Interview with Erica E. Ravenwood - Part 2

Monika: What was the hardest thing about your coming out?
Erica: Coming out, honestly, has been a bit by bit journey for me. I came out to my wife but didn’t have the vocabulary or presence of mind to explain really what I was feeling and she sort of settled into the idea that I was a cross dresser, just hoping that I was straight. She confided in me, just very recently, that she had seen a Jerry Springer episode, way back when, and they had some cross dressers on that all said they were straight but just liked to wear women’s clothes. It gave her some piece of mind that that was true for me though I was rarely allowed to dress.
We separated, in large part looking back on it now, because I just couldn’t perform with her anymore in the marital sense. There were some hard moments but we always managed to be close. After I moved out it was a slow process of self-awareness and trying to figure out what the heck was going on with me. I still had never heard the word transgender and had never been on a computer.
When I got my own true first place I was able to dress “openly” even if it was just in my house with every window covered for safety. It was during that period I also found my sexuality and had my first and so far only boyfriend. So that’s when I came out as gay. (Though identifying as female I consider myself straight. But that’s a whole perception conversation for another time.)

In pink and green.

I had one last ill-fated relationship with a woman after my boyfriend and I broke up after a year. (We were engaged too. I still wear the ring but on my right hand.) But even though we probably should never have gotten together that relationship did save my children for a time when I was too messed up to care for them myself (and I thank her for that) and the first time I got on the internet. That was 2004 and I found a TG chat room.
Well, that’s what it took. I now knew both my sexuality AND my gender identity (or at very least could put a name to it). At the end of 2006 is when I jumped in the truck and drove to California.
The rest is pre-read history except for a second coming out to my family which again was hard. They knew much but not all the details.
Monika: What is your general view on the present situation of transgender women in your country?
Erica: There’s still a lot of fear among the majority of transgender people and an extreme lack of education for both them and the general public. It’s my mission in life to help educate both groups even if that means one person at a time.
Monika: We are witnessing more and more transgender ladies coming out. Unlike in the previous years some of them have status of celebrities or are really well-known, just to mention Lana Wachowski in film-directing, Jenna Talackova in modeling, Kate Bornstein in academic life, Laura Jane Grace in music or Candis Cayne in acting. Do you witness the same trend?
Erica: Perhaps that is true but I’ve also noticed a trend of people coming to their realization at a much younger age than was true in the past. The Internet has done tremendous things. Both bad and good. It’s up to us who know better to help set right that which is bad.
Monika: Are you active in politics? Do you participate in any lobbying campaigns? Do you think transgender women can make a difference in politics?
Erica: That’s a tricky question for me. I would call myself a gentle activist with a mission. I’m very involved in a certain chat room I mentioned before (the link btw is on the header of my channel. Plug plug, nudge nudge) and am an administrator there as well as the chairperson for a two hour forum called Sunday Brunch that is held every week.
It may sound bad but I don’t watch the news and most of what I learn politically I hear from a very good friend of mine who stays on top of everything. I don’t have to watch because she keeps me up to date on so many things as well as other people who send me things they think are important or may be of interest.
I would love to get more involved and am being asked slowly, just as you had asked me to do this interview, which you were so kind to do.
Monika: Do you like fashion? What kind of outfits do you usually wear? Any special fashion designs, colors or trends?
Erica: Well, hmm, I do prefer clothes to walking around naked. At this early stage of my transition and it being winter I pretty much layer and cover my body. I do love the clothes from Holy Clothing and have some nice pieces. Very often that’s what I wore in California.
I would say I like a Boho style. Long, loose, flowy and comfortable but also very much a jeans and a top kind of girl. At 6’1” heel-s is a four letter word to me and I prefer to wear flats. If style and comfort come in conflict comfort will always win out.
Monika: What do you think about transgender beauty pageants?
Erica: I really don’t pay attention to them but then I don’t pay attention to any beauty pageant to be honest.

Monika: Are you involved in the life of your local LGBT community?
Erica: LOL As far as I know I am the local LGBT community. I know there are many gay people in my town but as far as I’m aware I’m the only openly transgender person. I did recently get a roommate who was in a bad situation and not able to be her and I invited her to live with me in a safe environment but she’s not at the point at the present to feel comfortable going out. Though I know she will get there.
But again, here in town and the surrounding community, as I become known better, I’m more than willing to educate or be a shoulder to lean on. I’m willing to do any and all that I can.
Monika: What would you recommend to transgender women that are afraid of early transition, discrimination and hatred?
Erica: Wow, that’s kind of a tricky question as well. Here in the United States there are safe places and not so safe places. Usually depending on the religious fervor going on there. I guess the best opinion I could give is to start with a therapist. Some will say you HAVE to see a gender therapist but a good therapist is trained to listen and will learn from the experience if your open and honest with them.
But I stress the word “good”. If your scared I believe you really need to get a handle on that before going out into the big bad world if you hope to have any confidence in doing so. Also know that living with GID often creates additional issues beyond gender identity that should be discussed with your therapist.
Having a support base is crucial even if that has to start with people you meet on line. Being alone with your thoughts when dealing with dysphoria is a killer. But buyer beware of people you meet on line that you want to meet in real life. A piece of advice I’m often told I have to follow myself by the people who love me.

Many faces of Erica.

Monika: What is your next step in the present time and where do you see yourself within the next 5-7 years?
Erica: Well, unfortunately I have what they call the “Transgender curse”. In addition to that I do have a psychological condition that keeps me for the most part in a high mania and unless my mind is constantly engaged I start to hallucinate in a way and have conversations with people that aren’t there.
That usually means people I know and is innocent enough but very annoying and at times embarrassing. That’s why the videos have been so good for me as a hobby. I learn new things all the time and can have several different programs working at once.
Since I got out of the hospital I’ve made 46 videos, written, illustrated and published a children’s book, written three others and started a novel that I’ve given myself a target completion date of July 31st. I just plan to keep going and let God lead me where He wants to lead. Hopefully I can do a little good along the way.
Monika: Could you say that you are a happy woman now?
Erica: I can honestly say I am very happy. And thank you. This was wonderful.
Monika: Erica, it was a pleasure to interview you. Thanks a lot!

All the photos: courtesy of Erica Elizabeth Ravenwood.
© 2014 - Monika Kowalska

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