TED Talk: How to talk (and listen) to transgender people

TED says that “gender should be the least remarkable thing about someone, but transgender people are still too often misunderstood”. Jackson Bird, the personable speaker in this 6.5 minute TED Talk is a young trans man. I really like his approach to clearing up misconceptions about some aspects of being transgender, and of transitioning.

Several of his insights ring true to me, but some of my experiences differ greatly to his. I’m really loving my second attempt at puberty. I have a vastly improved hormone mix, and I have a gradually softening body, two things that have elevated my mood far beyond it’s usual historic levels. I now feel far less awkward in the world than I am used to feeling. I generally find that when I tell people for the first time that I am transgender, or that I am transitioning, that there is no awkwardness at all on their part. My usual experience is that instead they display empathy and support, which is just bloody lovely.



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.