For this month’s Gender Whisperer column, Katherine Wolfgramme speaks with Equality Australia’s Director of Engagement, Aram Hosie.
In his own words, Aram is “a queer trans guy in his mid-thirties”. He and him pronouns work for him, though he also happily answers to they and them. He is a parent (of both the human and dog variety), a partner, a guncle, a community advocate and a very occasional model. Aram likes lifting heavy weights while listening to loud electronic dance music, and, thanks to his son, he’s developed a nerdy enjoyment of Marvel superheroes and LEGO.
What do you do for work?
I’m incredibly lucky to be the Director of Engagement with Equality Australia – our country’s first national legal advocacy and campaigning organisation for LGBTIQ+ issues. We very much operate from the belief that after marriage equality, we have a responsibility to ensure that we protect the rights we’ve won and amplify the voices of those who do not yet enjoy full equality. This of course especially applies to trans and gender diverse people, and so I feel that it is right and important for me, as an out trans person, to be deeply involved in this work.
When did you transition?
I transitioned 13 years ago, in my early twenties when I was still living in Western Australia. I was incredibly lucky – the GP that I saw at my university medical clinic had supported a number of previous patients to transition, so when I said that I wanted to, she knew exactly how to support that. My medical transition was really the straightforward part; what I hadn’t realised would be more complicated was the social transition – everything from choosing my new name to learning how to navigate a very gendered world in a now-male presenting body. I was really lucky throughout this process – my partner at the time and my friends were patient, supportive and accepting of me, as was my employer. The response of people around you when you transition is what makes all the difference.
Did you have any role models growing up?
I grew up inside a fundamentalist Christian religion that almost borders on a cult. I went through conversion therapy as a teenager, and lived a life that was pretty cut off from the rest of the world, so no I didn’t have any role models as I grew up – all the adults I could see were utterly removed from who I knew myself to be.
You’re very involved in politics and activism. What achievements in the trans community are you most proud of so far?
I’m proud of being brave enough to be really visible as a trans person. It wasn’t really my decision initially – my partner when I transitioned was Senator Louise Pratt, and so there was no hiding that she had a girlfriend who was now her boyfriend. But from that moment onwards I’ve made the conscious decision to keep being really visible, especially in mainstream media, even though that means the loss of my own privacy. It’s worth it though, for every single time the parent of a young trans or gender diverse person tells me that seeing me gives them hope for their child, and for every time a trans or gender diverse person tells me that seeing me makes them feel less alone.
Do you think gender diverse people are still misunderstood, and how do you think we could help change this?
I think we’re more known than we were – I remember I spent a lot of time explaining to people that I was transitioning from female to male, and yes, that is a thing – when I first transitioned over a decade ago. I’m not sure that visibility has directly contributed to increased understanding, though. I think we’ve made progress, but there is still a lot of ignorance, misunderstanding, and fear. And I think the only way to respond to this is through ongoing conversation, dialogue and education, and with more and more trans and gender diverse people standing and being visible – if it’s safe and okay for them to do so, of course.
Do you have any words of wisdom for young people who are just beginning their transition?
Don’t be afraid – it’s going to be alright. You’ll find people who will love, accept and want to have sex with you, and being trans is actually pretty cool and something you can come to be proud of. Be patient and enjoy the journey – it’s going to take you longer to really arrive in yourself and your manhood then you think, so give yourself time, and let it just evolve. You don’t have to “be” any particular way, you will find out who you are over time. Look after you – you’re actually not invincible and being visible, being involved in advocacy and dealing with other people’s shitty responses sometimes will add up and take its toll. Pay attention to your mind and your body and get support, take breaks and invest the time and the effort in doing the things that keep you happy and well.