Interview with Veronique Renard - Part 2

Monika: At what age did you transition into a woman? Was it a difficult process? Did you have any support from your family or friends? Did it have any impact on your job situation?
Veronique: I was so young, I transitioned from a boyish child into a young adolescent girl. I was only 17 when I started hormones. I had the big operation at 18. I never got to know what I would have been like as an adult male. As I was so young, I could experience life like my girlfriends. I got my first boyfriend at age 18 as a girl.
I experienced my entire adult life as a female. This prevented me from lying about my past. I never had a past as a man. I never needed to adjust the truth. I was able to write a truthful autobiography without mentioning my transsexual history.
Monika: Transgender ladies are subject to the terrible test whether they pass as a woman or they do not. You are a beautiful woman yourself but how about other transgender ladies that have to struggle every day to pass?
Veronique: It must be a horror. I am sure some T-women struggle with their looks yet they might be more feminine than I am. I feel blessed with my looks. As I already looked like a girl it was very easy to transition. It was difficult for me to pass as a boy at that time. I don’t need to do anything to pass as a woman.
I am even lucky at 48 to be considered attractive by many people. It’s not fair. I never had a pimple in my life, never a weight problem, and I never had to remove unwanted facial or body hair. I never menstruate, no PMS.
However, mentally I have had my share of problems. Thus good looks alone are not enough to find happiness. It helps a lot, I agree, but you need to develop your female spirit in order to pass as a woman. Passing as a woman has more to do with the spirit that you project.
There are plenty of women, especially older women, who look like men. They have short grey hair, no makeup, glasses, and wear unisex clothes. It’s sometimes difficult for me to see whether they are male or female. Always need to look for earrings or breasts. But as soon as they start speaking to me, I know whether they are female or male.

A photo taken by the same photographer
as Pholomolo's book cover. Here
I was 19, one year post-op.

So it is not their looks but their voices and spirits that project and reflect their true gender. The voice is most important. Spend all your time on your voice. Lots of time. All the time. I can’t stress the importance of the voice. It’s the voice that makes you a woman. It doesn’t even need to be high, but feminine and confident. So instead of spending much time and money trying to look like a model who’s 20 years younger, try to be comfortable with the slightly unusual-looking woman that you are. Look at women your own age and try to be and look like them (if you want to blend in).
Unfortunately, transsexuals are often very insecure regarding their looks so they always try to look better than other women. This is hard work. I stopped doing that at 24. But remember, even though I look good, if my voice hadn’t been good, I wouldn’t pass either. I started voice training at 18 with a professional voice coach. At 47 I still practice in my bathroom.
Monika: We are living in times of modern cosmetic surgery that might allow transitioning even in the late 50s or 60s. Do you think it is really possible? What kind of advice do you have for transgender ladies at such an age?
Veronique: I can assure you it is very possible. Most western patients traveling to Thailand for SRS are over 50. The results are great. The skin of older people is easier to work with as it is thinner. If they feel they might be happier with a late transition they must do what they feel they must do. I think at that age they might not care anymore what other people think of them.
The fact that they waited so long has often to do with being afraid to come out of the closet and make a huge change. It’s not easy to do this between the age of 25 and 50. At 17 I was too young to understand the consequences of my decision to transition. At 60 you’re old enough not to care.
So I think transitioning is easiest as a very young person or a very old. However, physically, it is better to change as young as possible. With hindsight, my timing to transition during puberty was perfect and that made life much, much easier as an adult female transsexual.

At 19, I remember still feeling a bit insecure
presenting myself as a woman. It took
a few years to feeling fully comfortable.

