Friday 16 February 2024

Interview with Alessandra Alferes

Monika: My lovely guest today is Alessandra Alferes, a transactivist, content creator, pianist, and mother of two children from São Paulo, Brazil. She is a screenwriter, producer, director, and editor of the TransSaber channel and presenter of the VídeoCast “Café Trans”. Hello Ale! Thank you for accepting my invitation.
Ale: Hello, Monika! Thank you for the opportunity!
Monika: You are a woman of many talents. Could you say a few words about yourself?
Ale: I am a musician, conductor at UNESP, and professor of Music, Languages, Public Speaking and Performance. I have a specialization in Teaching and another in Diversity and Inclusion in Organizations. I give lectures on the LGBTQIAPN+ agenda at universities and schools and participate in podcasts as a guest, in addition to producing my own podcast through the TransSaber Channel. I am also the "mama" of a 6-year-old boy and a 4-year-old girl.
Monika: What inspired you to found the TransSaber channel?
Ale: I created TransSaber out of a desire to bring more information and knowledge about the social, physical, and emotional aspects of gender transition, especially about the process of having started the gender transition at 41, amid reflections on the ephemerality of life, the value of friendship and the fragility of love. Producing content has also helped me a lot to blossom my femininity, to recognize myself, and to empower myself.
Monika: How do you select your guests for the TransSaber channel?
Ale: I have to bring people who can contribute valuable information to the trans community, whether representatives who advocate the cause or trans people who can bring their transition experiences or address issues about the job market, as well as health professionals (trans or cis ) that work directly with the trans community. In this sense, I have already had as guests 3 surgeons (Facial Feminization, Lipo/Cost Remodeling and Feminizing Redesignation), a Psychiatrist and a Speech Therapist specializing in caring for trans and transvestite people.
Monika: How about Café Trans? How did you start working there?
Ale: "Café Trans" is a project that emerged from TransSaber itself. I wanted to expand the "monologue" format of a typical YouTube Channel into something more dynamic like chats and interviews. Podcasts are also in vogue, and generating knowledge in this format can reach, involve and raise awareness among many more people.
"At the time I came out, my
fear was losing my wife."
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?
Ale: At the time I came out, my fear was losing my wife (due to a possible marriage breakdown) and the uncertainty of what the dynamic would be like with my son and daughter. But I was very lucky. Today my ex and I are very good friends, we still live together due to logistics with the children and we have a healthy and beautiful relationship with them. Regarding my family, I always had their support, and my friendships also remained firm by my side.
Monika: Why did you choose Alessandra for your name?
Ale: Although my name was Carlos Alexandre, my mother and father always called me Alexandre. Alessandra was an almost natural choice. I never thought about that, really. Even after coming out as trans to my ex-wife, I still hadn't thought about what my female name would be. It arose naturally as a gender variation of the name Alexandre.
Monika: Was your family surprised by your transition?
Ale: Yes. They never suspected it. They didn't imagine that there was a feminine essence in me. I know they needed their own time to understand, but they always supported me and gave me the necessary family support.
Monika: Are you satisfied with the effects of the hormone treatment?
Ale: Yes a lot. I've been doing HT for 3 years and I'm very happy with the physical and emotional results.
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?
Ale: We need to understand that "Cis Passability" cannot be achieved, as it is the other person's eyes that judge, and each person has a different perspective. We cannot project ourselves according to what is expected of us by society. Each trans person has unique desires and aspirations for their own body, face and voice, and being okay with our appearance and our own gender role is what matters.
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?
Ale: Yes, it was in my childhood, when I saw Roberta Close, but at the time I didn't understand what a trans person was. At 6 years old I already felt different, surrounded by a constant feeling of performing the wrong gender, but I only understood this better as an adult.
The first trans person I met in person was a trans girl at University, but that didn't influence me to realize who I was either. The perception that I don't identify with my birth gender has always been part of me, but it took me almost 40 years before I was able to find myself at a decisive moment of revealing to the people I love who I really am.
"The perception that I don't identify
with my birth gender has always been
part of me."
Monika: Did you have any transgender sisters around you that supported you during the transition?
Ale: I did not have. In my current social circle, and after I created the Channel, I met many trans women (we have a very beautiful group today on Whatsapp), but they all revealed themselves later, or are still in a process of discovery and blossoming.
Monika: What do you think about the present situation of transgender women in your country?
Ale: Sad. In Brazil, 90% of trans women still resort to prostitution to survive. According to updated data, 72% of trans people do not have secondary education, 56% primary education and only 0.02% are at universities. School dropout among trans people – especially females – is still very high due to violence (physical and psychological) and bullying, keeping them away from education and hindering their future access to professional opportunities and the formal job market.
It is necessary to raise awareness in society about the trans essence, to naturalize our existence, only then will we be able to live with more dignity and respect.
Monika: Do you like fashion? What kind of outfits do you usually wear? Any special fashion designs, colors, or trends?
Ale: I do like fashion, but I don't have a defined style. I feel like it changes as I blossom. I like many colors and shapes, cuts and fabrics. I'm very eclectic and not at all conservative in this sense... lol
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?
