Interview with Jessica Potak - 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?
Jessica: The big issue with this syndrome, in general, is that we're seeking validation of ourselves from other people. We're taking our entire self-worth and laying it out on the table and letting people choose our worth due to some physical markers. We lose control of our worth as soon as we do this. We need to think a little bit about how little it actually matters. Lots of people we see daily we will never see again and their feelings towards us are inconsequential. If people have adverse reactions we need to understand the mentality of these people.
First let me say we are freer than they will ever be, we are in touch with our inner selves and we are expressing ourselves freely to be who we want to be! Unfortunately, the mould of society makes people fear free expression, it steers people towards norms. Some people internalize this so deep that they become triggered when seeing another with a different way or living free. They fear this freedom of expression and not being like the rest of the pack. They internally become threatened and go into a protection mode which can cause an adverse reaction. These are actually sad people with broken pieces inside and not someone to give our power or self-validation away to.
Early in my journey before I passed, I learned that other people's reactions really didn't matter. If someone looked at me weird, I smiled back. Why did I not care? I was freely living as my true self and I was happier than I ever was. I strived and still do strive to be the best version of myself and that made me internally fulfilled. I was living well, felt great, and did the inner work to build a foundation of love for myself. That love needs to be the only opinion that matters!
Monika: Do you remember the first time you saw a transgender woman on TV or met anyone transgender in person?
Jessica: Well, when I was small there weren't many instances of transgender people in a positive light. It always seemed to be positioned in a sensational way. I remember being young and seeing trans people on Jerry Springer or the butt of a joke like in the Movie Ace Ventura pet detective.
These were not role models in any way shape or form... quite the contrary actually. They were just reinforcing the society's rigid gender and hetero normative perspectives. So at least there was some visibility but then accepting that I was part of an outcasted group at the time made it even tougher to actualize my feelings. I never met a transgender person in the flesh until I started working on my transition.
At Victoria Henley's Magnifique
Winter Showcase.
Monika: Are there any transgender role models that you follow or followed?
Jessica: Well, when I first started exploring myself again at almost 37 there were so many people that I saw on Reddit that collectively had an impact on me. One of the girls that had the greatest impact was Kayla Autumn. We are similar in age, she transitioned very successfully to a happy person and she constantly posts resources that helped me actualize my own feelings. Influential people like her made me want to do the same for the community! 
Monika: What do you think about the present situation of transgender women in your country?
Jessica: Well I feel like in general, the US is one of the better places to be transgender. Even though our medical system is very flawed in so many ways, our transgender medical care and availability of services seem to be one of the best.
Currently, in 13 countries it's illegal to be openly transgender in public. In 70 countries consensual sexual acts between two people of "same sex" are illegal (which legally LGBT get often stuck in), and in 12 of those countries you can be executed.
In Europe, there can be a waiting list of many years just to get on HRT and many people end up self-medicating from mail-order pharmacies. So the United States looks pretty fabulous in comparison but we still have a tremendous amount of work to do. In the rural conservative areas, most trans people face an uphill battle to live their true selves. They face losing family and friends who are socialized to fear, hate and discredit the transgender and LGBT community as a whole. Finding housing is more difficult due to discrimination and entering into decent jobs is significantly harder than their CIS counterparts.
In the cities/states where attitudes are more liberal, trans people do face the same difficulties but have a greater chance of living a quality life and being accepted socially and in workplaces. We need more positive visibility anywhere we can get it to help slowly change the attitudes of the society. That's why I'm dedicating my life to being out there in media and entertainment... we need as much positivity as we can get!
Monika: Do you like fashion? What kind of outfits do you usually wear? Any special fashion designs, colors, or trends?
Jessica: I love fashion!! That's why I'm getting into the industry!! Since I treat my body well I'm pretty enthusiastic about showing it off. My style is generally a little young but I think I can pull it off haha. I have a pretty large wardrobe and I love experimenting with new looks. I'm pretty obsessed with looking as good as possible whenever I go out and wearing outfits that are appropriate to the situation.
For me, if I'm being the best I can be... it just makes me feel that much more confident and positive about myself. I also feel like what you wear and how you display yourself is a representation of yourself. I always believe that you should put your best foot forward! I do follow fashion trends and make sure my wardrobe is peppered with some current styles. 
Monika: Do you often experiment with your makeup?
