Gendered interaction between adults and children begins as soon as the gender of a baby is known. From the moment we are born we are subject to a range of gender-specific messages and expectations. These are based solely on the nature of our genitals.
My project explores what life is like for those Individuals whose gender identity falls somewhere outside of society's expectations. When photographing people who identify with being Trasngender. I am most astounded by my subjects resilience and strength. My subjects are, and rightfully so unforgiving for living their lives the way they wish too. I have tried to capture their strength in my images.
Sandra was born as John but started living as Sandra 6 years ago. When she became Sandra she left behind a career that spanned 37 years in the Air force. In these photos Sandra is getting ready for Anzac Day. She chooses not to march but prefers to stand on the sidelines and quietly observe.
Sandra recently found out that the female hormones she has been taking may be the cause of numerous blood clots that have recently appeared in her brain. She has been advised to stop taking them immediately. This may mean her physical transformation may start reversing. This is not an option for Sandra. She refuses to become a man again.
Having my first public ‘ma’am.’ was was great, but I always looked on it with a sense of doubt. People recognised a good disguise, nothing more. The image I saw in the mirror was still vastly awry from female and still a strong dysphoric trigger. Now, I don’t know whether my mental image is catching up, or my body is still changing, but I frequently recognise a girl in the mirror. Not all the time, but the more I do, the more confidence I seem to get.
Now I am almost always referred to as a lady. I feel I’ve moved beyond the androgynous ‘fence-sitter’ and definitely turning towards the feminine side of androgynous. That said, my typical attire is shirt and pants/jeans, I haven’t taken a step to skirt or dress in public yet. Perhaps a shopping trip might be in order soon.
Bathrooms were a bit of an issue for a time. It came to a point where I didn’t feel safe in the gents. So I swapped. Around that time I also wouldn’t use bathrooms in public at all for fear of bigotry. This sounds like a minor issue, but this is a dangerous trial for any trans person. Next time you pass a place with gender neutral bathrooms, send them a smile from me.
I recently made my announcement to everybody at work. I did this because I didn’t see any other solution that didn’t end up with me simply working somewhere else. The response has actually been overwhelmingly supportive. I’d been talking with management and HR previously, arranging the official ‘change-over’ day. This was only three weeks ago but it already feels like a lifetime has gone by.
I don’t know whether it was because my confidence was bolstered or just a sense things were finally going to be ‘right,’ but I strode through that door Tuesday morning feeling calm and collected. My makeup was right; not too thick, but enough to say, “yeah, I wear make-up now and I look good doing it.” My work dress was a little large, but form-fitting enough to show my new curves. My boss opened the door and said, “Morning Maddie.” The others followed suit and I happily and confidently carried on with the usual work day. The workplace support has continued since then. Mainly, and importantly, most people are just carrying on with their jobs, and interact with me the same as before.
Some people are comfortable but others don’t quite know how to manage things. Then there are some who are unwittingly rude. Soon after making the announcement at work, I was introduced by a colleague to another person I already knew. It didn’t come across as a polite gesture of, ‘this is her real name’, and instead it came across to me as ‘come look at the freak in a dress.’ I figure these things are going to happen and I try to take them with a pinch of salt. It does drain me though constantly reaffirming myself to others.
The changing room issue
You may think I don’t care about your feelings, ladies, when I go to change in the ladies only changing room. You may think that I go there with complete confidence. You’d be wrong.
I care about what you girls think. Ever since I came out I have thought about the problem, and worried about it, and feared the comments and confrontations. The fear I experience can be so great that I lay awake worrying about it at times. When I go into the changing room I make sure nobody is already in there, then I slink into a dark corner to change. I do it quickly, not daring to remove my briefs, listening for anyone who may come in unawares of my state of undress.
You may believe that it is a small thing for me to simply change in the men’s changing room, that I’m being ‘stubborn’ for not complying with your perfectly reasonable wishes. But you see, I have been taking hormones. The effect of these hormones is to transform my body into a more feminine shape…but you must already know that. Must I then cower in the men’s changing room in case one of the guys catches a glimpse of distinctly female breasts?
But what upsets me the most, moves me to tears in fact, is what about the rest of the trans community? I am not trying to be philosophical. I’m not trying to be an advocate for trans-rights. I am simply reporting my feelings. If you girls get to decide who should or should not be admitted into the ranks of womanhood, you get to wield enormous, ungodly, and unreasonable power. I dare say someone like Cate McGregor or even Caitlin Jenner, if you have heard of them, might pass your high standards of admittance to the girls changing room.
But what about the full time woman, who has been so for some years, who can’t afford expensive operations, who looks like a guy in drag with a bad quality wig and broad male face? Perhaps they don’t get your tick of approval. What happens to them? Well, statistics show that more than thirty per cent of trans people commit or attempt to commit suicide – about twice the rate for gay and lesbians, and far higher than for the general population. And they don’t do this because they get beaten up, though they DO get beaten up, they do it because of innocent remarks of people like yourselves about admission into sacrosanct female only spaces. If I didn’t make a stand for these people, then who will? Will YOU?
Depression! It is real and it is not a choice, it is a battlefield. It is a greater reality in the minority troop of which I am a part, I have seen the guns of depression up close and personal. This war comes and goes from daily life but it follows you around. I find ways to leave it behind and others often help, but sometimes those without regard hold you back and the battle catches up. That is where the dangers lie. If you have not the strength or the support to push through, the consequence is disastrous. We need to work together and bring each other along not trample over each other. We need to own up to what we ignore: our responsibility as humanity is to each other.