“Happy Trans Awareness Week”

Transgender Awareness Week 2021

I use that blog title with sarcasm because when it comes to Transgender Awareness Week there is nothing “happy” about it. I have woken up to private messages from people this week who I personally know who do see themselves as allies, and truly they are allies and I do appreciate them for this, but sometimes I feel like screaming or crying because this is not a time to be “happy”.

Before I continue I would like to acknowledge elders from the LGBTIQ+ communities. I want to express gratitude to these elders who, through tireless advocacy in the face of adversity, have paved the way for me to continue this important work, and there is a lot of important work that still needs to be done.

I ask myself all the time that if we had better support of our gender diverse communities, better education, and understanding of who we are as gender diverse people, would we still see transgender people in Australia be nearly 11 times more likely to attempt suicide than the general population, or would we still be working to uncover 15 transgender hate crime murders over the last 40 years in Australia. It is sad knowing we have struggled to find an accurate number of those who have been murdered due to anti-transgender attitudes.

The best way I can describe this is feeling is to imagine the loneliness one might feel during most family-focused holiday seasons. Now I love the holidays, and anyone who knows me knows how over the top I get with decorating and creating a welcoming space of joy encouraging laughter, and being aware of gratefulness, generally thinking of these holidays as a time of joy and love. Many people who live far from their families though miss seeing their loved ones during these holiday periods struggle with being a part of the festivities around them when hearing “happy wishes” at this time; I know some people who dread going to holiday parties and celebrations and end up staying home because of how hard it is. They aren’t happy during these times, this is not a happy time for transgender people. 

There are so many positive stories and successes that can be shared from the gender diverse communities (these include transgender, gender-diverse, and non-binary people but will refer to them as Transgender or Trans for short) there truly are, but then Transgender Awareness Week arrives and you are reminded in many shared articles that 2021 is set to be the deadliest year for transgender people since we began collecting data in 2008, it often feels like we are no longer working toward the same goals as part of the wider LGBTIQ+ community.

For those who aren’t aware, Transgender Awareness Week is celebrated annually in November from the 13th to the 19th and is a crucial time to uplift the voices and experiences of the transgender communities through education and action. The week’s activities culminate on November 20th, Transgender Day of Remembrance, a day in which transgender people, along with their allies, across the globe come together to memorialize those of us who’ve died by anti-transgender violence. This year we have 375 registered murders between 1 October 2020 and 30 September 2021. This represents a 7% increase from the 2020 update, which was already a 6% increase from the 2019 update. 

It’s fine if you don’t feel like you know very much about transgender people – a lot of people don’t. I am the first to admit we don’t make it very easy sometimes but reading what I have shared in this article so far you can have an understanding as to why. As a population, we make up around 1% of the population in Australia, but once again the recent census failed to accurately collect data on sex, sexual orientation, and gender diversity leaving the need for wider support like unemployment unknown. As a transgender person in the workplace, I am often the only visible or out transgender in that space that I or any others are aware of leaving the burden of representing an entire community on my shoulders as well as others like me. The lack of visibility doesn’t show we actually are a group of people who are living in every community, in every neighborhood, working in every industry, contributing positively to society, but there is just so much negativity around who we are as people.

I am often told “It all feels complicated and I’m frightened of saying the wrong thing”, which is why it is really important for individuals who are not transgender themselves to understand who we are as a people. Unfortunately, we find them judging us more for what we are and not for who we are, let alone learn about the barriers and challenges we as a people face when it comes to things like isolation, homelessness, employment, healthcare, aged care, issues at school, domestic violence, in restaurants, restrooms, our interactions with law enforcement, and if you’re part of other intersectional identities such as a person with a disability, or a person of color you are compounded even further by your gender diversity. 

Because we are lumped together in one acronym, LGBTIQ+, people often confuse being transgender or gender diverse, with sexual orientation. Being transgender isn’t the same thing as being lesbian, gay, or bisexual. Gender identity is about how you identify as male, female, both, or none of these. Being lesbian, gay, bisexual, or straight describes emotional and sexual attraction to others, the person who you’re attracted to and who you feel drawn to romantically, emotionally, and sexually. The LGB community is not seeking surgery or hormone treatments. They love the same gender/sex; they don’t want to be a different gender. But it isn’t known that there is a lack of understanding among each of the L G B T I Q communities as a whole as well.

I admit I have started to feel slightly sour that most posts I make about this particular time and issue need to at least have two paragraphs explaining what this time, these days, and events mean. I am serious that as I am writing this my chest is tight and I have tears in my eyes. It is hard as an advocate to try to balance the use of your voice, often the most powerful tool I have in my arsenal, when it is honestly tired, angry, and sad and you are trying to pursue a “normalized” life as a societal minority within a career, balancing being a single parent, a relationship, etc. I never was very vocal before I came out because I did not have the same barriers as a “white man” vs a “queer woman”. I needed to learn to communicate publicly, assertively, and honestly for the rights and needs of myself and others like me. Speaking up is at the root of all social change and when you are a single minority person you sure as hell stand out.

You find yourself labeled as a difficult person, avoided professionally and socially, put in the too-hard basket, told you to need to hold back more, and called an angry “tranny” or many other labels. The best way to help understand the frustration is it feels like we aren’t progressing further because we are still educating people on the same things over my last 8 years of being out as a transgender woman. Also while pursuing this “normalized” life and standing up using my voice I take that risk to create a wedge between myself and a community I want to speak for. I know I do not speak for myself alone as an advocate but as “Mama Mish” I put my own issues aside and speak for the youth I have met over the years, the parents of those youth, the unemployed mid-career transgender people who now find themselves now unemployed post-transition, the parents who transitioned and now trying to navigate this social change, the transgender person who is in the midst of a divorce where their trans identity is used by the other spouse as evidence that the trans person is an unfit parent or even a danger to the children, the older generations who have finally left the workforce and not as afraid to be themselves, the list goes on.