Jessica: I've historically put an extreme amount of time working on my makeup looks. The first time I saw myself in makeup it started the crack in my eggshell and I was hooked. I spent hours on YouTube doing tutorials and practicing. After about a year and a half, I became quite comfortable and got a routine down. I even have a signature wing haha! I still enjoy makeup tremendously but it's more utilitarian and I don't have the time to dedicate to any new techniques.
Monika: By the way, do you like being complimented on your looks?
Jessica: Oh yeah absolutely! I'm definitely an attention whore now haha. In my previous life, I was never satisfied with my looks, my self-worth was low and I felt like I was pretty much invisible. It's definitely a gratifying change being a star in my own show!
Monika: Do you remember your first job interview as a woman?
Jessica: I was very lucky that I had a good position in a marketing company that was very accepting when I transitioned. After Covid came and I was forced to be home to stay with my daughter I became my own boss so I never had a chance to impress anyone at an interview, haha.
"We need more positive visibility
anywhere we can get it to help slowly
change the attitudes of the society."
Monika: What would you advise to all transwomen looking for employment?
Jessica: Well, because I'm ditching the standard employment model many may not see me as the best authority right now, but tapping into 20 years of business experience I would suggest a few basic things. You have the basics... always show up on time, dress appropriately, have good hygiene, don't fidget, maintain proper posture and look your interviewer in the eyes.
The most important part of the interview is selling yourself to the employer. Grasp your confidence and shine! I feel it's very important for someone who is trans to be comfortable in their own skin. If you aren't comfortable with yourself, you risk giving the perception that you might make other people uncomfortable, and then hiring you would be a liability. Be vibrant, full of life, and show what value you can add to the organization!
Monika: Are you involved in the life of the local LGBTQ community?
Jessica: Well, besides social media to connect with the global trans community on the local level I had been to a few TRCLI (transgender resource center long island) meetings but I haven't done it in a long while. I do however try and befriend as many trans people in the area as possible and go to any functions or gatherings and I'm always at the PRIDE parades and celebrations.
Sometimes I'll go to LGBTQ-friendly bars but I feel like many of the people I associate with usually are connected with the community or know people who are so as I meet more people my reach to the community gets greater. Just in general, I'm always out, trying to speak about the community and spread awareness. I spoke about my experience at the Women's Diversity Network Summit, and I'll be speaking at a large synagogue soon. You never know who needs to hear a positive trans experience... there are plenty of people who are questioning or maybe just have heavily repressed their feelings that may really need to hear about my journey.
Monika: Could you tell me about the importance of love in your life?
Jessica: Love is the greatest binding force of all. It's one of the greatest powers in the universe and I spread it all day every day but it starts with love for yourself. I never used to love myself before transitioning... there was always such a disconnect between my body and mind.
After I started transitioning and becoming a true version of myself I shed the layers of disdain for myself and started growing positivity and love for myself. The more I worked on myself and made strides to become the best version of myself, the love grew too. Now after my surgeries, my body and mind are where I want them to be and I've never loved myself so much.
Mentally I had a huge revelation during my recovery that really topped me off and made my love for myself and the world grow in huge ways. I was holding onto a lot of hate. Hate from people that wronged me, for awful things that happened to me during my life, for the hardships I went through, for the mistakes I made and for being trans and having to go through so much to be myself. We all go through our lives and accumulate a mass of these negative emotions from our experiences. Most of the time we just stuff the baggage away and never deal with it, but that's not how to foster a truly positive and loving environment for ourselves. The negativity festers and eats away at us... but we can change that. Forgiveness... forgiveness is the answer.
I learned to let go and forgive the people that wronged me, the awful things that happened, the hardships, being born trans, and forgave myself for my own mistakes and wrongdoings. This took some time but eventually the things that kept me awake at night no longer circled my head. A massive weight that I held was gone and it truly brought me to the next level mentally and spiritually. Now that my mind, body and soul are all aligned my love energy is incredibly strong. I walk around and I glow, everyone comments on it. I have such good energy and I love projecting it. I make people smile and feel good wherever I go. I meet friends and connections constantly and am able to pull people out of their shells. I inspire people and change their perspectives.
I honestly love going out now because of it, I call it doing the Jess thing now haha. Obviously, the energy spreads to all my existing relationships and being the best mom I can be for my daughter. The love I have for my daughter Leah has consistently been the strongest I've ever held but being in the right place myself just brought our relationship to a better place. We're so close and have such a wonderful time together and I never feel like I'm missing out on anything not having a bigger family.
