Interviewed By E.F.East
Meghan Chavalier is the founder of Stopping The Hate. She has been in the entertainment industry for almost 25 years. From movies, to modeling, to writing, to music, to activist she seems to be the girl that you just can't hold down. She left the adult film industry in 2001 to write and record music but started Stopping The Hate in July 2008 to fight hatred towards the LGBTQIA community.
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Hurley, Wisconsin. Where 51 ends and the fun begins...supposedly.
There have been many misconceptions about how old you actually are. Can you please clear it up once and for all for our readers?
I was born March 22, 1969 which makes me 46 years old. I think people think I'm alot younger than I actually am because the movie companies keep re-releasing my older videos. Another misconception about me has always been that I'm an Amazon. I'm 5'10 and shrinking just for the record. (Laughs)
Let's start at the beginning because I've heard so many rumors and stories about you over the years, I want to finally set the record straight.
In your book you discussed your father's alcoholism and abuse and the fact that you and he have been estranged for many years. Can you tell our readers more about this?
It is true. I haven't spoken to my father in 28 years. I decided when I was 18 that I couldn't continue to have a relationship with him because I couldn't be around someone who continues to lie about things that have happened in the past. I realize that he was hurt in his past, I know this, but the actions he took as he grew into adulthood were not acceptable. He was a monster to me. I forgive him, but I will never forget what he put my family through. I don't think people realize how badly physical abuse affects you. The best decision my mother ever made for herself and us was divorcing him when I was 12 years old. I always tell people "I don't believe in childhood," because I was never able to be a child. The strange thing is that I don't remember anything good about those years...nothing at all. It's sad really, but you move forward because that's all you can do.
When did you realize that you were different from other people?
I knew from a very young age that I was different. I couldn't understand why I had to be a boy. I really thought I was a girl. Of course this lead to bullying and taunting. I'm not lying when I tell you until age 18 my life was a nightmare. But, I want to tell the young kids out there today that are being bullied or taunted, none of it will matter when you graduate school and leave home. All of those people will not even be a blip on your radar. You'll look back at it and say, "I can't believe how mornic those people were."
You left home after graduation and moved away. What was that like?
It was eye-opening. You have to understand that I grew up in a very small, sheltered community. I didn't realize what a big world we actually lived in until I left Hurley, Wisconsin. My main goal was always to graduate high school and then leave. I didn't want to do anything else but get the hell out of there as quickly as possible. You know my hometown has it's good qualities but it just wasn't where I was supposed to be.
You were a stage performer in New Orleans in the 90's. What was that experience like?
I really loved being on stage. I did 17 shows a week at a club called Papa Joes on Bourbon Street for three years. The club isn't there any longer and ours was the last show that was in the club. It was great. I learned so much being on stage and the audiences really appreciated what you did up there. I got to be Cher, Madonna and Annie Lennox. Who can argue with that? You grow up watching these amazing women and then one day, you actually get to be them. I worked with some amazing women as well at that club and they really helped me fine tune my performances. A person should always be open to critcism if it will benefit them in the long run.
Do you find living as a transgender woman difficult?
Not at all. I think it's important to be exactly who you are. I'm very comfortable in my own skin. Times have changed, when I first transitioned it was a big step for me. I went back and forth between boy and girl for about a year before I finally decided to become the woman I wanted to be. I was very lucky in my transition to have people around me that were supportive. The day I actually threw my other self away forever was quite funny. Kimberly DeVine who was an amazing human being and one of the most beautiful transgender women I had ever met came to my house and said to me, "Do you want to be a woman?" I said "Yes." She grabbed all of my boy clothes and threw them over the balcony and said, "There now you're a woman." That was that.
Kimberly Devine and Meghan Chavalier
Did you ever consider sexual re-assignment surgery?
I did. When I was 22 years old I almost had a sex change, but I decided not to. I think that life is full of paths and you just get on the road that feels most comfortable for you. I feel comfortable being pre-op. Although, I consider myself non-op at this point in my life because I'm fine where I'm at.
What is the difference between pre-op, post-op and non-op?
Pre-op are transgender individuals who are going to have the surgery but haven't yet. Post-op are those who have had the full SRS. Non-op are those who aren't going to have the surgery but still live full time in the gender they feel they associate with.
What surgeries have you had done?
I have had breast augmentation four times. I have had laser hair removal on my face. I had loose silicone injections years ago to my buttocks and hips and breasts but I've written articles about the dangers of loose silicone and I wouldn't recommend it to anyone.
You had difficulties with loose silicone and have spoken out about the dangers of it, what happened to you?
