MEMBERS of the LGBTI community must first get their internal selves right to achieve happiness and success according to the 2016 Queensland Australian of the Year.
Group Captain Catherine (Cate) McGregor is the world’s highest-ranked trans* military officer and was named Queenslander of the Year by Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk at a ceremony in Brisbane on Friday night.
[showads ad=MREC]McGregor, 59, won the award for her work as a diversity champion and national leader in trans* issues, which “as a result Australians have gained a greater understanding and acceptance of the transgender community”, according to the National Australia Day Council.
Formerly known as Malcolm, McGregor transitioned in 2012 and has been a public spokesperson for trans* issues ever since.
She credits her career success in the Australian Defence Force not with hard work and ambition but as a desperate attempt to fit in “as a man” and would trade in her success to have transitioned at the age of 20.
“My career is an accident in many ways, what to outsiders looks successful, was an attempt to fit in, an attempt to suppress my feelings, so I over achieved in sport and in my job,” she said.
“My career advice to young trans* people and all LGBTI people is, it starts internally with us .. there is no substitute to living your authentic self.
“Make sure you’re taking all of you into your job… nothing external will make you happy until you get the internal part right.”
As a 2016 finalist, McGregor was included in a list of esteemed Queenslanders including journalist Peter Greste who has become a champion of press freedom after being jailed in Egypt while working for Al Jazeera.
McGregor now goes in the running to be named Australian of the Year on Australia Day next year.
She was so convinced she wouldn’t take out the top award that she made dinner reservations for half an hour after the official proceedings wrapped up.
“I was completely stunned and I haven’t processed it completely yet,” she said.
“This kind of visibility of trans* people doing day to day stuff and being noticed is important.”
Born in Toowoomba in Queensland’s south-east, McGregor headed straight to military training in Duntroon after she finished high school and has lived away from Queensland ever since.
She wants to use this award as an opportunity to reconnect with her home state where as youngster it was not safe to be gay or trans*.
“The Queensland I was born into wasn’t for any of us, not for gay people and especially not for trans* people,” she said.
“It was a pretty dangerous environment.”
A cricket tragic, McGregor will be at the first test between Australia and New Zealand at the Gabba in Brisbane this week and hopes to use her new award in an official capacity to further raise awareness about the trans* community.
“I want talk to some people about how I reconnect with Queensland and I want to go back to my hometown,” she said.
“At almost 60 years old, I’ve lived more than half of my life, it will be great to reconnect and come full circle to where I’m originally from.”
McGregor concedes there is still long way to go for trans* people but hopes her award is a positive step forward.
“I hope it does something good, especially for the trans* community and gives opportunities for people that don’t have the same opportunities I did,” she said.
“I do hope it makes the lives of others better.”