Friday 2 February 2024

Interview with Vanessa Joy

Monika: Today I have invited Vanessa Joy, an American podcast hostess, transactivist, and politician. Vanessa is known for participating in Transcending Humanity, a podcast group of Transgender/Nonbinary/Gender friends, and her Vanesstradiol YouTube channel where she chronicles her transition. A couple of weeks ago, she ran as a Democratic candidate for the Ohio House District 50, but was disqualified from the ballot for omitting her previous name. Joy was one of four transgender candidates running for state office in Ohio, largely in response to proposed restrictions of the rights of LGBTQ+ people. She is also the stepdaughter of GOP state Representative Bill Roemer. Hello Vanessa! Thank you for accepting my invitation.
Vanessa: Thank you for reaching out!
Monika: It has been a couple of weeks since you were disqualified from the ballot. It must have been a bitter experience. 
Vanessa: It was very disappointing, yes. I was caught completely off guard; I figured that if I was going to be disqualified it would have been because I did have enough valid signatures. I did have enough, this obscure law was a complete surprise. It was too many people, really, which is why it became such big news for four weeks!
Monika: Let me check if I understood the whole case. You legally changed your name and birth certificate in 2022, but state law requires candidates to provide any name changes within the last five years. You did not comply with this regulation because you did not want to use your deadname, right?
Vanessa: I did not comply with the regulation because I did not know the regulation existed. Had I known it existed, I would have included my deadname. I would not have liked using it, but representing my district is more important to me. Other transgender candidates may not be willing to disclose their deadnames, however, so it is a barrier to entry.
Almost no one knew that this law existed, including most people working at the boards of elections.

Link to the podcasts.

Monika: Were the main points of your political agenda related to transgender rights?
Vanessa: My platform was not going to focus on trans rights, to be honest. A representative is supposed to represent the people of their district. I was going to focus on bringing universal childcare to Ohioans. Had I been elected, I would have also worked to restore rights to trans people, but that would not have been the focus of my campaign.
Monika: How do you perceive the attitude of the administration of President Biden towards transgender Americans?
Vanessa: I think his attitude is mostly lip service. He talks the talk, but he’s not actually doing anything to help us.
Monika: American politics is based on the interaction with different interest groups that wish to pursue their specific goals. How successful is the transgender community in this respect?
Vanessa: We make up less than 1% of the population, so we have very little strength in swaying public discourse. The Republican party knows this, and it is why they are focusing so much on us right now. We’re an easy test group for their policies of hate. Once they are done with us, they will move on to larger groups.
Monika: What inspired you to share your intimate life moments on social media?
Vanessa: I want to normalize the trans experience. If people see me as just another person, they’ll realize that being trans is just a part of who I am. I’m just a girl. 
Monika: You touch upon many important topics via Transcending Humanity. Could you elaborate more on this initiative and how all of you got connected?
Vanessa: Transcending Humanity was born as a cooperative project between myself and a number of friends that I made on LinkedIn. We’ve grown into a nice little family of queerness! The show covers all sorts of topics regarding the trans community, from parenting to jobhunting to finding safe places to pee. We rotate hosts every week so there’s always a fresh perspective!

"We make up less than 1% of the population,
so we have very little strength in swaying
public discourse."

