Monika: Today it is my pleasure and honour to interview Emily Crose, an American IT specialist and network threat hunter. She publishes her essays to such portals as motherboard.vice.com, theestablishment.co and upworthy.com. Hello Emily!
Emily: Hello Monika!
Monika: Could you say a few words about yourself?
Emily: Sure! I transitioned medically and socially back in early 2016 while I was working for the US Army as a civilian. I had taken that job specifically because I believed that it would be a good environment for me to do so, and for the most part I was right.
I’ve been out to my family, including my wife (who has been putting up with me in marriage for over 8 years now) since 2014 after a false start in 2010. We have two lovely kids together and have been continuously evolving as a couple since we were married.
Monika: How did you start working as a cybersecurity professional?
Emily: I had originally attended college to be a history teacher, but there came a time where I reflected on what I was doing and realized that I’d much rather be an active player in history than spend my career just talking about the great things other people did. I still have a deep passion for history, but I decided I needed to change course, so I started taking Information Assurance classes at Eastern Michigan University.
Monika: How serious is a world cybersecurity threat? Is it a growing problem?
Emily: Cyber insecurity is a massive issue, particularly in the United States. Globally, the pace of technology is far outstripping the ability of our lawmakers to find good solutions to tough issues on how to defend the country from externally provoked cyber intrusion activity.
This train has been barreling down the tracks now for the last 20 years, and it seems that most lawmakers, the world over, are caught totally flatfooted when it comes to providing public funding and support for projects to counter hostile cyber activity, and the effects are only just now starting to be seen at a national level in the United States.
What makes the problem difficult is the inability for the public and our lawmakers to agree on exactly how we go about securing our online resources. In the United States, the intersection of intelligence agencies, surveillance and the public’s right to privacy have been colliding on issues of how to ‘secure the net’, and there doesn’t appear to be a great public solution now to this fix.
Monika: The IT business is said to be dominated by men. Do you agree?
Emily: The Tech industry is certainly dominated by men. No doubt about it. I’ve seen both sides of an industry that seems to defer more to the needs of men than of women.
Issues related to the treatment of women in male dominated workplaces, particularly in technology related fields tend to skew male going all the way to the leadership of the organizations. What that often ends up meaning is that even startup companies deal with a mostly male-centric environment.
From time to time men find themselves having stepped too far, but even when this happens, the offenders are often given soft landings and allowed to quit rather than being fired outright, if disciplinary action even ends up going that far.
Monika: On the other hand, it is amazing to see so many talented transwomen working for the IT business: Lynn Conway, Jessica Bussert, Danielle Hallett, Kate Craig-Wood, Rebecca Heineman, Megan Wallent or yourself…
Emily: For some reason, technology has managed to attract a lot of transwomen. I credit at least part of my interest in technology to the fact that I found it easier to deal with machines than people in lieu of being able to develop a social style in my birth gender.
Technology has given me a refuge, and a good living for the last 10+ years, and while there are still issues that need to be addressed, it’s a pretty good career field all things considered.
At the same time, I know of trans women in all kinds of fields which are much more male dominated than mine is. I know transgender diesel workers, transgender helicopter pilots,…I even know transgender truck drivers. All of them have been able to carve a much more unique niche into their own corner of society. I’m proud of them for it.
Monika: At what age did you transition into woman yourself? Was it a difficult process?
Emily: I socially transitioned alongside my medical transition in early 2016. I think judging difficulty in this process is all very relative. Was transitioning one of the most difficult things I’ve done in my life? Yes, absolutely. Was my transition more difficult than anyone else’s transition? Oh, heavens no. Compared to most transitions, I had a super-easy gold plated transition. I never forget how lucky and privileged I am to have had as few problems as I have.
Monika: At that time of your transition, did you have any transgender role models that you followed?
Emily: When I transitioned, I did manage to find a few other people who had gone through what I was facing, and they were able to give me guidance on the do’s and don’ts of transition at my respective workplaces. I call them my “trans fairy-godmothers”.
|“She’s Not There” via Amazon.|
Monika: Are there are any transgender ladies that you admire and respect now?
