LGBTQIA HUMAN RIGHTS COALITION

 

INTERVIEWED BY MEGHAN CHAVALIER

 

 

Heather Susan Carr has been very active in the LGBT/Transgendered Community as an Advocate/Activist for Civil Rights for several years. She also takes part in initiatives such as The Joyful Heart Foundation & RAINN that assist with survivors of Sexual Abuse & Violence to give them a voice. Heather has gone through the transitional process from Male to Female (MTF) . She works in Corporate America as an IT & Financial Business Analyst/Writer to analyze business models and processes for improvement for business standards. She enjoys writing from a social prospective. She also enjoys performing music as a singer and musician, playing guitar, bass, & other string instruments.

Through her journey she has learned more than she ever expected she would. She has met many people either that have gone through the same type of experiences or have had questions either about her background, or why she chose to transition, family life, to mention a few. She hopes to shed light with her experiences to show that people don’t have to go through the transition process alone. There are people that care about you, even when you may feel like you are alone and there is no one to turn to.

Heather’s Favorite Quotes

“Heroes are people that don't realize they are Heroes, but make a difference with who they are”


“It takes only a min to meet someone, an hour to like someone, and a day to love someone, but it takes a lifetime to forget someone”

 

 

Where did you grow up?

I feel like I have grown up in different areas of the United States at times because I have moved a lot in my life especially for education or work. I was born in Upstate NY (near Syracuse) on June 3, 1968. I grew up in Upstate NY which was for the most part different than what most people think of New York in general because of New York City and its Mystique. Growing up in the 1970’s & 1980’s was a time of being connected but being in a way of life that we didn’t have the technology of cell phones, internet, and 500 channels of Television. I am still amazed where we are now in comparison to 20 years ago or even 10 years ago for that matter. Living in this sheltered existence and feeling you are different was unsettling at times for me. A lot of times for me growing up, I was introverted – I felt isolated and sometimes alone in my thoughts. I had issues with my weight and even had times that I bullied either by kids at school or by my older brother which didn’t help with my self-esteem at the time. In the mist of this turmoil, there were things that gave me solace – music (learning, playing & listening), dealing with my weight issues by running track – playing soccer , excelling at school – reading everything I could get my hands on for my educational advancement, and finding out who I really was as a person & making it happen.

How was your relationship with your family?

My relationship with my family was one of Dysfunction and sometimes of mutual indifference. My Father was a person that was mechanically intelligent but educationally was ignorant and never graduated high school. My mother was a person that tried to please my father and tried to play the peacemaker in the family. My older Brother and I had an uneasy relationship between the two of us. There was jealousy that I felt he had of me since I was infant, which led to fighting and sometimes even abuse by him when I was in my early teens. With the uneasiness of this situation I started to look for outlets to help me through my situation. I hid my feelings from my family because I was afraid of what would happen if they thought I was transgendered or Gay which led me into a state of denial. For the next 20 years I didn’t mention anything to my family about my feelings being transgendered and almost had to live almost a secret life between being male and wanting to Transition to being a female. For me discussing that I was transgendered wasn’t a topic for phone conversations with my family or friends that I grew up with. I had moved away from where I grew up in NY by my mid 20’s and was living on my own. My family and I had also by this time had become pretty much strangers to one another because of the distance that we had & me wanting a clean break with my past. I had legally changed my name and lived my life as Heather Susan Carr starting in 2002 when I was starting my Transitional SRS procedures. When I did see my family again in 2006, after I went through the procedures it did not sit well them. I decided after my coming out to my family and the strained relationship that we had afterwards that I was going to live my life not only making a difference being who I am, but living my life for myself and on my terms. As time went on the past couple of years I wanted to reconnect with my family to reach back out to them not only tell them how I am doing but to find out how they are. I finally did contact my mother & brother, within the past year to try to reconcile, but have not spoken to my father. It has shown a maturity I have gained about how life is & how precious family is. It is processes of dealing with how life changes who we are and what we can be going ahead. Time can hopefully heal wounds.

Was your family religious and if so, do you still follow the religious beliefs you were raised in?

