This Fall, Fuse TV will premiere a docu-series titled Transcendent which will follow the achievements and hardships of transgender cabaret entertainers who work at the illustrious Asia SF, in San Francisco. To gain insight on what viewers can expect from the show, we recently spoke to Bionka, one of the cabaret performers, about her evolving journey as a woman and her career in social work and live entertainment. She also provided a wealth of knowledge on transgender rights. Check out the Q&A:
MadameNoire (MN): Lately, transgender issues have received a lot of attention, thanks to shows like Orange is the New Black and Caitlyn Jenner’s emergence. What trans-issues will viewers learn about in this series?
Bionka: I think it is important for viewers to walk away from the show knowing transgender people are normal human beings. Our audience will automatically see the difference between our lives versus how it’s portrayed on scripted television or Caitlyn Jenner’s reality show, especially since she comes from money. Also, since most of the cast members are older, viewers will see how they navigate adulthood after their transition periods. There will also be special segments on the cast members’ sisterhood and the connections they have with their family members.
MN: Tell us the story of your personal physical transition as a woman.
Bionka: There’s no juicy story behind my transition as a woman. My physical transition was something I had to do on my own. Because of that, I moved around a lot across the state of California. Currently, I reside in San Francisco and have been able to become an established person in the city—not only as an entertainer but someone who is also a part of the social services field and gives back to the community. As for sharing that particular experience with my family, I didn’t see them until three years after my transition. I went through hormonal therapy and had breast augmentation. After all that time, my family just accepted me with open arms. In my family, no matter how much time has passed, we pick back up where we left off. The first thing my siblings said me when we saw each other again was: “at least the outside matches the inside now!” That comment meant so much to me.
MN: How would you describe the hormonal transition process?
Bionka: An important part of transitioning is understanding the medication you are using during the physical transition. The hormone shot is synthetic estrogen and you insert a high dosage into your body at one time. It takes about two or three days before it reaches its peak and just like any other medication, you will react to it. The estrogen we take makes you bloated and you gain a lot of water weight. Anytime I do my shot, I know my stomach will get bloated or within days I become very sensitive or irritable. I believe everyone reacts differently so it is important to learn how your body works and how you should cope with it. The running joke between transwomen is: “I did my shot, so I can get away with…” A lot of transwomen feel they have a right to act in a disrespectful manner and blame their hormones for their behavior. Sometimes you just have to have that woman-to-woman chat and say, “hold up, girl!” As a transperson, you have to take your medication responsibly and curve your actions.
MN: A lot of your cast members have talked about not finding trans-friendly doctors and the cost of transitioning. What would you like to see done?
Bionka: The issue with trans-healthcare is it’s not affordable or nationally available. Another problem is that trans-healthcare policies vary from state to state. Someone in California may have access to something that a person in North Carolina does not. President Obama has already done a great job with his Obamacare program, however we need to make it more inclusive for transgender people. I also believe medical schools need to start training prospective doctors on their bedside manner in order for them to treat their trans patients professionally.