Interview with Siân Longthorpe - Part 2

Monika: And what happened later?
Siân: I was so thrilled when I subsequently heard that I’d made it through to the next round. That people were willing to see me for my skills and talent, and not been side-tracked by my trans status, was incredibly encouraging. The second interview also went well and I had a strange feeling inside that maybe I’d done enough. And so it was that I received a phone call later that day offering me the job. The sense of pride I felt was enormous. One of my biggest fears of transitioning was how it might impact my work, and I’d managed to demonstrate that I could get a new job as a woman. It was such a proud moment!
There’s no question that I’d made the task of finding a new job much harder by being trans. I also had to accept a substantial pay cut in taking this job, but these last 18 months, living my life as a woman and enduring the Covid pandemic, have made me reassess what’s most important to me. For many years, as a male, I had a great salary but I was empty inside, longing for a different life that just didn’t seem achievable. However, through taking some very brave decisions, I have achieved my goal, and hopefully, I can inspire others to follow their dreams.
Monika: What would you advise to all transwomen looking for employment?
Siân: I think, first and foremost, it’s about identifying forward-thinking companies that embrace diversity, recognizing the benefits that transgender employees bring. In my experience, these tend to be larger companies, but I would hope that there are many smaller companies that are equally inclusive.
The challenge for any transgender person seeking work is to demonstrate that they have the skills to do the job and to demonstrate those in any interview. Try to be confident in your skills and ability, and show what you can bring to an organization. But remember, an interview is a two-way process, and you need to be satisfied that you will be comfortable working in that organization.
Monika: Are you involved in the life of the local LGBTQ community?
Siân: No, I’m not. I lead a very busy life and have not found time to engage. The closest I’ve got is attending a couple of Pride events.

"I’ve long struggled with whether I want people to
see me as a successful transgender woman or just a
regular woman getting on with her life."

Monika: Could you tell me about the importance of love in your life?
Siân: I’ve been single since splitting from my ex-wife, five years ago. There are occasions when I feel rather lonely – and this pandemic has certainly not helped – but I also cherish the freedom I have these days, and I certainly manage to fill my time outside of work.
I do hope to find love again at some point, but my priorities lie elsewhere at the moment. I still have some big hurdles to clear with my transition and, ideally, I’d like to complete those before I look for a relationship. But life is unpredictable, and who’s to say love isn’t just around the corner?
Monika: Many transgender ladies write their memoirs. Have you ever thought about writing such a book yourself?
Siân: I have thought about it on many occasions but I don’t really have the spare time to commit to writing everything down. Whilst many people find my story fascinating, in all honesty, I don’t think it’s any more standout than every trans person’s story, and therefore I wondered where the interest would lie.
I have a profile on Flickr where I effectively tell my story, sharing milestone events – both positive and negative – and find that’s a useful way of allowing those that are interested a glimpse into my life.
Monika: What is your next step in the present time and where do you see yourself within the next 5-7 years?
Siân: Now that I’m finally being cared for by our NHS, via the Gender Identity Clinic, I do feel as though the next stage of my journey can begin in the coming months. The next big steps for me are surgeries; conversations about those are still in their infancy, but I do intend to have my breasts done later this year.
If I’m honest, I am really hoping for a period of stability in the next year or so. Over the last five years I’ve had to go through a great many major life events in a very condensed period: separation from my wife, followed by a divorce, buying a new house, coming out as transgender, transitioning to full-time, being made redundant and finding new work. It’s little wonder I’m exhausted…
When I consider where I was 5-7 years ago, I am astounded at where I am now. Back then, my marriage was struggling, primarily due to issues surrounding my feelings, but I had no belief that I would ever go public with my inner feelings, let alone make the progress I have. So, it’s difficult to see where I could be in 5-7 years’ time. By then, I’ll be about 50, which feels really old, but I still feel young and have, in a sense, started a new life only recently so I still think I have a lot still to achieve.
I guess I’d like to feel that I have completed my transition journey by then, with my surgeries safely behind me, and be at peace with my life, including being happy with my work. Maybe there will be a partner by my side – I just don’t know.
I’ve long struggled with whether I want people to see me as a successful transgender woman or just a regular woman getting on with her life. In a sense, despite the pain and high cost I’ve endured, my transition has been a huge success so far, but a greater mark of acceptance is for people to not even realize the journey I’ve been on and just see me as a female, no questions asked.
Monika: What would you recommend to all transgender women that are afraid of transition?
Siân: Ultimately, I think it’s for people to honestly appraise what is most important to them in their lives. Transitioning will come at a price, no doubt about it, so it’s about deciding whether you’re prepared to pay that price for the opportunity to be yourself. That is the acid test.
I’ve long wrestled with the question of whether I’m selfish. Transitioning is a selfish thing to do – as you are ultimately putting your feelings above all else – but I do not consider myself a selfish person. I remember reading so many stories when deciding what to do that went along the lines of ‘life isn’t a dress rehearsal’ and ‘you need to lead the life you want to lead, not the life others want you to lead’, and they really resonated. I think I’ve been fortunate with how my transition has proceeded, but in part, I’d like to think that is because of how I have managed it. One final comment: once you commit, you need to fully commit. There’s really no going back…

"When I consider where I was
5-7 years ago, I am astounded
at where I am now."

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?
Siân: I do, to some degree.
I’ve been quite open in sharing my story that it’s not all rainbows and unicorns. There are crushing lows as well, and people need to know that. I read some literature about lower surgery recently and it started by clearly stating that surgery wouldn’t be the panacea for all your issues, which I think is crucial for people to realize. 
Where I slightly disagree with your friend is where it begins. For me, that was the first day of going full-time. That was a huge step, which I felt marked the start of a new beginning. But really transitioning can’t be defined by one event – be that coming out, commencing HRT, starting to present full-time as a woman or a specific surgery – they’re all just part of a journey. Whether there will come a point when I feel like I’ve reached the end of the journey, I don’t know.
Monika: Siân, it was a pleasure to interview you. Thanks a lot!
Siân: It's been an absolute pleasure. I'm really proud of what I've achieved and I think it's vital for trans people to be visible to give hope to others. To that end, I hope your readers have found my words of interest and hopefully can be inspired to do what feels right for them.


All the photos: courtesy of Siân Longthorpe.
© 2021 - Monika Kowalska

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