My family was not religious as a part of my upbringing. I went occasionally with my Grandmother to Church when I lived in NY – which was Episcopal in nature. When moved to Charlotte, NC in 1995 and started dating, I went to Baptist & Presbyterian churches. I was married in a Baptist Church in 1997. When I went through my separation/divorce in 2002 I stopped going to church because of the break-up of my marriage and my feelings had changed because my Transitional process. I looked at Religion in a different way. I tried to go to church and found that each place I tried to worship in was not receptive to people that were LGBT/Transgendered. Some of the churches that I tried to attend looked at me as threat to their church in some way because I was there. I also had an instance of an Associate Pastor meeting with me to try to stop me from transitioning because he wanted to save me from being either gay or being transgendered because this wasn’t what God wanted me to be. After this experience, of being turned away or shunned for trying to practice my faith - I decided to pray & meditate in either in private or with friends. I then decided to practice & covert to Judaism in 2004 because of my Mother’s Polish roots of being Jewish before her family had to forcibly convert to Catholicism before World War II. I look at Religion now from the perspective of one being the person’s choice for what they practice & follow.

What age did you realize that you were transgender?

I realized I was different in my early teens because of the turmoil I had growing up, thinking how I should be as a person. I identified with being the opposite sex. I also felt like I was born in the wrong body and I didn’t understand why I was born as the opposite sex. There were often times I was in despair because I didn’t know what I could do to change & I could not confide with anyone. I looked at myself as Female than being transgendered. To me being transgendered was a label that I didn’t want to be. I wanted to be a Female and that meant ridding everything that I was being a male. It was almost like a cleansing process of my old self – because I was being reborn as a woman with some of the attributes I had before I transitioned.

You were married; can you tell our readers what being married and knowing you are transgender is really like?

Marriage for me was something I look back at with mixed emotions. Mostly because of thinking that getting married would solve me being transgendered or having gender-identity issues. Going through that period of time (1997-2002) brought changes in my thinking, career and life choices. The person I was married to in the beginning of the marriage was definitely not same at the end of it. Neither was I. I was hiding who I was and I could not hide it anymore. I wanted more than being a spouse and couldn’t deal with someone that I couldn’t be around, let alone be married to. Being Heather became my escape that I wanted to become the reality. The Changing point with that thinking came with September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the horrific aftermath.

After 9/11 you said you went through many personal changes that affected your outlook on life. Please share this with our readers.

The September 11, 2001 Terrorist attacks with the World Trade Center made me do a re-think on my life and what I needed to do. I had friends that died in the Towers that I knew when I lived in NY and went to college with. I worked in one of the High Rise Bank towers in Charlotte, NC as a Bank Analyst that handled the Disaster Recovery for such events. It was devastating to me to fathom that I had friends in New York that I will never see again, or others that loss friends & family because of this event. I also thought that this situation could have been me because of my job. After 9/11 happen it made me think life is too short and life could be taken away in a flash. In the ending months of 2001/Beginning of 2002 – the problems of my marriage were irreconcilable, so it was time to move on with my life. It was full force ahead with my next phase of my life and being Heather meant everything for me to become.

What has being able to be your "true self" meant to you?

True Self has meant a lot of things to me and even more as time and years go by. It has taken me many years to feel comfortable in my own skin. Wisdom has also helped me roll with the changes, without losing sight on what simple things life can be. You have to believe in what you can do, even if people don’t believe you can do it. Perseverance is always the key in anything I achieve moving ahead, no matter what anyone thinks what I can do. I inspire not only myself but I hope I can inspire others to do what many are afraid to do – Be themselves, and not care what others think!

You live and work 24/7 as a female. I know many transwomen fear going out into "the real world." Can you give our readers some personal insight into how it is to live and work as a full-time transwoman to help them realize that it's not as scary as they think it is?

