Lazily lolling in bed late-ish one recent morning, I lay listening to birds obliviously chirping outside, my friend downstairs listening to the ABC News Breakfast team dissecting the latest dramatic political news, her new baby occasionally grizzling (possibly about the pervasiveness of dramatic political news in their household) with really large airplanes in the final stages of descending to land at Sydney Airport utterly drowning out all of the above and much more every few minutes. With this soundtrack playing, I attempted to ponder the concept of whether it was possible that one day I could ever forget that I had spent decades believing that I was a cisgender male. I settled on being a bit certain that it probably wasn’t possible to forget this. I was less certain though about whether either possibility was a concern to me or not. I couldn’t see that a concrete conclusion was possible, so I made the firm decision to arise immediately to get on with the rest of my life … in the form of consuming an interesting breakfast with two good coffees whilst talking about life and love with my friend and her new baby at an insouciant neighbourhood cafe.
Well, that was certainly something to celebrate!
A couple of weekends ago I had a combined birthday celebration at a local pub with three of my besties. Spoiler alert: it was fabulous! A late-forties birthday celebration at a pub may not immediately seem like that much of a big deal, but in many ways it was my debut-that-I-hadn’t-had-yet. Why was it so pivotal when it was attended generally by many of the same people, and held at a venue we had partied at before? The difference this time was that late that Saturday afternoon, two hours before dusk, I wore a dress outside in public for the first time! This dress, actually:
And these shoes:
Two of the birthday girls (including me) joined a third at her house to get ready. The fourth was busy playing lots of sport that afternoon. We chatted and caught up on goings-on, and I was given a refresher crash course on fashion, dress-wearing etiquette and cosmetics. I didn’t end up wearing a wig (we ran short of the time needed to securely wedge my growing mop under it) or earrings (I lost half of the pair of my favourite clip-on earrings in the darkness recently at a friends house). I did wear a little understated makeup, though.
I was surprisingly and noticeably relaxed getting ready. I only started getting nervous when we finally sat down in the taxi. We had travelled less than a block before I had the sudden urge to grab my friend’s leg for security, and as she turned to look at me I realised then that I hadn’t noticed that I was already verging on panic. She looked me in the eye and said to me clearly and calmly: “You will be completely fine, but if at any time you think you won’t be, you can have some time out and I will come and sit with you, or if you need to, you can go home. That will be fine too. Whatever you choose to do, it will be fine. You will be fine”. As it turns out, I was fine, but I did feel quite nervous for the rest of the short journey, with that nervousness peaking whilst walking the final 5 metres from the taxi to the pub door. I turned around to my friend as we entered the pub and exhaled “thank f*@k we live where we do” to which I received wide-eyed, whole-hearted, nodding agreement. Being three of the four birthday girls, we of course arrived fashionably late.
It was a totally lovely evening of talking and eating and drinking, possibly my most favourite, certainly my most relaxed birthday party yet, so it was a shame that not all of my friends were able to make it. My friends told me that I looked lovely. Some of my male friends greeted me by kissing me on the cheek (for the first time). My female friends made it abundantly clear, reinforcing what had already been non-verbally communicated to me, that I was now one of them. I properly noticed something new that night, but I wasn’t able to clearly identify it at the time. It took the passage of a few days before I realised that I had felt a protective aura emanating from my girl friends that night. I had kind-of noticed it before, I think, but it only really coalesced in my mind after that night. In hindsight, I’m not sure that I have ever felt that unselfconscious in public before, and yet there I was: in a pub, in the daytime, wearing a dress. It certainly helped that I had more offers from my girlfriends than I actually needed to escort me to the toilet when nature called.
Just before the last 20 or so of us were ejected from the pub at closing time, my taxi companion threw her drunken arms around my neck, planted a big smooch on my cheek and proclaimed how very proud of me she was. She did it again shortly after to reinforce her point, presumably. I was proud of me too. I can do this.
And so it begins.