Monika: We all pay the highest price for fulfilling 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?
Vanessa: My real estate photography business dried up instantaneously when I came out. Realtors can be a rather bigoted group, in my area at least. I went from making about $4000/month to having no sales at all for 7 weeks. I have not been able to rebuild it to anywhere near where it used to be.
Monika: Why did you choose Vanessa for your name?
Vanessa: It’s the name that I always said I would name a daughter if I had one.
Monika: Was your family surprised by your transition? 
Vanessa: I don’t really talk to my blood relatives. I have one cousin that is absolutely wonderful; I think he was surprised, but he’s super supportive. I started speaking to my brother again after many years… he’s confused about it, but not wholly unsupportive. I’d say he’s lukewarm. My son’s other mother has been very supportive. I don’t think she was really surprised after the initial shock wore off, as I’ve told people for years that my deepest secret is that I was born the wrong sex.
Monika: Are you satisfied with the effects of the hormone treatment?
Vanessa: Yes, I just wish I started a long time ago. I didn’t start until I was 40, so my skeleton is already fused in a way that I do not like.
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?
Vanessa: Shit, girl, if I knew the answer to this, I’d be way more popular than I am.
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?
Vanessa: Yes. While I’ve known something was off about my gender since I was about 5 years old, it wasn’t until I saw a documentary called TransGeneration in 2005 that I even learned that Trans people existed. That’s what planted the seed in my head… it just took another 16 years for me to finally crack my egg.

Vanesstradiol on YouTube.

Monika: Did you have any transgender sisters around you that supported you during the transition?
Vanessa: Not right at the beginning, but I quickly built up a network of trans siblings through social media. Now I run Transcending Humanity, and have amazing Trans siblings from that!
Monika: Do you like fashion? What kind of outfits do you usually wear? Any special fashion designs, colors, or trends?
Vanessa: I yeeted my boy mode clothes about 3 months after coming out publicly. I’m broke AF, so I just wear what I’ve been able to find at Goodwill, and what has been gifted to me. I dress appropriately for a woman of my age.
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?
Vanessa: Early on I did go hyper femme, mainly with makeup. Bright colors, loud lipstick, stuff like that. I really stuck out. Now I’ve learned how to do more reserved looks and pass much better.
Monika: By the way, do you like being complimented on your looks?
Vanessa: I feel super awkward when people compliment me. It’s probably the autism.
Monika: Do you remember your first job interview as a woman?
Vanessa: Yeah. I think the guy was expecting a cis girl when he saw he was going to be speaking with a Vanessa. I didn’t get the job. Fuck that guy.
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?
Vanessa: I definitely get talked over a lot now.

"There’s no right or wrong way of transitioning."

Monika: What would you advise to all transwomen looking for employment?
Vanessa: Be secure in your job before you come out. I’m 2 years and over 2000 resumes into my job hunt, and I’ve only had about a half dozen interviews.
Monika: Are you involved in the life of the local LGBTQ community?
Vanessa: I’ve started to, but I’m not as active as I probably should be.
Monika: Could you tell me about the importance of love in your life?
Vanessa: I’m conflicted on love.
Monika: Many transgender ladies write their memoirs. Have you ever thought about writing such a book yourself? 
Vanessa: Yes, I already have memoirs written about my past in my family’s business. Eventually, I’ll write a novel. I want to wait until my mother passes though, as I’m sure she’d try to sue me. She abused me heavily throughout my life; physically, emotionally, and sexually. I’ll be writing about it.
Monika: What would you recommend to all transgender women who are afraid of transition?
Vanessa: Just do it. It’s worth it. Don’t wait.
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?
Vanessa: There’s no right or wrong way of transitioning. We all have our own journey. You can use what others do as a guide if that is the path you want to take, but there are no rules. Just don’t be an asshole.
Monika: Vanessa, it was a pleasure to interview you. Thanks a lot!
Vanessa: Thank you!

All the photos: courtesy of Vanessa Joy.
© 2024 - Monika Kowalska

1 comment:

  1. Vanessa, I was so angry when I read about your being blind sided by an old law few knew about.
    I am a neighbor over in Pennsylvania so I can’t vote in Ohio.
    I am hopeful you will run again in 2 years even though you’ll still need to use your deadname. The opposition will try to embarrass you, but I hope you have the strength to persist. I am a 66 year old cis-male, so I am one example of a cisgender ally.
    There are many people in this country that do not discriminate against someone because of their identity or who they love or their race. And I VOTE!
    I also encourage people I meet to vote. Most important civic duty we have.
    Please stay strong and walk with your head up against the wind of oppression.



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