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Interview with Mona Rae Mason - Field Coordinator for The Transgender Project

Mona Rae Mason is the Field Coordinator for The Transgender Project being conducted by the National Development and Research Institute, Inc. This is one of the First In-Depth Studies being performed to look at how Transgendered People actually live their lives, who they are, what they do and why, where they come from and where they are headed. You can get detailed information about The Transgender Project by clicking on these links to visit their site. Now we'd like to give Mona a chance to answer a few questions and give us a little detail on the Goals of The Transgender Project and her personal involvement with The Transgender Project. Mona also has a Profile, here at URNotAlone and has been listed on URNotAlone since May, 2003.

How about a little background Mona

When did The Transgender Project get started?

The Transgender Project has been several years in development. As you might imagine, a study of this magnitude takes a great deal of preparation. It ‘kicked off’ in November 2004 and we are now going at full speed.

How long is The Transgender Project expected to continue before the Study is completed?

The Project, interviews and data analysis, will last a full five years.

How did you personally get involved in The Transgender Project?

Almost by accident, actually. About 2 years ago, I answered an ad in the Village Voice looking for T-Girls to take a brief survey, which turned out to be the pre cursor to The Transgender Project. I met with the Project Director at that time, he kept my contact information, and the next thing you know, he contacted me to ask if I’d be interested in working on the Project. I can honestly say I think it was the luckiest day of my life! This is the most fascinating and interesting job I’ve ever had----plus the fact that I am completely accepted in my femme persona, so yes, this is a dream job! Is there a one of us that hasn’t wished that they could do their job ‘en femme’?

What is the overall Goal of The Transgender Project?

I have to smile at this one a bit because whenever I speak at a Trans Group meeting I always get asked, “What are you trying to prove?, and the answer is always the same. We are not trying to PROVE anything, we are here to learn. And that’s the goal of The Transgender Project, to learn. The way the study is structured, we expect to learn more about the male to female Trans community than ever before. Papers will be written for the medical community, sociologists, psychiatrists, and psychologists to better assist them in dealing with and caring for the Transgender Community.

Now, if you could answer a few questions about how people can participate in The Transgender Project and what would be involved …

How many people do you intend to Interview for The Transgender Project?

We will interview 550 people for the baseline interview. 275 of these will be selected at random to continue in the study.

What are the qualifications for a person to be considered to take part in the Study?

It’s very simple. You should have ‘male’ on your original birth certificate and you should be a part of the male to female Transgender community, from the closeted crossdresser to girls who have transitioned to completion. So, yes, everyone! All participants DO need to be from the greater New York area, however, and be willing to make a 3 year commitment to the follow up interviews if selected. Unfortunately, we had to set age limits on this, so they must be 19-59 years of age.

Will participants receive a fee for their time? How much time will participants be expected to devote to this study?

Yes, but no one should run out and quit their day job! The Project pays each girl $40 for taking the baseline interview. Those selected at random for the 3 year longitudinal study will receive $230. Did I mention we are a non profit organization?

Will the Interviews be done face to face or will they be done via eMail or Phone?

Face to face only. As much as I wish we could interview each and every T-Girl in the country, email and telephone interviews often lead to inaccurate and falsified data. You can never really be sure who you are talking to or e-mailing with, and I understand there are a few ‘fakers’ out there---imagine that! That, plus the fact that all information is HIGHLY confidential.

What about Confidentiality? Will participants be assured that their personal information is not made public?

Absolutely! All the girls are given a numerical identifier. Their names appear only on our contact information, and those records are kept locked in another building on the other side of town! The Researchers, Project Director and myself are sworn by signed confidentiality agreements. We cannot be made to release, by subpoena or court order to release anyone’s information or identity. The interviewer and participant have a ‘Doctor/Patient’, ‘Lawyer/Client’ kind of relationship. We, the staff of The Transgender Project, take this VERY seriously. If you see me in one of the clubs, don’t even ask, because I won’t tell you anyway! As a matter of fact, if I already know you, I can’t interview you.

If someone is interested in participating in The Transgender Project , who should they contact?

As Field Coordinator for the Project, I am serving as the main contact. I can be reached by eMail or phone:
866.232.6389 (Toll Free)

Will there be any Medical Exams or Tests involved for participants in The Transgender Project?

Yes, and I am glad you asked. We DO test for HIV and STD’s. You know, there’s a rumor going around that a few of the girls might be engaging in sex—can you imagine? But seriously, some of us DO engage is unsafe sex-we want to make sure everyone is healthy and should a girl to be in need of medical care, we can arrange it right away and at no cost to her. Also, as I am sure you know already, some of the girls are injecting hormones and silicone and other feminizing substances. Needles can be a major cause of transference of HIV, HepC, Hep B, etc.

To finish up, we’d like to ask a few more general questions about The Transgender Project

You mentioned that The Transgender Project is a Longitudinal Study. Could you give a little explanation as to what is meant by a Longitudinal Study?

“Over-time” Each girl is asked about her past life experiences from the age of 10 to present day. The girls who are selected to continue with the study will be re-interviewed every six months for 3 years to keep current with life and situation changes. The girls are, in effect, telling their life stories.

I know it’s mentioned on the site but could you give us a quick overview of some of the other people involved in The Transgender Project?

I’m more than happy to, because I am working with some of the greatest and most caring people I have ever met!

Monica Macri and Herminio Martinez are the Research Associates and make the interviewing process very enjoyable. Both are ‘Trans experienced’ and have been doing work in community.

Larry Nuttbrock, PhD, is the Project Director and Principal Investigator. He has been working with the Trans community for about 10 years and has written for The International Journal of Transgenderism as well as numerous other publications.

Walter Bockting, PhD, U. of Minn., has written and co-authored several books and numerous papers on the Trans community and is working as an investigator and advisor..

Sel J. Wahng is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the National Development and Research Institutes, Inc./Medical and Health Research Association of NYC and a Visiting Scholar in the Asian/Pacific/American Studies Program at New York University. He is also the Project Assistant for the Gay/Bisexual /Transgender Project at the Asian & Pacific Islander Coalition on HIV/AIDS, a member of the Transjustice Working Group/Audre Lorde Project, and the collective Restless Produxions. He is FTM-identified.

And I am VERY pleased to tell you that Dr. Shelia Kirk has offered her assistance as well. As you probably know, Dr. Kirk pretty much wrote the book, literally, on hormone therapy. She was also the founder to the first TG exclusive clinic, located in Pittsburgh. She is retired now, but has expressed her deep interest in assisting and consulting The Transgender Project.

We’d like to thank you for taking the time to answer these questions and for giving our Members and Visitors the opportunity to learn about The Transgender Project and wish you Success and look forward to seeing the results of The Transgender Project, it’s a major undertaking that should be appreciated by all our Members and Visitors!

I always have time for URNotAlone. Yes, this is a major undertaking, but I know the results will well be worth it. The more we learn about ourselves, the better we can teach others. Thank you for having me.

The Staff at URNotAlone.


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