What do they ask for?
Jessika: I get some questions about surgery and hairstyles… early in transition I’d receive frantic messages from acquaintances asking me to explain why I was transitioning and was I thoroughly convinced? Comments like “Couldn't you just crossdress and contour makeup to look femme?” Now it’s mostly men wanting to be with me, or to be my sugar daddy — no strings attached! LOL
"I lost friends, family, and put my
relationship with my spouse in danger."
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?
Jessika: I lost friends, family, and put my relationship with my spouse in danger. We are still together and working to keep it that way. I lost my job as well, not sure that transition had anything to do with it but it certainly wasn’t an asset to be the only VP trans woman in a mostly male dominated mid-size company.
Monika: Why did you choose Jessika for your name?
Jessika: I have always loved that name, and my first love was named Jessica. We were young and I fell madly for her. We existed to roller skate to disco, and made out till our faces hurt.
Monika: Was your family surprised by your transition?
Jessika: Yes, very much so, but then it made sense to them. My father was already deceased when I came out to my family. My mother was in hospice, at the end of her time here on earth. At first, she was surprised and concerned about my life ahead. But she loved me and we lived as mother and daughter until her death. She said to me a few days before she passed, “I wish I would have seen this in you earlier.” That experience with my mom was amazing and assured me my transition was correct — I mean who doesn’t want the approval of their mother?
When I came out to the rest of my family it was a mixed bag of reactions. I now have total support from my sisters and nieces and extended family for the most part. My younger sister has been a true advocate and extremely helpful as I’ve transitioned. My spouse is of course family, and she is my biggest advocate and has been with me all along. I am extremely lucky.
Monika: Are you satisfied with the effects of the hormone treatment?
Jessika: Yes and no. Yes because it’s giving me balance and peace. I don’t need a T-blocker due to surgery but I do want the effects of female hormones. I grew A+ cups before my breast augmentation. What I don’t care for is the lack of research in the medical community and the fact that most HRT is really made for cis people, not us.
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?
Jessika: It’s an inside job because I am my harshest critic! I always perceive myself as a brick and then some days I see the woman I am. I’ve had most of the trans surgeries and still I have days with dysphoria. I get misgendered when I talk on the phone sometimes as I am still in voice training.
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?
Jessika: I met drag queens when I was young and always found them interesting, exotic and somehow freer than most people. I remember a Christmas show at a club in my 20s where the women were so beautiful I was literally rocked! I loved a man being able to emulate women, albeit an exaggerated version…
In my life, I’ve had trans friends as well before my transition, and also some exposure to trans people in the workplace though never as colleagues. I guess growing up in the 70s the trans women I was exposed to in media were thought of as “transvestites,” or crossdressers and for the most part considered to be mentally unwell. But the characters on TV and in pop culture were not portrayed realistic. Geraldine on Laugh in. Klinger on MASH.

"I think we are in danger of losing our rights
everywhere if we are lazy and don’t vote."

