Sunday, 30 November 2014

Interview with Pam Bennett


Monika: Today it is my pleasure and honour to interview Pam Bennett, an American advocate for the LGBT community, politician, military veteran, and blogger. Hello Pam!
Pam: Hello from Annapolis, Maryland U.S.A. Happy to be here.
Monika: Could you say a few words about yourself?
Pam: Asking a politician (former, but never say never) to say only a few words is like asking the sun to not shine too much today. My first thought every day is that I am the luckiest person on earth. The job I do is a lot of fun, enhanced with wonderful co-workers and bosses who care about their employees.
I live on a beautiful little peninsula, southeast of Annapolis, in the Chesapeake Bay. My cat, Boo, loves sailing on my boat. All of this is what I think of each morning because I also temper my happiness knowing that so many transgender people around the world cannot even dream of my world. I have had a great life, too many downs, but a lot of ups to make it interesting.

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Interview with Maki Yamazaki


Monika: Today it is my pleasure and honour to interview Maki Yamazaki, a British musician, producer, artist, games developer, trans-feminist and advocate of queer and disabled peoples’ rights, the creator of Dr. Carmilla - a retrospective-futurist cabaret, the head of Silvana Studio and games developer. Hello Maki!
Maki: Hi there, lovely to meet you and thanks for having me!
Monika: You describe yourself as a transfeminist. What does transfeminism espouse?
Maki: Trans-feminism is basically feminism that is fully trans inclusive. It's not implicitly one kind of feminism but an umbrella term for different types. But the key thing is about trying to make things better for women of all kinds, with the inclusion of trans-feminist writings and ideas (such as 'Whipping Girl' by Julia Serano).

See Maki's page.

Monika: You are the composer of 5 music albums: Transmisson 01, Transmission 02, Made in a Day, Ageha, and Exhumed & {Un}plugged, written and recorded at your Silvana Laboratory. Where do you get your music inspirations from?
Maki: I find a lot of things inspiring! Sometimes it'll be a dream that I wake up from, or random thoughts that I have. Inspiration is everywhere, for me! However, more than anything I like my work to inspire me. Often, I'll just play around until I found a sound or a lyric that I like and build from there.
I find the whole process of music-making to be quite explorative. If I start out with a solid idea of what my music should be before I start making it, I find it impedes my ability to let it grow into what it could become. It's like a loop between what's going on inside my head and what I'm hearing.
Monika: The contemporary music has produced a new wave of transgender female artists, just to name few of them: Mina Caputo of Life of Agony, Laura Jane Grace of Against Me!, Marissa Martinez of Cretin, Amber Taylor of The Sexual Side Effects, Namoli Brennet, Sissy Début, and Jennifer Leitham, and many others. Are we facing the creation of a new music trend in this respect?
Maki: I think it's much more to do with the information that's available to us, especially where the Internet is concerned. More and more trans individuals are finding the information that they need to come to terms with their gender dysphoria than ever. I don't think there's much of a unified movement, just a lot of really good conversation happening. But it's really encouraging to see trans individuals from all walks of life finding more and more success in the world. 

http://makiyamazaki.com/

Monika: You are the creative mind behind Dr. Carmilla, a retrospective-futurist cabaret about a lesbian vampire in space. Could you say a few words about that project? 
Maki: I could probably talk your ears off about Dr. Carmilla! But currently I'm on a bit of a break from doing Dr. Carmilla as a project. I spend 5 years working on the music for Dr. Carmilla, so I decided it was time to try some different things for a while. It's really sad to do though, because I dedicated so much time and love into the project.
At first, it started out as Dr. Carmilla & The Mechanisms, but life circumstances took me away from the rest of the band, and I decided to go solo. It was probably the best decision I ever made as it coincided with setting up my own studio and focusing on making recordings in a very complimentary manner. But I do miss working with The Mechanisms very much. Perhaps one day our time and locations will re-convene and we'll do something together again. But for now, I'm pretty much snowed under with work to do.


