Monika: Today it is my pleasure and honor to interview Claire Michelle, a young Seattle musician who documents her life and transition on YouTube. Hello Claire!
Claire: Hi Monika!
Monika: Could you say a few words about yourself?
Claire: Certainly! I’m a folk rock musician from Seattle, trying to show that transgender people are no longer in the shadows through my music and vlogs.
Monika: Why did you decide to share your transition details on YouTube?
Claire: I come from a small town where there was no sense of community for queer or transgender people. I had a community online and found myself inspired by the stories and trials that many trans people go through. So, when I started transitioning I wanted to help and educate those who may still be in the position I was, alone and without community. I figured YouTube was a good avenue for that.
Monika: At which stage of the transition are you right now?
Claire: I would consider myself nearing the end of my social transition. I’m about a year and 3 months into hormones, full time for 1 year, 4 months.
Monika: Are you satisfied with the results of the hormone therapy?
Claire: Yes! Most definitely. Hormones are so helpful in so many ways, I had to give it time though. I felt like they couldn’t work fast enough, but then I hit one year. I felt more at ease with my physical and emotional changes after that.
Monika: Which aspects of your experience could be used by other transgender women planning their transitions?
Claire: Coming out, my biggest fear was getting back to singing and performing. I felt like I could never perform again because I feared that I wouldn’t be taken seriously. I overcame my dumb fear and started performing again, even selling out shows! I realized that I could never let that part of me go, and that I could still be the same person regardless of how my singing voice sounds.
Monika: What do you think about the present situation of transgender women in the US?
Claire: I feel that the US has many areas where trans people can feel safe and accepted. I didn’t feel comfortable in my old town, so I moved to Seattle to feel part of a community and free from trans hatred. Here in Seattle, on November 20th, we mourn the loss of trans people around the globe. Through the Transgender Day of Remembrance, I’ve heard from so many people who feel unsafe or threatened in the US because of their gender. The trans community is alive and growing, and we are stepping out of the shadows. The US could be better at accepting people for who they are, but in our current state I think we’re on the right track, it’ll just take some time.
Monika: At what age did you transition into a woman yourself? Was it a difficult process?
Claire: Transition is a difficult word here because I started feeling like I wasn’t male between 18 and 21 years old. Regardless of the way I was presenting, I began to better understand my gender during this time. I started actually transitioning just before my 22nd birthday. I would say it was a difficult process. I was ultimately kicked out for going against my stepmother’s wishes and deciding to transition. I made the best of the situation though and felt it was best to move to Seattle and live life how I wanted to. Due to the conservative nature of Michigan, it was difficult to transition while living there. In Seattle, it wasn’t so difficult.
Monika: At the time of your transition, did you have any transgender role models that you followed?
Claire: My role models were people like you and me. Everyday people are going through the same transition that I would eventually go through. The people who had advice to give and time to educate me and many others were, and still are, my role models.
Monika: What was the hardest thing about your coming out?
Claire: The unknown. Not knowing how people would react was the scariest part. I knew what I was going to do, but I could never have guessed how my family and friends would react. After transitioning I lost two people in my life, and out of the hundreds of people I told, I realized how insignificant those two people actually were to me. My true friends and family were the ones that supported me through the hardest time in my life, not the ones who abandoned me.
Monika: What would you recommend to all transgender girls struggling with gender dysphoria?
Claire: Before transition; Be patient. Transition might seem like a million miles away, but the more steps you take, the closer you’ll get. After transition; The longer you fight dysphoria, the easier it becomes to handle. Happiness might not come easy, but it will come. Stay strong and keep your head high, you might surprise yourself with what you can accomplish. If it gets too overwhelming, talk to somebody. Whether it be a professional or a friend, don’t bottle it up inside.
Monika: What do you think about transgender stories or characters which have been featured in films, newspapers or books so far?
Claire: Media is getting better at portraying trans people but we have a long way to go. I’m seeing less and less mockery and a more realistic portrayal of trans people. I think as more people step out of the shadow and make themselves known, the media will see that transgender people are no longer, and have never been a joke.
Monika: The transgender cause is usually manifested together with the other LGBT communities. Being the last letter in this abbreviation, is the transgender community able to promote its own cause within the LGBT group?
Claire: Transgender people come in all shapes and sizes. Many of us do identify with a letter in LGBT, some may not though. However, if we keep the “T” in LGBT we need to start looking at the broader picture; Gender vs. Sexuality. I think by separating the T from LGBT, we would more people grasping the idea that gender is very different from sexuality. However by keeping the “T” in LGBT, trans people could be taken much more seriously as the political and social revolution focuses on the entire LGBT and not just LGB.
Monika: Are you active in politics? Do you participate in any lobbying campaigns? Do you think transgender women can make a difference in politics?
Claire: I vote in local elections and attend a few meetings now and then, but otherwise, no I’m not involved in politics. Any trans person active in politics is a step in the right direction.
Monika: Do you like fashion? What kind of outfits do you usually wear? Any special fashion designs, colours or trends?
Claire: I do enjoy fashion! I follow a few fashion blogs and try to keep up with it in a casual way. I’m very business casual, with the majority of my wardrobe being blacks and whites. On a formal sense, I find furs to be very elegant and attractive and am hoping that one day they’ll make a comeback.
Monika: Could you tell me about the importance of love in your life?
Claire: Love and relationships are about commitment, not how you feel in the moment. One day you could go from tired of the relationship, while the next you are enjoying every second spent with them. Love is complicated, but I’m glad I have it.
Monika: Many transgender ladies write their memoirs. Have you ever thought about writing such a book yourself?
Claire: I have! I’ve never read a book about a transgender musician, but I’d love to write one. Maybe when I’m old and grey…
Monika: Are you working on any new projects now?
Claire: Yea! I have a new album coming out in the Fall of 2016, it’s titled Out of the Shadows. The music tells my coming out story and the trials I’ve overcome to get where I am now. I hope you give it a listen! Look out for it at www.clairemichellemusic.com.
Monika: Claire, thank you for the interview!
Claire: Thanks Monika for doing these interviews and recording transgender history!