In honor of last week's Trans Day of Rememberance and Trans Awareness Week, I asked International Dancer and Burlesque Performer, Fonda Lingue some questions. I follow her on Facebook and we have become friends, meeting at burlesque festivals. She has been extraordinarily forthcoming about her journey coming out as a woman, including taking hormones, battling cancer and getting surgery. Please take a moment to learn more, feel the love that pours out of this incredible person, and think about others who either have or want to make this journey. Fonda Lingue traveled the world as a professional ballet dancer, teacher and choreographer for twenty years and now travels the world as a burlesque performer and instructor. LM: What is your history as a performer? When did you become Fonda Lingue? Fonda Lingue: Fonda Started as a drag performer in Atlanta back in 2006. After doing drag for a while I was tired of the lip syncing and standing there and decided to use my dance training in my numbers. These numbers evolved into burlesque numbers. Vagina Jenkins saw me perform and asked me to perform in one of her shows. That was the beginning of my burlesque career. 1. LM: You came out over a year ago as wanting to transition. What was it like coming out as a woman? Fonda Lingue: I have actually been transitioning for 17 months. It was the most freeing thing I could ever do. I had, and still have, people who were against it so I face that daily. The authenticity of being myself outweighs any opinions from others. I am finally at a place where I feel "normal." LM: What kind of support did you receive from family (blood)? Friends? Fellow performers? Where did you find your family that was most supportive? Fonda Lingue: My family has been very supportive, especially my mother. In fact, she picked out my real name - Arabella. My brother had the most trouble with it but has come around. My friends have been very supportive for the most part. I have one friend who thought I was being coerced into transitioning by some of my friends but now that she sees how happy I am she supports me fully. The hardest thing for friends I have known a long time to grasp is calling me "she" and my name "Bella." The burlesque community and my burlesque peers have been THE most supportive throughout my transition. I have never felt such acceptance before ANYWHERE. My family is most supportive in that they let me be me. LM: Was there anything about coming out that took you off guard, unexpected reactions? Fonda Lingue: I work in Montgomery, Alabama three days a week as a hair stylist. When I first told my clients I was transitioning they all seemed to be okay with it. Now that I live my life full time as a woman, I have lost a lot of them. Many of them won't even speak to me if I see them in public. I guess the thing that was most unexpected about this is that they claim to be religious people, yet they shun me because I happen to be born with a condition that they don't understand or find offensive to their beliefs, it has nothing to do with how I do their hair. Also, I was always worried that I would never find someone to love me when I transitioned. I see so many horror stories of people that live their lives alone and I was ready for that. Luckily that has not been the case. I have a boyfriend who loves me for me, treats me like a lady and is supportive of my transition. LM: Your journey is incredibly inspiring, shining such a strong, brilliant light. You've told your story in a very public and accessible way on Facebook. What has your spiritual/mental/emotional transformation been like this past year? Fonda Lingue: I am a religious person ... I am a Jewish woman. My Jewish community has supported me wholeheartedly from the get go, in fact I was even invited to join the Temple Sisterhood. I started my transition and 5 days later was diagnosed with anal cancer. Having a life threatening disease like that really makes you think about where you are going in life. My mental and emotional transition have been amazing. I have never been able to be in a place where I feel so completely at ease and happy with myself as I am now. My brain feels normal and I can finally feel the emotions I should have been feeling my entire life. It's an amazing thing. LM: You introduced a lot of people to the word, “orchiectomy”? What does it mean to you? Fonda Lingue: The orchiectomy is a surgery in which they remove your testicles so that you do not produce any more testosterone. In the state of Georgia, where I live, this surgery is enough to change your gender marker on all of your documents, Social Security card, Driver's License, Passport and even your birth certificate. In the state of Georgia you can also be put in prison for using a restroom that is not the gender that is represented on your driver's license. Having the legal gender change makes simple things like using the restroom easier for transgender individuals. Plus, having the gender marker that you have changed to also means that you can now get medical testing like mammograms which could not be prescribed before. For me, the medicine I was taking to block the testosterone in my body was causing me to have terrible leg cramps to the point that I was not able to sleep at night. With the orchiectomy I do not have to take this medicine any more. LM: How has your journey affected your career as a burlesque performer? Fonda Lingue: I have just recently gone back to performing after my surgeries. Now when I get on stage I truly feel like I am on par with the rest of the female performers when before I always felt "less than." I also feel that I am even more feminine on stage. My body changes have been remarkable. I look like a woman on stage now. I have even taken a few steps outside of my box and done a new number that is far more raunchy that my previous numbers have been. I think producers look at me more seriously now. There are still a few producers who won't even consider hiring me and I am almost positive it is because I am a trans woman. There are enough out there that will hire me so it doesn't worry me any. It's just sad that their horizons aren't accommodating. LM: You mentioned wanting to do a scholarship for others wanting to transition and needing funding for the process. Can you tell us more about that? Fonda Lingue: I am starting the Fonda Lingue Foundation. The Fonda Lingue Foundation will choose, each year, one person to help with one of their surgeries. This will be done through an application process. I am going to be the first recipient in 2014 for my breast reconstruction surgery. There are so few organizations to help with transgender surgeries and I wanted to give back to the community. LM: For anyone who is facing a similar journey, or is close to someone who is making a similar journey, what would you like to say to them? Fonda Lingue: Firstly, get a therapist and stick with them throughout your journey. You can't handle alone the changes in your brain and emotions. Secondly, you will lose things... jobs, friends, family etc. but the feeling you have of truly being yourself is worth all of it. Thirdly, don't worry about rushing things. Changes will happen when they happen. Don't take short cuts, there are standards of care for a reason and you shouldn't try to rush things. LM: Is there anything else that you'd like to talk about? Fonda Lingue: A lot of people don't realize that being transgender is different from a sexual preference. Gender and Sexual preference have nothing to do with each other. I wish people could truly understand that. You can learn more about Trans Day of Remembrance, Transgender Awareness Week and other information about being Trans here: There is also a list of national resources available on this website. You can learn more about Fonda Lingue here:

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