On Nora Gouma’s ModelOnAMission feature this week is a brilliant and young transgender woman, Stacey Monroe. She has been bullied, harassed, and physically assaulted for simply being herself while growing up in North Texas. Monroe is an activist fighting to raise awareness for transgender people. In today’s society, not many people understand what transgender means. According to GLAAD (Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation), transgender is a term used to describe people whose gender identity differs from the sex they were assigned at birth.
Monroe, who is only 20 years old, is one of the many behind this fight to raise awareness on the topic. She is currently working on a film about her story and life in transition with producer and writer, Terry Vanderheyden, from With In Film Productions. The film is in the early production phases and there is no estimated date of completion. But in the meantime, she often blogs about many topics such as her emotional and physical challenges on this journey.
During an email interview, Monroe said, “I am glad that people are moved by my willingness to openly share my story. There is much more to my agenda, but first I need to educate my very own community topic.” In July, she was interviewed by Emmy Award winning reporter, Karen Falla, and the interview was featured on Univision 23 Nightly News. Her fight to raise awareness continues. Monroe answered a few questions to help us better understand what it means to be transgender.
How was your childhood life?
When I was 8 months old, I was taken away from my biological mother. I was put in foster care until I adopted by my grandmother and grandfather who helped raise me in Dallas, Texas. Till this day, I call them both mom and dad. To be quite honest with you, I can’t recall many good memories from my childhood. However, I do recall having to endure many hardships after my mom and dad got divorced in 2003.
When did you first think you might be transgender?
As a young child – at the age of six, I knew there was something different about me; I looked like a boy, was being raised as a boy, but deep inside of me – I felt like a girl. As a child I imagined myself growing up and having a husband and children. I saw the future me as a woman. However, I was only a child and didn’t know anything about transgenderism.
At the age of 13 I decided to come out as gay, but after some time of identifying as gay, I felt like the gay community didn’t understand me. As the years passed, I kept my inner feelings and thoughts to myself. I continued to struggle with my gender-identity until the age of 16 when I made the brave choice of giving a voice to my true identity.
At age 13 you identified as gay, but then at age 16 you decided you were not gay. You determined you were transgender?
Correct. I was young, and I didn’t know how to explain my inner identity struggles with others.
Can you explain to us what gender dysphoria is?
Gender dysphoria is a conflict between a person’s assigned gender and the gender he or she identifies with. For example, in my case I was assigned male at birth but actually feel like a girl. I hope that answers you question.
What would you say to someone who doesn’t know what being transgender means?
I would ask them to visit GLAAD’s website or their local LGBTQ community center to learn more about what it means to be transgender. According to GLAAD,
transgender is a term used to describe people whose gender identity differs from the sex they were assigned at birth. It’s a very complex situation to explain to someone. But I’d tell them that everyone has a different story and faces different challenges.
When did you come out to your family and friends?
I was 16 years old when I told my cousin Toni and soon after I told my family and friends. Some were in disbelief, because I had previously come out as gay at age 13.
Some people don’t understand how hard it is to come out. Following your feelings, drives, and impulses sounds like the easiest and most natural thing to do; but in the world we live in, it is not easy at all. Society, our friends and families expect us to be something that perhaps we are not. They see us a certain way and they expect us to play along.
After you came out to your family and friends. Did they accept you?
The battle to educate them continues till this day. They have shown a change and are always willing to learn more. I’m pleased with the efforts they have made to make me feel comfortable during my transition.
Can you tell us more about your film?
I can’t get into too much details, but the film is to be titled, Stacey’s Story: Living with Gender Dysphoria. The previous film director and I had a disagreement about the direction of my documentary. Therefore, Ulrich Sterling, the new director, has joined the team and we are now in the early stages. We are still in the writing process and are working diligently to make sure this film has an impact in society. The film will share my struggles as a young trans woman and how I have overcome those obstacles.
When did you start to share your story with the public?
I started to share my story sometime in July of 2013. I started by posting some blog entries on my Facebook and eventually through my official blog. Soon after, I was featured in an interview on the RebootU radio show with Douglas Lancaster to share my insight on what it means to be transgender.
What are some issues that transgender people face?
Transgender people have daily access issues such as not being able to leave our home safely, not being able to walk out into the streets without being harassed, and not having affordable healthcare. We shouldn’t be discriminated or physically attacked for simply being ourselves. There’s many more issues that transgender people face that also need to be addressed.
Why share your story with the public?
I decided to share my story is to raise awareness by educating the public on the struggles transgender people face. Many transgender people are not open about their story because they fear for their safety. Last year I received death threats when I was a host for E! GEMZ! Radio! on the Blog Talk Radio network.
Initially, I was reporting all the death threats to the authorities, but after so many death threats I stopped making police reports. However, one of the many death threats turned in to a true nightmare.
On May 23rd of 2013, a male arrived at my home with a gun in his hand and I immediately took cover. While I hid in the hallway, I started to frantically call 9-1- 1 and as the seconds passed I felt like my death was approaching. Irving PD arrived almost instantaneously, but the suspect was able to get away. The unidentified suspect is still at large till this day.
I continue to share my story in the hopes of raising awareness on the transgender community. My goal is to help give the voiceless a voice so they can live authentically without having to fear for their safety every day.
Your blog has become quite popular these past few months. How does it feel to have an increasing number of readers?
Yes, it has received a lot of traffic. My blog has been turning out to be very popular and I have had a lot of my readers write me saying that they are extremely proud of me. Some of my readers are quite shocked that at my age I am behind this movement of raising awareness about gender dysphoria and transgenderism.
What is your greatest achievement so far?
Sharing my story with the public has been one of my greatest achievements, especially in the Hispanic community. It feels so great to be able to touch someone and possibly change the views they previously had of the transgender community. Recently, I was featured in a special segment on Univision 23, where I had the opportunity to share my story with a large portion of the Hispanic community here in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. It was major accomplishment for me because I feel that in order for me to continue raising awareness I need to educate the very own community I come from.