Interview with Jessica McGuinness - Part 2

Monika: Transgender ladies are subject to the terrible test whether they pass as a woman or they do not. You are a beautiful woman yourself but how about other transgender ladies that have to struggle every day to pass? What would you recommend to them?
Jessica: Thank you for the compliment. I know that I am one of the lucky ones that do pass but believe it or not, I have not had any surgeries. When I was in the recovery process after the bridge incident, I spent a lot of time on the internet researching. I was reading things about everything from walking to voice therapy. It really took a few years to start “passing”.
The one thing that I put money toward was voice therapy. I was slowly starting to feel comfortable in my own skin so I was becoming more social. I felt that a deep voice was a handicap. I always said that the day I pass in a gay bar and somebody calls me ma’am on the phone will be the day that I knew I had made it.
I personally believe that most of the passing is the way that you carry yourself. Work on these small things and you’re almost there. Really try to train yourself and one day, it will come naturally. There’s a lot more to it than the clothes that you wear. You have to sell the total package.
I don’t think all of this is the true measure of the woman inside of your skin. That comes from deep within and you have to explore that for yourself. You will eventually grow into a unique type of woman and that is something that everyone has to find on their own. However, these tiny little things will help your process go a little more smoothly.

Jessica and her Mother.

Monika: We are living in times of modern cosmetic surgery that might allow transitioning even in the late 50s or 60s. Do you think it is really possible? What kind of advice do you have for transgender ladies at such an age?
Jessica: I’ve had zero surgeries. I personally would love to have SRS someday but due to hemophilia, it’s just not in the cards for me. That being said, I’ve seen truly amazing transformations from cosmetic surgery.
For the trans-women who do not pass, I think this is a great option but it is expensive. I know a lot of trans-women can’t afford these surgeries. My only advice is that people don’t get carried away with it. Too much plastic surgery really looks bad on anyone, not just trans people.

Monika: At that time of your transition did you have any transgender role models that you could follow? What was your knowledge about transgenderism?
Jessica: I have to say that Andrea James was a role model for me when I began to transition. Back then, there weren't as many transgender women in the public eye. I just thought Andrea was really cool and I was impressed with what she does in the world. I admired what she was able to accomplish even though she was trans and I remembered that during my transition.
A few months ago, Andrea spoke at a local university. I ended up hanging out with her that night with a couple other transgender friends of mine. It was really an incredible experience and she is just as cool in person as I thought she would be.
Monika: Have you ever been married? Could you tell me about the importance of love in your life?
Jessica: I have never been married and I have no kids. I have 3 cats though. I was always awkward with dating. When I was young, I didn’t know who I was let alone being comfortable going to bed with anyone. I actually didn’t lose my virginity until I was 22. I believe that I was only able to have sex with her because I loved her.
Although I finally feel comfortable with myself, I always see dating as a pain in the butt, especially for a trans-woman. A lot of people are interested until they find out that you’re trans. I was never comfortable with telling a person that I met. The timing always seemed awkward and I’m always scared of the reaction.
I will never so much as kiss a person unless they know that I am trans. I’ve come to peace with the fact that I am single. I wouldn’t be as free to do my work and advocacy which is something that makes me really happy. I think it would be great to meet somebody but I’m not counting on it. I’m honestly very happy being single.

PNC Park in Pittsburgh.

Another thing that I would like to mention is that I practice abstinence. It’s been about 6 years since I’ve had sex with anyone. It’s not for religious reasons or anything and I don’t expect others to live the same life as me. I had a one-night stand and when it was over, I looked in the mirror and felt cheap and used. I had worked so damn hard to become the person that I am today and I am worth a lot more than a cheap screw.
To me, sex isn’t worth having if there isn’t love. Being the fact that I don’t date much and I will only have sex with people with who I share feelings, I simply don’t have sex.
Another reason is that I was exposed to HIV at a very young age. I’ve seen its effect. By some miracle, I made it out of the ’80s without it, I’m not getting it now.
Monika: What do you enjoy most in being a woman?
Jessica: This is actually a tough one. What makes a woman? I know butch women and girly women. Both have vastly different interests. I personally like the fact that I can relax and enjoy being myself but I’m not sure if that’s really a female trait. If I had to really pick something, I would say my mindset.
Now that my body is filled with estrogen, the world looks better and I have all of these wonderful emotions now. It’s truly remarkable and something that I always have trouble explaining. I could also say that I just love being a woman in the world. I guess after living so many years as a guy, I’m just happy to be myself now.
Monika: Are you active in politics? Do you participate in any lobbying campaigns? Do you think transgender women can make a difference in politics?
Jessica: I have not gotten involved with any political campaigns yet but that’s something I wouldn’t mind doing in the future. I find politics fascinating. I even carry the Constitution in my purse. I also love a good debate but I really have to be in the mood. I’m not talking about a yelling match, I mean two adults for opposite ends of the spectrum, sitting down and debating an issue. Unfortunately, civil compromise is hard to find these days so I’ve gotten burned out on politics.

