Interview with Faye Seidler - Part 2


Monika: What do you think in general about transgender news stories or characters which have been featured in films, newspapers, or books so far?
Faye: They are pretty much all incredibly awful. Sense8 is an exception, but most of the time I go into the situation expecting it to be awful. They are almost always written by a cis person, who gives trans roles to cisgender actors, featuring the repeat of shitty tropes. The data in the 90s, I’m recalling from memory, was that 60 percent of trans characters appearing on TV were hookers/sex workers. I’m not sure on the exact number, except it was the majority.
For a really long time, we could only exist as victims, sex workers, or disguised villains. Julia Serano writes a lot about that and it really opened my eyes to how culture saw what being trans was.
So basically, I look at if anyone trans was actually involved first, if they aren’t, then I expect a shitshow. It isn’t to say a cisgender person can’t write a trans experience accurately, I think someone who’s been married to a trans person for a few years would have a great perspective. But right now, I think we see incredibly superficial storylines, cheap jokes, and an attempt to cash in on what they feel is “Trending”.
Monika: Do you participate in any lobbying campaigns? Do you think transgender women can make a difference in politics?
Faye: I absolutely think they can! I haven’t lobbied per se, but I deal with education within the sectors of healthcare, business, government, outreach, and education. I help to give individuals the understanding to accurately represent our community. I was part of the anti-discrimination efforts and current am trying to help change the school climates in my state.
What I’d tell other people is that you don’t need money or a degree to make a change. I don’t have either. What I have is a passion for justice and a will to make sure others have it better than I did. What I do isn’t much more than organizing data, calling people, and having conversations. I connect with people who do make a change and make my voice heard. I interview people who know the things I don’t and I use their voice to help make the change I need.
I’ve always been self-educated and researched, I have always loved reading and collecting resources and data. I’ve also spent my entire life writing. These give me an advantage and privilege in the work that I do, especially as a community activist and educator. But, you don’t need much to make a change. It can be calling your district rep. It can mean speaking at the town hall. It could mean making a few calls or asking some friends to vote a certain way. I’m a firm believer in that the small actions of many will outway the big actions of few.

Being Social at our Pride Center.

Monika: Do you think that in our lifetime we could live to see the day when a transgender lady could become the President of the USA? Or the First Lady at least?
Faye: I won’t say it is impossible, but the odds approach zero. I think more importantly if there was ever a serious nominee who was transgender or a partner of someone running, it would indicate an incredibly different and more accepting world. I think in that situation, we have already won something priceless and amazing. So, if we get to a point where that is even a remote chance, I think we’d have already won. Won what? A future where our labels don’t hold us back from our dreams.
Monika: Do you like fashion? What kind of outfits do you usually wear? Any special fashion brands, colors, or trends?
Faye: I grew up in extreme poverty, which has influenced my taste in clothing. When growing up, I wore clothes until I grew out of them. I didn’t get fancy things, I got what was the cheapest at a clothing donation area or hand-me-downs. In this regard, I always see clothes as utilitarian. I wear what I find is comfortable and that tends to be used t-shirts and jeans.
That said, I like the way green looks on me.
Monika: I have read somewhere that cisgender women were liberated thanks to the development of contraceptive pills whereas transgender women are free now thanks to the development of cosmetic surgery, so they are no longer prisoners of passing or non-passing syndrome …
Faye: That’s a tough question to answer because I don’t agree with the premise. I’m not sure cisgender women are liberated because we still see the government try to control reproduction or downright attack women’s bodies. I also don’t think trans people are free due to surgery, because most of us can’t afford it, and there is little to be done about being 6’2 for passibility.
While not cosmetic, top and bottom surgery has allowed trans people to finally have the body their brain understands. We have a way to relieve dysphoria that has never existed before. We have never been closer to our authentic self or the possibility of it than now.
What I’ll say is that passing shouldn’t be the goal, allowing a world where women’s bodies aren’t shamed. I have a tremendous amount of passing privilege because hormones and genetics gave me a body that nobody mistakes as male. Before hormones though, I always feared I’d never be accepted or respected as anything other than a man in a dress. Even today, even after my development, I still feel shame for my body. I feel shame that it isn’t beautiful like the women in the magazine. I feel shame that it isn’t female like those assigned females. I feel deep regret that I’m infertile because I never really get to decide if I can or can’t have children.
But it is small moments where I catch myself smiling and think I’m beautiful. It is times where I forget my body and laugh and play with friends as just Faye. It’s times when my significant other is holding me, looking at me with love, and telling me that they love me.
As women, it’s hard to not focus on our body and put a negative lens on it by comparing it to perfection. But, when we transition, we do more than change our bodies. We are allowed to express and be understood as ourselves.
Monika: What do you think about transgender beauty pageants?
Faye: Transgender only beauty pageant? I’m not sure I have many opinions here. I think it can be empowering, but it can also be objectifying, depends on who’s hosting it and why. I think just allowing trans women within the scope of our currently running women-specific pageants would be fine? 
Monika: Many transgender ladies write their memoirs. Have you ever thought about writing such a book yourself?
Faye: I’ve considered it, but never very seriously. I’m not sure I’ve done enough for people to really care about my journey or memoirs yet. I am a writer though and maybe I’ll do something in the next few years. :)
Monika: Could you tell me about the importance of love in your life?
Faye: I’m a romantic at heart and love is always a big part of what I do. I’m supported by my two girlfriends in a poly relationship. If they weren’t there for me, if they didn’t provide a safe home for me to go back and to be loved at, I would instantly burn out.
Aside from that, I love the work that I do and the impact it can have on people because I didn’t have it growing up. I’ll always remember the look on a child’s face when I explained what gender was to a group of LGBTQ+ youth and their faces lit up because they finally had a way to describe what they were feeling.
Monika: Are you working on any new projects now?
Faye: My big project right now is the GSA project, which aims to create a resource for students in North Dakota to use to help construct a GSA in our state. It also has plans to create strategies to make these groups more appealing to administrators. Aside from that, I’m always writing articles for a local independent newspaper and providing mentoring every Saturday. On the horizon, I’m working with a nurse to create healthcare-focused transgender cultural competency training. Then, next year, I’m hoping to apply for a continuing education grant to have the opportunity to go to college.

