“A whopping 41% of people who are transgender or gender-nonconforming have attempted suicide sometime in their lives, nearly nine times the national average, according to a sweeping survey released three years ago” – Los Angeles Times, January 2012
I hope that by writing a brief passage about myself that I can help to stamp out transphobia, in public, but most importantly in those who purport to love us.
My story begins in the outer eastern suburbs of Melbourne in the 1950s. We lived in an old brick dwelling behind a shop with a tiny yard and a cobblestone lane way at the back where I spent many hours playing on my own. I was quiet and isolated, but reasonably happy until I got to school and began to see what the other kids called a ‘normal’ life.
At school my 2nd grade teacher bullied me and so did the other kids. At high school life was no better and I was bullied at home and at school. My elderly father had polio from an early age so football and cricket was never a father/son activity, meaning I was next to hopeless and this was another source of bullying and teasing. Still, I look back on those years with a fond remembrance.
I don’t really recall how I became fascinated with the odd garments in my mother’s dresser but my father was a ladies’ tailor and my mother was a dressmaker. With this family background I would often spend many hours in my dad’s workroom. From this I have gained a love of fabric and a keen sense of cut and style. To this day I still love the fabulous women’s fashions of the 50s, and collect from time to time, rooting out bargains at sales and op-shops. Albeit with nowhere much to wear my wonderful clobber…
My mother was nearly always away working and my elderly father died when I was 19. I wasn’t there in the hospital when he passed away and that I shall always regret. I couldn’t grieve as I didn’t know how to at the time, and my dad had become irrelevant by 1971 – he was an old man and cars and girls were way more important to me.
I grew up awkwardly and insecure, without direction or ambition. Sensitive and emotional. Without maths there was not much I could do. It didn’t matter that I was top of the school in other subjects, I took any job that came along. Around my early 20s I took to snow-dropping, collecting as much clothing as I could from the neighbourhood and the local tip. At that time I would gain a sort of gratification from this, though I didn’t understand why, as I had no luck finding girls, due to my insecurity and uneasiness. I finally developed a relationship with an ex-girlfriend of my mate and in 1975, we married. We lived happily until our baby boy died in December 1976. Again, I didn’t grieve. I didn’t know how. I put it all in the back of my mind and went to live on my own. We divorced and I became free again to a life of loneliness and meandering.
I met another girl some four years later and we moved out of the city to live in northern Victoria, marrying in 1986 and starting a family the following year. We’d bought an old house and I revelled in the idea of rebuilding and renovating, to finally show the world what I could do. Around this time my cross-dressing began in earnest, always in secret and away from prying eyes, all my gear locked up and secure. I told many lies to cover my tracks, but eventually I was found out. This caused much heartbreak and anguish and I swore I would never do it again, even purging all my things at a charity bin. But six months later it all resurfaced again, and kept cycling like this for the next 20 years or so.
My cross-dressing hindered my working life to such a large extent that I would spend many hours at home indulging my ‘hobby’, for I had an easy job, where I was on call and only had to be there after hours, so I had much time to myself. However, after nearly 18 years, I became redundant and lost my job in January 2012. Six months later I turned 60 and in a drunken state that day I sat and reminisced about how my ‘hobby’ had stuffed my life so much. And more importantly, what was in the future for me – jobless, without qualification and with an inner female streak that had become the bane of my life, consuming almost every moment of my time. I could quite easily have committed suicide, but I got over it.
I decided to go with the flow and become ‘out and proud’. It was hard at first, but also complete bliss. Since I have discovered many things about myself and my inner female that I never knew were possible. My body is essentially female and so are my thoughts, now I know that I am the daughter my mother never had, and that by some quirk of fate whilst still in her womb a chemical change took place that combined with other tragic life events has made me what I am today. Never in my life have I been happier, for I am transgender.
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