By the time she was 16, Eleanor Lister knew she wanted to be a woman. But as a boy living in 1960s Western Australia, expressing her gender identity was hardly an option.
In 1966 in Perth that would have been equivalent to taking out a notice saying -˜I’m an insane criminal’, Lister told Sydney Star Observer this week.
So Lister remained a man, had relationships with women and successfully suppressed her gender identity for nearly 40 years.
I did pretty well. I had a beard and I was a typical geek, she said. [But] it was despair, it seemed so impossible.
It took a nervous breakdown about five years ago and the more recent advice of a gay friend for Lister to begin to embrace her identity.
I explained to him and he said, -˜Don’t worry about it,’ and he went and found all the references. It was a turning point, trusting another person to ask for help.
Today, Lister is on hormone therapy, lives as a woman and loves her life. And she is giving something back as organiser of this year’s Transgender Day of Remembrance.
First held in the United States in 1999 to commemorate the stabbing murder of transgender woman Rita Hester, the event is now held around the world each November.
It has taken place in Sydney in previous years, but no event was held in 2005. Lister is hopeful she can make an impact when she organises the Day of Remembrance for the first time on 20 November.
The aim of the day is to raise consciousness about the issues of gender, Lister said.
The day -“ one of several around Australia -“ will also highlight anti-transgender murder and violence.
The Private Lives survey of about 5,000 GLBT Australians released in March found about 18 percent of transgender women and 12 percent of transgender men had experienced physical violence.
Lister said US figures suggested about two transgender people were killed each month.
The statistics are appalling. The death rate has doubled for murder in the last five years.
Lister is finalising the speakers’ list, and hopes to see transgender activists, politicians and others gather at NSW parliament for the Day of Remembrance.
She also plans to screen a film about US transgender teenager Gwen Araujo, who died after a hate attack in 2002.
The Transgender Day of Remembrance will be held on Monday 20 November from 11am to 2pm at the Waratah Room, NSW Parliament House. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.