Munroe Bergdorf has been making transitions all her life, physically, mentally and spirituality. She is now sharing the arc of her transformation, from childhood to spokesmodel to social activist, in her new book Transitional: In One Way or Another, We All Transition.
Laying bare the discovery of her true authentic self, Bergdorf shares the sometimes painful path she took to unveil the woman she was on the inside to the outside world. While her words revisit the scars she endured, her book is really one of hope, a guide for all those seeking the strength to heal and build a relationship with themselves and their community. "We're all works in progress and we all have a journey. I think the more that we plug into that in an honest way, and the more that we're unafraid to analyze why our journey has unfolded the way it has, the more we can understand ourselves as we are," she shares with EBONY.
EBONY: This book is intensely personal. How did you decide to reflect on your life, from childhood to where you are today?
Munroe Bergdorf: Writing about my life, I've really been able to extend more empathy to myself than I have in the past. I have a history of being quite tough on myself, quite cruel at times. And revisiting life in this way was a real opportunity to hug me for times that I should have. That's been tough. But it's also been a real process of healing.
What's one word you would use to describe your evolution while writing this book?
It's a readjustment. Seeing childhood, adolescence and young adulthood through adult eyes, I was able to look at things from a different perspective and readjust how I actually feel about them. I think the thing with trauma is that you really hold on to how you felt in that moment, rather than being able to move forward and look at it in a different way. So yes, it was definitely a process of healing. But it also allowed me to readjust how I felt about my past and how I feel about my future and also my present. I don't feel trapped by what I've been through anymore. I feel like I've been able to let it go in a number of ways. I've been able to just give myself a break and extend myself the empathy that I often extend to others.
What did you write about that brought you the most joy? And then on the opposite spectrum, what was the hardest thing to write about?
I think every chapter has its challenges. But I think that "Purpose," the last chapter, was the most joyful thing to write. I feel it has so much optimism for the way things will be. And there's a lot of forgiveness in there for me and my loved ones. I went through so much when I was writing this book, from procrastinating to confronting a lot of trauma and finding it hard to actually function in my day-to-day life. But I'm really really glad I did it. I feel like my story is no longer just inside of me. Putting my memories to paper has been a process of letting go and moving forward with my life.
Being British, when you see what happens to Black men in America, how do you filter that through an English lens?
I think with social media being such a global consciousness these days, the ripple effect of what happens in America is felt here. Hatred is borderless. When one thing happens to anyone with a marginalized experience, you really feel it. When we see that Black trans women are being murdered in the U.S., we feel it in the UK, and we're experiencing a lot of the same oppression. And racism is a system of oppression that was really born in the UK and outsourced into lands that we colonized along with the rest of Europe. Our histories are intrinsically linked.
In the book, you address the social media post that you wrote after the "Unite the Right" tragedy in Charlottesville, Virginia, and it caused you some controversy. Has writing the book been a catharsis for you?
I'm glad that it's not the main focus of the book because I feel like I have talked at length about that situation so many times over so many years. But I feel like what has been a catharsis is to see society change since then. Especially since the protests following the murder of George Floyd, a lot of what I was saying, in response to the Charlottesville riot, became the general consensus with a lot of people. In 2020, people started speaking about white privilege and they really started reckoning with racism in a way that they hadn't done before. There was a level of vindication in that. I don't think that my posts made a lot of people comfortable, but it really wasn't designed for that. It was a way for me to release some of the pain that I was feeling, and also to make people aware of who actually benefits from racism, that racism actually was created by humans to benefit certain people. I was hurt when I wrote that, extremely hurt. I don't take any of it back. I wasn't actually thinking about anybody else apart from my community and being able to express how it made me feel.
Your book is a memoir and a how-to guide. What's your advice for people transitioning in their own lives, from a job, a relationship or anything else?
The crux of the book is that in one way or another, we all transition, and that really is facilitated by the one constant in the world which is change. And when we work with that change, we experience progress. When we push against that change, keeping things the way that they are, I don't think that really enables us to get the most out of life. My advice? Try to figure out where your resistance is rooted. Is it rooted in fear of failure? Is it rooted in feeling like you're not good enough? Is it rooted in uncertainty about what's on the other side? Once I was able to pick apart where my feelings were rooted, then I was able to work through them. A lot of people are scared of the unknown and find comfort in familiarity. But that's not necessarily something that has longevity. In the long term, that safety isn't always going to fulfill you. Always try to analyze your feelings rather than just accepting them.