It stands out to me that Trans Awareness Week in Australia falls at the same time as the statistics, quality, and integrity report was released to the public on 15 November 2017 for the Australian marriage law postal survey. Further on 9 December 2017, the right to marry in Australia was no longer determined by sex or gender. Based on conversations I have had in most workplaces most Australians think that now we have marriage equality, LGBTIQ+ people’s rights are fully respected. But they don’t realize, most states and territories imposed additional requirements for gender recognition of transgender people, requiring the person to undergo sexual reassignment surgery and, in jurisdictions until 2018, to divorce if married. The legalization of same-sex marriage in 2017 had the effect of removing the requirement to divorce if one was already married. This took effect on 9 December 2018, a year after marriage equality here in Australia for same-sex attracted people, unless the state or territory government has already removed this requirement beforehand, part of the reason why celebrating the Australian marriage law postal survey is not exactly a positive experience for many of us in the gender diverse communities. 

Some of the biggest battles we still face here in Australia as transgender people are Religious Discrimination Bills allowing direct discrimination on the basis of religious belief or activity organizations or organizations such as Binary whose main goal is to affirm the “fact” that gender is binary and protect our children from the “LGBTI agenda”. Recently Senator Claire Chandler has announced she will be introducing a private members bill to get “sex” reintroduced into the Sex Discrimination Act, the definitions of male and female were removed in 2013 to make it more inclusive. Transgender as of May 2019 will no longer be classified as a mental and behavioral disorder, with some nations having until January 2022 to put the changes in place, under the World Health Organization’s global manual of diagnoses. Even the federal Fair Work Act does not provide protection on the basis of gender identity or intersex status. Only under federal laws and ACT, South Australian and Tasmanian laws are intersex statuses and non-binary gender identity explicitly protected from discrimination, recent proposed changes were voted against in an amendment to the Fair Work Act that would have protected transgender and intersex persons from discrimination at the workplace as part of the Respect@Work package.

The global COVID-19 pandemic has added even further pressure and complexities for the wider transgender community. During this time, many transgender people have been unable to provide in-person support to one another financially, emotionally, and physically. Plus globally we have seen an escalation in legislation that targets transgender, gender diverse, and non-binary people with such things as legislative anti-trans bills using biology, not identity, to determine bathroom usage, banning sports involvement, attempts to limit access to health care sends a very specific message to the trans community that we are not welcome. 

According to the website TGEU (Transgender Europe e.V.) TDoR 2021 data shows that:

  • 375 trans and gender-diverse people were murdered, 7% more than in the TMM update 2020;
  • Cases from Greece, Kazakhstan, and Malawi were reported for the first time;
  • 96% of those murdered globally were trans women or transfeminine people;
  • 58% of murdered trans people whose occupation is known were sex workers;
  • Murders of trans people in the United States have doubled from last year; people of colour make up 89% of the 53 trans people murdered;
  • 43% of the trans people murdered in Europe were migrants;
  • 36% of the murders took place on the street and 24% in their own residence;
  • The average age of those murdered is 30 years old; the youngest being 13 years old and the oldest 68 years old.

The majority of the data was collected from countries with an established network of trans and LGBTIQ+ organizations that conduct the monitoring. In most countries, data is not systematically collected. Most cases continue to go unreported and, when reported, receive very little attention. This is why many transgender people I have met over the years still feel the pressure of hiding their transgender identity for fear of discrimination and violence which can be a damaging experience and increase feelings of isolation, stigma, and shame for transgender people. Standing out as a transgender person can make someone a target for humiliation, discrimination, or violence daily.

Please take part by reaching out to a transgender friend and by sending your support during this difficult time. This is a time that transgender activists/advocates need to try and rally the wider LGB and heterosexual communities to help raise awareness of these barriers and challenges before the numbers get even worse. The marriage equality campaign is over and we need to finally highlight the fact that gender-diverse groups here in Australia were targeted by the “No Campaign”. We must use this as an opportunity to strongly recommit to transgender inclusion at all levels of our work, providing support to people who are transgender and advocating for protections at all levels of government, workplaces, schools, etc.

Don’t wish me “Happy Trans Awareness Week”. The truth is I am lonely being the only transgender person in most workplaces. I am sad by the laughter or violence in stores and cafes or on public transport for just living my life. I am angry to see numbers rising because people feel they have the right to destroy us in the most brutal ways possible because they see us as “less than”. I am sad to see the lack of change and support and understanding of the things shared above as the murder rates rise year on year, while the most we are able to do is keep educating on the same “101” principles of sexual diversity and gender diversity and avoid being labeled an angry “tranny” for speaking up.

The AFL’s gender diversity policy remains an apprehensive work in progress

The inclusion of transgender athletes in Australian sports leagues is an issue that sporting bodies are only just coming to terms with.

In recent months, the Australian Human Rights Commission, in partnership with Sport Australia, has been working on national gender diversity guidelines, with sporting bodies awaiting their recommendations.

However, the Australian Football League (AFL), has recently announced its own Gender Diversity Policy, which is limited to transgender and non-binary athletes (but doesn’t include intersex athletes). Since its release, the policy has prompted many questions about why the AFL proposed it and how it envisages implementing the new rules.