Gender identity Vid via YouTube.

Monika: What would you recommend to all transgender girls struggling with gender dysphoria?
Faye: That you have a future. The quote I say is that “You can be Trans and Happy”. Because more than anything, being a struggling trans girl, I was afraid of my future. I was afraid that I wouldn’t pass, that people would see me as a joke, that I couldn’t get medication, that I wasn’t really trans, and every other possibility.
Despite all of those fears, despite being completely hopeless for several years of my life, I now find myself in a place where I can say I’m happy. I’ve had some lucky breaks, but the message isn’t that it’ll work out for everyone because when you’re struggling you aren’t going to believe that. The message is that even if you’re struggling and feel like there is no hope or future, I came from that life and found something great. That even in that despair there is hope and possibility of something more.
As for gender dysphoria specifically, the only thing we can do is keep taking steps closer to ourselves. It isn’t an obvious journey, we don’t always go forward on it, but we always discover something new. Start with pronouns and see which ones make you happy to hear. Think about your partners, how do you want them to see and treat you? When you have sex, what does your body want to do? If you choose to take hormones, how do you respond to them? The idea of your body changing, does it bring comfort? These questions all lead you closer to your infinitely complex self.
In terms of passing anxiety, I can say it gets better every day, but nothing is more important than being comfortable in your own body. A lot of trans women have said they started getting gendered correctly, not with what they did, but after they stopped giving a fuck what other people thought. When they just went about, natural and comfortable in their own body, that is what other people saw.
And taking a step back, it’s important to have support during everything mentioned above. Having at least one friend who can see you for who you really are. Even if you can’t find someone in person, there are a plethora of people online who can be that person and talk to you about what you’re going through! If I didn’t have my mentor, I know I wouldn’t be here now, filling out these questions! 
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 transsexuals and transgender people doing. Our dreams should not end on an operating table; that’s where they begin. Do you agree with this?
Faye: I’d agree with the first part, but not that second. We are not limited in our potential because of how we were born, but we are given a more difficult journey than most have. We have to be wary and cautious as we go through life, we have to contend with discrimination in public accommodations, housing, and employment. We have to be knowledgeable about the fact people will violate our bodies and end our stories. That most places designed to help those who are marginalized actively reject or harm us. And that most of us don’t have access to gender confirmation surgery.
We have to start our lives by figuring ourselves out. That despite everybody putting us in one box, we know we don’t belong and we have to discover and proclaim our truth. In this struggle, I see people who are self-aware and empowered. I see people who, despite the shit, go out every day and make something of themselves. I see people find happiness and strive towards their dreams even as the world tries to push them down. 
Our dreams are constructed brick by brick to create a road from the life we have to the life we want. It is the hope that lets us fight in this world and the passion that gives us the drive to continue that fight. It doesn’t end or begin on an operating table, it starts the moment we begin to understand the totality of ourselves, whether it be our authentic gender, the ones we want to spend our life with, the kind of person we are, what makes us laugh, cry, or the things we want to leave beyond. There is no end to the journey inside our self and there is no limit to our potential to dream and improve on ourselves throughout it.
Monika: Faye, thank you for the interview!
Faye: Thank you for hosting this incredibly beautiful and prolific project. It is an honor to be considered for it!

All the photos: courtesy of Faye Seidler.
© 2017 - Monika Kowalska

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