As a member of the LGBTQA community, it is obvious that the people in the category, which people seem to be most ignorant about, is the T for transgender. I recently was fortunate enough to meet Sasha Mowen. She’s a woman who wears many hats: YouTube Personality, Mother, Social Justice Warrior, ‘Rebel WITH a Cause’, cancer survivor, freelance writer, LGBTQA activist and advocate, and she is transgender.
The following is an interview meant to help educate people a bit about what it’s like to be transgender in America.
Matthew : What are the biggest misconceptions people have about transgender people?
Sasha: That it’s something we chose. It’s not, in fact, I knew I was different growing up but back then we didn’t have terms or words to even begin to discuss it. Being ‘different’ has always been a part of my life–but I’m human and I deserve to be loved, just like everybody else does (lol).
M: What was it like growing up in West Virginia?
S: Funny thing, that. I didn’t grow up in West Virginia. The reason I show it as the birthplace on social media is it’s where I “came out” when I found my identity, my name and so much more. It’s where I discovered Sasha, the Princess of Darkness, & the Tourist of Terror. Not to mention the start of the Fallout Shelter. In a matter of speaking, it’s a birthplace of sorts but not one people are commonly attuned to. Honestly, I didn’t grow up anywhere–I was an Army brat. Wherever the military had my dad go, we went. I didn’t start to have any type of roots until after my father was discharged during the military cutbacks after Desert Storm. Then I spent a lot of time in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia. By then, I was in my late teens.
M: What do you think the average Republican should know about transgender people?
S: That’s the rub. So many labels out there–Republican, Democrat, Independent, etc. Honestly, the world’s more than 2 or 3 options. I don’t think all Republicans are against us, I don’t think all Democrats are for us. Same way with Liberals and Conservatives. What I want everyone to know, we are just people. Not here to hurt anyone, but just to live our lives as we choose to. Sure we may make one question Gender Identity, but is that so bad? Life is about more than 2 choices, isn’t it? There’s more than Republican and Democrat, Liberal and Conservative, Male and Female.
M: What do you think about Caitlyn Jenner?
S: Oh, that is a long story but I’ll try to be brief. I am thankful for her bringing visibility to us. Sure, Transgender people have been here for a long time. We were recognized in the Roman Empire, the Native Americans celebrated us as Two-Spirits and for a more modern reference, we were at Stonewall. Somehow, we don’t get enough visibility these days. We aren’t recognized and respected. Most cases we’re feared and despised for being different from the social ‘norm’. So, because of Jenner, at least a few people can say they know at least one Transgender Person. So again much respect, but she also creates a false stereotype. We all can’t instantly afford gender affirming surgeries, or have them carried out seemingly overnight. Not to mention her views…a lot of her views are just plain wrong. She makes a lot of transgender people feel they have to ‘pass’ as their desired gender to be accepted by society…and that’s horrible. Sure, she is one of us but she does not represent all of us. That simple.
M: Why are people so worked up over where transgender people are using the bathroom?
S: Because, simply, they don’t see a Transgender Woman, as a Woman. They don’t see a Transgender Man as a Man. It makes no sense. Especially since Restroom Regulations only came about to demean women, since they weren’t as equal to men in the workplace. Look it up. Few people remember that. It’s just basic fear of what they don’t understand and refuse to accept.
M: What is it like finding a job as a transgender person?
S: After being fired from a career of 13 years after coming out as transgender, I know a few things about this. It’s hard. Typically, I can get as far as the interview, but it seems once they “see me”– well that’s the end of it. It’s rough. I always find it humorous that so many people want to label being Transgender as a mental illness. Yet if it was, since it’s so damn hard to get a normal job while being myself, why can’t I get disability for it? I bet that would blow some minds there.
M: Can you describe when you first knew you were transgender?
