Backstories is a multi-sited storytelling festival located in backyards across Perth and regional Western Australia. In 2021, Backstories featured locations in Margaret River, South Fremantle, Midland, Quinns Rocks and more.
Backstories 2021 was made possible with funding from Lotterywest, Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries and the Centre for Stories Founders Circle.
This story was collected at our Subiaco backyard. It features Stevie Lane, talking about their journey coming to terms with who they are, and the year of physical, emotional and mental healing that was 2020.
Copyright © 2021 Stevie Lane.
This story and corresponding images have been licensed to the Centre for Stories by the Storyteller. For reproduction and distribution of this story/image please contact the Centre for Stories.
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I remember the first time I saw someone that looked like me. It was during a movie and it was when I was 18 years old. The movie was about a guy who’d just moved to a new small town in America, and he was just getting to know himself and the people around him, making new friends, having fun, and just being young and youthful. Unfortunately, his life came to a very short end and he was brutally sexually assaulted and murdered in the last scene of the movie. Now, this was something that I really struggled with because after not seeing anyone like me for 18 years, I now suddenly saw representation and it wasn’t the kind of representation that looked good for me. So safe to say that I was ready to put that beside me and for at least another 18 years sort of not look at who I was as a person.
So I guess growing up for me, I grew up in downtown in down south, down in Albany, Western Australia. It was a pretty normal, I guess, upbringing, if you could say. I have an older sister. My mom was working in admin. My dad was a bus driver, and we lived a pretty sort of normal life, very sort of small town kind of life, and it was, yeah, we didn’t have a lot, but we sort of made do with a lot of what we had. And if you look at the photo album of my childhood growing up, you’ll see a few things. Firstly, you’ll see the lovely mullet that I had growing up. Thanks, mom.
Secondly, you’ll see the lovely homemade outfits that my mom used to make as well. Again, thank you. If you can picture me and my sister in sort of long length, frilly bathers, completely floral, safe to say we were quite popular. And thirdly, there was me, my face, and it was very bright and bubbly in my younger years. And slowly as the years progressed, you could see that bright and bubbly face slowly turn into a frown. And I often look back at those photos and see, sort of a real lost energy there. And there were quite a few reasons, I guess for that reasons that I couldn’t quite understand at the time. But I guess as I was getting older, and particularly as I was getting into my younger sort of teenage years, I felt like something wasn’t quite right. Something was quite different. And again, it took me many years to get to a point where I could really understand what that meant.
But as I was getting into sort of 12 and 13, I could feel myself and hormones racing, things were starting to change and people were making new relationships, new friendships, getting to know who they liked and who liked them and their own sense of self and being. And I just felt completely like I didn’t fit. And I think it’s safe to say that during those years was the beginning of a really lifelong struggle for me with my mental health, but also with my sense of self in the world. So there were many times throughout my teenage years where I just felt like I didn’t connect to those around me, and I really didn’t feel like I wanted to be here. I felt completely hollow and felt completely like I wasn’t meant for this world. And it’s a really difficult thing to struggle with. And I know for many people can probably relate the idea of not feeling like you’re a part of the world around you or not feeling like you can connect with other people in that way.
And for me, it was just, I felt completely hopeless. And that’s really what I could see in those photos. And when I look back today at those photos, I can still see that. So realistically what was happening with me was that, my gender and my sexuality was something that I couldn’t quite figure out. I knew I was starting to be attracted to people, I guess, of the same gender at the time. And my own internal sense of self was not something that I could quite grapple with where everyone was saying that you had to either be a boy or a girl and you had to typically, for me, do feminine things and wear jewelry and makeup. It’s just not something that I really connected with. And it took me a really long time, well into my twenties and up until a few years ago, really, to actually be able to find the words and the language to describe what my experience actually meant and how I felt, and to be proud and happy with that as well.