"I'm always out, trying to speak about
the community and spread awareness."
I also feel like the entire trans community is a big family and as I've mentioned I spend a great deal of time supporting and giving as much love as I can to as many as I can. There are so many that need it and especially in our community where so many that feel outcasted, some warmth can really make a difference in people's lives.
Monika: Many transgender ladies write their memoirs. Have you ever thought about writing such a book yourself?
Jessica: Yes! I have been journaling and writing about my experiences and feelings for a while! Before surgery, I had an almost daily handwritten journal that I started when I got my date for bottom surgery called 210 days... which was the countdown to bottom surgery. I had a lot of feelings to grapple with at that point. I found that by sitting down each night and working it out on paper was a very intimate way of sorting out my feelings and also a way to be accountable for my life. Besides that, I have a whole slew of experiences and thoughts typed from the past few years. Eventually, I will absolutely be writing at least one book!!
Monika: What is your next step in the present time and where do you see yourself within the next 5-7 years?
Jessica: Well, at this point I'm working heavily on building my modeling career and all my other creative endeavors like acting, music, and painting. As an artist I feel they all tend to intertwine and feed each other and the more I create, the more my messages of positivity, love, truth, inspiration, and hope spread! I keep pushing away past my comfort zones but my hard work is absolutely paying off and I've been growing incredibly quickly!
My name is getting out and new opportunities keep presenting themselves. There's so much going on that I feel like I'm constantly struggling to keep up and take care of what needs to get done but I'm a fast-paced girl and I love to be in motion. Plus there's a rush that comes along with dedicated work that has the undertones of being successful and the actualization of my dreams.
About two months ago I got signed by my first small modeling agency Michelle & Group out of Orlando. They found me the most amazing ongoing gig ever... I will be doing video ads for Target stores!! It's absolutely a dream come true! They were specifically seeking trans talent and I'm seeing more and more companies looking to embrace inclusivity. It really warms my heart!
I'm also super excited as this week starts New York Fashion Week and I'll be walking in two shows! That will be 5 shows since I started 5 months ago. I've met so many wonderful friends... I'm so grateful for everything!
After the shows, I will continue to independently work with brands, walk in more fashion shows, sign with more agencies, continue to get published, get cast in more commercials and films! In 5-7 years I would figure that I would transition from modeling to more acting, painting, and music. I have been playing around with the idea of creating my own modeling agency that primarily deals with LGBT talent.
Monika: What would you recommend to all transgender women that are afraid of transition?
Jessica: Transition is absolutely terrifying but it needs to be compared to the emotional stress of hiding your true self. The feelings inside don't go away and holding them down for more time just adds pressure to an emotional volcano that will eventually blow.
The journey is one of the toughest journies that you will ever go through but it's beautiful in its own way. You learn so much about yourself and it makes you a really strong person to overcome the obstacles and build real love for yourself.
I consider my transition complete and I've never known such happiness in all my life, and the only reason that I'm in this position was that I took a leap of faith to transition into living my true self.
"The journey is one of the toughest
journies that you will ever go through
but it's beautiful in its own way."
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?
Jessica: Yes, I absolutely do!! We all have unlimited potential to achieve what we want in our lives. Our biggest limiting factors are usually our own perceptions, self-doubt, and putting in the work required to make it work. Manifestation of our dreams takes unwavering dedication and a strong will. In your mind you have to erase the word "try", you are either making it happen or you aren't. You can ask anyone successful, that is the mentality you have to have to bring you there.
While for me transitioning successfully was a dream come true in itself, it's just one part of my life. Transitioning has been a vehicle to bring me to the spot where I can now make my ideal life a reality and start to make my dreams come true. I feel like I just really started really living a few months ago after I recovered from my surgeries. The person that I knew who was always trapped inside is now free and the massive empowerment of living my truth keeps pushing me forward!
Monika: Jessica, it was a pleasure to interview you. Thanks a lot!
Jessica: This has been a wonderful experience! Your questions were wonderful and really made me think. I hope our conversation can be a positive influence! If anyone wants to reach out they are more than welcome to! All my links are at cutejess.com. Lots of love to everyone!

END OF PART 2

 
All the photos: courtesy of Jessica Potak.
© 2022 - Monika Kowalska

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