J'ai donné cette interview pour le New York Times en novembre 2016. Celle-ci devait être publiée fin janvier 2017 dans l'édition du dimanche. La rubrique étant intitulée "Vocation".
En raison d'avis divergents, il a été décidé de ne pas publier cet article. En effet, au moment où cette interview devait être publiée, j'entamais une procédure pour "harcèlement" contre mon employeur. Il m'était donc difficile d'un côté de donner une vision positive de mon entreprise sachant que la vérité était tout autre.
Bonne lecture à mes lecteurs anglophones.
How long have you been a flight attendant?
I started working in 1992. I’ve been a Flight Attendant for 24 years from. That will be, more or less, 11.400 flight hours !
Where did you grow up and, and what is your educational background?
I was born in Paris in 1966. I grew up in one of the suburbs of Paris. We lived in my grand-parent’s home. In 1973, my parents died in a car accident where I was the sole survivor. This was maybe the most poignant and important moment i my life. On top of losing both my parents, I was seriously injured. I spent a few months in hospital, then the judge placed me at my father’s parents home. They became my tutors. I spent 10 years with them. At the age of 17 I requested to be emancipated and left home to finish my studies and begin what I consider to be my life.
I was very androgynous during childhood and adolescence. At the age of 10, my tutors brought me to see a specialist and I was given a huge hormonal treatment that was meant to make me become more masculine. This ended up negatively changing my life, as I became a very feminine-looking man. From then on, my life became very difficult. I attended catholic schools, where I was a very good student. Studying was for me the opportunity to forget the reality of my -poor- life. I had no friends, I was very often alone even in primary school. It became much more difficult when I had to go to the college. People were really mean to me : « fag ». That’s what I was to them. I had to change 3 different schools while in High School. I studied Modern Literatures and Art and Design afterwards.
What led you to choose this career?
I grew up in the suburbs of Paris, near Orly, that was the main airport in the 70ies. From my garden, I could see the airplanes taking off and landing. I did not really know what it was all about. Of course, my tutors explained me that those aircraft were going all over the world, through continents and oceans, but what was happening inside them? No idea.
At the age of 10, I flew for the first time from Brittany to Jersey. THIS WAS A REVELATION to me. The stewardess looked so chic in her uniform, going about her duties. That was it for me, I had found my vocation, the career of my dreams. I did not know exactly what the job entailed. But from then on, when someone asked me what I wanted to do when I grew up, I pointed at the sky, or a passing aircraft and answer : « that ».
You were assigned male at birth, and you are now a woman. When did you make that change?
(Let me know if for the first part of this question you would like to see a different wording)
I was 30 years old when I began to understand that I was « different », and that this body was not mine. At the time, there was no internet nor TV shows dealing with trans-identity. A friend of mine introduced me to her neighbor, who was doing the transition. We met and talked, and she was the answer to all my questions. There was no medical team in Paris dedicated to trans-identity, and my first visit was a real nightmare : « you are an effeminate gay person ». That’s the only answer they gave me. It took another 3 years to meet the right medical team in London and Los Angeles and I could finally begin my transition. I’d like to mention that I’m a « primary transgender » (transsexuel primaire) which means that there was probably a problem with my gender since I was a child.
How have your managers and co-workers reacted to your transition?
It has been quite difficult and would be very long to explain. I began with permanently removing my facial hairs by electrolysis, and the hormonal treatment. Very quickly (6 months) I was neither man nor woman. I had become very androgynous. One of my bosses asked me to be more « masculine » on board. But at this point, while I was transitioning, it had become a near impossible thing to do. A the beginning, they wanted to fire me… but finally, for the second time in my life, I meet THE good person. She was a Chief Flight Attendant, with office duties, and she understood the situation. « This is the biggest challenge in my career » she said. She helped me during the period of my transition. I left my job as a flight attendant for 18 months, and was assigned to office duties so that I could organise my appointments with doctors, attorneys etc….
Were there any particularly challenging moments for you at work related to the transition?
Well, the problems came AFTER my transition. I came back as Andréa. On my first flight, a Chief Purser was there to check the reaction of my colleagues and passengers…. she was very disappointed when everything was « normal » and nothing special really happened.
At this time, I did a lot of TV shows for my autobiography. Newspapers published articles about me and people were quite understanding and generally nice. But I began to have problems with Captains on my flights: « I don’t want a tranny on board my aircraft » said one of them… I was asked to leave “his” flight. This happened several times, and still does. I had to deal with many other thing : death threats, insults, beatings. It has been going on for 16 years. It is very hard to take, very tiring.
It has also been difficult to progress with my career. I understood that I would never move up the hierarchical ladder and become a Purser or Chief Purser, in charge for a group of Flight Attendants or all Flight Attendants on a flight, which would be the natural career progression as you grow senior. I wanted to become a Purser then a Chief Purser, but it was made quite clear to me that it was not an option.
Someone once told me : « You are already very lucky to be working in a warm aircraft, when your place would normally be working the sidewalks as a prostitute ».
What advice would you give to other people who are transitioning, and to their co-workers?
My advice : leave your job, disappear, move and never say anything about your situation. If I could go back in time, that’s what I would do, knowing what I know now!