Ale: Yes. We all have our own role models, who are generally the people we spend most time with (family and friends). We exist as an almost unconscious accumulation of gestural and expressive influences, whether we are trans or cis people. We all establish, change and constantly reinforce these bonds, and from them we develop our own resourcefulness within the gender with which we identify. I notice in myself gestures and expressions from my mother and my sister, this is normal, I am happy to realize that I carry them within me, and that is precisely what makes me a woman who exists in reality.
Monika: By the way, do you like being complimented on your looks?
Ale: The woman through whom I have always understood myself is a very delicate, kind woman. I feel that today I can show this presence in a very natural way and, when people praise me for it, I feel really good.
I don't mind when people say I don't look trans, unlike most trans women. I did Facial Feminization, trained my voice and developed expressive and gestural techniques to bring out the woman I always saw in myself. I am like this, I have always understood myself this way and I wanted to blossom in this way. When people tell me that I don't look trans, I understand that I don't carry any physical or expressive traits that harken back to the masculine gender, and so I feel good knowing that I don't express the masculinity that I've worked so hard to purge from myself.
"The woman through whom I have
always understood myself is a very
delicate, kind woman."
Everyone I know knows I'm trans, because at some point topics about diversity always come up and so I tell them, even when they don't realize it. I'm very proud to be trans, but I feel good when people say I don't look trans. Likewise, I don't mind when some people ask me if I'm trans. I know it's very relative, as whether or not you appear trans can change depending on the judge's perspective.
Monika: Do you remember your first job interview as a woman?
Ale: After the transition, I didn’t do any job interviews.
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?
Ale: Gender inequality is still very present in society. I believe it is because we are women, and not because we are trans. I have never experienced this situation, but I have heard trans friends report having gone through this because they are women. I have also heard opposite reports, from trans men who are heard more today than when they played a female social role.
Monika: What would you advise to all transwomen looking for employment?
Ale: First, adjust your CVs. On the Transempregos website there is a free advice area where they help trans people with this. Then, research very well to apply for vacancies only in companies aligned with ESG issues and that embrace diversity and inclusion in general. Entering a culturally inclusive environment, where people know how to treat and respect a trans person and where you can feel physically and psychologically safe, is essential.
Monika: Could you tell me about the importance of love in your life?
Ale: Mutual love generates complicity, respect, empathy and kindness. I need full relationships in all these aspects. It comforts me, strengthens me and gives me hope.
And I still love myself. I look in the mirror and I love who I see, I love what I do and I love the way I do it. Self-love is fundamental for us to exist, and I believe that loving who we are and living as who we are are the greatest privileges in life.
Monika: Many transgender ladies write their memoirs. Have you ever thought about writing such a book yourself?
Ale: Yes, but I did it differently. I recently finished a novel where I reflect on the finiteness of life, its fears, emotions, the subtleties and weaknesses of ways of loving. There is a lot about these perceptions related to the afflictions and anxieties I experienced before the transition, to the constant search for self-knowledge and the meaning of life. I built this narrative around a police thriller and family dramas, but there are no trans characters.
I'm currently in the phase of trying to publish it with publishers. If it doesn't work out, I'll try to publish it myself soon.
Monika: What is your next step in the present time and where do you see yourself within the next 5-7 years?
Ale: At present I will continue with the Channel/Podcast and intend to join a consultancy to carry out lectures, literacy and training on DEI (Diversity, Equity and Inclusion) in companies.
"Every aspect of the transition requires
resilience, whether social, physical
or emotional."
In the next 5 years I wish to have helped raise awareness in many lives, just as I wish TransSaber to be much bigger, reaching more audiences and normalizing our essence to society, so that the world becomes a sweeter and more welcoming place, with more respect , empathy and kindness to human diversity and plurality.
Monika: What would you recommend to all transgender women who are afraid of transition?
Ale: Every aspect of the transition requires resilience, whether social, physical or emotional. Meet trans people, make friends within the community. Join groups, follow profiles on networks. When you can, share your pain and observe different experiences, always with a responsible look and active listening. A sense of belonging is essential to feeling empowered, increasing our self-esteem, our self-validation or even getting to know ourselves better as women.
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?
Ale: I agree that our potential, our dreams, or our character are not defined by our genitals, nor that we should compare ourselves to the achievements of other trans people. We are all different and that is why we dream differently. I believe that our dreams begin when we are able to recognize ourselves as who we are and become capable of loving ourselves.
Aesthetic procedures and surgeries, in general, do help to mitigate our gender dysphoria, and are therefore related to our self-esteem, our health and psychological and emotional well-being, but it is not a rule that trans people need to submit to procedures to achieve happiness or feel complete. This depends on each woman and her relationship with herself.
Monika: Ale, it was a pleasure to interview you. Thanks a lot!
Ale: Thank you very much for opening up this valuable place to speak, dear! I am at your disposal! A kiss!

All the photos: courtesy of Alessandra Alferes.
© 2024 - Monika Kowalska

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