Tuesday, September 25, 2007

An Interview With A Transsexual Man


The Mirror Makes No Sense: A Memoir Exploring Transgender Issues from Author's Personal Experience, his original & inspiring music, and where he is headed next… By Herb Sosa

When we last visited with Mark Angelo Cummings, he was promoting his autobiographical book revealing the personal story of a man who has made the necessary changes to match his body to his heart and mind. Born in Cuba as Maritza, biologically female, Mark Angelo Cummings has struggled with his gender identity for as long as he can remember. Now married, developing a successful personal training business with his wife Violet, writing and performing music and touring with his life story, Mark is on a journey that even he never saw coming. We revisit some of the questions we had in the past, and ask some new ones of Mark and Violet. The Mirror Makes No Sense traces Marks life and struggles, starting with a humorous tale of life's beginnings in the womb to the monumental life-altering decisions he has had to make in later years. He shares his childhood spent in Cuba as Maritza Delcarmen Perdomo in an abusive household. Wanting so desperately to please his mother, Cummings tells of suffering both from his own confusion and the violence within his home. Thru Marks personal story in this book he takes us on a trail of transgender issues and reveals his account of useful life guides for both men and women, such as how to "please a woman and satisfy a man" and brings a message for parents of transgender children of unconditional love. –excerpt from Mirror Makes No Sense. A Life Changing Transformation Mark life has been very public during and since his physical transition. Has this been a conscious thing, or did it just happen? Do you embrace the media and attention or regret it. "It took a life of its own. I never really meant for it to be this way but I am glad it did since I have helped many people along the way. I truly embrace the media; it is a major source of education and information for the transsexual community. I would do it all over again in a heart beat, no regrets what so ever." The transformation Mark has gone thru, most of us cannot even begin to imagine enduring, but for Mark, then Maritza, there was nothing else to do. What is involved psychologically, Legally & Financially? Was there support for you in the community, medical field or government? The physical changes are amazing with every passing day my male self engulfs my every being. My facial structure, voice, hair growth and body composition changes are incredible. I hardly recognize myself in the mirror. Psychologically it has been a roller coaster, the changes have been so dramatic emotionally and physically that one has hardly anytime to adapt, needless to say, as well as those around us. To learn to be a man from one day to the next without the proper guidance of a male role model as one would have growing up is not easy. The challenges one faces taking on the male persona and reasonability are also challenging. Legally the ton of paper work and dealings with bureaucracies in the governmental agencies is a task, especially having to educate those individuals who know nothing of the condition. They definitely make transgender individuals feel uncomfortable with their ignorance. Financially it is a burden to undertake the excess finances incurred by doctor visits, hormone treatment and surgeries. One would definitely have to take on a second mortgage. I have been blessed with having a successful business that allowed me to pursue my transformation. To date there is no support from our government; needless to say they are uneducated about the condition as well as the medical community. "Transitioning is a rather long process. Some people will always be in transition. It can take a person anywhere from 1 to 5 years to fully be complete, depending on the surgeries they are having done. For a female to male or transsexual man, the creation of the penis is the most costly and lengthy process. There have been reports of over 14 surgeries before the final product. The total cost can run anywhere from 150,000-200,000 US dollars. Most transsexual individuals go out of the country to get a cheaper deal, but I say buyer beware. What you are saving up front will cost you at the end. There are many complications that arise from surgeries and one will have to get many revisions before you are finally done. Therapy if it where up to the therapist, it would be a life long ordeal. I personally only had to meet with mine for 5 sessions. But once she was satisfied that I was mentally stable and that I truly had gender dysphoria, she gave me my letter. To explain this further, a transgender person requires a letter from a gender specialist (psychologist or psychotherapist) that states they have gender identity disorder. The therapist must evaluate their client to make sure there are no other conditions like personality disorder, schizophrenia or bipolar conditions. In addition they need to see that the person is stable to undergo such drastic changes without taking their own lives or the lives of others. After all it is such a drastic life change, that even the healthiest of minds can crack. There is a guide line or protocol that was started by a man called Harry Benjamin, it is called the Harry Benjamin Criteria, it states that a transgender person must seek care from a gender specialist get the diagnosis, live the true life test (live as the gender you are transitioning to) for at least one year, before getting surgeries. They can go on hormones in the meantime. It is not written in stone and it is not law, but most surgeons will not touch you unless you have the letter from your therapist. I have mixed feelings on this, what does a Therapist know about me that I already don't know about myself. We are the true experts on transsexuality, not the doctors." The only regrets Marks say he has, is not to have done it sooner, but as far as the procedure, he wouldn't change a thing. "I have been blessed and feel my process went smooth" added Cummings. I recently attended the taping of the Cristina Show in Miami, where several guests appeared, including Mark and a 14 year old from Argentina was there with her parents. The child wants to physically become a girl. What was your take on how the program was handled, and at what age do you believe reassignment surgery should be a consideration? "I have been on many talk shows and very few of the hosts are well educated on the subject, Christina was no exception. I would like to see them become better informed prior to interviewing a transgender guest. Larry King wins the prize on the worse questions asked and the least prepared. I believe the transition should be done early in life, as to prevent the unwanted sexual characteristics that set in during puberty. It would save the person a world of heartache and psychological torture. If the transgender child were administered hormone blockers and then given the proper hormones, it would make the (transition) process a lot easier. The age should be person specific, but I believe the blockers should be administered before puberty and the correct hormone at around 14 years of age. This is up to the parent and the child, the health care provider should advice