The one I do recall that was crazy realistic and ahead of its time is THE JEFFERSONS: "Once a Friend" in 1977, said to be the first attempt at a "serious" trans story on a network sitcom. George's old Navy buddy “Eddie” is in town and George doesn't deal well with his friend's transition, though they reconcile by the end of the episode. Edie is played by CIS gender woman Veronica Redd. Then it seemed crazy that that was possible now it’s just cringe!
Monika: Did you have any transgender sisters around you who supported you during the transition?
Jessika: I have had a few, early on that assured me I had not lost my mind! My friend Donnamae who transitioned in the early 90s in the southern USA. She talked to me about hormones and how they were called “gender affirming” for a reason. She said, “You’ll know if transition is right for you. It’s “affirming,” or it's not. She was right. I have a few girlfriends now, that truly are my sisters. We love and support one another, sometimes it’s just knowing the other person understands the emotional, physical and undefinable stuff we go through in our transitions. It’s simple, genuine, and nothing like the friendships I’ve had before. I have an Instagram family of sisters that is an important part of my life now — who would have known!
Monika: What do you think about the present situation of transgender women in your country?
Jessika: I think we are in danger of losing our rights everywhere if we are lazy and don’t vote. All of the states banning gender affirming care for children. As of July 2023, 562 bills have been introduced in 49 states, 79 passed, 354 are still active, with 129 failed in total! I remember reading an article in 2021 with the headline, “Now is the time to panic!” The onslaught continues.
Monika: Do you like fashion? What kind of outfits do you usually wear? Any special fashion designs, colors, or trends?
Jessika: I love fashion and would dress in couture if I could afford it. I like designerly, feminine, sexy, elegant sophistication. Extravagance, boldness, but also practicality to some pieces. A must is beautiful shoes… A lot is about the shoes. I’ve always wanted to design and oversee production of women’s shoes. And wear them as well. Yve St. Laurent, Louboutin’s, Chanel… I wish. I wear Jessica Simpson shoes a lot, Zara clothes and heels. I always scour Nordstrom Sales and Sax Fifth Ave. Bloomingdale's sales rack when I’m in NYC and I am not above TJ Maxx.
"I’ve always wanted to design and
oversee the production of women’s shoes."
Monika: I adore shoes too. Do you often experiment with your makeup?
Jessika: All the time. Trying to perfect the ½ hour and out the door routine. I used to wear way too much everything all the time, now I just save the evening wear look for going out. My spouse called my indulgence my “teenage girl” years.
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?
Jessika: I had a picture of who I am as a female—as a woman. It’s idealistic at times. I don't feel I need to be cis, passing is great if I ever get there. I've had cis female friends say they needed to step up their game when they are around me, I think that’s a good thing!
My mom has always been a role model for me regardless of gender. She was feminine in the most amazing ways. Strong, independent, fierce, loving, and able to do it all backwards and in high heels!
Monika: By the way, do you like being complimented on your looks?
Jessika: Yes, of course! Affirmation is amazing.
Monika: Do you remember your first job interview as a woman?
Jessika: I do. I was nervous and worried that my clockable voice would throw off the person interviewing me so much that they wouldn't be able to relax and “see me,” my qualities, credentials, experience, and value. It was fine and they were gracious. The 4th time I interviewed (with a cis man) was a different story and was disheartening.
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?
Jessika: That’s hard to say for sure. The pandemic and working from home made everything different for the most part. I’ve had in-office days and client meetings with men. I think men are now more comfortable talking over me, and I’ve also been the victim of mansplaining a few times. At first, I took it as a compliment, lol, but now it’s infuriating.
Monika: What would you advise to all transwomen looking for employment?
Jessika: Be patient and unapologetic. You do not need to explain your transition or what you “used to be”… I’ve never brought it up, never lead a conversation with disclosure. Of course, now I work for myself as a freelance creative director/art director as my own boss. I’ve never landed a job from interviewing so take my advice with a grain of salt!
Monika: Are you involved in the life of the local LGBTQ community?
Jessika: Somewhat. I attend a support group and maintain friendships from that group and other online groups I frequent. Locally I have attended pride and financially supported local trans organizations. I could be more active.
"I have a spouse who is my best friend
and we've been together for 25 years."
Monika: Could you tell me about the importance of love in your life?
Jessika: Love is simple, and everything. I have a spouse who is my best friend and we've been together for 25 years. She has supported me in a lot of hard times and transition continues to test our commitment. But we love one another and are making it work.
My mother accepted me as a woman before she passed, we spent the last month of her life as mother and daughter. I cannot imagine it any other way! I have the love and support from my sisters and family which is priceless as well. I want people to love me for who I am, not who they want me to be. I have it for the most part, and when I don’t those relationships fade into the ether.
Monika: Many transgender ladies write their memoirs. Have you ever thought about writing such a book yourself?
Jessika: Of course. I have a unique story in a lot of ways, but it is also universal. The pandemic created a lot of new trans people. We had the time and isolation that incubated our rebirth!
Monika: What would you recommend to all transgender women who are afraid of transition?
Jessika: Listen to yourself. You know what you need. Transition has it’s own timetable so synchronize with that natural schedule. Do only what makes you comfortable and fulfilled. This is your life and your becoming.
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?
Jessika: I’ve done all the surgeries in pursuit of this dream, they were literally life saving and have gotten me closer to the picture of how I see myself. Now it’s more a mental game, living my life as a trans woman is a journey, not a destination.
Monika: Jessika, it was a pleasure to interview you. Thanks a lot!
Jessika: Thank you, it’s an honor to be among all of the trans family you’ve interviewed.

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


  1. A lovely interview with Jessika x She's so positive about past and present! Interesting remarks too about everything changing after Covid for others and not only for her. have to think about that one xx

  2. Great intervirw and inspirational!


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