As part of Lovense’s show of love and support for the LGBT community, we are thrilled this month to feature and give a platform to voices from around the world. Today we have the pleasure of interviewing Alyssa MacKenzie – Trans Advocate, Activist, and Intersectional Feminist.
Q1: When did you first feel like the sex you were assigned at birth doesn’t match with your gender identity?
I knew when I was 7. Yeah, I know… how does anyone know they’re trans at 7 years old, right? Haha… but I really did. I just didn’t know what trans WAS or meant. I just knew that nothing matched; my interactions with other kids, my interests and the way I felt comfortable spending time, my continual dysphoria with my body…but again, I had no idea what I what I was experiencing actually had a name; I just knew that I felt ‘incorrect’, but didn’t learn how or why until I got older and learned not only what ‘trans’ was, but that there were other people my age that felt the exact same way. I wasn’t alone, like I thought I had been.
Q2: Have you ever faced any difficulties because of the fact you are transgender? If you are, could you share an account of that incident and how you dealt with it?
Oh my goodness, yes. And I mean, that’s putting it mildly! Look, my experience as a non-binary trans woman is different from a lot of other people in my community because I hold a tremendous amount of privilege: I’m white, I ‘pass’, and I’m friendly. A lot of other trans people are discriminated against, simply by being a different color or not presenting in a way that necessarily follows the binary gender conforms that a lot of people are used to seeing, so I think it’s important to illustrate that being a difference between my experiences and theirs.
But yes, I’ve definitely encountered, and continue to encounter challenging situations due to being trans. Mainly, the ridiculous hoops my state made me jump through in order to just update my name and gender marker, having to carry a drivers license for quite a while that had my deadname and old picture on it while presenting fully as a woman, problems while voting and being misgendered while early in transition, the anxiety of using the public restroom early on in transition which was very difficult to navigate at first.
But in all of those situations, especially starting to go out presenting as my true identity in public, it’s nearly always had to involve showing entirely more confidence and a sense of comfortably belonging where ever I was, even if I absolutely didn’t feel that way.
People pick up on social cues, so it’s an important safety element, really. And eventually, you find that, and you hopefully become the person who finds their confidence and just kinda rocks it.
Q3: What does gender #TRANSition mean to you and how do you feel now after you’ve #TRANSitioned?
Transition, to me, means embracing who you are and loving yourself enough to give that person the chance to shine in the world, and doing that has taught me more about myself than anything ever has. I started transitioning in March of 2019, and I don’t mind saying this because it’s a part of my path, but I had GRS in July of last year. That was always in my path, and I knew that from a very young age.
But I also need to illustrate how personal that is, how it’s entirely up to any trans person to disclose that info to you, and specifically for trans women, they aren’t any more or less valid, based on what they need physically for them and it isn’t what defines you as a woman. Being a woman is infinitely more than genitalia. But as I said, my path always included getting GRS because it was right for me, and I absolutely feel physically ‘complete’ now because of it.
Q4: At which point did you decide to make the change and how did you overcome the challenges during your #TRANSition journey?
I made the decision to transition really as a last-resort. I was 39, impossibly unhappy, I had attempted suicide in my mid-20’s because of never truly being able to find a path that included being happy with myself, which made me feel like a failure as the parent of two children as well. I don’t believe in telling your children things that you don’t believe to be true yourself, so I always bore a lot of the brunt of our lack of communication when they were smaller. I wasn’t happy, but I tried going after my dreams and still didn’t find that happiness there, either. Turns out, you can’t do that if you’re lying to the one person you can never lie to- yourself.
Transitioning was the beginning of the end of doing that. It was about listening to every single thing that I’d shoved deep down inside and deciding to embrace it, not run from it. And I swear this to this very day- you wouldn’t be having this interview with me right now if I hadn’t, because I wouldn’t be here to be able to do so. Transitioning saved my life.
Q5: If you could travel back in time to give a word of advice to your younger self / yourself before you started on your #TRANSition, what would it be?
See, this is a slippery slope because it can really send you into an unfair tailspin where you beat yourself up about ‘what if’, and I really don’t like disappearing down that rabbit hole, BUT…. if I could give myself advice?
Don’t run. You’ll lose decades of your life that you could’ve been spending being a level of happy that you didn’t even know existed. I mean, that’s really it, without writing a novel about it, lol.
Q6: What are some misperceptions that society has about transgender people that you would like to address?
How long do you have? Lol.