Emily: I’ve always been a fan of Jenny Boylan and her writing. Reading She’s Not There made a huge difference in my life – it was able to show me that I wasn’t the only one in the world who had the feelings I was having. Up until that point, my experience as a pre-transitioned trans person was very lonely.
Apart from Jenny, I have a few other notable examples of trans role models. Alexandra Chandler, Julia Serano, Samantha Allan, Sarah McBride; I follow the careers of trans actresses, Jamie Clayton and Jen Richards among others. I respect all trans people inherently for doing something so challenging and surviving, but what they do with their lives after they’ve achieved notoriety is what truly defines them as worthwhile people in my eyes.
Monika: We all pay the highest price for the fulfillment of our dreams to be ourselves. As a result, many trans women lose their families, friends, jobs, and social positions. Did you pay such a high price as well? What was the hardest thing about your coming out?
Emily: The hardest thing about coming out was coming to terms with the fact that I was putting everything on the line in order to do something that fairly few people in society end up doing. It’s not easy to be willing to risk everything for one shot at happiness, but it’s required for some of us in order to take that chance.
Again, I’m fortunate that I didn’t lose much in my transition. For the most part, I still have my family, and I still have my friends, so in the grand scheme of what I could have lost, I’m lucky to have made it through without a terribly great loss.
Monika: The transgender community is said to be thriving now. As Laverne Cox announced “Trans is beautiful.” Teenage girls become models and dancers, talented ladies become writers, singers, and actresses. Those ladies with interest in politics, science, and business become successful politicians, academics, and businesswomen. What do you think in general about the present situation of transgender women in the contemporary society? Are we just scratching the surface or the change is really happening?
Emily: It’s hard for me to say that the trans community in the United States is “thriving” per se. The trans community in the United States is scraping by, especially for trans people whose identities intersect with another vulnerable minority group. Trans women as a group have become much more visible in the last 5 years, but equality as I see it is still a long way off. When you still see astronomically high suicide rates and when trans people still have to convince the public that they’re no threat to society in community bathrooms, it’s tough to agree that as a group, we’re seen with much more than an eye of skepticism.
Having said all that, things are definitely improving. 7 years ago, I wouldn’t have been able to both transition, and be sure that I would maintain all of the people I care for so much and all of the things I have worked so hard to build. Visibility is incredibly important for the future acceptance and equality efforts of transgender people of all backgrounds, but as I see it, we haven’t yet broken past the barrier of being seen as a sort of novelty.
Trans women in particular end up being held up by social perception as the poster children for all things good and bad about transgender people in general. For better or for worse, that has given trans women a fairly powerful spotlight…but once we start being taken more seriously, we will really begin to make a serious impact.
Monika: The transgender cause is usually manifested together with the other LGBTQ communities. Being the penultimate letter in this abbreviation, is the transgender community able to promote its own cause within the LGBTQ group?
Emily: In my observations, transgender issues have a history of being kept at arm’s length by serious LGBT advocates. Over the years, there’s been a consistently lax response to the equality needs of anyone outside of the “first two letters”. Recently, transgender Americans have been able to attract a bit more attention due to some pop-culture figures who have pressed the issues, but we still have the problem of having certain people within the LGBT community ask demeaning questions like, “How did the T get into LGBT?”
When it comes down to the real brass tacks for transgender equality, the efforts of transgender advocates is making a difference, but I can’t help but feel like most cis folks still look at us with enough of an eye of skepticism that it causes them to not fully embrace equitable access for us.
Monika: What do you think in general about transgender news stories or characters which have been featured in films, newspapers or books so far?
Emily: There’s a pretty deep divide between my feelings on these representations.
In film, depictions of transgender people have been depressingly inaccurate. In general most directors have chosen to use cisgender actors to portray trans individuals, which ultimately has raised a lot of problems regarding these depictions. One such problem is that when directors select cis men to play trans women, the physical attributes of the actors help to enforce stereotypes about trans women that often contribute to negative opinions of trans women. I could go on for a few pages on this, but I’ll just leave it there.
