Sunday, 14 June 2020

Interview with Tanja von Knorring


Monika: Today it is my pleasure and honor to interview Tanja von Knorring, a Finnish businesswoman and human rights and transgender activist, co-chair of the 2019-2020 Board of Transgender Europe (TGEU), the roof-top organization of transgender organizations of Europe and Central Asia, fighting against discrimination and supporting trans people rights. She is also the Chairperson of the NGO Transfeminines of Finland, ex-chair of Transgender political committee of SETA – LGBTI Finland, board member in Trasek, and an array of other LGBTI associations. 
Hello Tanja!
Tanja: Hello, and nice to meet you, Monika, in these very special times we are living currently. I'm happy to have an interview with you.
Monika: Before we focus on your activism, I would like to touch upon your managerial career. You can boast a solid portfolio of managerial positions within the Finnish corporate community.
Tanja: Yes, I have had many both demanding and rewarding opportunities in my work life, first as a high ranked civil servant in civil aviation, then leading an airline for 8 years, and finally before giving more time to myself and the activism, as CEO in the transportation field for another eight years.

Tuesday, 9 June 2020

Interview with Veso Golden Oke


Monika: Today it is my pleasure and honor to interview Veso Golden Oke, a Nigerian-born beauty queen and model, professional make-up artist, Miss Ghana at Miss Trans Star International 2019. In 2019 Veso became the first transgender woman to compete in the Miss Europe Continental Ghana, a beauty pageant for cisgender women. Hello Veso!
Veso: Hello Monika, thank you for this opportunity.
Monika: You were born in Nigeria. Could you say a few words about your teenage years there?
Veso: Yes, I was born in Nigeria and lived in Nigeria for 20 years of my life. It was hell every day because as a young Christian child I was made to believe that my lifestyle was demonic and I needed deliverance. Society had no pity on me, I felt hate and isolation every single day. I was once arrested and put in jail with criminals just because I identified as a woman. I was lucky once when I almost got stoned in the streets after protesting against the 24 years imprisonment for LGBT people. I would have died if I had not found a way to escape.

Thursday, 4 June 2020

Interview with Maryanne Marttini


Monika: Today it is my pleasure and honor to interview Maryanne Marttini, an American comedienne, writer, producer, and designer from Arizona. She is known for her stand-up comedy performances across the country, and brief appearances in Transparent and Glee. She is also part of a writing team that has developed an animated television series and a three-act play based on that series. Since starting her transition 12 years ago she has volunteered with The Maricopa Community College System for LGBTQ awareness, fundraising for scholarships, and Human Resources for LGBT education.
Hello Maryanne! 
Maryanne: Thank you Monika it is an honor and pleasure to meet you. I am a fan of your work bringing awareness and the reality of the Transgender Community to your readers. One of my favorite expressions in life is, “the more you know…!”

Monday, 1 June 2020

Interview with Madi (ChutDillio)


Monika: Today’s interview will be with Madi, an American transgender woman that documents her transition on Reddit.com as ChutDillio. Hello Madi!
Madi: Hi Monika! Thank you so much for interviewing me. I've never been interviewed by anyone!
Monika: Could you say a few words about yourself?
Madi: I'm a sarcastic, extroverted, super proud trans woman born and raised in New York City. I love to sing, skate, and be my crazy Aries self (unabashedly). I also never stop talking. It's a problem.
Monika: Why did you decide to share your transition details on Reddit?
Madi: Honestly, as a way to give back. I followed every trans subreddit for YEARS before I could even admit to myself I was trans. The trans community on Reddit are some of the most amazing, strong-willed people I know of. Once I started HRT, I started counting down the days until I could post about my progress, simply just so I could finally be part of the community. I've made a bunch of really great friends on there.

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.

END OF PART 1

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

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