Interview with Marissa Alexa McCool - Part 2

Monika: We all pay the highest price for the fulfillment of our dreams to be ourselves. As a result, many trans women lose their families, friends, jobs, and social positions. Did you pay such a high price as well? What was the hardest thing about your coming out? 
Marissa: I didn’t pay nearly the same price as so many of our community have to. Yes, I lost friends, and though I’ve had difficulty with some members of my family, I’ve never dealt with open hostility from them. I have never made light of the fact that I recognize just how lucky I really am to have a good job, a platform, and a lot of people who would go out of their way to protect me. I feel like if I wasn’t giving back to help those who don’t have that, I would be a hypocrite.
I try to help bring visibility to those voices, which is why on my trans-specific podcast, we interview a lot of non-podcaster trans people. We’ve had conversations with those who are differently-abled, are or have been homeless, deal with different levels of erasure as non-binary people, including my co-host Ari Stillman. I try to do my best to make as many voices heard, loved, and respected as possible, and given how many private messages I’ve had on various social media over the last year, it has not been in vain.
Monika: The transgender community is said to be thriving now. As Laverne Cox announced, “Trans is beautiful.” Teenage girls become models and dancers, talented ladies become writers, singers, and actresses. Those ladies with an interest in politics, science, and business become successful politicians, academics, and businesswomen. What do you think in general about the present situation of transgender women in contemporary society? Are we just scratching the surface or the change is really happening?
Marissa: It is better than it has ever been, but there’s still a long way to go. The Trans Day of Remembrance saw way too many names being read, as we did for the Gaythiest Manifesto this year on TDOR. We still deal with too many openly hostile people who minimize and/or contribute to the violence, discrimination, and difficulties we face in finding housing, employment, and love.
There are places in this country I know I can’t feel safe using the bathroom, and that is not acceptable. But even in just the last few years, it has gotten exponentially better for so many of us, but too many people in our community find difficulty getting their medicine, finding a job, and living comfortably because of the government making it easier to discriminate against us for being trans and doing things like banning us from serving in the military.
Change is happening. It is not fast enough, and too many people have had to suffer and die in the process, but it is happening.
Monika: The transgender cause is usually manifested together with the other LGBTQ communities. Being the penultimate letter in this abbreviation, is the transgender community able to promote its own cause within the LGBTQ group?
Marissa: For the most part, I would say we have. There are some who believe that only LG should be there, and LGBs who want us out of their movement. I’ve been lucky in where I live and the university I’ve attended to not have come across that as much as some others have. Especially in the last year, so many have come out and stood by us as our voices are heard and human faces are put on issues that previously were only words and misunderstood ideas.

Available via Amazon.

Monika: What do you think in general about transgender news stories or characters which have been featured in films, newspapers, or books so far?
Marissa: I sort of talked about this earlier, but until very recently, trans women were used as punch lines (Ace Ventura, most comedies before 2015) or portrayed as serial killers (Silence of the Lambs). Then as we became more represented, trans characters were little more than being trans and usually were killed or suffered horrifically. And, on top of that, the movies were often played by cis people, which lends inaccurate credence to the idea that a trans person is just a cis person in a different gender’s clothes or with a mental illness.
The progress is once again slow but noticeable. It shouldn’t be a shock if a trans character is played by a trans actor, but it, unfortunately, is at this point. I’m of course talking about mainstream, as there are lesser-known works that have been representative, but it’s still far too rare and hard to find.
Monika: I have read somewhere that cisgender women were liberated thanks to the development of contraceptive pills whereas transgender women are free now thanks to the development of cosmetic surgery, so they are no longer prisoners of passing or non-passing syndrome …
Marissa: That relies upon the presumption that anyone has access to it. Whereas some of my non-American friends have found access to trans healthcare relatively painless, here in America, access to affordable medicine, therapy, and trans-friendly care is not so easy. When you combine that with the aforementioned difficulties of finding housing, employment, and support, cosmetic surgery isn’t a realistic possibility for far too many. It’s also not a cure-all, as dysphoria happens and is valid even after surgeries have happened. The more accessible these procedures are, the more lives that can be improved, but it’s not a miracle cure for ailments we face in our society being trans people.
Monika: Could you tell me about the importance of love in your life?
Marissa: I have a lot of love in my life. My husband, who is also trans, is my rock and has been there for me every step of the way. My partner, who is a non-binary person, loves me as well. I have a lot of friends (some of whom call themselves the McCool Militia) who are quick to come to my defense if someone is being hostile toward me on social media or in person, and I have met thousands of people in my travels and projects that have made such a tremendous impact on my life.
Love is not a pie, and I’m fortunate enough to be able to share some with so many amazing people. Without the love and support from my community and within my support structure, I don’t know where I’d be right now.
Monika: Are you working on any new projects now?
Marissa: When the #MeToo hashtag became a viral concept, a fellow podcaster named Thomas Smith (Serious Inquiries Only) featured three anonymous women on his show who shared their stories of sexual harassment and assault. He remarked before the interviews on that show that he could make a weekly podcast out of those stories, and I got the idea to do so after asking if I could use that idea.
That’s when I started the podcast called We Too - Our Stories, in which there is no intro, no outro, no music. Just anonymous stories and that’s it. That has been the hardest podcast I’ve ever done. But when so many men reacted surprised that so many women had dealt with assault and harassment, and hearing stories became therapeutic for so many, I felt like I could help by sharing stories of others to let everyone out there know that they weren’t alone.

The UPenn V-Day's 17th production of
the Vagina Monologues in Philadelphia, PA.

Monika: What would you recommend to all transgender girls struggling with gender dysphoria?
Marissa: You are who you say you are, no matter who tries to tell you otherwise. I see you. I hear you. You are valid, and I believe in you.
If I may also borrow the final words of every episode of the Gaytheist Manifesto, “I want you to know that if you’re lost, you’re hurting, you’re scared, if you feel like no one cares and no one understands - you need to know there’s a community out here that loves you, cares for you, knows you’re capable of amazing things, and that you are worthy of love. If you’re struggling, please don’t be afraid to reach out.”
Those words rang true after my interview with Callie before I came out. We spoke for over an hour after our interview was over, and it was instrumental in making me believe I could come out and be safe. I don’t know where I’d be without Callie.
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. Do you agree with this?
Marissa: Trans people are as capable as anyone else to achieve amazing things in this world, and whether or not they have surgery does not detail our validity or agency. We are who we say we are, we deserve love and respect, and our dreams are valid. Surgery is a dream of many of us, but that’s not an end goal, and it’s not the determination of the process; it’s only a step along the journey.
Monika: Marissa, thank you for the interview!
Marissa: Thank you so much. It’s an incredible honor to share my story with you. I want you, and anyone else out there for that matter, to know that I’m always willing to be there for you if I possibly can, and I’ll do anything I can to help you along the way. My inbox is filled with countless examples of this, and I try as hard as I can to do so.

My website:
My podcasts: The Inciting Incident Podcast, The Cis Are Getting Out of Hand, We Too - Our Stories, and are available on Libsyn, Spreaker, iTunes, Google Play, Stitcher, and plenty of other streaming and podcasting apps. They can be supported on Patreon, and one-time donations to help my work or purchase my books through my own website are always welcome.
My books are available on my website as well as Amazon and other booksellers.
If you need to reach out, please do so at
Our nonprofit is the Trans Podcaster Visibility Initiative and can be found on Facebook.

All the photos: courtesy of Marissa Alexa McCool.
© 2017 - Monika Kowalska

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