Interview with JoAnne Wheeler Bland - Part 2


Monika: What is your general view on transgender stories or characters which have been featured in films, newspapers, or books so far?
JoAnne: I never go to the movies. I did get a DVD of "Transamerica" and watched it after I had my surgery. I do not read any fictional material of any type. I do read transgender narratives. I only deal with real-life stories.
Monika: What do you think about the present situation of transgender women in American society?
JoAnne: I have mixed emotions. First of all, I no longer think of myself as a transgender woman. I see myself as "just another woman". I come and go as I please as a woman (because I am a woman). My narrative is different from that of others. I guess we each have our own personal narrative.
I have been blessed to be able to present and pass and act and be just another woman. I realize that the majority of transwomen do not have the things that I get to enjoy. That pains me deeply. For the most part, transgender women have a hard time unless they have financial stability, presentation ability, emotional stability, and acceptance where they go.
Monika: Could transgenderism be the new frontier for human rights?
JoAnne: Oh I definitely think that transgender is the new civil rights movement of our time. And I am excited to be part of that movement. 
Monika: Transgender ladies are subject to the terrible test whether they pass as a woman or they do not. You are a lovely lady yourself but what advice would you give to ladies with the fear of not passing as a woman?
JoAnne: This is a terrible test as you put it. This is where education is so important for transgender ladies. If you want to pass and/or be accepted, then for God's sake, dress for the occasion and to a lesser extent for your age. It has been my experience that transgender ladies overdress in public and use way too much makeup. If you want to be accepted and treated as a woman - then look and act like one. It is easy to see transwomen because they look the part - I cannot emphasize this enough. Yes I know - we did not get to dress like teenagers and the like.
But if you seriously want to be seen and accepted, then you have to look like other women in the setting that you find yourself in. Admittedly I overdressed early on. But I was willing to learn. And how do you learn - the same way you learn about anything. Observe, study and practice, practice, practice. The majority of genetic or cis-gender females do not know how to dress either.
Monika: Are you active in politics? Do you participate in any lobbying campaigns? Do you think transgender women can make a difference?
JoAnne: I am a member of a local Democratic Women's Club in Central Kentucky. I enjoy being a part of this women's organization. I am also involved in lobbying campaigns involving LGBT Rights in state and local government. I have been campaigning for Transgender rights in state government for over two years and just recently I was successful in getting "gender identity and/or gender presentation" added to the definition of diversity as it applies to our State Universities and Community colleges.
I "AM" making a difference everywhere I go. I have a personal goal of educating at least one more person about transgender every day. And some days in my speaking engagements, I may educate between 200-250. I plan to make a difference in every way that I can, every time that I can, every place that I can, for as long as I can. That is the motto that I live by.

Presenting an Award at a Kentucky
Fairness Alliance Gala.

Monika: The transgender cause is usually manifested together with other LGBT communities. Being the last letter in this acronym, is the transgender community able to promote its own causes within the LGBT group?
JoAnne: It is hard. As I stated earlier, we have to educate the LGB community about transgender. They really don't understand us. I have also noticed that the transgender community is not as well organized as the LGB community. We seem to be very fractured because the transgender umbrella covers so many different possibilities. Post-ops have different interests than crossdressers, etc. We have a harder time coming together as one unified body.
Furthermore, we are financially poorer than the LGB community. I have been trying to enlighten LGBT organizations that I have been a part of, but this is a real issue. There are times when I feel that the "T" is barely a part of the LGBT community, but we are so disorganized and do not have adequate financial resources to fight for our civil rights.
Monika: Could you tell me the importance of love in your life?
JoAnne: This is very important. Many times, transitioning means the loss of love in our lives. Again I have been Blessed - whether it be my out-going personality or the fact that I pass, I have had no problem with women chasing after me - as well as a few men. I was never attracted to men.
And at this point I have to make this statement: "Surgery does NOT change your sexual orientation !" This is true. It is possible I guess that I might be bisexual for the right man, but I have ALWAYS considered myself to be a Lesbian - and an extremely Femme Lesbian at that. Even when I was married, I considered myself to be a lesbian. At the present time, I am in a relationship with a "Soft-Butch Lesbian". She treats me like the lady that I am.
Monika: Do you like fashion? What kind of outfits do you usually wear? Any special fashion designs, colors, or trends?
JoAnne: I love fashion. The outfits that I wear are what any other woman my age would wear to whatever venue that I happen to be at. As a lawyer, I wear a business suit to Court. If I am going to a formal gala, then I wear a very stylish cocktail dress. If I am going to the supermarket, I wear blue jeans in winter and shorts in the summer.
I always present as a very well put together classy professional woman. Colors come easy for me. I know how to put an outfit together and do the right makeup and accessorize my outfit. I usually wear pastels.
Monika: Many transgender ladies write their memoirs. Have you ever thought about writing such a book yourself?
JoAnne: I am considering writing several books. Sometimes I think that we have enough narratives or personal memoirs. I plan to write something different about transgender.
Monika: Are you working on any new projects now?
JoAnne: Yes - I am trying to sell my condominium in Louisville and move back to the country. I recently purchased an amazing lot location and I am currently designing a new home to build on that location. I plan to continue to educate, do public speaking, continue counseling on transgender issues. I plan to for that as long as I am alive.
Monika: What would you recommend to all transgender girls, struggling with gender dysphoria?
JoAnne: First of all - I would tell everyone - "your gender dysphoria will NEVER go away". It took me 65 years to accept that. Try to do something about it as early as you can. Don't wait until you are old like me. Enjoy living as the woman that you know that you are inside. And never - never give up. You can make it happen. It does require a lot of dedication and planning to make a successful transition.
I feel that I have made a truly amazing and complete transition. We are all different. What I have done was what was right for me. I could not transition without doing so completely. I have always been a minute detail person. I try to think of everything. I realize that others may choose to not transition completely for a variety of reasons. I accept that.
But for me personally - I could accept nothing less than what I have done. I have paid a tremendous price for my transition - financially, physically, emotionally, and socially. But as a result, my life has just blossomed beyond my wildest imagination.
Monika: JoAnne, thank you for the interview.

END OF PART 2

 
All the photos: courtesy of JoAnne Wheeler Bland.
© 2014 - Monika Kowalska

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