GAVIN Walker was just four years old when his mother Sandy first had an inkling he might be trans.
But it wasn’t until he turned 14 that Gavin announced that he wanted to begin his transition from female to male.
“Gavin was always androgynous and didn’t want to be in dresses. We started shopping in the boys department for non-specific gender clothing at an early age,” Sandy told the Star Observer.
Gavin always felt different as a child, but it wasn’t until he started dating a girl at 13 that he realised he might be trans.
“I didn’t know transgender was an actual thing, so I couldn’t go – yeah that is me, I feel like that,” he said.
“I started going out with a girl at 13, which first led me to think I was a lesbian. I was playing around tucking all my hair up into a beanie and looked at myself in the mirror and then had a sudden moment of realisation – I was trans. At this point I had educated myself on transgender people and said to myself, hey I want to be a boy.”
The first person Gavin came out to was his girlfriend, who promised to love him no matter what.
His mother Sandy was also open to the idea as she had an inkling that he might come to feel like he was in the wrong body, but she worried that it would mean he would face some tough times.
“I did have a thought that this is going to mean some hard stuff, some operations and for those you love, nobody wants anyone to go through difficult fights for their spot in the world,” she said.
“The only thing I grieved which is funny, was when Gavin changed his name from Gabrielle. Not because he changed it, but because my husband and I spent weeks of agony coming up with a name we could agree on.”
During the last winter holidays, Gavin decided to take the big step and start his transition from female to male at his high school. One of the first steps was to cut his long hair, which surprisingly ended up being quite an emotional step.
Next for Gavin and his mother was to have a meeting with his school’s guidance counsellor.
Sandy said she was excited for Gavin that he didn’t have to hide who he was.
He would also be the first public trans child in the school, and a role model for others as he has parental, peer and community support.
Kingaroy State High School had already shown strong support of the SafeSchools program and despite the politics, has pledged to continue their support of the program regardless.
First the nurse and guidance counsellor talked to all Gavin’s fellow students about what transgender means. Gavin chose to sit out of that discussion, as he was worried there would be bullying – which never eventuated.
Next the guidance counsellor had Gavin’s name changed on all the school records and reports, addressed the school’s staff to ensure they understood to use the male pronoun, that Gavin will be using the male toilet and changed his school uniform. The only concern with him using the male’s toilet was for his own personal safety.
Gavin feels now he has recognised that he is transgender, he can just ‘be’.
He said he “wanted to become an English teacher, but I wasn’t very comfortable with myself.”
South Burnett Gender Alliance member Debbie Hilton said as there was no support in the area, the community felt they needed to create their own.
“There needs to be a safe place for the kids and others of the LGBTIQ community to come together here,” she said.
South Burnett Gender Alliance member Kendall explained that the monthly meeting evolved from a casual conversation he had in his mentor group about how great it would be to have a local LGBTI support group.
“A person in that mentoring group knew all these gay people who also wanted to get something off the ground and it keeps getting bigger and bigger each meeting,” he said.
Gavin’s mother Sandy heard the group was being organised and decided they should attend the first meeting six months ago. She felt it would be important for Gavin to meet like-minded people during the early stages of his transition.
On the first night they met Kendall, who went to the same school as Gavin but came out as trans much later in life. Gavin looks up to Kendall as a source of guidance, as he has already been through the female to male transition experience.
“Kendall is a real role model for me, I get to see a real life example and can visualise the other side. If you didn’t know Kendall and saw him, you’d think he’s just a guy like anyone else,” Gavin said.
Kendall has also learned from Gavin, especially when it comes to all the hoops young trans people must jump through to get their transition underway.
“It was a big secret and I’d stay awake at night (worrying) that the secret would get out,” Kendall said.
Gavin’s parting words for other trans kids are: “Don’t hate yourself if you think it’s not normal – it is”.
“There is a whole heap of other people who are transgender. Don’t hurt yourself over it. If you just stick through it and have patience at the end of everything, it will be so much better than before,” he said.
Kendall wants to remind our city cousins they should not forget we are out here slogging away with the same issues – marriage equality and everything you guys are.
Last April, Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays founder Shelley Argent spread the word about the group as they opened their doors to the wider Kingaroy community. A network of local health and wellbeing support services are planned for the coming year.
“We’d like to encourage other regional towns to follow in our footsteps and get a group like this together,” South Burnett Gender Alliance member Debbie Hilton said.