Interview with Ritz Scarlet Arbuckle - Part 2

Monika: Do you like fashion? What kind of outfits do you usually wear? Any special fashion designs, colors, or trends?
Ritz: I absolutely love fashion! I've been mentioning it frequently throughout the interview for good reason! I try to avoid gender-neutral or masculine clothes. This mainly means nothing baggy. Beyond that, I explore a lot! Mostly the sorts of things I couldn't wear as a cis man without being judged, so lots of dresses and skirts! I would probably classify my style as somewhat alternative and even punk to an extent. But I'm open to a lot!
For colors, I love red, purple, and black, but again, I'm open to anything. I'm definitely carving my own path in fashion. I don't look into what's trendy or what celebrities are doing at all. Brands also mean nothing to me. I had a very good idea of my target aesthetic right off the bat and I'm not done exploring it, so outside influences aren't very relevant to me right now.
Monika: Do you often experiment with your makeup?
Ritz: I used to experiment a bit, but really only for going out. I work extremely early and can't motivate myself to do makeup at 3 in the morning. Compound that with masks for Covid and I barely do makeup for anything anymore. I do really love makeup; it's just a lot of effort.

"After coming out I've started considering
myself something of a fashionista."

I've never really looked up tutorials; I was shown by a co-worker how to do a few things once at the beginning of my transition and I've figured out the rest on instinct. If there's something I really like and can't figure out then I have a few friends I can ask about how to achieve it. I can't wait to dive back into it once the pandemic clears up!
Monika: By the way, do you like being complimented on your looks?
Ritz: Typically, yes. Not when it's someone being creepy like catcalls or strangers in my inbox. But friends, people commenting on social media posts, and tasteful comments by strangers, sure. I dress up for myself first and foremost, but compliments make me very happy. It helps reinforce that my transition is going well and my aesthetic is pleasing to others. And of course, compliments have their charm in romance as well.
Monika: Do you remember your first job interview as a woman?
Ritz: I have not yet had an interview as a woman. I ended up at Starbucks with no knowledge of their transgender benefits. In fact, learning about their coverage is what enabled me to take the idea of transitioning seriously. Suddenly I could afford it despite my college debt and low income.
Monika: What would you advise all trans women looking for employment?
Ritz: Because I have not sought new employment since coming out I think I can only speculate on this question. Find a progressive company with good benefits and don't settle for anything less than being yourself. Starbucks is everywhere. I've heard T-Mobile and Amazon are really good to trans people too. If you can move I highly recommend the Pacific Northwest. As I said, I've had no trouble whatsoever out in public here, even very early on in my transition.
Monika: Are you involved in the life of the local LGBTQ community?
Ritz: Most of my transition has been through pandemic so not really. I want to find my local community but I wasn't able to do so before we locked down. I'll definitely be trying to meet more people when I can! In the meantime, I have a very active presence in larger-scale LGBTQ groups but I don't have any leadership roles. Extra responsibility can be stressful and I don’t need that right now, so I just jump in to compliment people and chime in with support and advice when it feels appropriate. And of course to post my cool outfits haha. 
Monika: Could you tell me about the importance of love in your life?
Ritz: Love is something I desire very much but I wouldn't say it plays an active role in my life. I've been single for several years so it hasn't played any role in my transition beyond the occasional "swiping." I seek relationships mainly through online dating but it hasn't ever really panned out for me. My hobbies make it difficult to meet new people near me and this is compounded by the pandemic.
To get back on topic though, love is very important to me. I feel I am my best self when I'm making someone I love happy. I've always been more motivated to help others than myself and I really enjoy the closeness and intimacy that you can only find in a relationship.
Monika: Many transgender ladies write their memoirs. Have you ever thought about writing such a book yourself?
Ritz: No, writing a book definitely isn't for me. I've never even considered the idea. I didn't care for writing in school and wouldn’t enjoy writing now. I’m sure that would come across in my work, so it doesn’t seem worthwhile.
Monika: What is your next step in the present time and where do you see yourself within the next 5-7 years?
Ritz: My next step is the second round of my Facial Feminization. I just had my nose, cheeks, lips, chin, and trachea done as well as voice feminization. We did an implant that will stretch my forehead skin to prep for hairline lowering next time. I'll also have forehead and brow work. Beyond that, I'm looking at bottom surgery as soon as possible. I'm already talking to a surgeon about it.

"All of your dreams are valid, independent
of your very valid gender identity!"

Transition goals aside, 5 to 7 years from now I'd like to have dug back into my career. I haven't gotten to do much sound work since I came out and started pursuing my transition goals. Starbucks has been an incredible place to work, both for the benefits and as a truly enjoyable job, but I miss doing what I went to school for. I suspect I'll go part-time at Starbucks and start working on sound gigs after I've healed from bottom surgery and eventually migrate back to my career full-time. As for what job I might have, I don't have my heart set on any particular companies, but I'd like to be in video games.
Monika: What would you recommend to all transgender women that are afraid of transition?
Ritz: Do some research. After realizing that I was trans, I was afraid for years that I could never be an attractive woman and this kept me from pursuing it. The fact is, loads of trans people wait and wait and wait and then end up transitioning anyway. And just about every one of us, I wish we had done it sooner. So do research. There's a lot more information out there now about the effects of hormones and documented transitions. Hormones are powerful stuff and you can change so much more than you think.
Alongside your research, I strongly recommend seeing a gender therapist, if only for long enough to determine transition is right for you. Do all this sooner than later, you'll be happy you did. And remember that there are more of us than you think. There are communities for you to feel safe and ask questions.
Surround yourself with supportive people! If your friends won't support you then chances are they aren't very good friends. If your family won't support you then consider thinking about why they would care more about your gender identity than their family. Get away from all the toxic people in your life as soon as you can so that you can do what is best for you!
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?
Ritz: I mean some people don't have any dreams related to the operating table; surgery is a totally optional part of the transition. Some care more about passing than others and some pass just fine, no surgery needed. But I do agree that trans folk can aspire to do anything, regardless of their assigned gender. If you're a trans woman and want to be a model then go for it! If you're a trans man and want to body build, you can do it! Or a trans woman body building and trans man modeling. Or a trans man getting pregnant or any other examples! 
We are not bound by our gender identities; they just help us be more comfortable in our skin. Your dreams can of course be surgery, and when you've fulfilled those dreams you'll have more dreams afterward I'm sure. The bottom line is that all of your dreams are valid, independent of your very valid gender identity!
Monika: Ritz, it was a pleasure to interview you. Thanks a lot!
Ritz: Thank you so much! I only hope that my thoughts and my story can help others on their own paths! Good luck to all of you!


All the photos: courtesy of Ritz Scarlet Arbuckle.
© 2021 - Monika Kowalska

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