Interview with Rachael Evelyn Booth - Part 2


Monika: How about news media?
Rachael: Unfortunately, news stories are rife right now with state legislators passing “bathroom bills” to keep transgender people out of bathrooms of their gender identification. These are passed out of ignorance and fear that transgender women are nothing more than men in dresses looking to get some sort of thrill out of being in a ladies’ room.
This is a double-edged sword in the trans community. Female-to-Male transgender people can “pass” as male a lot easier than Male-to-Females. Given hormone treatment, trans-men grow beards and mustaches, their voices lower and they take on male characteristics. But their surgical remedies are not so simple. For Male-to-Females, after hormone therapy their voices don’t raise, their beards don’t go away, and they usually retain male facial characteristics that can only be changed through facial feminization surgery.
This is all exacerbated by the “good old boy” club which that if you’re a man you MUST be uber-macho. You’re absolutely sick if you’re anything else. So if you don’t “pass” well as a transwoman and you’re trying to go into a ladies’ room, you must have ulterior motives. Unfortunately, these same people don’t look around to see how many cis-women don’t look particularly feminine themselves. So a lot of people are hurt by these short-sighted and cruel laws.
I think one of my biggest disappointments about what’s happening in the media about trans-people is the story of Caitlyn Jenner. It doesn’t show people what being transgender is really all about. Think about it. One day on TV she’s Bruce Jenner being interviewed by Diane Sawyer on TV. The next month she shows up as a sexy siren on the cover of Vanity Fair magazine. Then her TV program shows her at any of her many mansions worrying about her greatest problem – wondering what designer outfit to choose from closets full of them.
Being transgender is not a magic act. It does not happen overnight and the people going through it can hardly afford electrolysis let alone facial feminization surgery and designer clothes. PLUS Caitlyn holds tightly to her conservative political stances with seemingly no idea of what conservatives in this country continue to do to limit and/or destroy LGBT rights. She is clueless and does not represent real transgender people.
Monika: You also write books and poems that are not related to your transgender experience …
Rachael: Yes I do. I have a website for my books and poetry called rachaelbooth.wix.com where I list my books, what I’m working on, and even put out my poetry for anyone to read. I wrote a lot of poetry during my darkest times before coming out so some of them aren’t so cheery to read but they’re a good indication of what I was feeling when I wrote them. I actually incorporated some of my poems in my autobiography because they helped show the despair I was feeling at different times in my life. Some of them, though, were written about the wonders I’ve witnessed in nature when I was backpacking in the mountains, something I used to do all the time.

Her books webpage.

Right now I’m writing a totally different kind of book. It’s the history of the tiny town I grew up in Ohio. The book is titled “The Little Port in the Cornfields – a History of Evansport, Ohio”. This is something that is fascinating to research. Evansport actually WAS a little port in the cornfields – founded on a river where farmers and loggers could bring their products into a grist mill and a sawmill for processing and then floating them down the river to trains at a nearby town to be taken to Toledo to be sent out across Lake Erie. A direct cousin of Francis Scott Key had a shop there in the town’s heyday. I’m really enjoying writing this.
I’ve also got a time-travel science fiction novel in mind, and a novel about a discovery the professional sports is rigged from the very start of the season. This new direction in my life is a lot of fun for me.
Monika: Do you participate in any lobbying campaigns? Do you think transgender women can make a difference in politics?
Rachael: I absolutely do. Here in New Hampshire, we’ve already had a transgender woman elected as a state Representative. Unfortunately, she was found to have done some pretty shady things and was removed from office. The good news was that it didn’t seem to reflect on her being a trans-woman.
I, however, had intended to run for a state Representative seat this year myself but have had to decline due to health issues that would keep me from doing what I needed to do to win the seat.
With the more frequent visibility of transgender people, I see a transgender candidate being elected to office soon. Kristen Beck, the transgender former Seal Team member is running right now to try to unseat the 30-year Democratic veteran Steny Hoyer in the Maryland primaries.
Monika: What do you think about transgender beauty pageants? Some activists criticize their value, pointing out that they lead to the obsession with youth and beauty.
Rachael: I personally think that all beauty pageants are demeaning to women. Any contest that pits one woman against another solely on her looks totally dismisses what it really means to be a woman. The more we continue these stereotypes, the harder it is for women to rise above these things that keep us down. On the other hand, I personally know some drop-dead gorgeous trans-women who I would confidently put up against any cis-woman in a beauty contest – if I believed in them.
Monika: Could you tell me about the importance of love in your life? 
Rachael: There were two things in my life that I didn’t even think about when I was considering transition – my love life and my sexual orientation after surgery. I didn’t care about the first and I didn’t know about the second. I was convinced that being transgender meant I would never again find love and that I would live alone for the rest of my life. I had made that OK with myself. But I’ve never been one to give up trying.
During the year I was in transition I purposely stayed away from any dating at all. I knew far too many transwomen who had been beaten and nearly killed by men they were dating who found out they weren’t “fully” female yet. That was not going to happen to me. After my surgery, I joined a dating service and started dating men – because that was what was expected of me by society. Sometimes you just never learn.

