Interview with Vanessa Sheridan - Part 2


Monika: A few weeks ago Jared Leto received his Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for his role in "Dallas Buyers Club" as transgender Rayon. What do you think about transgender stories or characters which have been featured in films, newspapers, or books so far? 
Vanessa: For the most part, I think it's been inaccurate and fairly unrealistic. The real lives of transgender people who deal with real problems here in the real world have rarely been portrayed with true sensitivity, depth, integrity, and authenticity. The film, television, and print media still tend to focus on our sexuality and on titillation rather than our full humanity and our contributions to the world.
The media has historically tended to portray us as either prostitutes or punchlines, and most of us are neither. Also, and despite the wonderful and deserved success of people like the great Laverne Cox, we need a lot more transgender actors and actresses on the screen. It's asinine to have cisgender actors playing transgender roles when there are perfectly marvelous transgender actors who should be doing that instead, and who could bring unparalleled honesty to their portrayals.
Frankly, I look forward to the day when it's no big deal for transgender actors to play ANY roles. We are certainly more than capable of doing so.
Monika: Are you active in politics? Do you participate in any lobbying campaigns? Do you think transgender women can make a difference in politics?
Vanessa: Yes, yes, and yes. I am proudly progressive and vote accordingly. I don't understand how any thinking, caring citizen--especially any woman or minority--can vote for regressive political candidates who don't give a rip about the welfare of minority groups like the transgender community. I work to help elect politicians who have the interests of people at heart, especially those who will try to make a difference for the most vulnerable in our society.
I strongly believe that every transgender person owes it to themselves and to our community to help elect progressive candidates to the office so we can get past old prejudices and bigotry and improve our lives through the political system.
Monika: Could you tell me about the importance of love in your life?
Vanessa: I think everyone wants to love and be loved. I'm no different. It's a human thing, and--at least the last time I looked--I'm a human.

Courtesy of Vanessa Sheridan.

Monika: Many transgender ladies write their memoirs. Have you ever thought about writing such a book yourself?
Vanessa: I tried doing something like that once and found it to be a somewhat counterproductive effort. Writing about myself is not something with which I feel comfortable.
It feels a bit arrogant and perhaps even egotistical to me, although I don't want to sit in judgment of anyone who feels compelled to write about their life. We all work out our issues in different ways. For example, I've never kept a journal because I truly believe my life is so humdrum and boring that it would be a waste of my time.
Also, and to be completely honest, I don't believe anyone would be interested in my memoirs anyway. I'm just one of many people who care and try to make a difference, and I don't think I'm a big deal at all. In my opinion, my life wouldn't make for very compelling reading. I'm just a very average person who would rather spend my time taking action and working for transgender equality than writing about myself. Don't look for an autobiography from me anytime soon, because I'm not particularly interested in writing one. (Besides, I'd probably end up misquoting myself anyway!)
Monika: Are you working on any new projects now?
Vanessa: Oh, yes! I'm very excited about a lot of new projects that are going on. For example, I'm currently doing several presentations on transgender workplace issues at regional and national conferences around the country for the U.S. federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
Also, I've recently become the executive director for a new nonprofit organization called the Institute for Transgender Economic Advancement, which exists to promote social equality through financial equality (meaning employment) for transpeople. That's going to be a major focus for me as I move forward. I'm working on a couple of book projects, do some occasional writing for the Huffington Post website, and am always looking for new consulting/training/speaking opportunities in the corporate sphere.
In addition, I just worked with Dr. Jamison Green and George Zuber, the producer/director of a remarkable new transgender-themed documentary called "Just Gender" to create a new corporate training program based on the film. We'll be releasing and promoting that soon. There is so much to be done, and I want to do all I can to help our community achieve full equality. Let's just say that I'm rarely bored these days.
Monika: What would you recommend to all transgender girls struggling with gender dysphoria?
Vanessa: I believe that everyone--including transgender girls, boys, women and men--should do what they believe in their hearts is right for them. Discomfort with one's gender status is something that needs to be addressed and rectified in a healthy way so it can bring peace and harmony to that person's life. 
I hope that every person, no matter what their gender status or identity may be, can find that kind of happiness. So, if any of our readers are struggling with gender dysphoria, I encourage you to seek help from a knowledgeable, experienced professional. I've been around long enough to know that there are many ways to address gender discomfort, and getting good professional help is a great place to start. You're worth it. Do it for yourself and your own peace of mind.
Monika: Vanessa, thank you for the interview!
Vanessa: You're very welcome, and thank you for these great questions. I hope I've shared something that can help someone. 
In closing, I want to say to all of my transgender sisters and brothers, no matter who you are or where you may be: "Be proud of yourself. You are special and worthy just because you're you. Don't ever let anyone convince you otherwise, even though some will almost surely try because they're afraid (or maybe jealous) of anyone they don't understand.
Remember, the world needs you and your gifts. Find a way to be yourself. Come out as much as you can. Share yourself with the world. Being trans is a gift, not a curse.
Embrace it and maximize your gender gift so you can make a difference with your life. I believe in you."
 
All the photos: courtesy of Vanessa Sheridan.
© 2014 - Monika Kowalska
 

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