Monika: In 2009, you founded Trans-script – a show that ran for Oxford’s Pride festivals during 2009 & 2010, performed in collaboration with a number of other trans individuals. How successful was that event?
Maki: It was pretty successful and a lot of fun! It came out of a need for trans-focused events for Oxford Pride and I realised if I didn't do anything, there weren't going to be any events at all. We ran the event for two years, and in both Oxford and London, but I moved to Liverpool the year after, so I sadly couldn't keep running the event. The year after I ran Transistor Cabaret, which was really successful too, but I've had to step down from organizational positions for now as I have a lot of my own work to create.

Great music in the making.

Monika: What is your general view on transgender stories or characters which have been featured in films, newspapers or books so far?
Maki: In general I think there's a lot of room for improvement, especially in terms of not only the language that is used (both written and visual), but also a concerning lack of understanding from many of the editors/directors involved.
Often when I see a story, be it real or created, I too often see the same tropes about transgender people thrown around. Far too often our stories are used to make other people money, and far too few opportunities to really tell our own stories, the way that we need to tell them.
Monika: What do you think about the present situation of transgender women in the British society?
Maki: It's not good. There are places in the world where it's a lot worse, but I think there's a global lack of places where it's actually 'acceptable to be trans' by society’s standards. 
Monika: At what age did you begin transition? Was it a difficult process?
Maki: I came out at 17 and have never really looked back since. It was quite difficult, but the alternative seemed much more difficult to me.
Monika: At that time of your transition, did you have any transgender role models that you followed?
Maki: Sadly not, this was a while ago. I'm glad things have changed since.


Monika: What was the hardest thing about your coming out?
Maki: Making the first steps and dealing with the consequences were probably the hardest things. That and the abuse I've suffered at the hands of others. Not everyone has a difficult time when they come out, but sadly I got a lot. I'd had a lot of it before, though, due to being a person of colour and an aspie, and coming from a large town with a very small-town mentality.
Since moving away from there, I've had very little in the way of violence for being trans. Changing location can make a huge impact to your life, and I'm glad that I managed to get away from all of that for the most part.

Her game Shiro//Kuro.

Monika: Are you active in politics? Do you participate in any lobbying campaigns? Do you think transgender women can make a difference in politics?
Maki: I try to be as active as I can, but unfortunately it's quite difficult to be as involved as I'd like to. Health and disability are really major factors in deciding what I am and am not capable of doing.
However, I think we definitely can make a difference, no matter how disempowered we might feel. But personal safety should come first, if it's an issue.
Monika: Could you tell me about the importance of love in your life?
Maki: I think the definition of love is too big a concept to really encapsulate in one paragraph, but yes, it's very important! I can't even imagine what my life would be like without the love of others. But learning to love yourself can be the most important and the hardest part.
Monika: Many transgender ladies write their memoirs. Have you ever thought about writing such a book yourself?
Maki: I've thought about it lots, though right now I'm too busy making music, art and games. When I have a year to spare, I'd certainly like to consider it.
Monika: Are you working on any new projects now?
Maki: Quite a few actually! Largely, though, I'm working pretty hard on the games that I'm developing at the moment.
I often have ideas for projects that I begin and then decide I don't have the time to dedicate myself to them. It's sad, but I learn to pick those which I feel I can complete and the ones that don't require an overwhelming amount of research and development.


I've almost finished working on my album, Transmission 03, and I've just got the cassettes for my release of the Made in a Day Extended Edition! It's terribly exciting!
I'm also working on another album, with a focus on ballads, with some guest musicians. Despite my large amount of solo work, I really do love working with others, and it's really fantastic doing that in the context of working in my own studio.
Monika: What would you recommend to all transgender girls struggling with gender dysphoria?
Maki: The most important things I've found that have really helped me is learning to have patience, confidence and to keep those that treat you without respect at a clear distance – you really don't need those people in your life, if you can avoid it.
Monika: Maki, thank you for the interview!