Rachael's first glamour shot.

Anyway, dating men just wasn’t right for me. Kissing a man was like kissing my dad and didn’t excite me at all. I then started dating women and found that was exactly what felt right. The next hurdle was to find out when to tell a prospective partner about my past.
Monika: Did you do it?
Rachael: There are two trains of thought about this – tell a person right off the bat who you are so that they don’t feel you’ve been lying to them, or let them get to know you first and if you fall in love, THEN tell them and see if the love is strong enough to survive this knowledge. I chose the latter.
When my girlfriend and I had been together for about a year and had fallen deeply in love with each other, I had to draw on my inner strength one more time and tell her about who I used to be. I had never been more frightened in my life. She said she needed to think about it and would get back to me in a week or so. I thought she was gone forever. Two days later she asked me to bring my clothes over so I could have clean clothes to wear to work the next day. She is now my wife and we just celebrated our 20th anniversary with a motorcycle ride to Nova Scotia last summer.
Monika: Are you working on any new projects now?
Rachael: Right now I’m throwing myself into writing. I’m trying to restart my old classes in Women’s Self Defense and Assault Prevention classes. I may no longer be able to do martial arts because of my physical disabilities but I can teach self-defense. It doesn’t require martial arts skills.
I’m teaching myself German because languages have always intrigued me. I already speak Mandarin Chinese, Arabic, and Spanish and I can get by in French with a basic knowledge of Russian and Japanese. Plus, I wanted to know that my mind can still learn languages. So far “Alles gut”!
I volunteer at a local ski resort to teach other disabled people to ski. When we moved up here to New Hampshire I got to help myself to be able to ski again and this was my chance to give back to others. This was my 6th year helping.
I also play guitar and sing for patients at a local hospital and at a local assisted living home. One of the things that for years kept me from thinking I could ever become a whole person was my love for performing. I always thought that once I transitioned, the first time I strummed my guitar and sang in public people would point and laugh about the male voice coming out of the kind-of-female-looking performer. As it turned out it was just another excuse I used to put off the inevitable.
Monika: How did you cope with some comments about your voice?
Rachael: The first time I performed in public I got great applause and numerous people telling me how pretty my voice was. My voice really hasn’t changed all that much other than some diction lessons I took during the transition so that I could speak in a more feminine timbre. I never had a particularly low voice but my language skills, along with the vocal coaching have allowed me to sing like I’ve always wanted to. In high school, I had to sing tenor because boys weren’t allowed to sing Alto. I now sing alto in a local Chorus and another women’s group.
I’ve also started a Facebook group called the North Country Transgender Support Group to help other transgender people find the assistance and friendship they need to not feel so alone and to find local medical and psychological help that others have used. My group covers northern New Hampshire and Vermont as well as Maine.
I can honestly say I’ve never been happier in my life.
Monika: What would you recommend to all transgender girls struggling with gender dysphoria?
Rachael: My greatest advice to others is to NEVER GIVE UP. Don’t let ANYONE bring you down because of how you feel inside. You alone know what’s right for you. There comes a time when you have to stand on your own two feet and not let yourself be governed by what other people think. When I came to decision myself it was the most freeing moment of my life. Nothing anyone could say would upset me anymore. It may have taken me 40 years to get to but I’m from a different generation.
The world is open to all of us now with help at every step. There are even doctors now who administer hormone blockers to transgender children so that girls don’t start menstruating and growing breasts and so boys’ voices don’t lower, growing beards and start bulking up at puberty. I wish I’d had that when I was young but if I’d even thought about saying anything to anyone when I was a child I risked hospitalization and lobotomy. Really.
And we all have a duty to speak up about our lives and let people know that we’re real people with a different kind of problem that needs to be addressed. Every voice out there makes it easier for the ones coming after us.
Monika: Rachael, thank you for the interview!

All the photos: courtesy of Rachael Evelyn Booth.
© 2016 - Monika Kowalska
 

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