The main one, because it’s sadly too prevalent in the world right now? If you think you’re trans, you know better than anyone else if you are, and you ABSOLUTELY can know at a young age. It just infuriates me when adults discredit children as to what they ‘could’ or ‘could not’ know, simply because they’ve only been alive for a certain amount of time.
Look- I knew when I was 7 that the role I was given at birth, wasn’t mine. But if I had more of an example of others that understood that, felt that, were that, too? My childhood would’ve been an entirely different one, and that is the hardest pill to swallow when you’re trans, and it’s one of the reasons why you see so many trans people so fiercely protective of trans youth- because trans kids have such a better path to live more of their lives being happy, and if a child’s parents have embraced that and taken the steps to safely pursue that for their children, that should be protected, at ALL costs- period.
We raise kids to tell them to be themselves and be honest. We need to truly, honestly, really MEAN that when they tell us and show us who that person is, even if it wasn’t what or who we thought it would be. That’s what unconditional love is.
Q7: What is one topic or question you wish that people would ask more about transpeople?
What do you enjoy? What are your hobbies? How was your day? Really- anything other than what they see that defines me as ‘different’ in their eyes. I mean, I’m a singer/songwriter, I’m a total weather geek, I love the band Coldplay at what I’m sure is an irrational level, have an affinity for architecture and mass transit- I mean, there’s a myriad of things about me that you could pick my brain about. If you’re an ally of mine, fantastic , and thank you. But let’s talk about something else.
Q8: What are some solutions or steps that society should take to help encourage acceptance and understanding of the transgender community?
LISTEN. No, really- LISTEN to trans people. We will tell you how to be an ally; what we need, how to support, what is a problem in our community, and how YOUR perception of an ally may very well be wrong.
Being an ally isn’t treating trans people as if you’re doing them a favor by acknowledging their right to exist as freely as you do. It means you will have uncomfortable conversations with people when they talk negatively about trans people and say ‘hey- that’s untrue.’ It means when hateful, anti-trans legislation is written and trans people tell you who’s supporting it, questioning those people and letting them know, ‘hey- financially supporting anti-trans legislation is NOT acceptable to me. I’m taking my business elsewhere’ and actually DOING it, within your means. It means valuing the worth of a human being more than your desire to continue to enjoy something that a hateful person has written or produced, and understanding how badly you hurt us when you stay silent.
It means DOING. Fighting alongside us. I mean REALLY fighting. Because we desperately need that, and there’s entirely too much silence from cis people when our community is on fire, and it definitely is right now, more than ever.
Q9: What’s the best thing that has happened to you ever since you started your #TRANSformation journey?
Oh goodness…there have been so many things! I pretty much daily get texts, tweets or DMs from people, asking for advice or thanking me for already doing so, and that really makes all the advocacy and volunteer work worth it. I just want to help make it easier to be yourself, if being trans is who you are. That, and…. I’m happy. I mean, I’ve some nearly four decades trying to just be that, and I wasn’t ever really able to because I kept trying to prevent my truth from being my reality, and when I did, I was a level of happy that literally made me have to redefine the word, because I didn’t know it could exist.
And that isn’t everybody’s experience when they transition, for so many different reasons that life can bring you, but…. the confidence I’ve gained, the friends I’ve met, how infinitely better my relationship has gotten and the relationships that I’ve made because of that happiness? It’s been the best thing in my life, alongside getting engaged to my best friend. That’s been the best.
Q10: What is the best way to support a transgender friend, family member, or loved one who has just made the decision to start their #TRANSition? Are there any words you’ll like to convey to those who have yet to come out or start their transition journey?
The best way to support someone who’s just come out as trans? Just stay with them and let them know you’re still there. While it may also be a transition for you, understand that it’s ok to seek a therapist to work through your feelings so that you can feel how you feel while not projecting those feelings onto them. Coming out as trans is the biggest emotional rollercoaster they’ll likely ever go through, and they cannot also carry your emotional weight, so…don’t give it to them. Give it to someone who can take it. Perfectly okay.
And to anyone who hasn’t come out yet? I’d say this: every single solitary fear I’ve had about coming out and transitioning has been worse than the actual result, and that’s the thing about fear- it can rob you of the most precious, non-renewable resource on earth: time. You don’t have to transition by a certain time or age, but my point is that the sooner you do, the sooner you can embrace your authentic self, instead of running from it. It’s no way to go through life.
It really is ok to stop running.
Lovense would like to thank Alyssa MacKenzie again for her inspiring words. You can see more of her through her Twitter below…