Lack of consistency across sports

Guidelines for trans and gender diverse (TGD) athletes have existed in international sporting bodies for years. The International Olympic Committee, for instance, has allowed TGD athletes to compete since 2003. In 2015, it decided that sex reassignment surgery would no longer be required and halved the transition period prior to athletic competition to 12 months.

Other elite-level sporting bodies also have transgender protocols in place, most of which allow male-to-female athletes to compete in sports, either on the basis of sex-reassignment surgery or hormone-based transition. Female-to-male athletes face fewer constraints, as it is assumed they have no potential for competitive advantage.

Australia has lagged behind when it comes to accommodating TGD athletes. The impetus for change came last year when a transgender footballer, Hannah Mouncey, applied for entry into the AFL Women’s League (AFLW) draft and was denied.


Read more: By excluding Hannah Mouncey, the AFL’s inclusion policy has failed a key test


Mouncey, a former elite-level men’s handball player, was ruled ineligible according to Section 72(1) of the 2010 Victorian Equal Opportunity Act, which provides an exemption for excluding athletes from sporting activities if their “strength, stamina or physique” is relevant.

According to the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission:

The purpose of this exception is to ensure players do not have an unfair competitive advantage in single-sex competitions.

Surprisingly, Mouncey was permitted to keep playing at lower levels of competition. In fact, transgender, non-binary and intersex athletes have long been included in community-level AFL with little fuss. In Sydney, for example, the Newtown Breakaways AFL club has provided a welcoming environment for gender diverse women.

But the AFL’s decision seemed contradictory, as well. Mouncey was deemed “likely” to have an athletic advantage over other female athletes, but that only mattered in an elite competition involving remuneration.

Body surveillance and performance evidence

Because the AFL’s policy claims to meet the “strength, stamina or physique” exemption under the VEOA, it is incumbent on the league to produce corroborating evidence.

According to the policy, a baseline requirement for AFLW athletes is that they demonstrate a level of testosterone below five nanomoles (nmols) over the previous 24 months.

It is unclear how the AFL arrived at these specifications. Most likely, the league drew on the IOC’s policy, which currently limits female athletes to 10 nanomoles of testosterone over the past 12 months, and is set to lower that to five nanomoles by the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

The IOC’s policy has been framed on the basis of medical and scientific opinion within the organisation, rather than substantive research. This is part of a wider problem: there is no recognised body of scholarship about the performance characteristics of TGD athletes. There is apprehension within sport that they may have advantages over cis-gender athletes, but this has not been properly measured or validated.

Another problem with the AFL’s new policy is that the burden of proof is also left to athletes. In addition to the testosterone testing, the league mandates two years of physical and performance data, including:

  • height
  • weight
  • bench press (one rep max and/or three rep max)
  • squat (one rep max and/or three rep max)
  • 20m sprint time
  • vertical jump
  • match raw GPS data (sample of three Australian Rules Football matches if available)
  • 2 kilometre run time

The AFL acknowledges these data may not have been collected by all transgender athletes over the past 24 months.

Yet, paradoxically, the league also claims these data provide a robust measure of evaluating transgender athletes, and that comparisons with cis-gender athletes over a two-year period are entirely feasible.

A more scientific approach would be a prospective study, funded by the AFL (with independent researchers), which could also provide new research on the subject.

Steps toward a possible solution

In mid-August, the AFL invited athletes and advocates from the transgender community to a discussion about its proposed Gender Diversity Policy. Michelle Sheppard, a workplace diversity consultant (and transgender woman), facilitated the session. She later wroteenthusiastically that:

…the policy presented was an early draft and needs much work still but the feedback we gave was well received by the AFL’s representatives.

So Sheppard was surprised that the final version of the policy was released two weeks later, seemingly unchanged.

Last week, Sheppard met with the AFL one-on-one to ask questions. She had received feedback from some transgender athletes that they simply did not have the athletic performance data the AFL was seeking for the past 24 months, and feared being left out.


Read more: Explainer: the difference between being transgender and doing drag


Sheppard said she was assured by the AFL that it would accept less data from athletes without 24 months of record-keeping – a sign the league wants to find solutions rather than stymie applicants with hurdles.

However, according to Dale Sheridan, a lawyer and transgender woman, ongoing surveillance of transgender athletes in the AFLW is likely to stoke anxieties. In an email to me she asserted:

The AFL can review a decision at any time, which provides no certainty for TGD trans players if … they are deemed ‘too good’. How can one take the field and give their best with the threat of a decision review constantly hanging over their head?

Sheppard told me she is keen to liaise with the AFL on the policy, but the league’s decision makers will need to be receptive to input from those with lived experience of transitioning, as well as endocrinologists who specialise in transgender health.

After all, she says, the AFLW impacts how the public see transgender people. The Gender Diversity Policy says that discrimination will not be tolerated and that the intention is to support gender diverse players in a safe and inclusive environment.

But the focus on ongoing surveillance and testing may result in some being made to feel they are infringing – unfairly – on cis-gender space.

 

 

Original post:

https://theconversation.com/the-afls-gender-diversity-policy-remains-an-apprehensive-work-in-progress-102904

Patience and respect in AFL talks key to progress for trans footballers Michelle Sheppard

When working with the AFL, it is important to understand what you’re dealing with. There is 122 years of culture in a country whose identity has been shaped by organised sport, binary male-female environments with a lot of uncertainty and very little education on LGBTIQ+ lived experiences.

When I migrated to Australia 16 years ago I remember reading an article that stated “organised sport has killed organised religion in Australia”. I learned early on that you must find a team to barrack for, and that business deals could be made over a pint and a pie.