As far as depictions in the news, it’s a mixed bag. We still have problems in journalism with deadnaming and misgendering particularly when murdered trans people appear in the news.
Monika: Do you participate in any lobbying campaigns? Do you think transgender women can make a difference in politics?
Emily: I don’t participate in lobbying personally.
Monika: Do you like fashion? What kind of outfits do you usually wear? Any special fashion brands, colours or trends?
Emily: I love dresses and skirts, I tend to wear these professionally. My style is very feminine – most of my clothes have a darker color to them, but I love bright colors particularly when the weather is nice. I’m not partial to too many brands, but I love Elle shirts and dresses and if my nail polish isn’t Essie, I’m probably not terribly happy with it.
Monika: I have read somewhere that cisgender women were liberated thanks to the development of contraceptive pill whereas transgender women are free now thanks to the development of cosmetic surgery, so they are no longer prisoners of passing or non-passing syndrome …
Emily: I would say that being able to get HRT covered by insurance was the thing that brought freedom to trans people. Before hormone replacement therapy was widely available and affordable, there was a barrier for many trans people of all backgrounds both binary and non-binary to getting the right hormones they need for their brain chemistry.
Cosmetic surgery has been around for decades and yes, it does help many trans people fulfill a self-image that they’ve sought (many of them since birth), but not all trans people find that they need cosmetic surgeries to reach that goal. On the other hand, HRT has been a game changer for a vast number of people from all ranges of the trans spectrum that it’s hard to compare its ubiquity to anything else.
Monika: What do you think about transgender beauty pageants?
Emily: The idea of transgender beauty pageants puzzles me. Is this something people want? If so, how are they judged? I’ve never heard anything about this, but if it’s something that trans people want to participate, I don’t see why not.
Monika: Many transgender ladies write their memoirs. Have you ever thought about writing such a book yourself?
Emily: I don’t really know who would want to read a memoir from a trans girl who has only been transitioned socially for a year and 6 months. I’m not terribly unique anyhow!
Monika: Could you tell me about the importance of love in your life?
Emily: My wife and I have been married for 8 years. I don’t know if I’d have been able to transition without her, so the love her and I share is one of the most important things in my life. The love I have for my kids drove me to be a better parent, which meant I needed to take care of myself before I could take care of them fully. Love is a central component of my life and my motivation.
Monika: Are you working on any new projects now?
Emily: I’m always working on a few essays, but I’ve been content to sit back and let the world unwind. Things are pretty tense right now for minorities in the United States and I have a family I need to take care of. It might be the selfish thing to do, but I have other responsibilities to the people that I love.
I also have some secret projects that will hopefully be coming to fruition on a longer timeline. We shall see!
Monika: What would you recommend to all transgender girls struggling with gender dysphoria?
Emily: Dysphoria is a wolf. It’ll eat you alive if you let it, and even when you try to outrun it, you’ll still lose. Do what you need to do and don’t be afraid to ask for help along the way. Even when you think you’re out of the woods, you may not be.
Take care of yourself, do things you like to do and do whatever you can to avoid falling into depression. To the trans people out there who are struggling with gender dysphoria and don’t know it, those feelings you’ve been having are real, and if you don’t do something to care for them, it’s only going to get worse.
Monika: My pen friend Gina Grahame wrote to me once that we should not limit our potential because of how we were born or by what we see other transsexuals and transgender people doing. Our dreams should not end on an operating table; that’s where they begin. Do you agree with this?
Emily: One day, you will find yourself at a point in your life where you’re happy with where you are. That may be without needing to medically transition, it may even me surgery, but there’s life after transition.
Transition is a temporary state of being. You’ll be in transition, and you’ll be out of transition, and when you’re out, you should be ready for great things. Don’t be afraid to set goals for your life, and don’t let yourself be defined by transition, or the life you lived before it.
Monika: Emily, thank you for the interview!
All the photos: courtesy of Emily Crose.
© 2017 – Monika Kowalska