Mona Rae Mason is the Transgender Project‘s Field Coordinator and has been out and active in the TG community in NYC and Northeastern PA. for several years. As a former barmaid in a mid-town Manhattan cocktail lounge, she promoted and hosted several successful â€˜transâ€™ fundraisers – one for The NYC Gay and Lesbian Anti-Violence Project, another for City Meals on Wheels. She has been active in arranging, promoting and hosting transgender specific parties and events, and also speaks at various Transgender support groups and organizations.
1) What is the Transgender Project and what is its goal?
The Transgender Project is a longitudinal study of the male to female Transgender community of the greater NY metro area. The goal of The Transgender Project is, quite simply, to learn! ” The more we learn of ourselves, the better we can teach others”–and that’s pretty much what all this is about. When all is said and done, we will be able to present to MD’s, therapists, and clinicians some powerful and important information about our communtiy. After all, we can’t really expect them to be able to help us if we don’t give them proper information. We need to help them to help us.
2) How did you get involved in it? How will it differ from the other surveys that seem to be regularly conducted about the trans community?
I got involved almost by accident. I had answered an ad in the Village Voice a few years ago looking for transgirls to answer a short survey, which turned out to be the pre-courser to The Transgender Project. The Project Director and I stayed in contact and next thing you know, I am working! I say this in all candor, this is the most rewarding work I have ever done.
What’s different and unique about The Transgender Project is that it’s a serious and broad based longitudinal study of our community. The first of it’s kind. Many of us have seen various ‘suveys’ aimed small and very specific segments of the trans community. The Transgender Project is designed so that each participant is actually telling their lifes’ story, and telling it in such a way that we will be able to ‘score,’ if you will, the many variable responses to questions. We recently had the members of one well know trans study come by our office, and they almost fell out of their chairs when they saw the detail and depth of our study. I tell you this in all honesty–I am sure that once the Project is completed, it will be come historic.
3) In the time you’ve been involved in the TG community, what is the biggest change you’ve seen?
As I have really only been “involved” and out in the community for just over 5 years, I really don’t have much to draw on from personal history with the community. But I think that just in the past 2 years, more and more of us seem to be coming out. It’s now to the point where myself and a few other girls I know go about in the daytime, to work, to restaurants, etc., whereas not to many years ago we all ‘hid’ in the saftey of the dark of the evening hours. I remember going out one Sat afternoon, resume in hand, best black dress on, and going door to door to bars looking for a barmaids job. I got one too, last place I stopped! So I suppose the biggest change I’ve seen is that it’s a bit easier to ‘come out’ now—although I realize we never really feel at ease our first time.
4) How and when did you share your transness with your family and friends? What motivated you to tell them?
Share your Transness? Sounds like an instructional video! But seriously, I just got to the point where I realized that I was 49 (at the time) and I had paid enough dues, lived with enough guilt and shame, angst, and all the other crap we all seem to go through. And at 49 I was old enough to not have to care about what anyone else thought. “It’s My Life and I’ll Do What I Want” You know Helen, my life is so much better now that I am out. And frankly, I don’t think any of us would wish our lives on anyone else, but to those of us who are in this boat, let’s learn to love ourselves and be ourselves.
5) Is there any memory in particular that stands out in your mind about transness or TG people you have known?
TG people I have known? I suppose having the opportunity to interview a sister, 99 years old and still active, that’s pretty memorable.
But one thing that really gets me is this ‘passing’ thing. All this talk of passing make me crazy! How many of us really ‘pass’? Maybe 1%?? Get over it! Just be the very best girl you can be and get on with it! Enjoy yourself!