Interview with Claire Slingerland - Part 2


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?
Claire: In daily life, most people don’t notice I am not a cisgender woman. And thanks to speech therapy, people say I sound feminine. Although I hear some echoes of my old voice. So passing is not very much of an issue for me. But when I first went out on the street I thought everyone was looking at me. But my wife said nobody was watching and if they did, they were just looking at a beautiful woman. It took some time to believe that. But now I'm confident when I go out and I don’t pay attention anymore to people looking at me.
Monika: Do you like fashion? What kind of outfits do you usually wear? Any special fashion designs, colors, or trends?
Claire: I like fashionable clothes. In daily life, I mostly wear a shirt with pants or a skirt. And if I'm going to do something festive, I like to wear a nice dress or skirt. I especially love those fifties dresses.
Monika: Do you often experiment with your makeup?
Claire: No, hardly. I have my 5 minutes daily routine. But when we go to a party, I do make more of an effort.
Monika: By the way, do you like being complimented on your looks?
Claire: I must admit, I do. And I get compliments quite often. It is kindly meant by people and that is how I take it. But I prefer to be complimented on what I do.
Monika: Do you remember your first job interview as a woman?
Claire: I’m self-employed so I did no job interviews.
Monika: Lucky you! What would you advise to all transwomen looking for employment?
Claire: Be yourself and focus on your skills. That’s what they need you for.
Monika: Could you tell me about the importance of love in your life?
Claire: It’s the most important thing in my life. I waited that long before I told my wife about my feelings because I was afraid of losing her and my family. I could not see myself without them. But I had no other choice but to tell my wife how I felt. I couldn’t live my life anymore the way I lived it. It was a risk telling her but she said: ‘there is no off-button on love’.

"I have a lot of ideas for other documentaries."

Monika: Many transgender ladies write their memoirs. Have you ever thought about writing such a book yourself?
Claire: Yes, and I'm even writing it. It helps me to organize what happened in the past and now.
Monika: What is your next step in the present time and where do you see yourself within the next 5-7 years?
Claire: I have a lot of ideas for other documentaries. With the foundation, which I mentioned earlier, we would like to make a documentary about gender diversity in the world. Our Western world has a binary division: male and female. People who do not conform to the binary pattern of expectations often face exclusion, discrimination, and violence. In this documentary, we show that there are dozens of cultures around the world that deal, or used to deal, with gender identity in a much broader way. In this way, we want to contribute to a better understanding and normalization of people who do not conform to the binary pattern. 
The Native Americans, for example, until the Europeans came along, even distinguished five gender roles, where tasks were not assigned according to gender roles. In India, the Hijras were already described 400 years before Christ. In 1894, these transgender people were criminalized and arrested by the then ruling British because it did not conform to their standards. These are just a few examples, as there are many more cultures spread around the world where gender roles as we know them were not so set in stone, such as in Oman (Kanith), Mexico (Muxas), Indonesia (Waria), and Samoa (Fa'afafine).
The documentary aims to give people who reject and sometimes condemn gender diversity, an insight into what gender diversity is. Through understanding, acceptance is more likely to follow. There are many more stories that need to be told. So I hope I can tell some of them within the next 5-7 years.
Monika: What would you recommend to all transgender women that are afraid of transition?
Claire: I think many people fear their own fear the most. At least I did. So follow your heart. And yes, you will lose things but you will overcome yourself.
Monika: Claire, it was a pleasure to interview you. Thanks a lot!
Claire: Thank you, Monika. It’s great you provide s platform to all these different trans women in the world. It’s an honor to be one of them.

All the photos: courtesy of Claire Slingerland.
© 2021 - Monika Kowalska
 

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