In the early 90's I had loose silicone injected into my chest area to give myself larger breasts, and had it injected into my hips and buttock area. I didn't have problems for about three years but eventually it all went south. I have ended up having three surgeries to try to remove the silicone from my body. Everytime they go in, they find more of it. The scary thing is that when they removed it from my chest area the first time, they found it was migrating towards my vital organs. There is a price to pay for beauty, but your life shouldn't be one of them. I still have loose silicone in my butt and hips but with x-rays they can't find it, which means they have no idea where it is in my body. My doctors assume it's migrated into my legs because I have such bad leg problems, especially in colder weather. It's just dangerous and nobody should do it. You might think it looks great, but honestly, you have no idea what these people are pumping into your body. I know there are alot of girls who disagree with me about loose silicone but I've been through the surgeries and have suffered greatly because of it. I won't back down on the issue. It's dangerous and it can kill you.
You have discussed alcohol and drug abuse in your past. Can you tell us more about this?
This would be a good time to clear up this rumor. I have not had a drink or taken drugs since I was 25 years old. I used to live hard and party hard, but one day I woke up and realized that if I ever wanted to get anywhere in my life I had to stop, so I did. I had my first drink at age 8. By 13 years old I was a heavy smoker, by 15 a heavy drinker. I actually only did drugs for about 1 year of my life. People always think I'm on drugs because I'm a little kooky, I prefer eccentric, but honestly the only thing I take every day are my medications to control Bipolar Disorder. I prefer to bounce outside of the bubble.
You have been very open and honest about your battle with Bipolar Disorder. Why did you open up about it publicly?
I thought it was the best thing I could do to help other people who might be in the same situation I was in. I went undiagnosed for years before I finally found a doctor who figured it all out. I can honestly say that the pills I take every day saved my life. My mother always told me, "Don't be too proud to take medication that can help you." I listened and I'm a better person for it today. I would urge anyone who feels they might be Bipolar or suffer from depression to seek help. I actually started a website for people who may think that they have Bipolar Disorder. BipolarTribe.com.
You almost died in 1999. What happened?
I was feeling sick for two days and thought I had the flu. On the third day it had gotten so bad that I couldn't walk or hold my head up. I had a horrible headache. Finally, my friend took me to the hospital and after a battery of tests they realized I had viral meningitis. My body had literally shut down on me. I was hospitalized for a week. It was scary, but luckily I lived. Anytime you have a headache and you can't touch your chin to your chest, seek medical help. Not being able to do this is a sure fire way to tell that you have viral meningitis. I almost let it go too long. Unfortunately I have a chronic disorder which means I will suffer with viral meningitis off and on for the rest of my life.
Although most people never hear about your boyfriends you have actually been in two long term relationships in your life. Why don't you discuss your relationship more with your fans?
I think your personal relationships should be private. I have been happily single for almost 5 years now and plan on staying on that way. Spinsterhood agrees with me.
Why did you leave the adult film industry?
I left because it didn't make me happy anymore and it didn't pay well and I didn't like the direction movies were going in. I didn't want to be part of the "shock" porn industry. I also felt that after 150+ movies I had done everything I needed to do so I moved on. I think the biggest misconceptions about people in the industry is that the only thing we know how to do is have sex. To me it was a job. I wanted to write and record music, so I left the industry and followed my dreams.
You've written five books and released three cds in the last eight years. Do you find it more enjoyable than your former career?
Most definitely. There is nothing more fullfilling than coming up with a concept and then putting it down on paper or to music. I write all of my own music. I don't read music but I write it. I think that as a creative person you have to continually keep yourself busy mentally.
Why did you start Stopping The Hate?
There was a young transgender woman named Angie Zapata that was viciously murdered. I would go into these forums and read the things people were saying about the murder like she should have told her attacker she was transgender so she deserved to die. I was so angry that there were actually people out there who believed this young woman deserved to die for not telling someone she was transgender that I took the anger and turned it into Stopping The Hate. Nobody deserves to die for not telling someone that they are transgender. Any transgender person will tell you that no one is 100% passable. There are always ways to tell if someone is transgender. Even the most passable transsexuals will tell you that there are things that give it away. The "gay defense" doesn't work anymore. I liken situations to this like "Buyers Remorse." A person decides they want to have sex with someone of the same sex, then get "Catholic Guilt" afterwards and lash out. It's unacceptable. But, you are responsible for your own actions. When someone chooses to commit an act of violence they will pay a price for it.
You are very outspoken. In fact, it's one of the things I hear about you most often, that you are a no-holds bar kind of person who does things on her own terms. Where does this come from?
I attribute my strong sense of self to my grandmother who passed away. She was the kind of woman who didn't take any shit from anyone. I'm the same type of person. I just don't like liars. I don't like people who try to pretend they're something they're not. It's the superiority complex that people seem to have these days. Look, we're all born, we live, we die. No human being is more special than the next. We're all in this together so live your life honestly. I just don't have the "it's time to back down" gene. When you learn to stop living in fear, you become stronger.
What do you think the gay community needs to do to gain civil and equal rights?
