Transgender Entertainer & Author Maria Konner Talks About Gender Exploration in New Memoir, Girl Shock!
Maria Konner takes you on her journey from living a frustrated and bored straight-dude life in the suburbs to becoming a fabulous trans entertainer in San Francisco. It all starts after a Halloween costume feels better than she could have imagined. What starts as a lark, quickly becomes a lifestyle and all the sordid details of Maria’s transformation leave you cheering for her all the way. Girl Shock! 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, illustrations and all its kinky bits. Girl Shock! is a must-read for anyone has wondered (and fantasized) about California’s mecca for underground lifestyles. This is definitely a page-turning, LOLing memoir as the reader roots for Maria for the entire journey!
Maria Konner sat down with the Los Angeles Post Examiner to talk about her book, Girl Shock! and all the fun she’s having in heels and a cute dress.
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 woman 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?
Thanks! And thanks for reading the book! The most precious and real part 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 http://mariakonner.com
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 is 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 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.
After coming out to your friends and family, do you have any advice for rebuilding relationships with your parents and siblings specifically? Do you invite family members to see you perform?
I’m very lucky in that I have always had great support from my family for all aspects of my life, so I can only speak from this experience. Although I do sense their lack of understanding of and fear about the life that I live. They knew about my life at some level from the very beginning (only recently discovering the details!). So for example, I have invited them all from the very beginning to see me perform. A few were immediately there at several of the shows, and several have repeatedly chosen not to come, and have made up excuses over and over. So it’s an annoying dullness in the relationship more than anything. I think few people can really grok just how different, more connecting, and more fulfilling life can be in an “alternative” universe. I’ve always known that this is my blessed experience and reality, and I’m out there spreading love and joy, and this has nothing to do with anybody else. However, the slight distance from my family and old friends annoys me a bit….but much less than before, because by being out there with people, and putting your best self forward, you’re really living a full and divine life. All the other stuff, just isn’t important. It takes some getting used to.
That’s where I would start. And if people don’t want to come along for the ride, I just really think you shouldn’t worry about it unless you are truly dependent on them. Then once you get used to that, and find a community that does love you for who you are, then reach back from serenity, joy, and strength. You’ll never want to go back.
Now I know that is easier said than done for many situations, and I’ve been VERY lucky. But I’m thinking that more often than not, we have a lot more power than we think. It’s always good to go back to the serenity prayer when going off into the weeds: “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the wisdom to….”
As a trans entertainer, what’s the response from straight people? Do you have a straight male following ?
OMG there are so many VERY curious straight people out there…must be at least 80% of straight folks. And the guys ask a lot of questions! I can barely tell the difference in reaction between straight and queer folks and their likelihood to come to a show, other than the fact that queer people are less likely to have children and thus can go out more and be irresponsible!
I have a following across the board. It’s over 50% queer, but I think that’s because those are the circles I run in. Many straight friends are never-ending dealing with juggling kids, work, and a little fun. But I definitely have more straight male followers than straight female.
Do you have plans to travel to Los Angeles in the coming months for performances? If you could perform at any club in LA, where would it be and why?
I’m in LA Sep 30 – Oct 3, visiting with friends, pitching to bookstores and checking out the latest club scene (It’s been a while since I frequented LA, but ramping it back up!). I don’t have any performances lined up, but I’m looking for venues that are similar to the types of venues/shows I do in San Francisco: Piano bars, playing guitar and singing at drag show, bringing my rock band “Not From Jersey!” to play an edgy club that has a band night (e.g. 3 bands in one night), playing a street fair. I also have a 1-woman show with piano and guitar music that I’m developing based on the book and will have a short (e.g. 15 minutes), and longer (e.g. 60 minutes) version.
To buy Girl Shock! go to Amazon.