Interview with Scottie Madden - Part 2


Monika: You and your wife were invited to lecture about your book by many universities and other institutions. When asked different questions about various aspects of your transition, did you feel that the audience understands what you had to go through?
Scottie: The simple answer is no. The more accurate answer is Oh hell no. BUT - the real point is that in both institutions there is an honest desire to try. And that’s okay. It's a starting point. With today's millisecond attention spans feverishly looking for the next “pulse” of pertinence, I find there’s a “well when I need to know that I can google it until then, it doesn’t require my energy.” Now, when you take us “round pegs” and you put them together with their square holes, you’ve got a perfect... opportunity to talk. And grow. When both sides come to the party.
My wife and I play a game we call the binary game, where we start with the messages we got as children, “If you’re gonna cry Mary Jane, go put on a dress” (Shit! It’s that easy? I'll be right back) and other messed up messages we all get. Then we ask the audience to shout out theirs… We worried that we, Marcy & I were too old fuddy-duddys and we get blank stares or judgment or worse, pity… These are mostly millennials, who are growing up a trans kid in the elementary schools (of so CNN makes it seem) but we are blown away by how entrenched the binary is, and how it has hurt many people… so our work is relevant. There’s a lot to do… Not everyone is a Caitlin or a Laverne or a Maura… and the voting world especially needs to know that hell yes, we are snowflakes… made of diamonds - we don’t melt. We’ve valuable. And we are flawless.
Monika: At what age did you transition into a woman yourself? Was it a difficult process? 
Scottie: We all have to have this answer don't we - but to my sisters and brothers in our community, I feel I can use language that won't require "qualifiers," so here goes:
I didn't even know I was not a woman. At the age of 4, I have the earliest traumatic memory of someone trying to scream me into never revealing this to the world - that telling anyone or showing anyone that I was "not a boy" would lose my parents' love and destroy my world. (This person was my weekly babysitter and a family friend)
I loved my parents and they loved me. They had no idea that anything had happened. And I would take that to my grave. So, I learned instead how to bury myself and focused instead on being what I would later learn (with everyone's reinforcement) was the best boy ever. The best are successful. The successful are in charge. when you're in charge, you call the shots. I made sure I would call the shots so I would never do anything that would make me as a girl and eventually as a woman, regret or hurt my own heart, all while looking to the outside world like the boy, son, nephew, man, husband, and uncle, it needed me to be. Each's very own knight in shining armor.
So, no. The transition process was the easiest thing to do, since my armor was superficial, taking it off was very simple - untie the ties and let the heavy shit drop off. What's hard is that "Male privilege" and even more so the "white" version of that is real. And not there for me now. But I m a strong woman.

27 years married, April ‘16.
Photo by Shivani Ray.

I will say that transition is a moment-by-moment continuum - just as we never stop growing and evolving, we never really stop transitioning - and I am continually surprised by very simple things. it's the redefining our marriage and my role in it that has required the most amount of work - because the pressure my transition has put on my career and livelihood has coincided with one of the most horrendous moments in U.S. history. And these pressures are relentless - they're at the store, the bank, the highway, and the home. You can see how a dirty frying pan when it's your turn to do dishes can be a nuclear detonator... that's the difficult part - staying in "like" with the one you love.
Monika: At that time of your transition, did you have any transgender role models that you followed?
Scottie: I hadn't actually followed one role model. There were a lot, (especially as I first dipped a toe into our ocean) I'm embarrassed and a little sad to say, who I watched as "not to follow" - and of course as you decide to start taking action it's important to have friends who you can trust to know in our language if something is on or off for you and your body.
Remember we're talking about life-altering and irreversible (which is a dumb word - nobody could ever go back) But it does mean you will change. Your body will change with hormones. Your relationships will change when you come out. Your thoughts will change once you start living life with different criteria- so, you need someone who speaks your language, so you don't get lost and when things get different, you'll have a handrail through the unfamiliar parts.
Monika: Are there are any transgender ladies that you admire and respect now?
Scottie: It's is a golden age for the wisdom of amazing people to bless our lives, isn't it? The writings and postings of Janet Mock helped me see that the brilliant intelligence of "our people" and more importantly our voice speaks not to our marginalization but to our contribution to humanity. I use and listen to the usual suspects, Jenny Boylan, Lavern Cox, Ian Harvie, and Buck Angel, whenever they speak.
You said "ladies" in your question - but we are silly if we don't listen to our brothers - we share a unique vision and perspective with our trans brothers (think about it) and we share the same trials and tribulations in mirrored ways. Ian especially is uniquely articulate in the shadings of relationships and Buck holds himself to the ideals of being human-like no other.
But my biggest role model is and I'm honored to call her friend and sister, Alexandra Billings. She really has been there. She really has done that. All of it. And then some. And though she should be a war-weary veteran licking her wounds from unjust horrors and living the fight for the rights we have gained (which by the way will slip if we don't stay in the game!), she is instead the loudest, proudest, most generous supernova of love and possibility and dignity that ever there was. 
But there are, now, many role models that quietly inspire me to be me all of me. These aren't names you know, but they are people you should know. And they are our sisters and brothers in the community who live fully every day. Proudly.
Monika: What was the hardest thing about your coming out?
Scottie: Impatience. In fact, I don't even have patience with this question - maybe it's because I was raised by wolves (which is my way of describing why Ms. Scottie is sometimes a little, you know, unladylike - which will set my girlfriends screaming now!).
Impatience with how fast my body is changing. Impatience with how fast my body is healing. Impatience with how fast my family is dealing with pronouns. Impatience that is justified by being late to my own party, and now is running as fast as she can to make up for the lost time. Don't try this at home!

