Transgender author Maria Konner chatted with Digital Journal about her transformative journey from a bored husband to becoming a woman in her new memoir “Girl Shock!: I Dressed as a Girl for Halloween But Then She Took Over My Life.”
This true story about Maria Konner takes the reader on a journey of self-discovery and gender exploration to become the woman she always dreamed of being. And this fabulous tale tells all the juicy details of how a frustrated, bored straight-dude life in the suburbs became an extraordinary trans entertainer in San Francisco.
The memoir, “Girl Shock!: I Dressed as a Girl for Halloween But Then She Took Over My Life” holds nothing back as Maria takes the reader on this thrilling tour of San Francisco’s underground alternative lifestyles scene packed with celebrities, influencers, rock stars, photos, comics, and illustrations. Maria’s story is exciting and filled with every detail you always wanted to know about gender transformation and the awaking that comes along with it. Girl Shock! is a must-read and glorious fun-filled exciting story that stays with you long after reading it.
What is your book, ‘Girl Shock!’ about, and who is the audience?
After I got divorced from a genetic woman and moved from the suburbs to the city of San Francisco about six weeks before Halloween, I had the intention of having a little fun after my divorce by doing something completely different and then going back to my straight life. But I had so much fun, met so many people, discovered the fabulous underground world of San Francisco, and started getting asked to perform (playing music) as a woman….I just didn’t stop.
My old life was awful compared with this. When I wrote the book, I was thinking about mostly trans folks and straight men and women as the audience. Trans folks because this could help some folks understand this journey and maybe get some inspiration from it. Straight folks because this is where I came from, and I know from meeting thousands of straight folks as Maria just how interested they are in the gray area between “straight” and “queer”. And I know exploring it one way or another will make them all the better.
What is your pronoun and how do you identify?
I prefer for people to use the pronoun related to how I’m presenting at the time. I consider myself straight, I just change my gender and like to date/flirt with the other sex. I’m never in between, I’m either a man (often when I’m working or being lazy) or a woman (when I want to socialize and have fun). I’m never in between (i.e. I don’t identify as Genderfluid. Some refer to me as a “quantum non-binary”).
In your book, you talk about transitioning to a woman. Tell us how that happened and how did you feel?
It was a gradual process. I never felt like a woman before I started dressing. Yet I didn’t feel like a typical man. I actually felt like what I thought a man should be – a combination of both masculine and feminine traits, but skewing masculine.
For some reason, I always had trouble dating (woman as a man), and to this day I still don’t fully understand why. The first part of the transition, being OK with presenting as a woman, was extremely fast and extremely powerful. I was no longer invisible, and I could act naturally – I didn’t need to hide my emotions.
People loved me. It was totally bizarre to me to go from zero to sixty so quickly! It was exciting to me and I couldn’t wait to tell everybody about it. But then the hard part came, I was fabulous when I was a woman, but I was completely invisible as a man. I even had friends, mostly women, who loved me as a woman, but either ignored me as a man and in some cases couldn’t stand even being around me when I was a man. That really hurt.
The best part of your book is it’s so real, raw, personal, and at times funny. How do these details help the reader?
The most precious and real parts of ourselves are our deep feelings and our sexual energy (which drives a lot of our behavior, even subconsciously). These are very often not talked about, invalidated, ignored, etc. I believe this is the cause of a lot of our problems both individually and in our society/culture. I’ve always like to get to the heart of the matter about what really drives things, so it was very natural for me to write about that.
I feel that this is the most important aspect of writing because it tells the story of what it’s like to be human – to feel, to experience, to deal with conflict, to make difficult decisions, to learn the hard way, the unexpected, etc. We see similar struggles in so many other people, even if the details compared with our experiences are not exactly the same – this is what brings us together and allows us to learn and be inspired by each other.
Understanding that struggle, confusion, uncertainty, discovering by walking a zig-zagged path is really what life is all about, can be extremely beneficial to people. Especially considering that our world (advertising, TV/movies, politicians, news media) is constantly telling people who they are, what they should like, and how they should think. That’s very unhealthy, especially for young folks.
There’s a lot of music in this book. Tell us about your piano playing and what inspires you to entertain?
Thanks for catching that…I identify as a musician probably more than anything else. Music has always been the most powerful force in my life, because it expresses our visceral truth – good music can’t lie. And if you combine that with powerful lyrics that match, you have something that I consider divine. To me, it’s the ultimate expression of life at that moment. Also, I consider people’s tone of voice and body language to be the most accurate expression of communication.
When I grew up, we had a grand piano isolated in the back room of the house, and I would go back there almost every day, sometimes for hours, expressing my feelings to the universe, when I felt like everybody around me appeared to be in frequent conflict and caught in the drama of the day created by who knows what (stress, TV, advertising the media). When I was young, I was completely blown away by what the jazz greats Oscar Peterson, Thelonious Monk, and Chick Corea could do just on a piano. I just felt like it was the ultimate expression, and I simply needed to do it.
What is “Under the Golden Gate,” how did it start and where can we watch it today?
Under the Golden Gate is a YouTube channel that contains over 600 videos of San Francisco: interviews with personalities, performances, music, behind the scenes. The focus is on the San Francisco underground / queer/kink culture, but we do cover other topics such as politics and gentrification. I started the channel because I was so dazzled by what I discovered in San Francisco, and by being Maria, that I just felt compelled to share it with people.