Slippery Rock University.

Believe it or not, I grew up a Republican. I still don’t believe that the real Republican party is the clowns we see today. I got so disgusted with those people that I left that party. I think my Republican days were another form of over-compensating when I was denying who I was.
I am currently a registered Libertarian but I think that is going to change soon too. The nice thing about them is that when they say “small government” they actually mean it. The problem is that most don’t want any government. I’m sorry but I like the government fixing the potholes and regulating food. These are not things that should be left to private donors. 
Libertarianism is something that looks great on paper but wouldn’t work in the real world. I’m definitely finding myself leaning more to the left these days.
Monika: Do you think that in our lifetime we could live until the day when a transgender lady could become the President of the USA?
Jessica: Ha! I would love to say yes but I don’t think so. The US just elected our first black President and that brought some real racial feelings to the surface. The USA still hasn’t had a woman President or an (openly) gay President. I believe that the country is ready for a genetic woman to be President but an openly gay person would have a tough time let alone a transgender President.
There are a few transgender politicians out there and I think that is incredible. I think trans-folk can achieve this on a local or state level and even a national congressional seat but I just don’t see it becoming true in the highest office of the US yet.
Monika: What do you think about transgender beauty pageants?
Jessica: I think beauty pageants are pretty silly overall. I think that they tend to focus on the wrong things and not the things that truly make a woman beautiful. I would rather see women doing spectacular things with their lives and not focus so much on outer beauty.
That is just my personal opinion. I also believe strongly in the freedom to live your life the way that you want as long as you are not hurting anyone in the process. So if somebody dreams of being in a pageant, then go for it. It’s just not something that I’m personally into.
Monika: Do you like fashion? What kind of outfits do you usually wear? Any special fashion designs, colors, or trends?
Jessica: I guess that I’m not much of a trendy girl. I tend to wear a lot of peasant tops, jeans, and wedged boots. If I’m at a speaking gig or working on a particular issue, I usually wear a pencil skirt. I love pencil skirts! They are classy and sexy.
My Mum taught me well, we are total bargain shoppers. We go to a lot of outlets and such. I guess you can say that I don’t buy the trends of the season, I wait until the trends are on the clearance rack.
Monika: Are you involved in the life of your local LGBT community?
Jessica: I consider myself a freelance trans-advocate. I speak at colleges and work on various issues that pop up around Pittsburgh. I am one of the better-known trans-advocates in my area. When the book came out, that gave me some credibility and I was able to build from that. I’ve met some incredible people over the past few years. Some are local legends. I hope to continue doing this work for some time.
American Heroes
Monika: Many transgender ladies write their memoirs. Have you ever thought about writing such a book yourself?
Jessica: I have thought about it. I have hemophilia, I am a transgender woman and I worked in EMS for 12 years, each of those could be a book in itself. I actually sat down and started to write it once. It was really hard for me to talk about certain things.
I also can’t tell my story without mentioning certain people and I don’t want them to be alienated. Maybe someday I will but not in the near future. Besides, I had my moment with American Heroes. It’s time for another person to take the spotlight.

As far as a memoir, I used to have a video blog on YouTube but I deleted all of my videos. It was kind of painful to look at myself from back then.
I don’t blog either. If I ever write, I’m usually writing fan fiction for comic books or Dungeons & Dragons. That makes me happy. I guess I get my story out there by doing interviews like this, my speaking gigs, and working on issues that pop-up.
Monika: Could you say that you are a happy woman now?
Jessica: Happy is the understatement of the decade. For the first time in my life, I feel like I can do anything that I can dream of and nothing is going to stop me. I’ve never felt so empowered and I am loving every minute of it! It was a long, hard process to get to this point but it was well worth it.
Monika: Jessica, thank you for the interview!

All the photos: courtesy of Jessica McGuiness.
© 2013 - Monika Kowalska 

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