S: That’s the thing, as previously mentioned, I always knew and we didn’t have words for it then. That’s the problem now, too. There are too many words and terms for the gender spectrum: Agender / genderless, Androgyne, Bigender (bi-gender) , Cisgender / cissexual Genderqueer / non-binary, Hijra, Pangender, Queer heterosexuality, Third gender / Third sex, Trans man, Trans woman, Trigender (tri-gender), Two-Spirit, New Half…. The list goes on and on. People are trying so hard to define where they fit in and frustrating themselves as a result. To me, it’s always been–Don’t define it. You are you, be happy with yourself and the rest will come together. Simple.
M: What kind of acceptance have you found in the LGBT community? How can it be improved?
S: At times it feels more like the LGB community. Most seem to forget that there’s a T, Q, I and A as well. It all reminds me of high school with all the clique groups. The LGB, are your “jocks, cheerleaders and rich kids.” The rest of us are the “Goths, Freaks and Geeks.” We’re acknowledged but far from accepted. That’s the thing; it can’t be fixed by existing means. New ways need to be created. When I faced some discrimination at a Maryland restaurant and when I was recently terminated from my job, I tried to go to various LBGTQIA support groups and organization for help. Big ones. Most didn’t care or wouldn’t since I was over the age of 18, wasn’t dead, beaten and/or worse. Some of these organizations only care about making headlines and stories that will guarantee them large donations for their support. Suffices to say, my situations were ‘too commonplace’. In my opinion, isn’t that the problem? Transgender and any LGBTQIA issues shouldn’t be considered too commonplace. They shouldn’t happen at all. That’s the goal, isn’t it? Much of the community doesn’t seem to feel that way. Ergo, I decided to carve my own path; My own way. What can I say? I’m a rebel–I rebel. So I formed my own organization, where all are equals: U-Belong. Sure, we’re in our infancy but I see big things coming out of this. As the old saying goes–“United we stand, divided we fall.”
M: How do you feel about the current media portrayals of transgender people?
S: Well this one is simple–A man isn’t given a woman’s role. A woman isn’t given a man’s role (no I do not mean “Ripley” here sci-fi geeks–they left that role genderless in the script). So why is it that a cisgender male is portraying a Transgender Woman? Why is a Cisgender woman playing a Transgender Woman for that matter? Why is any Cisgender person given Transgender roles? When we have men play a Transgender woman’s role, we’re only reinforcing that horrible stereotype that Transwomen ARE men. We aren’t men, I assure you. It was horrible when Jared Leto got his Oscar with a full beard. It just showed the world at large the falsehood that transwomen are just men playing a role. Funny thing is that a lot of men find Transgender Women extremely attractive. This doesn’t make them gay or anything else–because in the end, we ARE women. However, being with us makes them question this, and sometimes that is externalized as brutality against. Cisgender people portraying us in roles only further the violence and hatred against us. Then there’s a matter of our roles in the past and some currently, take ‘Sleep Away Camp’, ‘Fatal Games’, ‘Dressed to Kill’ and the upcoming ‘(Re) Assignment’. Granted, I love ‘Dressed to Kill’, but all of these films paint the Transgender Community in a negative light. As killers, as people who don’t want be transgender, people with mental illnesses and worse. It’s the wrong and worst kind of representation for the community and the world.
M: Where would you move if you could move anywhere in the world?
S: I’ve been all over the world, and I’m not one for running either. I stand my ground. Sure I have friends across the globe, but as a wizened long-eared master once taught us all- sometimes it’s good to focus on where you are and what you are doing. I’m not religious by any means, but I believe I’m exactly where I need to be. If change is going to happen, it’s here and now. Not some farfetched place in another state or country. It’s about grassroots; you can’t tackle the bigger realms without establishing yourself in the boondocks. Besides, I’m building a rebellious army–you got to start small.
For more about Sasha Mowen, see the article from Public Opinion: Becoming a self-made woman: Living as Sasha Mowen
Sasha is active on social media:
Emails: email@example.com | firstname.lastname@example.org
Featured image via Sasha Mowen by Victor M Crespin photography
Other image by Amanda Stup of Artfully Captured photography