Although many of the topics were sexually-oriented, I wasn’t interested in cheap thrills. I really wanted to understand peoples’ lives, what motivated them, and what we could learn about living an authentic, fun life. We eventually started putting on shows in the format of a “Tonight Show” with interviews, performances, zany bits, etc. It culminated in our producing the show at the venue of the BDSM website kink.com which was located in the San Francisco Armory – literally a castle in the heart of the Mission District, devoted to Kink. The book includes a lot of clips and stories from Under the Golden Gate. You can find it at my website.
How does Maria fit into your personal life?
I am Maria now. I’m Maria in my social life, when I’m entertaining as a musician and a host, and online. I’m only The Dude when I’m being lazy, working out, and most of the time when I’m working (I work almost 100% remote). I feel like I didn’t choose to be Maria, the universe
chose me to be Maria because that’s where all the joy is for some reason. I’m just going with what works. But the interesting thing is I ask myself the question “who am I” when I’m alone writing or presenting /working online (i.e. the person behind the online persona) and how is that different from who I am when I’m meeting people in person? In the last year, many of us have probably been thinking a lot about that same thing.
Also, romance and dating are a huge part of many of our lives, yet I don’t think of romance as Maria, I only think of it when I’m The Dude. But the Dude is almost dead, it’s a very strange situation. Maria has brought me life, but any kind of romance is completely out of the question. Not because I’m afraid or confused, only because I have no desire to have a romantic relationship with a man.
I don’t feel that way about men, and I’m not interested in being in a relationship with a woman as a woman. I suppose it’s possible a woman might be interested in dating both of us, but that’s extremely unlikely, it’s just too complicated for most people, so I’m not going to waste my time and energy waiting for something to happen. The joy in being a woman, in being visible, in being able to express myself is just too important to me to worry about that other stuff.
What do you think is the hardest thing for a person who is transitioning? What advice do you give that person?
Assuming you’ve already decided to come out – probably how your friends and family are going to react and how that will affect the support they give you and your sense of value. There is a huge difference between coming out when you’re under eighteen and still living with your parents vs. when you’re out on your own. It’s really important to eliminate anybody from your life who doesn’t respect and love you for who you are.
Don’t even bother to argue with them, just walk away. Of course, that’s easier said than done if the people are your parents or close friends/family. You can’t deal with that easily when you’re under eighteen. Even when you’re an adult, it’s hard, but just do it, no point in arguing and getting trapped in any negative energy. The job situation can obviously be difficult, but feeling confident in your personal life is the best way to start. If you’re under eighteen, probably the best thing to do is find those friends and family members who do support you, and you’ll be surprised who will – often it’s those you might not expect. Focus your emotional energy on them. And those in your family who don’t support you, I really don’t think you have any choice but to emotionally detach.
You’re not going to change them, don’t even try. Be respectful and do what you need to do to maintain a relationship, but you don’t need to share your deep feelings with them. This is their problem and weakness, not yours – NEVER forget that. We are each a gift to this world – don’t let anybody take that away from you and from us. And once you feel more whole, maybe you can later reach out to them.
What advice do you give families with a member who is transgender? How can families support each other?
I think most families want to support their family members, but members might be confused or afraid of something, and unfortunately, this is often expressed in downright hostility. And very often the person who is expressing being transgendered doesn’t even really know themselves where they are heading.
So, it’s important for family members to be supportive and fluid in allowing transgendered folks to discover. But this is easier said than done. Family members can of course read about the topic and watch YouTube videos, but there is nothing like meeting people/families in person (i.e. socializing with them regularly if possible) who are going through the same thing. This will hopefully allow the family members to not feel alone and scared and thus not react negatively. I found that transgendered folks educate people the most when they are just being themselves, living in joy, and interacting with a wide variety of people on an everyday basis. The family shouldn’t view being trans as a disorder or a thing they tolerate, they should view it as a gift, or maybe even a reaction to a culture that is trying to tell people who they are.
When I was younger, I resented that I was supposed to be like other boys who in my town were dominated by obnoxious sports addicts. This wasn’t about gender to me, it was a toxic culture caused by some mysterious evil force, perhaps advertising, perhaps TV, that was trying to tell me who I was.
So, if people can see this as a gift, a way to explore different ways of being, or perhaps a part of spiritual evolution to slough off society’s control mechanisms, and not worry about labels and judgment, they can see that life very often evolves in the way it’s supposed to evolve. And who knows where it might end up.
As Paul McCartney’s mother said to him in a dream, if you just “Let it Be”, everything will be joyful and full of the divine spirit of life. A unique life of your choosing, a life worth living.
This year at the Olympics, we’ve seen transgender athletes on women’s teams sending the debate about competitive fairness versus gender identity in female athletics. How would you weigh in on the subject?
This is a complex topic and very charged. My view is that one shouldn’t just take a position and then just argue and defend it—I want to please see people debate the various perspectives and respect each other and hopefully come up with a position that makes sense given the situation.
Why do people think female athletics exist in the first place? Because genetic males on average are stronger than females and thus it’s not fair for a trans person to compete? Or does one believe they exist more for social reasons, and females are more comfortable being on a team with only females, in which case it appears to make sense that trans women should be able to join in? Or does one think it’s because of the fact that teams often have to change clothes in a locker room, in which case the debate is more similar to the bathroom debate? There is no definitive answer.
“Girl Shock!: I Dressed as a Girl for Halloween But Then She Took Over My Life” is available on Amazon.