Scottie with "Mylove".
Photo by Shivani Rey.

Monika: The transgender cause is usually manifested together with the other LGBTQ communities. Being the last letter in this abbreviation, is the transgender community able to promote its own cause within the LGBTQ group?
Scottie: Whoa there... we are in a divisive time in America. And it's particularly heartbreaking because we have made such great strides in our society with understanding (I'm not talking about laws and regulations- I'm talking about the real emotional growth) with concepts like intersectionality and white feminism and Black Lives Matter doesn't mean all lives don't matter. There has been a sea change with the ways we truly regard each other and our various tribes be they race, identity, or what have you. And now all that is under fire with the new president and his promise to restore rich white Christian values (only).
So. Am I a T under the rainbow tent? Yes. And I'm an L. and yes they don't always get along- and both should get a timeout for wasting even one moment on that stupidity. Our history shows that every time we tried to "shush" the whole movement, so as to not slow down the progression of a smaller sect, and that smaller sect promises that once they get into the castle, they'll open the door for the rest of us.
... we fail. Divided we fall.
So no. I won't let that happen. And no I won't do it with divisiveness.
We are different from our LGB sisters and brothers only when you have to pick between your identity and your sexuality - but since the cis-hetero community doesn't, why should we? As trans people, we either are at one point or another one of the other letters, have been through those letters on our way to our T, or have shared table and meeting space since Stonewall. And yes this situation exists or you wouldn't have asked me this question- and yes it is silly. A waste of time pretending to be different and I wish it would go away.
Monika: You mentioned Stonewall. Are we before our own Stonewall or we are weak as a community to achieve a breakthrough in the promotion of transgender cause?
Scottie: Ouch! Weak? Not now. Not ever. And not to act your crazy aunt, but Stonewall was our Stonewall. We were there. despite some recent misguided films - we are the movement. We are the movers and we forged our pinks and blues of the rainbow flag with blood with tears. And Alexandra says it better. Because we are born of Stone, we can and will take down the next barrier and the next barrier and the next, until full equality for all is our natural state of living. We know what we’re fighting for and we know how to fight. 
And as Alexandra reminds us, we fight with compassion, caring, and clarity. The beauty of now is that we don't’ fight alone. We wear pink knit hats, we march at airports and we dismantle hatred and incompetence in the federal courts. So the lesson for us in the trans community is to not allow ourselves to “feel” or act marginalized, not with denial’s malaise but with Pride’s bright flame. Together.
Because we are not any one thing. I am a woman. I am trans. I am an American seeing my country under siege by hatred and greed. These three intersections show me that I intersect with all. And fight for all. And that is how we break down any walls, stone or ignorance. 


Monika: What do you think about the present situation of transgender women in American society?
Scottie: I can't lie. I am losing more sleep than they deserve wondering how we make the hatred stop. I could deal with it if it was the usual ignorance of people that I'm told I need to send light to, but when it equals the very real rise of the threats to our community and the emboldening of discrimination and physical harm, then... well, I confess, I am struggling to remain hopeful. And it's not easy.
But as I wrote in my book the only way around is through (thank you, Live) and the only way to deal with these fears is to do something about it. My work aside from television and film is education, and with my wife, we speak to universities and corporations and strive for understanding our world as a means to erode the desire and support for any kind of discrimination. And that helps me sleep better. But for all the gains we make with roles on TV and in the movies, we still read a list of too many names (ONE IS TOO MANY) each November on Remembrance day. This Must Change!
Monika: Do you participate in any lobbying campaigns? Do you think transgender women can make a difference in politics?
Scottie: Oh yes, we can. We have got to be citizen activists (and if you are busy then get with the big kids GLAAD, HRC, etc.) We just heard about the Texas Mayor The Honorable Jess Herbst of Newhope, TX announced she was trans, so we're already making a difference. We have always been here.
As for the bigger question of my time and career choice, politics is always out there as a beacon, tempting me. But for now, I will pitch in when and where I can - I believe we'll all be involved in some campaign or another - I got my pink knit hat at the ready.
 
Light, Laughter & Love. Photo by Shivani Ray.

Monika: Could you tell me about the importance of love in your life?
Scottie: It is all there is. I couldn't do my life without love. I wouldn't live without love. I would've been dead long ago. Love for me is "Mylove," that's her name, my wife Marcy of 28 years this April. 
Without her love, I would've never had to courage to live my life. It was her love that showed me that my fear of losing that love was a crutch, an excuse. She still identifies as a cis-hetero woman who is married to and totally in love with a woman. Totally in love with me. She makes it possible to be me.
Monika: Are you working on any new projects now?
Scottie: As I said above - a drama series based on my book. A cookbook and I write a weekly blog called "Raised By Wolves."
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. What is your own view?
Scottie: Well... our dreams started well before we thought we needed an operating table, stayed with us while we summoned the courage to even ask about an operating table and will need to get us to and from that table. But I get her point. As Lavern Cox says genitalia is not destiny. And there are those in our community who will never follow our lead and that's okay too.
I think Gina's advice is good for those who could let the table be an excuse for not living in any way, shape, or form. And in that regard, I agree with the wise Ms. Grahame. Our potential is, individually, singularly, ours. We can never nor should we ever try to live someone else's life. We're not all supposed to write books or speak publicly, or... wait. Ha! Okay, well don't do as I do, do as ... you know what? Do whatever your heart says. sin
Monika: Scottie, thank you for the interview!
Scottie: Thank you, Monika! This has been a great honor. March on!

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All the photos: courtesy of Scottie Madden.
The main photo credit: Lara Weatherly

© 2017 - Monika Kowalska
  

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