Initially when I was going through the decision to Transition after I was going through my divorce in 2002 - I went through buying clothes, makeup, and finding myself again. I starting going the research again on the internet & getting my ducks in a row. I started to learn techniques with makeup and how to act how I should in public as a female. Most of the early things I did before I went through the Transition process were really done as a Trial & Error approach. It took a while to understand about dress and mannerisms as a female. I also at this time started more and more going out dressed to gay & straight clubs sometimes even on a nightly basis. It was almost like I was an actress being able to be who I wanted to be on a daily basis. Each step of the Transition process I grew more confident of whom I was and I wondered why I didn’t do the process sooner than I did. A lot of this process has to be looked as blocks in a foundation. The more blocks you have the better ground work you will have going through the Transitional Process. Education is always the key in this. With going out as a female is one thing – living as a female 24/7 is quite another in the real world. The process of transitioning both physically & mentally is a major undertaking because of having to make a living to pay for the process & live and function in society at the same time is the key. There are many things to do that only scratch the surface, which includes the physical procedures (Hormones, Implants, SRS, Therapy with a Psychiatrist), and the legal procedures that need to be done include going through the legal change your name & background (which involves School, Citizenship Information, Credit, Driver License, etc) to be officially who you are. It is a process that many people do not discuss but I do. Also the road going through transition isn’t without its downs being discouraged & disillusioned at times. With that being said – I would not have my life any other way. Being who I am is something I don’t have to hide from. It has made me a better person not only for what I have done, but what I inspire to do going ahead. Life is such a precious thing not to put your best face forward. Being Heather Susan Carr is being that for me because I earned it.

What would you like the world to know about the transgender community?

What I want the world to know about the transgender community is that many including myself are like anyone else. We want to live, work and be productive in society without being ashamed of being who we are & what we do – Living our Lives & Being Fabulous doing it. People may judge a book by its cover without knowing what that book can do. Many want the chance to strive to be the greatest people they can be. Some have to fight to prove who they can be because of ignorance. Performers on stage doing drag don’t speak of the whole of what the transgender community is. Throwing on clothes does not make you female or male - it is much more than that. It is living, breathing, and working to be who you are and strive to be or inspiring to be better as time goes on – That is Everyday!!


I have noticed throughout the years that there is still a division in the transgender community amongst the girls, a lot of in-fighting. Why do you think this is?

Like in any Diverse Group – The Transgender Community has many people with diverse backgrounds. With the diverse backgrounds come different personalities. Some people are very vocal with how change for the community should be done. The in-fighting comes from how and why civil rights & discrimination is being swept under the table because of the larger Lesbian & Gay Community receiving more advances with its recent DADT & the California Prop 8 victories because the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) trying to speak for everyone in the LGBT Community with its dealings in the US Congress. As a Female in the LGBT Community I look at DADT in the Military & the California Voter Rejection of Prop 8 for Gay Marriage as major victories for equality. But I look at more what the National Center of Transgender Equality (NCTE) does for my Civil Rights with ENDA (The Employment Non-Discrimination Act), Comprehensive Civil Rights (To protect against Discrimination on Gender Identity & Sexual Orientation) & EEOC & Title VII – My right to have the EEOC Investigate and mediate Title VII complaints from transgendered people based on sex discrimination in addition to issuing Right to Sue Letters. There is some in-fighting because of how transgendered people are being portrayed with the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) with the Gay Initiatives. Some feel that the HRC is not doing enough help transgendered people with its initiatives & politics.

 

You are an advocate for the LGBT Community. Why do you feel it's important for members of our community to get involved?

As an Advocate within & for the LGBT community I look at the current environment and feel that people need a voice again hate and discrimination. It is important for people to be involved and have a voice because this affects so many things within the community as a whole. With all the diversity that each section within the group has - it is what happens within the LGBT community itself that needs to be protected. It is something that shows we are united against Discrimination, we are united for our Civil Rights, and it is something we can do to make our lives better in the process. It is something that starts with one person in the community with the vision to believe and it spreads to where we all can change how we do things for many people.

Two organizations that you do work for are Joyful Heart Foundation (Mariska Hartigay's Foundation) & RAINN (Rape Abuse & Incest National Network). What work do you do for these two organizations and why do you hold them close to your heart?