It's hard to gain equal rights when you live in a country that doesn't want to give them to you. People need to realize that just because people are gay it doesn't mean that they don't deserve the same rights as every other tax paying American citizen. Why are we any different than John and Jane America? Just because we share our lives with someone of the same sex doesn't mean that we don't deserve the same rights as they do. It's homophobic and it's bigoted. I can't believe that we actually elect people into office who are opposed to equal rights for ALL Americans. It just blows my mind.
What are the biggest problems in the LGBTQIA community?
The biggest problem is the refusal to work together to reach a common goal. For some reason, and this just isn't happening in the gay community, people seem to be in it for themselves. If there isn't something happening that's going to benefit them personally, they want no part of it. There has to be a point where people have to stand together and say, "We're not going to take it anymore." Why should we sit down and not be vocal when we live in a country that continually tramples on our basic human rights? It makes no sense. You can either be part of the solution or part of the problem.
You have lived in Indiana since 2002. I can imagine you are quite upset about the new Religious Freedom Law that was passed recently.
Have you read my open letter to Mike Pence? It's on the front page of the website if not. Religious Freedom, last time I checked we have always had Religious Freedom it's the First Amendment of the United States. That's the problem with politicians, they completely overlook the Constitution and just follow their own agendas. I don't like anybody who pretends they're not a bigot and a homophobe and people know you are. When he says he's doing what's best for the people of Indiana, I can tell you quite quickly he's not doing what's best for me. His ignorant decisions are effecting my life. Let me put this as smoothly as I can, Mike Pence is the worst thing that's happened to the people of Indiana in years. I have no idea why any person who actually has a brain votes Republican. Why people who live in poverty continue to vote Republican is crazy to me. Why women vote Republican, crazy. Why anyone in the LGBTQIA Community would vote Republican is beyond crazy. Voting Republican to me is self-hatred voting. How's that?
What can we do about ending hatred towards our community?
There is only one answer to that question and it's education. We must educate people.
What do you think we can do about HIV/AIDS?
Again we must educate people. Just because you don't hear much about HIV/AIDS in the media doesn't mean it doesn't exist. We have to educate people to know that if you have sex without condoms you are risking your life. You have to use condoms, it's the only defense we have against the spread of the disease. Just because there are pills out there that can keep you alive for years doesn't mean the disease has disappeared. It's there and it's real. Don't be stupid, there is no sexual situation worth dying for. Take those few seconds and put a condom on. It can save your life.
You started Stopping The Hate to fight for the rights of the gay community, but you now fight for the rights of all people gay or straight. Why?
Because there is so much hatred in the world you can't just stop with the gay community. The atrocities that happen in this world to ALL people is so revolting. I can't imagine ever wanting to harm another human being, yet it happens constantly all over the world. How can you hate someone because they are different from you? Why do people feel they are superior to other human beings? There are so many questions that we don't have answers to. We have to ask questions and try to find the answers. We have to stand up to the government and ask them why they allow these things to happen. Why aren't we trying to save women and children from being raped and killed in Darfur? We can go to the Middle East and fight a senseless war but we can't help defenseless women and children from being raped and killed when we know it's happening? Are you kidding me?
Why isn't our government stepping up and helping these people? Why isn't the United Nations stepping in and helping people? There shouldn't be children starving in this world when the Vatican is sitting on a block of gold. It's ridiculous.
There are people who are homeless and starving in our country and nobody in our government seems to care. Where are the concerts to raise money to help people in our country who have lost their homes and are starving? The way we treat Veterans is country is disgusting.
What do you do in your down time?
I take a moment every day to center. That's essential. I have never actually taken a vacation in my adult life. Everytime I decide to go anywhere, there's always something I need to work on when I get there. Do I need a vacation? Absolutely. Maybe when I'm 60.
Where do you see yourself in ten years?
I try not to look too far ahead into the future. I want to keep writing. I want to keep fighting the good fight for the LGBTQIA community. I never thought I'd ever be in my 40's but here I am, so I'll just keep moving forward and we'll see what happens. I think that people sometimes misconceive my work as a work of vanity. I am truly fighting the good fight for the LGBTQIA Community because I believe in my community. It's that simple.
What are the most important things in your life?
My Family, My Friends, My Community.
Do you have best friends?
I have friends I've been friends with since high school. I think it's important to have good friends in your life. I surround myself with people I can trust. It's perfectly fine to have an inner circle of trust you don't need to explain that to anyone.
Do you have any advice for young transgender men and women?
Never give up. Be exactly who you want to be in your life.
How do you want to be remembered?
When people say my name I want them to say, "She did exactly what she wanted to do. She didn't take no for an answer. She broke down walls and barriers and walked right through to the other side. She never gave up. She kept on fighting for the rights of ALL people. I think that sums it up."
Thank you for taking a moment today Meghan to do this interview.
Meghan Chavalier's Official Website
Meghan Chavalier is on Facebook, Twitter and You Tube