Identifying me

Losing your job is a tumultuous time for anyone but for Marty* this presented an opportunity for self-discovery that has changed his life.

For the last 14 odd years he has worked 5 – 6 days a week, racking up to 60 hours a week. But after losing his job, there was time to think. Time to reflect. Time to discover.

Without been consumed by work, which he says distracted and occupied him totally, he found himself unable to escape his own thoughts. Realising he was not happy at the job he had just lost anyway, and that maybe his priorities needed readjusting, he reflected on what would make him happy and what he could maybe do to change his situation.

For him, these questions led to thoughts of different career options or potentially a university degree but also presented him with the chance to open a door he had closed many times before.

Marty has recently been diagnosed with Gender Dysphoria, a condition of feeling that one’s emotional or physical identity does not align with one’s biological sex.

“I didn’t have the textbook experience. They say that by the age of five or six you become aware of gender and that it’s at that point you start to admit that you’re a girl and you love playing with barbies but that wasn’t me,” says Marty.

“It doesn’t change the fact that I would try and wear my sister’s or my mum’s clothes all the time because it would make me feel more comfortable but I would get in trouble from my parents for doing it and was told it was wrong.”

“I always listen to my Mum and Dad and when they say something is wrong, I have no reason to disagree with that. They wouldn’t have known what it was though, we didn’t have the internet back then.” He said.

Today he is comfortable in this new understanding he has and speaks about the importance of education to quash the current stigma surrounding the transgender community.

Marty went to a Catholic high school in Brisbane’s South and muses on what might have happened to him if he chose to wear the girls uniform.

“You couldn’t do it. Even though that would have made me more comfortable, you couldn’t do it. It has nothing to do with how I felt about it, it’s how everyone else felt about it” says Marty.

He doesn’t seem to care too much about the views of strangers but tries to explain why it was different for him back then.

“Mum and Dad have told me that it’s wrong [to wear female clothing] and I’ve been in trouble for it before. You’re smart enough by that point to realise that being different is difficult. If you’re different, you’ll be excluded.”

“No-one would actively choose to do what I’m doing, to express themselves in a different way. There is nothing to gain from it outside of my own internal gratification. There doesn’t need to be a stigma against it though, especially if it doesn’t hurt anyone then who bloody cares!” He said.

The cost of identity

The statistics available on the transgender community in Australia are hard to come by but the 2015-2016 annual report from the Gender Centre website that provides resources to support people with gender issues in Australia counted 476,642 unique visitors which represents two-percent of the total population.

Studies conducted by Beyond Blue conclude that 36.2-percent of transgender identified Australians suffer from depression compared with 6.8-percent of the general population.

The dangers of depression are well documented and although we have a very supportive legal and medical environment for the LGBTQI community in Australia issues like equal rights and of education in young people are still topics requiring much discussion.

Safe Schools Coalition promote themselves as “working with schools to create safer and more inclusive environment for same -sex attracted, intersex and gender diverse students, staff and families” but their programs face a lot of criticism.

When Roz Ward, the founder of the Safe Schools program said in a proposal to the Education Department that “anybody who is female-identified”, including biological males, should be able to use the girls’ toilets at schools, the Australian Christian Lobby’s Victorian director Dan Flynn promptly responded through a blog post on the ACL website that “no Victorian parent wants their daughter sharing a school toilet with a biological male”.

Mr Flynn said, “There is no harm in having one unisex toilet in a school, out of consideration for rare cases where a student might be struggling with their gender identity, but there is no justification for causing distress to school girls by letting boys use their private facilities.”

When we sat down together Marty had received his diagnosis but hadn’t yet told those closest to him, including his girlfriend Jessica*. He has spent the last few weeks trying to explore what his diagnosis meant to him.

At nearly 30, he says he knows who he is, what he likes and what he doesn’t like and although he’s happy to have reached this conclusion he wishes he had reached it earlier.

Marty says his “number one regret is that I didn’t do anything about it sooner.”

He has set himself a deadline to discuss this with Jessica and when asked what he was most scared about he said without hesitation “I’m scared she will ask me to compromise or if there’s another option”.

Understandably he seems reluctant to talk about it further but we discuss the relationship he has with his best friend, how they get together to play video games and talk cars.

“Imagine me rocking up to his place as a woman. I mean, I’d be fine with it but is he going to be?”

*Names have been changed to protect the parties’ privacy. Support is available for those who may be experience gender identity issues by phoning Lifeline 13 11 14; QLife 1800 184 527; beyondblue 1300 224 636; The Gender Centre 02 9519 7599​​