Original GAYPV INTERVIEW c. 2015 FRANCINE PETERS The Transition
Are you transsexual or transgender? Could you explain to our readers the difference?
Francine: I have to say I am actually not sure. I get asked this all the time along with many other questions pertaining to my sexual leanings and gender attributes and physical body parts. If one searches the meanings of both terms, one can get very confused as definitions for both terms are quite ambiguous. I call myself Transgender. I could be more Transexual according to some definitions, but I have found the latter leads people to think I am me, Francine, just for sex kicks and I am not. Transgender is a more accepted and understood term I think.
Typically when I am asked I just say: “I am Francine.”Yes, but really what are you? I reply what does that matter? Do I ask you your sexual preferences? Do I inquire about your genitalia? No, You are just a person to me. Allow me the same politeness. Having said that, I will always openly and honestly answer these personal questions if deemed necessary. I would much rather you hear it from me…than not, thus potentially leading to fear or disdain towards me or any other Tran sperson. I try to educate as best as I can if asked.
Tell us where you are from? What was your childhood like growing up transexual/transgender and how did you come out? Was your family supportive
Francine:I was born in 1956 and raised in Victoria BC Canada in a typical blue collar family. I was always, when young, and into high school a nerd and a geek. Often I was the smartest in my class. Thus I was usually shunned and was bullied daily. During my first year in high school I fell in love with a wonderful guy. He was at that time even then, (early 70’s) out and proud…a flamer of sorts and so flamboyant. I was smitten by his demeanor, intelligence and joy of life. He moved the following year to eastern Canada and died at 19 years old of aids. But by just hanging out with him I was constantly beaten up. I knew I was different than the other guys at my school. I took Home EC classes( cooking and sewing) instead of shop. I wanted to join theatre. But, I decided that in order for me to survive this world I had to become who all wanted and expected me to be. I became the typical hard ass macho guy. I hated it. When realizing and being gay was becoming so much grief for me…I knew there was absolutely no way I could be transgender. I suppressed myself until in my early to mid fifties to finally embrace and try to become whom I have always known I should be. I was married for 35 years to an amazing woman and raised a wonderful daughter…no regrets at all. None. I am blessed that I have actually allowed myself to become Francine even at a mature age. It was hard for my ex wife to hear about my changing. She endured as best she could until finally I had to leave to be me. My daughter fully accepts Francine and demanded that Francine be at her wedding last year. Wow. My mom loves Francine too. She told me I was the daughter she always wanted. Oh my…
You are a very talented artist. Tell us about your work, style and mediums? Did you have any formal training as an artist? What are some careers you have had?
Francine:I have been a successful artist for about 20 years or so. Previously as Fred Peters. I am a painter of many genres…abstract, landscapes etc. My early careers were as a top chef, I then went into construction, road building, heavy equipment operator, truck driver…even driving ice roads in the arctic. I needed a way to self express myself thus I started to paint in the mid nineties. Maybe in some way that was the opening of the door to eventually becoming Francine. Quickly as an artist showing and selling worldwide I was kind of expected to be different and more flamboyant than usual.
I am a self taught artist and continually seek new ideas and methods to create joy. I have worked in many mediums over the years and at first was an accomplished award winning wildlife wood carver specializing in fish and marine life. Then painting took over my interest. I work with acrylics on canvas predominantly, though I do play and research painting on other mediums too.
How and when did you discover Puerto Vallarta? Have you visited other parts of Mexico? What did you like about it? How has Puerto Vallarta embraced and supported you? Do you feel Puerto Vallarta embraces and supports all the transsexual and transgender here? What could be improved? What do you enjoy doing while in PV?