This was fine when I was presenting as a middle class, Caucasian, heterosexual, married, masculine-presenting father of two daughters. When I transitioned five years ago, it wasn’t something I wanted to think about. I felt ashamed.

In 2013 I learned quickly that the transgender community wanted to remain hidden and over the course of the past five years I lost many things – my career and relationships with friends and family.

When it comes to transgender issues, I am not a doctor. I speak of my own lived experiences and through the many other transgender people I have met and interviewed over the years on radio and television. The conversation is complicated for everyone.

Trans footballers show strength to play despite persistent prejudices
Emily Rowe
Read more
Last week, I was asked to be a facilitator for a discussion around “transgender and gender diverse” sports inclusion policy at the AFL. Opportunities to come to the “big table” for discussions are such a rarity, it was an honour to have the chance to represent my community in this way.

We brought together some of the best representatives from around Australia who understand the weight of the situation with a focus on the long game for our community.

The policy presented was an early draft and needs much work still but the feedback we gave was well received by the AFL’s representatives. It was not easy, there was some hurt in the room, but we were allowed to give our true thoughts and concerns.

It was a chance to show respect for both sides and start a dialogue, which has been facilitated over the past year by the openness by AFL clubs to make positive change happen. It was a moment I am proud of.

I am often asked, “How can I be an ally?” My first response is to ask “What platform can you offer to allow discriminated voices to speak?” Tanya Hosch, a woman of colour and general manager at the AFL, did just that. She said she couldn’t understand what we are going through but could empathise with the discrimination and struggle by sharing her story with us and why she wanted to make sure this meeting happened for us.

The importance of this policy cannot be underestimated and it will be referenced going forward, even by other sporting groups.

Even though the public is aware of the draft, its contents remain confidential. But what I can say is there is a positive beginning and yes, the path forward is still long, but with the right allies in the right places, patience by both parties to listen instead of over talking each other, as well as mutual respect of each point of view, we can make more progress together than with aggression and finger pointing.

 

 

Orignal Post:

https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2018/aug/21/patience-and-respect-in-afl-talks-key-to-progress-for-trans-footballers

ESSENDON BOMBERS HEAR TRANS AND NON-BINARY ACTIVISTS ON POWER OF PRIDE IN SPORT

Footballer Hannah Mouncey, trans advocate Michelle Sheppard, and non-binary activist Joe Ball were invited to speak to the club about LGBTI inclusion.

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LAURENCE BARBER — JULY 18, 2018

A trio of trans and non-binary activists have spoken to players and staff at the Essendon Bombers football club about the impact of visibility in sport.

Trans footballer Hannah Mouncey, advocate Michelle Sheppard, and non-binary activist and Switchboard CEO Joe Ball were invited to speak to the club thanks to the organisation of Jason Tuazon-McCheyne, head of the Essendon LBTI supporters group the Purple Bombers.

The players listened to Mouncey, Sheppard and Ball speak about their lives, pronouns, and family life post-transition, The Age reported.
“Ninety per cent of people will be fantastic,” said Mouncey, who addressed the players along with another prominent trans person, Michelle Sheppard, and non-binary activist Joe Ball.

“The other 10 per cent will be really, really extreme in their hate. There’s two games this year where I was pretty glad to get off the field and not get shot, which sounds extreme…that is where the extreme end of the hate is.

“We don’t look to politicians for leadership. We don’t. We look to athletes and sporting teams and clubs.”

Mouncey was barred from entering the AFLW draft last year but has since found a place playing in VFLW.

She stressed that local teams are following suit after an increase in the prominence of pride games at the highest level.

“Otherwise it never would have happened.”

Mouncey’s simple point was to tell the players to treat trans people with the same respect they would anyone else.

“Don’t overthink it. You know how to be a good person. Don’t treat the trans people differently to anyone else.”

Sheppard discussed the struggles she had as a parent, saying, “My ex-wife was uncomfortable with [me] taking my kids to school, and my kids were desperate for me to come to school.”

“There’s a lot of people like myself who don’t see ourselves as either,” Ball told the players, saying to use “the pronouns they/them’’ for non-binary people.

“Really, I just want you to call me by my name. I just want to say, ‘Hey, Joe’. So don’t really focus on my pronouns, just think about who I am as a person.”

They explained that inclusion in sport could be an “antidote” against LGBTI people, and especially LGBTI youth, struggling with mental health and suicide.

Bombers player Brendon Goddard is the club’s fiercest champion for LGBTI inclusion, crediting Tuazon-McCheyne for the shift in his perspective.

“I was quite judgmental growing up,” Goddard said. “Being part of football opened up my eyes.”

“If [AFL clubs] can have a positive influence, why shouldn’t they?” he said. “I haven’t heard any other good argument on the other side of it.”

© Star Observer 2018 | For the latest in lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans* and intersex (LGBTI) news in Australia, be sure to visit starobserver.com.au daily. You can also read our latest magazines or Join us on our Facebook page and Twitter feed.

 

 

Original Post:

http://www.starobserver.com.au/news/national-news/victoria-news/essendon-bombers-purple-bombers-hannah-mouncey-trans-pride-sport/170533

 

Come hold my hand

I often wonder if people I’m not in an intimate relationship with pick up on my walls or discomfort at times. I am often told I have a commanding presence when I walk into a room which I’m sure could intimidate others around me more. I do use a lot of self deprecating humor these days to cope with a lot which often brings people closer. I don’t take offence to a lot of mistakes made with gender, and they hardly ever happen now, and I think I’ve developed a comfort level in my friends who have stayed in my life. Though mind you there are the occasional men that no matter how feminine you appear will still give you a handshake over a kiss on the cheek when greeting you and I have learned that it’s not that they are disrespecting me they just have their own issues around gender and sexuality from a world of toxic masculinity forced upon them. It is a strange thing to experience once you actually start living as the opposite gender for awhile. Mind you I do tend to opt for the handshake before a kiss with some people because usually the body language screams “I don’t know what to do!” and I keep it completely professional so there isn’t any confusion of my intentions. So me being in their space and having a drink with them and seen as a friend still is honestly a positive.

