Thursday, 28 May 2020

Interview with Bella Joie

Monika: Today it is my pleasure and honor to interview Bella Joie, an American vlogger, and transgender activist. Her Bella Joie vlog on YouTube was created in 2018, and as we speak, it can boast almost 700 thousand views and over 5 thousand subscribers. Hello Bella!
Bella: I'm super excited to be a part of your blog, the whole purpose of this blog is so important for so many transgender women all over the world! It has been such an interesting experience growing my YouTube channel and sharing my story. One of the most rewarding things I have ever done in my life!
Monika: Could you say a few words about yourself?
Bella: I am a 21-year-old transgender woman, I started my transition at 17 years old during my senior year of high school. I have been on hormones for 3 years now.

Tuesday, 26 May 2020

Interview with Maria Tymoshenko

Monika: Today it is my pleasure and honor to interview Maria Tymoshenko, a Ukrainian composer and piano player that documents her transition in front of thousands on YouTube. Hello Maria!
Maria: Hello, Monika!
Monika: Could you say a few words about yourself?
Maria: I am a composer and sound designer. I like contemporary art and sometimes participate in different art projects as a musician and as a model. As a hobby, I like roofing. My last clip was shot on the highest bridge in Ukraine. I climbed to it without safety gear. Last year I participated in LGBTQ and human rights activism actions. 
Monika: Why did you decide to share your transition details on YouTube?
Maria: When I launched my YouTube channel, I never wrote that I am transgender. Even record labels and movie producers with which I worked did not know about this part of my life. I did not hide, but no one asked me and I did not say.

Photo by Serhiy Morgunov.

First time I came out to my YouTube subscribers as transgender was one year ago. My friend, artist Maria Proshkowska made an exhibition FEMININE that was presented during Kyiv Pride week in 2019 year. Maria invited me as a model. It was an exhibition about the daily life of Ukrainian transgender women. We spoke a lot with Maria, I showed her all my transition pictures and we decided to create a video about this. In this video, we aggregated several thousand of my transitional pictures chronologically. I created music for this video.
To be honest, it was really scary for me to open all this to the public. This video included ALL my pictures taken during the transition, even ones, that I thought, would never be shown to anyone. But I met a very warm reaction on Kyiv Pride. And I published this video on YouTube. In the first days, I lost approximately 100 subscribers but gained much more new ones. Many people supported me. And this encouraged me to make more videos about my transition.
Monika: What is the situation of transgender women in Ukraine in general and how they are perceived by society?
Maria: The situation is not easy. I’ve never experienced any violence personally because I live in Kyiv and only my friends know that I am a transwoman. But many people did. I work as a freelancer therefore I do not have problems because I am trans. But for many other trans people, it is very difficult to find a job. Many companies are not ready to hire such people.
Also, many religious organizations promote “family values” guess that transwomen are perverts and freaks. In 2018 such organizations attacked participants during Transgender Day of Remembrance. Authorities failed to protect us. During the March of Equality 2019 group of extremists stuffed approximately 200 condoms full of feces to throw at KyivPride marchers and police. Thanks to the police their attempts were not successful. Transgender Remembrance Day 2019 was without any incidents only due to the massive police protection. During such actions, the number of police usually is several times bigger than the number of participants.
When the pandemic of COVID19 began, the primate and Patriarch of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church – Kyiv Patriarchate claims coronavirus is ‘God’s punishment for same-sex marriage’ In general, the life of transgender women is much better than several years ago but it remains difficult.

Photo by Serhiy Morgunov.

Monika: Did you have any role models or any trans sisters that helped you in the transition?
Maria: I received psychological support from an LGBT organization and met many other trans people. It was very important to me for understanding that I am not alone and I am “normal”. They helped me to overcome the internal transphobia that I experienced before. 
Monika: Are there any well-known Ukrainian trans women that have managed to promote transgender rights in the media?
Maria: Yes. Now, this topic is very popular. There are several well-known trans women, and LGBT organizations. They work a lot for transgender rights and human rights in general. Now it is very important for us to have the Istanbul Convention ratified.
Monika: Is the Ukrainian Health Service prepared to provide services to the transgender community?
Maria: It is a difficult question. I am not a professional in this field. There are endocrinologists who can help to choose the correct hormones replacement therapy. Other doctors are the same for trans and not trans, so as I said it is difficult to say.
Monika: What kind of music do you compose? Do you have any musical inspirations?
Maria: The main inspiration is the process itself. I would just close my eyes and improvise on the piano. After a while, I would play something fresh, interesting, and worth recording.
I started to create music right after I started my HRT. I do not know why. I just wanted to. It started to be pleasurable. In my life “before” I liked technological stuff and worked in IT. But hormones changed not only my body but also my mind and the things that I love to do.
First I composed piano music in neoclassical style. I published two EPs with the Italian label Halidon: Magic Flow (2017) and Clarity (2018).

Photo by Serhiy Morgunov.