Francine:I have been travelling to Mexico for about 30 years…. off and on. At first it was long driving trips to the Baja. Then small resorts in out of the way locales. I moved permanently to Mexico close to 4 years ago. I crossed the border as Fred (to match my ID) and then about 10 or so miles south of Nogales I pulled over and sat for a while at the side of the road convincing myself I can do this…I can be Francine here! So, I changed… and drove all the way down as Francine. Terrifying! But I made it. I moved to Puerto Vallarta. When I got settled in I was still unsure if I could pull this whole Francine thing off, so occasionally I would frequent local bars as Fred. I was always told by the patrons, staff and owners….you can be Francine you know …she is more fun than Fred. You can do it! And we are all here to help you. OMG.
This town of PV has been so supportive to me! I find myself feeling far safer and far more accepted here in Mexico than I do back in my old home of Canada. I moved to Lake Chapala…Ajijic to be exact, and became partners in opening a cabaret bar there called the EL Piano Rojo. This was a very similar venue to the Palm Cabaret and the Red Room here in PV. In fact, many of the performers that frequent here came to our club too. After 2 years we closed it and I moved way down to the gorgeous beach town of Zipolite in Oaxaca State near Huatulco. That did not work out so well so I recently returned back here to PV. I am so glad I did. I love this town and its people.
I am trying to rebuild my art career again….as Francine now. I am having so much fun painting again and portraying my new home in my colorful fun style of painting. I feel I am gaining ground here on becoming known as a good artist. I am currently showing my paintings at the ACT TWO Stages, Encore Lounge venue.
One of the adjustments I have had to make is the pricing of my work. I understand that the economy is very different here than the US or Canada, thus I am selling my paintings here in Mexico for about 15-20 % of what I have been used for so many years. Actually cheaper than when I started my art career over twenty years ago. Of course too, the cost of living here in Mexico and Puerto Vallarta is much more affordable too. Things balance out I guess. Everything about me is in a rebuilding phase.
My life here is as a homebody of sorts. I like to stay home in my own space either working or just relaxing. Walking my dog or taking him to the river or playa for a swim. I, of course do love going out with or to meet friends for dining and or drinks occasionally. There are so many wonderful places here in Puerto Vallarta for one to partake in whatever suits your taste…. restaurants, bars, cafes, nightclubs etc. I always have way too much fun! And suffer for days afterwards too. I’m an old broad after all.
Lately there have been some advances with the rights of transgender, like facebook designating gender options, and businesses having unisex or gender neutral bathrooms. It has been a long time in coming. What would you like to say about these recent advances? The progression of gay marriage has been rapid in comparison to other groups. Do you think the progression transgender community will be any different? Why? It has not always been easy for transsexuals and transgenders. What would you like to see as the next step in equality?Do you have any mentors that have really helped you when you needed it? Do you think Mexico is more accepting of transsexual/transgender than US or other parts of the world? Why? If it is more difficult can you explain?
Francine:The rights of transgenders is an issue slowly coming to the forefront …finally. There is a very long way to go yet. But at least there is movement in the correct direction. Bathroom usage is and has always been the biggest hurdle for myself personally. I always make a point of asking the restaurant, bar manager or staff where I should go. I remember once I was on the BC Ferry travelling from Victoria to Vancouver when I found myself desperate to use the facilities. I went to enter the women’s room just as a lady exited…she looked at me and said…you better not…I will call the purser. Really? I chose the Handicap option. As I was leaving , yet another older woman began to berate me for occupying a handicap washroom. I had enough of this and told her….Ma’am, I am not allowed in the women’s room…I do not wish to be the brunt of danger or harassment in the men’s room…so I do consider myself handicapped at this moment. She immediately changed her tune and told me that she was sorry and never thought of what I had to endure. I felt somewhat disappointed in the whole awkward occurrence, yet also empowered that I stood up for myself and got a point across. Small changes. Daily.
My government in Canada has just recently allowed as Trans person to be such on their passport…now…without having to have proof of gender reassignment surgery. Yes! Finally again. I don’t plan to ever have full sexual reassignment done. Thus I was doomed to live a lie until now. I have always had to, as Francine, when travelling anywhere, particularly via airlines change back into Fred to go anywhere. This is one of the most horrible things to endure when you live fulltime as a woman and are only known now as a woman.