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It took me a lot of uming and ahing to build up the courage to go down to meet them. I am part of a social group that is involved in bring people together to be social at sporting events. Now the hard part with this is that I could not afford to go into the game itself because I needed to get my car fixed. I had to lie and say I was going to buy a ticket when in fact I couldn’t afford it and so I went to sit on stairs outside the stadium and watch the game on the big screen. One of the things that people don’t understand is financially coming out is difficult and I was feeling embarrassed. So I joined in for the laughs and socializing with everyone and excused myself. It was just too cold to stay there and I stayed until half time which I then decided to get up and walk to my car. I got so far and stopped and sat down on the stairs at the train station and watched the world pass around me and thought I  need to get out and i need to be social because all I was going to do was go home and be antsy while attempting to watch tv.

To most of my friends in this circle that i met up with at the casino I am still seen as this person who was a man for years and the husband of one of their girlfriend. Now living as a woman here I am hanging with the girls in a bar laughing and having a night together, they see it as gay and not exactly as gender identity. To some of them I am still Daniel and the discomfort on some of their faces was so obvious that I avoided contact with them other than a simple smile. Outside of all this I am Mama Mish who most women describe as a strong woman often seen as an inspiration and who they say they feel blessed to have in their lives. This can be overwhelming as well as apply so much more pressure to how I should act in difficult situations. Not many know that my self esteem is like a 3-4 out of 10 and most wouldn’t see that. I was told once:

“I think to me the reason you’re so inspiring is because you’re like the epitome of authenticity. I really admire your sense of self awareness. I wish I was as brave to be myself as you are. Hearing your podcasts and stories has opened my own awareness to some things within me.”

That’s pretty heavy and often I feel the pressure to hide any insecurities I may have. So for me usually when meeting up with my friends I focus on the group I will be around and the protection they offer. They would never see what happens when they aren’t by my side and why I often choose the side of being sober than indulging in alcohol with them and letting loose. I can’t. It’s just not safe and I do have to remain on guard unfortunately. Before as a man I never had to stress about my safety as much, it never honestly crossed my mind. Standing at 6′ 3″ and being broad shouldered with a face of thick 5 o’clock shadow and goatee I could look mean if I wanted to, which I would regularly wear a scowl on my face to keep people at a distance. Now I walk down the street and people slam into me or cut me off or act inappropriately.

So here I was out last night with friends for one of their birthdays and going to a casino. I showed up and was a bit on guard because I had only ever been here once before socially in a straight bar with friends. I had a less than pleasant night before I arrive and my friend S gave me a big hug and bought me a drink as I sat down. Now normally if I see people I know I engage in conversation right away but the looks from the uncomfortable ones were unwelcoming so I pushed back into the high back chair and closed my eyes for a second to breath. No they all were several drinks in and once i git my Martini I did drink it a bit fast and trying to join in to a few conversations. So about an hour in I did relax and left the worries of the world at the door and focused on being present.

Now I couldn’t find one of my other friends F, as she went out for a smoke on the balcony. I think I just had this false sense of security going out there as i didn’t think much of walking around crowds to go find her. As I walked through the revolving door and walked outside there was this group of about 5 men standing close and all starred at me. Now I have learned to be able to watch people from the corner of my eye without making eye contact or make it obvious I am looking at them. I could see one guy bent over laughing, another smacking his mate and the others were wither handing a beer or grabbing the other. I was a spectacle to them. shouting “what the fuck” or “look at this guy” followed by “you can’t be fucking serious” as I pretended to meerkat the room and walk quickly back through the doors. I did feel pretty shit and became very aware of my personal appearance in that moment. back to my chair I went to hide my head and S was standing there with a glass of Veuve Clicquot for me. Now I am going to be honest I say its ok I say no big deal they are the closed minded ones etc but I walked away with my tail between my legs hurt and embarrassed.

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I finished my glass and saw one of my other friends V who arrived later after having drinks with the birthday boy. V and I both always have respect for each other and we have known one another for several years so conversation is always there when we catch up. So after speaking for a bit and he stepped away to get a drink I had this shorter man come up to me and grab my hand and pull me close to him. If there are any men reading this I don’t care who the person is never grab their hand or wrist especially in a busy environment such as this. He grabbed my hand and got extremely close and was caught off guard by him approaching my personal space so quickly. I heard his mates laughing calling out to him. I took a step back as he walked back to them and they put their arm around him and they looked back at me laughing. I felt quite worse and grabbed my coat multiple times in an attempt to leave. Each time my friends would try handing me another drink and I declined and I was honestly too embarrassed to say what had happened up until that moment. I mean I wanted to be out and just enjoy dancing and listening to music and I was quickly realizing this was not a good space and I had to leave. So I grabbed my jacket and just waved to the entire crown that I was leaving and proceeded to leave. This was taken on the night as I was out.