After that, I started to work on electronic multi-instrumental music. But my musical style has not formed yet. Maybe it will be chill-out downtempo music. Last year I published one clip “Do Not Try to Fly”. It was a very extreme and risky video.
Apart from music, I work a lot as a sound engineer and sound designer for movies and TV series. It helps me receive more experience and accumulate resources for my new compositions.
Monika: I watched “Do Not Try to Fly” and I was scared a lot looking at you so high up on the bridge!!!
Maria: I like roofing and other dangers. It makes my mind so clear. I feel so alive when I do it. Actually, roofing is a double dangerous activity, it is not only about being so high, but it is also about not being caught by the police. The shooting on this bridge was the second attempt. The first one was not successful. I climbed to the construction crane near an unfinished skyscraper. We made all shooting, but the police caught a drone operator and forced him to delete the whole video. We saved only several pictures. The second attempt with the bridge was successful.
Monika: The song itself is about lesbian love... 
Maria: It is about lesbian love and mental disease. We wanted to show several types of reactions to severe stress. One of the girls freaks out, throws rocks at the wall, screams. But she's fine in the end.
The other one accumulates stress in herself, and she starts hallucinating, she starts to think she's a bird, and she tries to take off. Although it's probably not clear without an explanation. That was our first video work.

Monika: Who was more behind the idea of the video: you or Antuanetta Mishchenko? 
Maria: I suggested an idea, Antuanetta found a team and organized the work. However, in the whole process, the original idea evolved very much.
Monika: But my favorite music of yours is "We Maybe Have the Second Chance". A bit sad but very beautiful ... Can you say a few words about this composition?
Maria: Thank you very much, Monika. It's a composition from my second EP "Clarity." I was living far away from the city at that time, near a forest by the lake. I could play the piano all night without risking waking the neighbors. This and other compositions were recorded live, without rendering in computer software, and without a predetermined structure. I improvised and recorded a small piece of the composition. Then I would play it, and when it ended, I would play the piano extension, the first thing that came to mind. Usually for about 20 seconds. If I liked it, I would leave it, so I would record the next part of the song.

Pivdennyi Bridge, Kyiv, 2019.

So the music in this mini-album sounds exactly as it was played for the first time. Actually, by composing this EP, I broke everything, even the most basic musical rules. For example, I wanted to write songs in such a way that there wouldn't be any repeating in them at all, so they would be perceived as a whole piece. I really wanted to create something really new and fresh. If we talk about the event underlying this composition, it was a very personal story from my life.


All the photos: courtesy of Maria Tymoshenko.
© 2020 - Monika Kowalska

Saturday, 23 May 2020

Interview with Solange Dekker

Monika: Today it is my pleasure and honor to interview Solange Dekker, a fashion model from the Netherlands, hairstylist, beauty pageant queen, Miss Netherlands at Trans Star International 2019, Miss Evolution 2019, and Finalist Miss Beauty of Noord-Holland 2020. Hello Solange!
Solange: Hi Monika! Thank you for taking the time to interview me.
Monika: You have already taken part in three beauty pageants! What is so special about being a beauty queen? :)
Solange: Thank you for your question. I have actually taken part in 2 beauty pageants! Miss Evolution is a title I won during my participation in 2019 Miss Trans Star International held in Barcelona, where I was the first-ever Miss Netherlands. The title goes to one woman who has shown the absolute most interest in the pageant and who has been the most 'evolving' girl in the pageant. Things such as being on time every time, taking extra catwalk lessons, trying to learn Spanish to talk to the girls, etc. Since this was my first ever pageant and I showed so much determination, I earned the title of Miss Evolution 2019.

Thursday, 21 May 2020

Interview with Anna Skinner

Monika: Today it is my pleasure and honor to interview Anna Skinner, a liberated transwoman from New Zealand, passionate cyclist, and happy parent of three. Hello Anna!
Anna: Thank you for the opportunity to speak with you. I love to share my journey so that people may gain a better understanding of what it is to be transgender and also to touch those folk who may be struggling with their gender identity.
Monika: Could you say a few words about yourself?
Anna: I am a 55-year-old transwoman, born and raised in Auckland, New Zealand. I have been living in Christchurch for the last 22 years which is a beautiful place located on the east coast of the South Island. When I was younger, I dreamt of living as my authentic self but for many reasons it never eventuated to a lot later in my life.

Wednesday, 13 May 2020

Interview with Rachel Reese

Monika: Today it is my pleasure and honor to interview Rachel Reese, who trained be a Solicitor, transgender activist, Vice-chair of the Law Society’s LGBT Lawyers Division Committee, former Avionics Software Engineer working within the defense sector at GEC Avionics Ltd (now British Aerospace), trustee of Give Out, a charity that funds LGBT+ causes worldwide, the founder of Global Butterflies, a consultancy that helps firms develop trans and non-binary inclusive work environments. She is a co-author of the 2019 Lloyds of London Trans & Non-binary Guide. In 2017 she was nominated for the European Diversity Award’s, Coca-Cola Hero of the Year Award.
Hello Rachel! In the introduction, I have listed only some of your positions. Do you have any time for yourself? :)
Rachel: Hi Monika, great to meet you. You know it’s got pretty crazy timewise but I love my life and the work I do. Time management is key but my motto (and my partner Emma) is “you have to have a little fun every day”, and we do. The people in all the organizations I volunteer for are amazing and fun, so it doesn’t feel like work at all.

Saturday, 9 May 2020

Interview with Michelle Relayze

Monika: Today it is my pleasure and honour to interview Michelle Relayze, a fashion model from Spain, beauty pageant queen, transgender activist, Miss Spain at Miss Trans Star International 2019. Hello Michelle!
Michelle: Hello Monika! It is a pleasure, to be able to share with you a bit of my history. I am honored that you want to know about me and be able to reach many more people.
Monika: Michelle, you look like a million dollars! Could you say a few words about yourself?
Michelle: Thanks Monika! Of course, I will tell you about myself. I have the honor of being the current queen of Miss Trans Spain and being able to represent this beautiful country in two international competitions: the Miss Trans Star International held in Barcelona in 2019 and in future in Miss World International in Italy.

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