I got involved with the Joyful Heart Foundation & RAINN initiatives because of watching Law & Order SVU and by being sexually assaulted by a family member when I was in my teens. I support each cause profusely with my personal support because of the work that each does with survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence & child abuse. Each of the causes (The JHF & RAINN) shows that when people unite to help survivors: a Community can empower courage & compassion, can support survivors and give them a voice to engage in an open dialogue to help end the cycle of violence & abuse. The Recent campaigns & initiatives that The JHF & RAINN initiated and brought to light on Law & Order SVU were the #EndtheBacklog initiative to have untested Rape Kits be tested to assist Rape Victims put their assailants in jail (Highlighted on the Law and Order SVU Episode ‘Behave’ in Sept 2010) and the issue with college students being raped after going out drinking and the Legalities/Ramifications of College Campus Faculty not reporting these crimes to authorities because of the Legally Grey interpretation of consensual sex (Highlighted in Law & Order SVU Episode Grey in Nov 2010). The Power of both SVU & the Joyful Heart Foundation with RAINN show that the public can make a difference for the betterment of the greater good.


You are a huge fan of Law & Order SVU. What is it about the show that connects you to it?


I discuss Law & Order SVU a lot in my Public communication & Social Media discussions for a lot of reasons. The show has raised a lot for social consciousness for me & has influenced a lot of my decisions with me being who I am. I have also joined some to initiatives that were influenced by Law & Order: SVU – The Joyful Heart Foundation & RAINN (Rape, Abuse, Incest National Network) because I want to make a difference with Victims Rights because of being sexually assaulted myself. The show has struck a chord with me from a law point of view & how victims of sexual assault deal with crimes that have had happen against them. I look at law enforcement differently & how the criminal justice system handles both the victims’ side of the crime & the perpetrators performing the crime. There is also a certain element with the Main characters that adds to the Mystique (Olivia Benson – Mariska Hartigay & Elliot Stabler – Christopher Meloni) of Law & Order: SVU that connected me to the show – That if the crime happened I would want them there help me through the process of coming to terms of the crime and aftermath of dealing with the turmoil of this. It has also made Mariska & Christopher pillars for the greater good with what they do for the betterment of the greater good of society which includes the LGBT community.

 

You are a musician. Do you sing and play instruments?

I am. I have played one type of musical instrument or another for almost 30 years. I fell in love with music because it was something that made me realize what I could do as a person – Communicate. The music that I loved was the 1960’s music of The Beatles. One way or another I have listened to the Beatles since I was a child. I wanted to sing, write and play music like either John Lennon & Paul McCartney. Their music for me helped me to look at music from a musician’s point of view. The first musical instrument I played was the Trumpet surprisingly enough. I played the Trumpet in band and tried to do different things with it but finally switched to guitar. The guitar for me was awesome instrument to learn. I first played an acoustic guitar after my parents brought me on when they when to Mexico on vacation. After a while I wanted an electric guitar and ended up getting my 1st Gibson Guitar when I was 14. I pretty much after that played as much as I could & learned different styles. When I got out of college and I was in my 20’s – I wanted to learn more folkie music so I brought a 12 String Rickenbacker and after while I started writing more music and playing music with my friends. When I moved to Charlotte, NC and got married, the music went to the wayside – I didn’t play as much. When I divorced – I picked my music back up and really got involved with writing, playing & singing more. I felt like I was reborn as a person, which helped in my Transitional Process. I also during this time started playing bass, mandolin, guitar, and even trying violin. I enjoyed writing and recording. It was fun to come up with ideas and make music to it for not only my enjoyment but to perform it too.

You also write. Are you planning on documenting your life story in a book at any time?

I do a lot of writing both from a Professional & Creative viewpoint. I like to document a time and a place in my life. I also perform in a Technical Writing role as part of my profession being a Business Analyst. Technical Writing is a something that gets very detailed sometimes because it involves writing either procedures or a technical process to improve a Financial System. It is pretty much a process of writing documentation and getting approvals to change things. My personal writing I enjoy because I can put my spin on a situation that happens to me or I can communicate my thoughts to people – It is an extension of my ideas. I would, through my writing like to document my story in a book because I have had people ask me about my experiences being transgendered, living 24/7 as a Female, and still function in society like I do. Writing my story is something I have wanted to do because of not only of the situations I have been in, but how to cope and be inspired to be who I am – to be Woman that can live, excel and make a difference with what she does in society – To Live My Life & Be Fabulous doing it!!

You were also involved in the Pageant Systems which are very popular in our community. Why do you think pageantry is so revered in our community?