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The cherry on this cake was as I walked through the gaming floor. Now last time I checked in the mirror I present very feminine. I am a large person but still I am not sure what it is that screams “This is a guy and you should address her as one”. I was feeling completely overwhelmed and close to tears at this stage and felt myself staring at the ground as I held my bag and jacket in my arm. A guy came up beside me and said “Hey mate, buddy wait up” and tried to touch my arm and I raised mine to dismiss his approach. I chose not to take a tram up the street to my car park as I didn’t want to be close to other people. I felt if I looked at anyone in the eyes I would burst into tears instantly. I walked slowly to my car and so much was racing through my mind. Thoughts of why? Why did I HAVE to transition? Why can’t I be able to just go to a public place with friends without feeling like this? How have I been able to appear so strong but when faced with this situation have I become so weak? Am I being weak? I wanted to be held so bad, told it was going to be okay. I felt the tears fighting to come out as I walked further to the quiet place I parked my car and as soon as I sat in my seat and closed the door I couldn’t fight them any further and just let the waterfall flow.

I have become strong as Mama Mish, I have found my peace with my past with my step-father whose ashes sit in my living room and whose medallion I wear, I have learned to to integrate who I was as Daniel into who I am as Michelle with great success, I fought back using resilience that is in my families blood to rise back from the ashes of loss and I am still rising, I comfort those in need when and where I can, but as Michelle I am still learning and I am a woman with a soft heart that has been broken several times with displays of damage on it and I unfortunately carry it on my sleeve. So if you are reading this and you can identify toxic masculinity please remember what I am is not a joke. What I am going through isn’t for kicks or for pleasure. This is my reality and I am doing the best I can with it. If you choose to participate and joke with your mates about it just remember I have bigger balls than you in that moment for living my truth than you do standing there with that beer in your hand laughing.

 

 

MICHELLE SHEPPARD URGES EVERYONE TO SIT DOWN AND LISTEN – Surf Coast Times

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TRANS woman and radio personality Michelle Sheppard has stressed the need for people to listen to each other in a speech at the Surf Coast Shire’s IDAHOBIT (the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, Intersexism and Transphobia) ceremony.

Speaking at the council chambers in Torquay on May 17, Ms Sheppard said everyone was so worried about difference, and only saw each other on the surface.

“We sometimes don’t even get the chance, we keep on going because we’re in this fast-paced world, and that’s what bothers me.

“We don’t sit down and take the time to listen – we speak and we judge before we listen, and unfortunately, that’s how the situation with the world is at the moment.”

In that spirit, she said people that wanted to be allies of the LGBT community should try to be inclusive.

“It’s more than just gay versus lesbian, or LGBT versus straight, it’s about being an ally for each other.

“So my message about sitting down and listening to each other is not about straights listening to the rest of the rainbow community, it’s about all of us listening to each other.”

Ms Sheppard said there was still a long way to go towards full acceptance for transgender women in society.

“Just because you see marriage equality doesn’t mean things are getting better.

“We need more than just corporate spaces in employment – we need the local fish and chip shop, we need the local Coles and Safeways and everything like that, we need more representation in those spaces.

“We need to see the average me as the checkout chick checking out your groceries, because the media is representing me as a trans woman as a prostitute, as a drug dealer, dealing drugs and going to prison… there’s nothing positive in media for a transgender woman.

“Men see me as a man in a dress, and so do a lot of the women. But at the end of the day, I’m no different – I’m just a parent, I pay my taxes, I pay my mortgage, I go to work and I just try to get through this crazy mess that the rest of you are doing, and you can’t communicate that to anyone, because nobody wants to listen.”

originally published:
https://freelocalnews.com.au/surfcoasttimes/news/michelle-sheppard-urges-everyone-to-sit-down-and-listen/

International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia 2018 – Wyndham City, Victoria

I asked to speak for 15 minutes of IDAHOBIT Day as well as raise the Transgender Flag. I spoke about storytelling and the importance of sitting down and LISTENING to one another whether you’re gay or straight and we as the LGBTIQ community need to be better allies toward each other. https://youtu.be/WizwdkZIE9s

Every year the global community of sexual and gender minorities identifies one specific focus issue for the celebrations around May 17th. This year? If you are American then you will know it as “Alliances for Solidarity” or as we prefer to say it is Australia “WE STAND WITH OUR LGBTIQ+ MATES”

For those of you who aren’t part of the LGBTQ+ community, it  has a lot of labels. Most people probably know the five most commonly used to describe the community: lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer or questioning. But often times we don’t understand one another very well and often times there is a lack of support and finger pointing. So I would like to pull the Alliance of Solidarity theme this year a little wider as and say this needs to be applied on a wider scale to all identities LGBTIQ+ and beyond.

I remember once sitting with a colleague when I was struggling to find work. I was clinging to my box of tissues and frustrated by my current situation and this word stood out to me from my tissue box, Nallawilli.

Nallawilli‘ is a First Nation word from the Darug Nation meaning to “sit down and listen to one another”. So I made this my mission.

It struck me at that moment what we all need to learn do is to “sit down and listen to one another” just a little bit more. Communication is the most important skill in life. You spend years learning how to read and write, and years learning how to speak. But what about listening?

We are taught from a young age to speak and when we listen it is usually a lot less and we often make mistakes and misinterpret meaning and this  flows to so many communities.

We live in a world where women are encouraged to hate themselves. There are people who are unhappy with their body shape, weight, stretch marks, etc and this is independent of gender. But we don’t try to understand those pressures.

If you’re bisexual you’re told you don’t exist.

If you’re pansexual you’re told you just want to feel like a “special snowflake”.

If you’re asexual you’re told that you just haven’t found “the one” and that you’re just prude.

We all subscribe to the oppression Olympics

But it also comes back from us as Trans people and we fail to I think cis people could also experience body dysphoria, as long as it’s not related to feeling like the wrong gender.

