PO: Okay Alicia tell me a bit about yourself, what motivates you whenever you get up in the mornings?
AP: What motivates me? That's a good question. I think ambition and success and also the desire to do good things. That's what motivates me to get out of bed in the mornings. I have suffered from depression since early adolescence due to the abuse I went through and it was really hard to get out of bed in the mornings, it could be a hard thing. At the end of the day I write up a to-do list and that helps me motivate myself for the next day cos then I have a mental checklist for the day ahead.
PO: Tell me a bit about yourself, how would you describe yourself? Who is Alicia Perry?
AP: *laughs* – Alicia is a very complex person, if we were to analyse that we would be here all night! I'm obviously transgendered and I transitioned about two and a half years ago and I arrived at that decision through life coaching. It helped me to realise who the real me is and I was able to start living life as I was which is one of the most amazing things I have ever done.
I had always thought about it and always had an idea about it, but I was the kind of person who identified as gay and was labelled as gay because I have always been very effeminate. I didn't do anything that boys liked such as football and then I transitioned two and a half years ago. When I was transitioning I needed to put myself first – above work and family and everything and went through a period of self discovery. I used that time to keep a journal and a consultant asked if I would ever consider putting it together as a book. I had never considered that so that was different and it made me more aware of who I was and work out in my head how to join the dots. It didn't dawn on me how much I had went through and how much I hadn't dealt with but that was a very empowering moment for me because I was able to give myself a bit of recognition.
PO: Talk to me about your book a bit more, Alicia.
A: The first book goes right up to when I was sixteen and writing it was such a huge weight off my chest. Writing about the abuse led to an increase in my stress level, but I powered through. The second book contains a lot about the death of my cousin who I was very close to but I've left some holes in the content because I need to go and think about how to write about a few things because they are difficult to revisit. I've learned from the first book not to sit down and start 'Chapter 1' and so on. I can't be a perfectionist and be methodical – I need to go easy on myself and ask myself what I want to write about and just do that and put it all together at the end.
The thing I like about my books are that they aren't just about one thing. I went through a lot and it's positive because I've turned them on their head to help people and to help myself.
PO: What kind of reaction have you had?
A: It's quite ironic that the magazine (Punk Out) is based in America because I feel that the support I have got from the USA and places like Australia has been bigger than the support I have in Ireland. I seem to have a lot of support through Twitter from America, people messaging me who have bought the book. I regularly post on the Zoe Bell gender website and my first post racked up over 2,000 views and my third editorial for GNI in April has over 12,000 views in Australia. It's very bizarre to think that via the internet you can have that connection with people around the world.
PO: Was there ever a point whilst writing your book that you thought you didn't want to continue? Did you feel as though you were revisiting those events you were talking about?
AP: Yes. There are several things in my first book that I found really hard to write about, obviously the abuse, especially the sexual abuse from my cousin. I found that harder to deal with, as a writer when you're detailing a real event you're not imagining those things, it isn't fiction. You really do open a Pandora's Box with revisiting those events that were dark and traumatic. I found that retelling the bullying was scratching at old wounds. I went through a hard time during writing when I considered pulling the project because I was so nervous. I was putting myself and out there. We were estranged however once the book was out and I started getting positive feedback it made it all worth it.
I have a good sense of humour and people will tell you that I have good comic timing *laughs* and I try and balance out the book with that. I didn't want to write a misery memoir and whilst it was traumatic I was able to switch off and have a laugh – I found by making people laugh that I had my own safety net. I felt wanted and loved and important when I made people laugh and I felt like I was someone.
PO: Where do you find that strength to talk about those things, Alicia?
AP: I think writing the book and reliving those memories again when I was a bit more mature and could see things clearly and that gave me a lot of strength. Friends who have read the book ask me how the Hell I got through it, they had no idea I had even went through it all as I was very private at the time. I didn't trust anybody and the friends that I did have were more concerned with having fun. When I was younger I had one friend and we used to prank call people from the pay phone and have a laugh and that helped me get away from what was happening at home. I was always getting grounded and getting in trouble and my parents didn't like me playing with the kids in the housing estate and learning how and when to have fun gave me a lot of strength.
Sometimes I don't know where I get my strength from. Maybe going to different counsellors over the years or having a good cry about things but definitely writing the book helped a lot. It helped me compartmentalise things. When I was younger I loved Madonna and I spent a lot of time in my room listening to her songs and learning every lyric and expressing myself through that gave me a lot of space to grow and I got strength from that.
PO: Let's talk a bit about the Trans community in Northern Ireland. Where do you think it's going and where would you like to see it going?
AP: I find that the Trans community in Belfast is very segmented and broken at the moment. There's a lot of good people all trying to do good work but the problem is that they're all doing the same thing.
I went to a support group because my family wouldn't speak to me and I went through a dark period during which I attempted suicide. The hospital called my parents and when I was brought it in I was non responsive due to the tablets I had taken. My parents didn't come to the hospital or asked how I was. At that point I had nobody, no support and my doctor suggested I go to that support group at the Gender Clinic.I find that the community groups are all brilliant at what they do but if they pulled it altogether then they could do it so much better.
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