Hi. My name is Roxanne Wilson* and this is my blog.
The blog is foremost my story, however I will also occasionally post resources that others have prepared, and stories that others have written about their own respective journeys. It is impossible for me to tell my story in chronological order, having only realised the plot last year myself at the age of 46, but I’ll try my best to tell it in a way that makes sense. In the same way that Memento, Citizen Kane and Inception made sense.
I am transgender, although I haven’t always been aware of this. I was raised by a relatively conservative family in a small conservative regional town before going to live in a conservative residential college at a conservative university in a slightly larger, but still conservative, regional town. I usually felt like a black sheep in a square hole growing up, but I subconsciously learned to mostly hide these feelings in order to protect myself. I missed out on much of what teen and twentysomething life is supposed to consist of, but on the upside it postponed my trans awareness until I was in a place where I was probably going to be able to handle it. After university my surroundings became increasingly less conservative over time, but the architecture of my mind had been set hard early on, and it would take the passage of three decades for it to crumble. But crumble it did.
In my mid thirties I moved to an area with arguably some of the least conservative people in the nation, despite (or maybe because of) it being governed at the national and state levels almost continually by the conservative side of politics. My true gender was presented to me by my subconscious in the same way that water is presented to a village downstream from a dam that has just collapsed. The presentation was delivered to me a few days after the federal election held on July 2, 2016, though I didn’t make any connection between the two events at the time. Post presentation, finally, and suddenly, the parts of my life that hadn’t made sense (much of it, in hindsight) now made perfect sense. I was immediately happier and more at ease with myself and those around me, and I could finally see that I had a future. Nine months later, almost nine months ago now, I started transitioning from male to female.
Thirteen and a half years after relocating, I still live here, and I honestly can’t imagine living anywhere else. One of the area’s main attractions to me is that here who you are inside matters far more than what you look like, what clothes you wear or who you are attracted to. I have an incredible support network of friends that have enabled me to carry on with substantially the same life as before, just with prettier clothes, shoes and much less body hair.
The public announcement of my transition, and the birth of my blog, both coincidentally came at a more trying time than usual in the life of gender and sexuality diverse folk in Australia. The marathon wrestling bout between my newly exposed subconscious and external expectations raged and ranged around my brain for months. My own battles were paralleled by one of the many ideologically political battles that had been consuming the Federal government since the 2016 election: the battle over marriage equality. Though many members of the government had strong opinions against marriage equality, and articulated them loudly and frequently, few of the outspoken members appeared to consider the effect that these battles would have on the very people the marriage equality laws were intended to protect. While the self-interested political skirmishes played out, real people, some in romantic relationships, some not, had their relationships, and/or gender and sexuality, examined for worthiness by the nation’s media. I am eternally grateful that I was not in a relationship while the hurtful, voluntary, nonbinding, marriage equality postal survey circus slowly wended its way through every city, town and village in Australia.
In hindsight, it appeared to be preposterous timing that I should announce my transition publicly in the middle of the marriage equality postal survey, and that I should launch my blog three days after the results were announced, though I had been working towards those moments for over twelve months. The sole reason that those specific moments in time were chosen was that my body was getting quite good at relocating my body fat to my more feminine areas, and warmer weather was quickly approaching. I needed to tell my story in my way, and in my own time. I was ready.
Many of those that are transgender lose their families and friends, jobs, homes and sometimes their lives on their immensely challenging journeys. I am hoping that my blog will provide some comfort to those early on in their journey, as well as their loved ones that are struggling to understand the changes unfolding in front of them. I am also hoping that my blog might also help somewhat to enlighten the public generally on what it means to be transgender. I finally hope that the damage caused by the marriage equality postal survey fades into history and that gender and sexuality diverse folk are able to live their lives, as happily and messily as everybody else.
*Of course, Roxanne Wilson isn’t my real name. It is my nom de plume, but it is an excellent name nonetheless.
Originally published 18 November 2017. Updated June 2018.