So from here take the time everyone to try and have a bit more patience, try and sit down and LISTEN to one another and maybe we can start the wheels of change moving in a better direction.

I Thought You Were the Most Beautiful Person in the World.

I thought she was the most beautiful person in the world, an I tell ya what we made two more of the most beautiful people and I couldn’t be prouder of them. Those of us who are single parents seem to cling to one another and listen to each others stories of betrayal and pain and listening to the ongoing gender wars reminds me of the comic strip “Spy vs. Spy” from MAD magazine. We were a typical couple like most out there in how we were battling the ongoing gender wars of the household chores. I think the mental load of household financial responsibilities did wear us both down not just her. Whatever it was, we were both stubborn in our own ways and it didn’t last and we have gone our own ways. BUT despite me not folding the towels correctly or stacking the dishwasher the wrong way, I often wonder if my children, our children I mean, or their children know their parents did love one another at one point? While I had been pondering this since this past weekend I went to the family home to spend time with my children and my oldest has been working on scrap booking. I was surprised to see she received the creative genes from both her mother and me, and a lot of my sentimental streak. I found that she has taken old photos of mine from my bucket in the closet that I hold all my memories in and created a book with our pictures.

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It made me laugh and gave me the feels a bit more.

 

Now I know my ex doesn’t do touchy feelly and that is fine, for me this is more about my daughters and our relationship. I also know she won’t read this but I want my daughters to see and know about the love that their mother and I used to share. I do have regrets at times. Those are when i see them from a distance in photos and I am not there with them laughing. I regret that I was the one to walk out the door and gave up. I regret that I wasn’t brave enough to come out properly before I was outed by others. But I never ever regret having them. I never regret the love and special times I shared with their mother (no matter how bat shit crazy she has made me. I am well aware that one of my flaws is being a sentimental sap and have saved everything from our relationship together. hell i still have my christening outfit from when I was a baby. There is a box with emails we saved from the early days, pictures we took throughout our relationship, letters she sent me before I moved to Australia to remind me of the love she had for me and how she was excited and waiting the day for me to arrive into Australia.

See I loved OUR story.

If the girls ask what will I tell them? Not sure. But it would be something like this.

Well we met one day while I was at work. I was bored and figured out how to get through the firewall on my work computer in order to chat on the old IRC (Internet relay chat) boards to kill time. And I bumped into this woman when I least expected it. I had not been going out much in the months leading up to us meeting and finalized my divorce to my first wife a year earlier.

I remember that day well.

I was at work and she was at a mates house playing with their new internet connection. I said “So how are things down under…” and it went from there. We spoke for 13 hours that day in a mix of  communication between phone calls and chatting on the computer. We spoke everyday. I still have the voice recordings she sent me one day one i came into work “Good morning its me just to say hi…you’ve got a lot of emails to get through”

I did everyday, and she was the most beautiful person in my world. I listened to them every morning.

We both were fans of the TV Show ‘Friends’ and at that time the delay in broadcast was rather ridiculous and she was a whole season behind me. So when it started on my end I remember rigging up my TV and web camera from my apartment in the US so she could watch TV with me. As time went on I remember working during the day and streamed her webcam on my computer so I could watch her sleep and I guess feel closer to her despite being 16,000 kms away from her. I remembered receiving letters from her written with multicolored textures, a blue Hawaiian shirt with her perfume on it, letters that were a puzzle and I had to put them together in order to read them. She had been one of the few people who had come into my life and saw me for me. I remember confessing at one in the morning that I was struggling with some kind of “gender dressing up thing” that I was wanting to put behind me and she said that’s fine, i really really wanted it to go away. I felt free and finally accepted for me. She booked a trip to see me in the US for thanksgiving and the build up and anticipation to see each other physically and to finally touch one another. I remember seeing her through the entire crowd, the benefits of being over 6 feet tall. I was a shit and pretended I didn’t see her and she knew it and her smile just lit me up when she finally held me. Oh my god I was standing there with her and kept looking at her in amazement, she was the most beautiful woman.

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She was there seeing my life and despite the dysfunction it contained she saw me for me. We took a trip to Chicago and got away from everything and we laughed so much, especially when I took this superman leap in the air and landed on the hardest damn mattress that knocked the snot out of my head. I remember a day walking he city hand in hand and how much she beamed. She was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen on that foggy Chicago morning. The best turtle fudge ever, which we could never find its equal. A wall of various popcorn flavors that were under a Ferris Wheel. All on Navy Pier. She spent the rest of the holiday with me and my family and faux canned cranberry sauce. She still loved me after that.

I remember her holding me so tightly when I arrived in Australia 16 years ago and the first thing I heard in the car was the song “Murder on the Dance Floor”. This. This is the love I want our girls to see and hear, that their parents came together out of undying love for one another. They were made from the love we had for one another. It was seen in the struggles we had to have them and I remember seeing their mother in the hospital bed after the surgery she had just so we could have them. I remember looking at her and stroking her brow and hairline, and seeing she was the most beautiful person in my world.

I guess I never want them to know about the struggles we had. I want them to know I miss always wanting to be with their mother telling each other everything that happened in our day. I miss waking up to them everyday. Not the struggles I had. That I had my own loneliness and isolation coming here. The struggles with gender identity. The fact that their mother and I, we just lost it. It died. How do you tell them that you are sorry. Sorry for neglecting their mother physically and mentally, and that “I’m sorry that you don’t love me anymore”? I want them to know because of that love there is much less criticism in our lives. No promising anything you can’t give. Only messages of a gratitude and recognition because of feelings once shared.

What can I say to others going through this? It’s difficult.