Also too, travelling as a male with breast implants is tortuous. I always get picked out at the screening machine and hauled off to a room to sort things out. I have to wear baggy jacket and slumped shoulders to hide them. Recently, a dear friend convinced me to fly to New York City with him for a vacation…as Francine only. I was terrified at the thought of going through the TSA checks and Customs. He was right. I had absolutely no issues whatsoever…anywhere. I was dressed very businesslike and acceptable…carried myself with utmost confidence and my smile. My confidence carries me well in most any situation, but this was huge for me. I can now go anywhere as me! Changes in attitudes, changes in policies, training and the like are becoming real. There is a future for the trans person.
I am ok being a hybrid of sorts. Top surgery is good enough for me. I was on a hormone and testosterone blocker treatment early on but this was making me insane. My doctor suggested that I was actually likely too old for this to work effectively. Fine by me. I have boobs now and proudly show them off. I no longer feel just like a dude in a dress with a stuffed bra….I live this way all the time. It is all part of the confidence making I need to go out into the world daily. People see me with cleavage and they …yes…seem to take me more seriously as a transperson. I am running with that scenario anyway.
With all the great news about gay marriage rights of recent, I feel it will become the turn of the Trans community to really get on with the battle ahead for acceptance, changes in laws and the sought for equal rights. It has been many decades of hard tough battles for the gay community to earn a right to be “normal” in the eyes of society. A battle, keeping in mind that will still need to be fought at some levels…but a check in the win column no doubt. I personally think we are still a long way off to gain what we need as trans people, but I will say I thank you the gay community for showing us how to do it with aplomb, vigor and style of course!
I do not have all the answers. However, I go with what I have discovered on my own. Much like I am a self-taught artist…I am also a self taught Transgender woman.
I have always said to others like me or starting their own journey… go with confidence out that front door. Always be ready with a smile. Be friendly as you would or should anyway. Be alert. Do not get that chip on your shoulder! I see and have encountered too many trans people who think they are special and expect to be treated as such. You are not special. Yes, different maybe, but not special at least in my mind’s eyes. Did you assume you were special when you were a previous man or woman? No one in this world likes or appreciates anyone who comes to them with a huge bad attitude. Common sense. So I say that be yourself, be true to yourself, but please do not invoke a hatred or discrimination against yourself or any of the rest of us trying to deal and live as who we deem we should be by acting like a shit. Please. I have met so many wonderful people living my life as Francine. I act and live like I am just a normal woman.
Yes, many at first look at me in shock or confusion….sometimes with disdain. But I have found that when they actually meet me…listen to me…and get to know me….the outcome is often the same. You are a cool person Franny and now I consider you a friend of mine. Wow! That always means the world to me. I don’t have to march or become militant. None of us should. Some of course have too and I get that. I am very fortunate. My path is very different from any other’s path. We each travel our own. None of our stories are alike. Similarities abound between all of us trans people in general terms, but, we are all individuals worthy just like any other person in this world.
Janet Mock during her interviews with Piers Morgan on CNN last year …in my opinion….turned many against “us” due to her sheer pompous “I am special attitude”. It was a disgusting and shameful display. It would take too much here for me to explain it all. Thankfully, Caitlyn Jenner is doing her best to be a good ambassador to the world for the trans community. I applaud her. I cannot imagine living in her publicity bubble while trying to be herself. Laverne Cox is another star that I know is doing great things to advance acceptance and change perceptions. Bravo! We all can do the same. You don’t have to be LGBTQ to do so or help the cause. I try my best. I really do. But in the end….it’s all about me. Yes. Me. Francine Peters. A proud transperson who just wants to be whom she needs to be. A woman. A father (yes she still calls me daddy and I love that! I always will be her daddy!) A friend. A lover. An artist. A writer. A good person. A worthy member of my community, society and our world. Simple.
This interview in loving memory of our dear friend Francine Peters who left us too soon April 2019. May you RIP Francine You may be gone but not forgotten!