My whole life changed about five years ago when I joined the Greens in outrage over the Tampa affair. I then helped organise the meeting that the Redfern community group REDWatch sprang out of. And soon I had enough confidence to come out as a transsexual, which meant hooking up with that community.
I found that there was a lot of fear in the transgender community that was preventing people from becoming active. But I am old enough now that I am not scared. I noticed that the transgender day of remembrance wasn’t being commemorated. So I organised it last year, and got us on the radar.
I knew a lot of people, not just transsexuals of both sorts, but intersex people and cross-dressers. And within that community I noticed certain cliques and factions. But I thought, when we are all being called freaks, when we are all supposedly going to hell on the same train, what is the point of fighting amongst ourselves? After we get our freedom we can then say, I have got nothing in common with you, and if we want, we can go our own way.
People are better informed about the transgender community these days. But it was impossible to come out when I was young. It was 1956 and I was living in Perth and it just wasn’t a viable option, there was no chance at all. Homosexuality was illegal, and transsexuality was regarded as a mental disease suffered by homosexuals. I could have been considered an insane criminal or a man.
I was 16 and terrified. What choice was I going to make? I tried to do the man thing but it didn’t work. I had female sensitivities, and that was so strong in me, I almost thought it was a magical power.
You feel slightly schiz -“ there is part of you that knows the truth, and another part of you that pretends not to. On some level I have always known who I was, but I worked very hard to not know.
The big deal about coming out for me is freedom -“ that is the only word that makes sense. To me, if it is not about freedom you are doing it for the wrong reasons. It has got to make you feel who you are, and make you feel strong.
Some transgender people don’t like to be equated with the gay and lesbian community, to the point that they say, I am not gay, I am not lesbian, I am transsexual, I am just an ordinary woman. And you say, Yes, that is fine, but we have got the same enemies, and we might all benefit from that.
When push comes to shove, there are problems with the 58 pieces of legislation as pointed out in the HREOC report. There are areas of the law that could have been examined that would have had more of an influence on the transgender community. They stuck strictly to sexuality and didn’t really consider gender, so that in a way is not going to be all that useful to a lot of us.
On the other hand we do feel that we are going to contribute a lot to the gay and lesbian community, particularly with same-sex marriage, with people like Grace Abrams, who is getting her identity established.
Why should she have to cancel her marriage, which is now a same-sex marriage? Why should she have to get divorced, to get an amended birth certificate? Most transsexuals know that we are going to be the ones that break same-sex marriage.
But while there is sometimes some animosity, there are also great unions. In the Greens, there are a couple of gay men who are terrific guys, who go an extra mile for me, and who I trust. I don’t have so many friends so I can’t afford to throw any away.
I do sometimes get offended when people call me sir. But if it’s being done by somebody who really doesn’t know what to say, and is trying desperately to be polite, such as a taxi driver, who just wants to be courteous, and says, Have a nice day, thank you, sir, well, I am not even going to raise an eyebrow. He is not being offensive, he is being courteous, and he just doesn’t understand.
The process of coming out as a transsexual varies a lot, but it starts as a road, and it never finishes.
What order people do things in is up to them. I had a phase in which I took hormones, dressed full-time and change my name legally, dating from June 1 2005. The idea now is to save up for the surgery.
Not everybody wants to, or needs to, have the surgery. How far you go is up to you. And even after you have the surgery, you are still on the path, you never leave it; you are on it for the rest of your life.
As told to Cara Davis
The Transgender Day of Remembrance is being held at Barme, 154 Brougham St (cnr William St), Kings Cross, on Sunday 18 November from 1pm. The program of events can be seen at http://webspinning.org/tdor2007.

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