Try to remember that at one moment in your life that person you’re so angry at was the most beautiful person in your world. Know in your heart that your kids now take that title and deserve all that love you once wanted to give your ex. They need to know throughout the years, we created the most beautiful memories and that they are the best memories you created in your life.  I hope to walk with them one day tracing our steps along the bay on the North Shore of Lake Superior where their mother and I once walked together. So to me those two little girls were love, and still are our love despite my heart shattering into a million pieces from losing the person who was once the most beautiful person in my world.

 

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Ep. 18 – Mama F****in’ Mish!

The Gender Agenda

In the last post-watershed episode before moving to an 8pm slot, The Gender Agenda’s Miranda celebrates her fleeting on-air use of a certain F-word with strong, silent man of radio Rowan, new intern Robin, and special guest Michelle Sheppard in tow. Also, Mama Mish talks to us about her Trans POV podcast, her other work at Joy, representation, building bridges outside of the community, and her not-so-bright dog that she loves anyway. Featuring music from Blayke Percival, Miss Blanks, Shawnee, Angel Haze, Shea Diamond, Jo Neugebauer, and InfraGhosts.

 

 

Original Post:

https://joy.org.au/thegenderagenda/2018/04/05/ep-18-mama-fin-mish/

Ways In or Ways Out

Since coming out four and a half years ago I often like to think back on feelings and thoughts I had when struggling with the idea that my life may potentially change and it was such an unknown. I have often been asked what did it feel like? How did you know?

Then its like how do I describe this?

So I often liked to think of a door. It is a door you never open and avoid going near. Often I found I would mentally imagine locking it with chains hoping it could never be opened and maybe it would be covered over never to be found.

Why a door? Doors are parts of structures which may be opened or closed in order to control and restrict access. BUT a door may also metaphorically refer to portals and other non-physical entrances. In literature, doors often represent choices or outcomes. In this case it symbolizes the transition and passageway from one place to another in my life.

What is behind that door? This is the door many of us never open, it is the potential “maybe” or “what if” in our life. I was afraid of what I couldn’t see in life and restricted myself in so many ways. I was taught to fear everything in life because everything was bad. I believed as we grow and new challenges face us we need to reflect of those lessons learned and we “see” the next door to start the next lesson or the next stages of our lives.

The doors never really close right away when we go through them and they remain open as long as we need but eventually they do need to close. We go through many challenges in our lives and when we are ready we make that step forward through there. Well I struggled when that door appeared. I was about 4 or 5 and each time I wanted to open it or go near it I was told no and that was one of the worst doors ever. It always made me curious because I wanted to open it so badly and my whole body ached to but I couldn’t. In a way it was like side rooms opened up that connected to that next room but they opened easily and I went those ways but the door to the previous room never closed. I would revisit where I came from sometimes being lost and not recognizing this previous space as if I was in a loop emotionally and blinded by what I must do to grow. This happened for 36 years.

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So I was never growing and was stuck in the same place essentially but thinking I was growing. Hiding my femininity or changing my surname, or getting married was like repainting the same room over and over.

That door for me, as I imagined, was my female life and self behind that door. Sometimes I would mentally go to it and sit in front of it with my back facing and talk through the door when things became tough. Even though she was trapped and hidden her voice brought me comfort but I was ashamed to speak to her face to face or tell anyone else about that door, so I hide it and covered it up. I would put chains across the handles and keep it closed. Occasionally in my life I would open the door just enough when no one was looking to sneak a peek inside and speak to her and find comfort in her presence. Eventually she found a way to sneak into the room with me. While there with her I found I was getting lost in a world of pleasant personal thoughts ignoring the world of worries I had, judgments by family and friends, and ongoing fears. Allowing myself to sit with her through a cracked door or in the room with me it robbed my attention from the present moment. She would bring me comfort and take away the pain that I felt. But each time she left I would put another chain on hoping it could never be opened again.

I remember moments through the years when I felt like I was preparing to open the door and go through it. I cleaning around it. and try to close all the side doors I opened. It was never successful and it made more of a mess around me.

stephanie-flores-483863-unsplashLooking around me I didn’t realize that things were falling apart . But I remember when she forced her self back into my room. I was tired. It was like a series of bullets came through the walls and my body dropped and couldn’t go on. She opened started to clear the doorway for me. She started to calm me and prepare the door to be opened and it was like she knew what needed to be down even though I resisted.

I remember when people said to me it was like Daniel died. Some say that Michelle killed Daniel and took his place. I like to think that it was Michelle that saved Daniel.

Daniel became tired and weak and unwell and was unable to open the door himself. She was able to hold him and help him rest and basically said its okay i’ll take it from here. I do feel the more I do as Michelle the need to have Daniel there becomes less and less relevant. I think in some ways I feel guilty and now instead of going forward through a door to live I hold myself back by not closing that previous door. The thought of not having a reference to Daniel anymore does bring me sadness because at some point he cannot continue this journey.

There are these moments recently when I knew HOW I identified before and how I would react to situations before but when I look in the mirror and stare at my reflection I often see something else and questioned myself, repeatedly because I feel this need to hold on to all of me but I know I can’t forever.

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See going through Transition is a difficult and endless process, it doesn’t really end and we forget that the rest of society around us going through their own form of transitions as well. So for me this is the feelings I felt. Now that I have opened up myself to who I was meant to be the doors become more solid and each room I only see briefly as i move through them at a rapid pace like i am playing catch up.

Now when making the decision to pursue gender transition in our lives it can’t be taken lightly because being trans is what you are when you’ve exhausted every other option. There are different types of transgender people coming from many different backgrounds with a variety of stories to tell.

Mine is only one of thousands.

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