All the photos: courtesy of Maki Yamazaki.
© 2014 - Monika Kowalska
 

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Interview with Naomi Fontanos


Monika: Today it is my pleasure and honour to interview Naomi Fontanos, a Filipino trans rights advocate, one of the founders and current Executive Director of transgender rights group GANDA (Gender and Development Advocates) Filipinas in the Philippines, and blogger. Hello Naomi!
Naomi: Hello Monika. The pleasure and honor are all mine. How lovely indeed to finally have a conversation with you.
Monika: Could you say a few words about yourself?
Naomi: I grew up in a small town in the Philippines where the country’s superstar also comes from. I was a straight-A student from grade to high school. In high school, I graduated on top of my class and went on to attend the Philippine’s national university, which is like the Harvard of the Philippines, the University of the Philippines Diliman.
There, I earned a degree in education. I am a licensed teacher and currently work as an education consultant. I love languages, fashion, music, art and travel. I love to write, read and watch movies in my spare time. Best of all, I love to sing. I love doing karaoke and love spending time with friends this way.

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Interview with Miranda Yardley


Monika: Today it is my pleasure and honour to interview Miranda Yardley, a British accountant, music magazine publisher, blogger and businesswoman. Hello Miranda!
Miranda: Hello Monika! Thanks for asking me to do this and for helping my voice to be heard.
Monika: You can boast a considerable number of music magazines such as Terrorizer, Dominion, and Sick Sounds, which specialized in extreme music. Has your music preference changed over the years? 
Miranda: Terrorizer is the only one of these magazines that is still regularly published. My taste in music has always been very broad, I’m open-minded to most kinds and I continue to search out both old and new music that interests me.
Monika: How did you enter the publishing business?
Miranda: I had an accounting client who owned Terrorizer and wanted to drop the title. The rest is history!

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Interview with Sarah Brown


Monika: Today it is my pleasure and honour to interview Sarah Brown, a talented British Liberal Democrat politician and transgender activist, the former Cambridge City Councillor for Petersfield ward, for several years the only openly transsexual elected politician in the UK, listed many times on the Independent on Sunday "Pink List" of the most influential LGBT persons in the UK. Hello Sarah!
Sarah: Hello Monika!
Monika: I was so sorry when I heard that you failed to be re-elected as a Cambridge councillor in May 2014? How would you summarize your term and legacy?
Sarah: Thanks. It was always going to be a tough campaign, given the demographics of the ward I represented and being elected originally during “Cleggmania”. Still, I’m pleased that I managed to do some good during my time as a councillor. The two things I’m most proud of are setting up a fund to help teach disadvantaged kids to swim, and getting a motion to introduce a 20mph limit on all residential streets in Cambridge through council with unanimous support. There were times when it was really stressful though.

Friday, 21 November 2014

Interview with Katie Leone


Monika: Today it is my pleasure and honour to interview Katie Leone, an American writer, former stock broker, teacher, preacher, and wrestling champion. Hello Katie!
Katie: Hi, Monika. Thanks for inviting me over, it’s a real treat and an honor.
Monika: Could you say a few words about yourself?
Katie: I’m a very simple woman. I enjoy keeping to myself for the most part. I love writing stories and try to promote transgender equality through fiction. Most of the time I’m with my f2m boyfriend Felix and we spend time talking and laughing. Hopefully there will be a wedding in the near future. 
Monika: You are the author of 25 transgender fiction novels. When you create transgender characters in your books or projects, do you include any autobiographical elements in their lives or stories?
Katie: It is hard not to include part of yourself in your characters or they wind up coming up flat. A lot of the characters in my books are usually a part of me whether good or bad. We all have those sides of us that we wish we didn’t and I use that to create some of my evil characters. Fiction is a great place to let those demons out because at least you can see it for what it is and address the issues.

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