I was involved with the Pageant System as a Contestant back in 2003 when I placed as a 2nd runner-up for the North Carolina Entertainer of the Year (EOY) which took place in Hickory, NC. Taking part in the Pageant System was a very good experience for me to take part in because this helped me to understand what many performers do with their shows and when they are on stage – it is a nerve-wracking experience to be in because of what many of performers have to do is lot of changes in a short period of time (even change characters – image & dress). The Pageant System is revered by so many people in the LGBT Community because of what many of the girls & performers have to do to be a part of this system. This is a system that requires a lot of work, funding & determination to win a Pageant. For some performers it takes many pageants & years to win even recognition for their hard work. With winning a Pageant – a performer can be elevated to greatness and admiration for their art & style. In my travels I have met many of the performers and I put them at the top of their game for the Fabulousness that they do. Many people (me included) wish they could do what they do but love the sight of watching them do when they perform.

Let's talk about social networking. What are your feelings about it and why?

One of my favorite things to talk about is Social Networking on Facebook, Twitter, and some degree MySpace. Social networking is a tool I use to Self-Promote and network myself to many people on the Web. I also use it to let my friends know where I am and to keep in touch with people that I normally can’t talk to on phone (especially friends that are international & even speak different languages). I have also developed friendships with people or joined causes that are important to me because of the influences Social networking has. It has helped me to reconnect with people & family members that I haven’t talked to because of either losing track/losing touch with them. My feelings have been very positive with Social networking on the Web because of the knowledge I have gained through it. There are some negative aspects as well with Social Networking. One’s image being portrayed positively especially with Social Networking sites is everything because of the visibility it has. Status Updates should always inform people to you status and should be neutral or positive in nature. My reasons for this are for the obvious nature - Etiquette – I want to portray positive things, not the negatives. I also want to inform people & have intelligent conversation about events that can make a difference.

One of your favorite words is "Fabulous," can you tell our readers what the word really means to you in your life?

One of the words I use a lot in my vocabulary is Fabulous and there is reason I do. It goes back to the Etiquette question I just talked about previously but it means much more to me. I use Fabulous in a greeting a great deal because I feel people need to be to be inspired when either when their moment or day is not going the way they plan. It is one of my ways I can brighten someone’s day and say ‘You are great’ and don’t let the day stand in your way of accomplishing your goals. I feel that everyone should be inspired by someone that can change their world in a way that can inspire others to be great. Can people change the world to be fabulous? My answer is yes – the reason is because I believe in the fabulousness of people and their actions.

 

 

Where do you want to be 10 years from now?

That would put me at age 39 and holding being Fabulous, just Kidding. I would like to be in better place both financially and with some sense of stability. For the next 10 years I would like to accomplish writing of some books that I feel would be interesting to write. Musically I would love to learn the Cello and continue singing/playing music that I enjoy performing. I would love to do some acting or get back into Broadcasting. I would like to definitely continue my activism for causes that make a difference for the LGBT Community or for Victims Rights. I would also like to settle down with a partner to spend the rest of my life with.

What do you do in your off time?

In my off times when I don’t have a Laptop, BlackBerry or some other computing device, I like spending my time at the beach or going on some excursion traveling. I love Jet skiing, swimming or riding a Bicycle. Probably my favorite activity to do in my off hours is shopping for a new piece for my wardrobe – (accessories, shoes, dresses, suits, and of course handbags). A girl always needs to update her wardrobe to be fabulous in the world!!

Please tell us something about yourself that would surprise people?

I would like to leave that question to your imagination.

If you could sum up your life in one sentence what would it be?

Always inspire yourself & others, try to make a difference in the world!!

What advice can you give to other transgender men and women in the LGBT Community that they can carry with them in life?

The best advice I can give anyone that is transgendered is do what is best for them. Do your research, ask someone that has gone through the transitional process. It is a process that is difficult to go through for anyone especially alone. Have a support system with friends and family (if possible) to help during the process. Also believe in yourself and what you can accomplish. You can change the world if you believe in what you can do. Never let anyone stand in your way of realizing who you want to be. Everyone is uniquely fabulous!! Always Remember – TGIF!! Thank God I’m Fabulous!! Because everyone is!!

Thank you Heather.

Thanks for letting me share my experiences with you all.

HEATHER SUSAN CARR'S OFFICIAL FACEBOOK AND TWITTER PAGES