Monika: At that time of your transition did you have any transgender role models that you could follow? What was your knowledge about transgenderism?
Veronique: Practically zero. I only knew about Caroline Cossey, the James Bond girl who appeared with her story in magazines in the early 1980s.
This I took to our GP who had no knowledge of transsexualism. There were only 200 transsexuals in Holland back then. I had no idea what to expect. I was part of an experiment. It turned out well.
Monika: What was the hardest thing about your coming out?
Veronique: I am not sure which coming out you mean. I had many. I came out at 14 as a gay boy, at 17 I came out as a trans girl to my parents and friends, yet I kept that a public secret until recently. I came out in 2007 by means of a book published in English in the USA.
I came out as a transsexual celebrity in Holland just a few months ago when I was invited to speak at a gay and trans conference in the Netherlands. The Dutch still had no idea, as I never talked about it during interviews, and no journalist ever asked about it.
So I had many coming outs. Some are good, some are bad. There are plenty of new people I meet who do not want to be friends with me just because I am a transsexual. And of course, there are also people who don’t want to be friends with me because they don’t like my personality.
Monika: You are married. Marriage is a special event for all women. Did you enjoy being a bride, hen party, trying on a wedding dress and finally your wedding ceremony?
Veronique: I didn’t have a traditional western-style wedding. I actually felt more comfortable with a traditional Buddhist-style wedding. My Chinese husband felt comfortable with that too. Buddhism doesn’t believe in a God creator. Communists don’t believe in God either, so a Buddhist wedding worked out well for this Dutch-Chinese marriage.
Monika: What do you enjoy most in being a woman?
Veronique: The fact that I can feel relaxed this way. I love to interact with straight men as a woman. I used to fear straight guys as a young gay male-kind-of-like child. Straight males used to bully me and beat me up. Now they feel attracted to me. So that feels good. My enemy has become my lover.
Monika: Are you active in politics? Do you participate in any lobbying campaigns? Do you think transgender women can make a difference in politics?
Veronique: No I am not active in politics. Like the Dalai Lama, I never voted in my life and we try to refrain from speaking politics. I do accept invitations these days to speak about LGBT issues. But no matter where I speak, I always speak as a Buddhist, a student of the Dalai Lama.

Taken by my friend Cameron Wolf in
Bangkok in 2008. It was part of a photo
shoot for a charity for an AIDS Calendar.
It was a nude calendar. It was my first
and only nude photoshoot.

Monika: What do you think about transgender beauty pageants?
Veronique: In Thailand they are huge. It’s the biggest thing on Thai TV. In the Netherlands, it was a brief hype over a decade ago. I have mixed feelings about them. There are many different types of transsexual women.
Some don’t like pageants, find them degrading, while others love them. I can understand what thrill it must be to be voted the prettiest tranny. I wouldn’t reject that idea either. I love it when people call me pretty. The older I get, the better that word sounds.
However, I see myself as an academic. I only wear makeup when I need to impress a man or need to go on television. I don’t care for clothes. So it’s not my personal thing.
Monika: So what kind of outfits do you usually wear? Any special fashion designs, colors, or trends?
Veronique: I don’t care for fashion and makeup. I have a few outfits that I can wear at funerals and television interviews. I have a Tibetan Buddhist habit that I might wear in Asia. I have traditional Tibetan clothes and hats that I wear in the Himalayas.
I wear traditional Indian clothes when I am in South India. In Bangkok, I dress up as Madonna and dance in skimpy clothes on gogo-stages in jet-set gay clubs in the Silom area. In the Netherlands, I wear jeans and t-shirts. I have one pair of decent shoes. It’s not about clothes anymore. I dress in the west like Steve Jobs did.
Monika: Are you involved in the life of your local LGBT community?
Veronique: In Thailand, my husband and I have been adopted by the LGBT community. Almost all my/our contacts are with LGBT people. I really like them. My husband is a plastic surgeon specialized in SRS.
In India, most of my contacts are with Tibetan monks and nuns, and Buddhist students from all over the world. In the Netherlands, most people aren’t aware of my transsexualism, but I am willing to speak about it and interact with Dutch LGBTs when I am there. For some reason, it’s not happening in Holland for me.
Monika: Could you say that you are a happy woman now?
Veronique: I create my own life. I would say I feel content and relaxed 95% of the time. At the moment we’re spending time in our Japanese holiday home in a nature reserve in Holland where I have created a Japanese garden. After living in the heart of Bangkok for years, I really feel happy with the four-seasons-in-one-day type of climate in the Netherlands. We’re considering staying here for some time.
Monika: Veronique, thank you for the interview!

All the photos: courtesy of Veronique Renard.
© 2013 - Monika Kowalska  

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