as best as possible." Brazil has just announced that it will provide sex reassignment surgeries free of charge thru its national public health system. The US & most other countries do not. "Most countries are well aware of our condition and know that it is a variation of nature; therefore they provide the services needed for the transgender person. The United States of America is run by religion and closed minded individuals who are not aware of fetal development and how things can go wrong. I suggest to our government to get with the programs and stop thinking with their bibles, but instead with their hearts and to look at the scientific facts. Other countries are funded to do research and have lots of information regarding this issue. Our country will not fund this research because the fundamentalist will not allow it. We are taught to think within the box, dare us step out. There are more than two genders, other cultures realize this and celebrate the multi genders in their circle. We are far behind and have lots of catching up to do." Having lived a significant part of your life in a female body, did you have relationships with men or other women? Did you consider yourself Lesbian at the time? How did that compare socially, to living in a Mans body today? "I have been attracted to both genders all my life but felt comfortable with females since that allowed me to feel closer to whom I was. The several encounters I had with males were not comfortable for me, because they did not see me as the man that I am. I really do not like labels, but I did frequent gay clubs and had many encounters with lesbian woman, I however preferred, heterosexual relationships that would allow me to feel as I wanted to feel. I never had a problem when I was perceived female socially, but I do agree it is much easier now as a man. If Violet and I were to part ways, I would definitely date men since I would now be perceived as I truly am." "I would date gay or bisexual men. It would have to be a man that enjoys being with men, since I now feel and look like a man, I am very much attracted to men and feel a greater connection with them. It is true what they say about men and women we speak two different languages and are from a different planet." "I love Violet and she has been a constant in my life, but we are so different in every way. I truly understand the differences in gender since I have been blessed to live my life as both. Men we have a bond between each other that scares most men and makes them into homophobes. But they still have to feel that closeness whether it would be through contact sports or through their religious experiences (dating back in time where woman were just for breeding). It dates back to ancient time where great men like Alexander the Great had a wife, but preferred his male lovers for companionship and friendship. The fascination with the phallus and male physique is something most men run from, but you can't run very far. I truly believe we are all programmed bisexual. This is even evident in the animal kingdom. We fear our true inner drives and try to bottle them up, I say free yourselves and really live. There is no one out there who will condemn you, you are only condemning yourselves. Imagine how controlling religion has become in our life that we believe in an imaginary man in the sky who is waiting for us to break his rules and then send us to hell, but he loves us, right." In your daily life, do you find it more comfortable to blend in as a man or to be recognized as leader for all things transsexual? "I identify as a transsexual man, every chance I get I educate those around me. I have no need to hide or to pretend that I am someone else. I was born female bodied; there is no shame in that. As far as my comfort level, either way is fine with me. I am who I am, Mark Angelo Cummings a proud transsexual man." I have never had a problem with violence or hate crime. I present myself in the most professional manner and give respect to receive it back. I am a lover not a fighter, but if ever someone crossed the line and endangered my wife or me, may God have mercy on their soul. Mark has found an outlet for his feelings, not only thru writing and his many media appearances, but most recently thru writing and performing music. Seen by thousands on YouTube.com, Mark has compiled over 20 sings about love, understanding and acceptance, and is currently developing a CD compilation and hopes to tour with his music. Mark's music comes from his heart and soul "Sometimes I feel it is the Holy Spirit placing the words on the paper. My lyrics, I have been told are very healing. I want to help heal the world, one person at a time one song at a time. I write for my transsexual brothers and sisters as well as my gay and lesbian ones. I want to reach humanity, and help them realize that we are all one." I want to make this Album and start performing, first locally and then nationally. I want to reach people with my music, make them smile and feel better about themselves. I would like to write a few more books, and possibly have my biography made into a movie. The Mirror Makes No Sense would definitely be an interesting film – Mark Angelo Cummings What About Violet? HS: Does it ever become too much? Do ever feel you just want to lead a quiet life with Mark? Did you realize this would be a part of your life when you became involved? VC: The truth, yes it can get overwhelming, I am a private person and it has been difficult for me to be in front of cameras as much as we have. Yes I do, but with Mark that is impossible. No I have not, but I have gotten use to it HS: Tell me about friends, family, etc… Are they the same as before you & Mark became involved? What changed? VC: My old friends were confused at first, but slowly they got it and now think the world of Mark. We have maintained many of our old friends, but have made new ones along the way. My family was torn at first, but most love Mark dearly, those that don't we tend to stay away from. HS: What is the best thing about being married to Mark? VC: He knows what woman want and feel. He is sympathetic and understanding. I love that he is very organized and neat, after having slobs for boyfriends and ex-husbands, it is a pleasure to have a man who helps around the house. HS: What would you change? VC: Absolutely nothing, it wouldn't be Mark if I did. HS: Where do you see you both in 10 years? VC: I would like to move to the western part of the United States, we have talked about moving to Arizona or New Mexico. We like the mountains and the peaceful desert. I would like Mark to accomplish all his dreams, and then travel around the world. I would like to continue the advocacy and just grow old together. Violet and Mark Cummings pay bills, run a successful business together, keep a nice home, travel, inspire many and love each other. They are carving a new life for themselves- full of exciting adventures, common interests, monumental understanding, Love and faith in each other. What more could any of us ask or hope for, for a brother, sister, daughter, relationship or our partners? May their wonderful journey thru life continue and succeed -Copyright © Herb Sosa & AMBIENTE MAGAZINE. Do not reproduce without citing these sources.

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