And unfortunately, it took until I got to my lowest point, and that was a few years ago. And it really got to the point where again, I guess, again, describing what I was describing before, when I first started feeling that way when I was 12 or 13, continued up until a few years ago when I got to the point where I just couldn’t take it anymore. And I really was at that point of thinking, okay, this is it. There’s really nothing worth living for, and I do need to end my life because there’s no place for me here in this world. This world just really isn’t made for me. And fortunately, I got to the other side of that, and I did make it to the other side, and I was able to get help. And I think the reason I was able to get help was because I did hit that rock bottom.
And I did feel that sense of, well, things really can’t get much worse than this, so if they can’t get much worse, then I might as well try and do what makes me happy and not try to live for what other people think and feel and based on other people’s expectations of who I should be. And so I remember the conversation still that I had with my mom. I had a big notebook filled with notes of things to say to her because I couldn’t quite figure out the words to describe how I was feeling and how I could accurately portray that to her. She’s a very sort of hard woman and very working class, very sort of country gal. And this is not really within her realm of things that she quite understands. So the very idea of me being queer, particularly with me being trans, is I guess kind of a new concept, generally speaking.
But the fact that I’m non-binary as well was something that I think was really difficult for her to really kind of understand. And so that was a really difficult conversation that I had to have with my mom. And I still remember what she said to me when I first told her that I was thinking about taking the next steps to transitioning and to being myself. And that was, look, it’s been turmoil, but you’ve pushed through so full steam ahead. And that kind of really sums up my mom and how she’s with things like this. She’s a very, like I said, a very hard woman. But when it comes down to it, she really is quite supportive. And as long as I’m happy being myself, she really is there for me. And so I started my journey into my transition, my physical transition to become who I felt like I was on the outside.
And it was, I guess a bit of its own struggle, to say the least. There’s a lot of different barriers that comes, when it comes to transitioning. There’s so many different psych appointments that you have to go to, so many health professionals that you have to see. And basically, I spent a lot of money and a lot of time telling people and convincing people who I am, which seems like a bit redundant really. But eventually I got to the point where I was able to really follow through and go through with my physical transition. And I guess you could say when it comes to trans people and trans experiences, there’s no one experience that’s the same, not one from the next, everyone experiences something different. But there are some sort of common similarities when it comes to trans experiences. And fortunately one of the big ones is mental health.
As I mentioned, I did struggle quite a bit with my mental health, and that’s not because there’s anything inherently wrong with me. There’s nothing inherently wrong with trans, gender diverse people, but that’s more to do because of how we’re treated in the world and how the world doesn’t really make a space for us and doesn’t really see us as important enough to think of from the get go. It’s sort of more of an afterthought. And I read a study recently that said that up to 50% of trans people have attempted suicide at least once in their lives. And I know personally I was part of that statistic, and I just think if up to 50% of trans people have tried to attempt suicide at least once in their life, then we really need to be doing something about it. And when you think about that compared to the 3% of the general population, it really is a really big jump from what is the standard.
So I guess you could say when I walked into those hospital doors last year on February 20 to get gender affirmation surgery that I was beating the odds, I guess, of some kind, which is a really, again, ridiculous thing to say that for someone to be themself, they’re beating the odds. And that’s not to give myself a pat on the back and say, yes, I made it and other people didn’t because of course that that’s really just me saying it’s ridiculous that we should be holding that standard to trans people in the first place. The fact that it’s a success story that someone is alive is really ridiculous for any population. But as I sat there after the surgery and I did sort of after the surgery that I had, which was chest surgery, I remember watching that film again that I mentioned at the start of the story, the film about the man, and he was a trans man, and the story was called Boys Don’t Cry.
And I cried sitting there on my couch at home watching this story again, and it sort of had a whole new meaning to it because even though he died at the hands of discrimination and at the hands of others, I was still here today. And again, even though so many people have passed away, I think every trans story that comes to the forefront and every person that’s able to be themselves and get through these kind of situations and experiences despite the world being against them, it really is a triumph. And I can safely say that I am me and unapologetically. Thank you.
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