Zooming In

A Year of Healing

2020 impacted people in many different ways. For Stevie Lane, it was a year of healing.

Zooming In is a podcast that tells stories of 2020, but it’s not a COVID podcast. It’s about how life keeps going, even through a global pandemic.

 2020 impacted people in many different ways. For Stevie Lane, it was a year of healing.

This podcast collection was made possible with funding from Lotterywest.

Copyright © 2022 Stevie Lane.

This story and corresponding images have been licensed to the Centre for Stories by the Storytellers. For reproduction and distribution of this story/image please contact the Centre for Stories.

View Story Transcript

Danae: Welcome to Zooming In a podcast about the lives and feelings of regular people who are like you and me, people seeking connection and love, people who are just muddling along, trying to be human. I’m your host for this episode, Danae Gibson.

In 2020, the shock of COVID-19 shook the globe and even reached the remote capital city of Western Australia, the relatively safe and usually sleepy Perth. The COVID-19 lockdown experience has been many things to many people since then. For some, isolation was unbearable. For Stevie Lane, isolation was a chance to heal and connect with others. Stevie Lane is an advocate, an activist, and acutely aware of their privilege.

Stevie: So my name is Stevie Lane. I use they/them pronouns and I am a trans non-binary and queer person based in Boorloo, Western Australia on Whadjuk Noongar land. I advocate for the rights LGBTQIA+ people within Western Australia, throughout Australia and more broadly throughout the world. I believe that it’s really important for people to know that LGBTQIA+ people are important, are loved, are valued, are respected, and deserve to be treated equally with people around the world.

Danae: What does that mean?

Stevie: The acronym more? Okay. So the acronym is lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, asexual, and the plus represents the broad range of other identities that exist within the community. And advocating for these groups essentially means, you know, homophobia, biphobia, transphobia, interphobia, all still realities that we have in today’s society. So making sure that I’m not only standing up for my communities within the queer community, but also all the other communities that exist. And while I have experienced many different things, many different struggles and a lot of marginalisation, there are also, I acknowledge, a lot of people within the community that experience much more marginalisation than me. By that I mean people with particularly intersecting identities, people who are physically disabled, POC. They have very different experiences to me in terms of their trans experience or queer experience because they do or may experience that kind of double discrimination.

I am 30 years old, just. Yeah, I think 30 is hopefully going to be good years ‘cos I think I’m finally at a point in my life where I feel very comfortable with who I am. I think the twenties are notoriously sort of an interesting time for most people. But now that I’m at 30, I feel like I’m very comfortable within my identity, who I am, the people that I surround myself with and the support that I have from my community.

Danae: Stevie explains the acronym was not always accessible for a young Stevie.

Stevie: I think I knew like the very sort of bare minimum in terms of sexuality, but it wasn’t something that was very much in my world. I grew up in a small town, so I grew up in Albany, Western Australia. I guess I was very sheltered from that kind of life or that kind of exposure. So the only kind of exposure I really had to any kind of queer identity or queer community was what I saw in the media or what I saw on TV. And for the most part that was gay men. And so while I sort of saw that and felt some kind of connection to that, it also wasn’t my exact experience. And so I didn’t really know much more other than the very basics of sexuality. And even then I found it really difficult to directly relate to that consciously. It was sort of something that was always in the back of my mind, but something I kind of pushed back because it was not something that I really wanted to address or it’s not really something that I thought could apply to me.

Danae: Stevie was 18 before they saw trans representation in popular culture.

Stevie: My main exposure to any kind of trans or gender diversity, at least that I was consciously aware of was, was probably when I was an adult, so a young adult. It was probably, and the earliest memory I have is around that was the film “Boys Don’t Cry”. And if you can think of that being someone’s first experience of seeing someone like them in a film, where that person obviously goes through a lot of trauma and obviously the ending of the story is not a happy ending, you can imagine what kind of impact that might have on someone who might finally feel that they have finally found someone in their community or someone that they can relate to on screen.

I think that was definitely really harmful to not only not experience seeing myself growing up in terms of trans and gender diversity, but also just when I did finally see something it was just inherently pictured as bad. I think that took quite a hit, and which is why for a long time when I had any kind of feelings of difference or feeling, you know, different from my peers, I always attributed it to sexuality, which was going on at the same time. So there was those feelings of attraction to women, but then also those feelings of not feeling like I was a woman. But the sexuality I think took over for a period of time when I thought, “Well that must be what it is. I must just be a bit more masculine, but obviously I’m attracted to women so that’s why I’m experiencing these feelings.” And it wasn’t until I think I got to a point where I was okay with my sexuality that I was like, “Oh, okay, still not quite there. I still feel like there’s something missing.” And so that kind of took me on this whole additional exploration.

I think representation and media has definitely progressed in the years since I saw that movie when I was 18 years old. But I think there’s still a long way to go. Portrayals of trans people in the media is still very harmful. It still perpetuates these really harmful stereotypes about what a trans experience is and the diversity of trans experiences. When I think about my experience of being trans, I sort of think about the difficulties that I faced in deciding whether I would affirm my gender and deciding whether I would particularly medically affirm my gender. And I think that’s something that’s not really commonly portrayed in in the media. I think there’s often this kind of trope that trans people know exactly who they are from a really young age. They want to, you know, change everything medically, everything physically as soon as they can and that they know exactly who they are, and that’s just what it is.

Realistically, and I think if you actually start to look at people’s experiences and listen to what people have to say, going through any kind of bodily change, mental change, with that comes a lot of stress, and particularly of the unknown. How is my body going to change? How are my relationships going to change? How are my, you know, the perceptions of me by other people going to change and will I still belong in the communities that I’ve been a part of so long? A lot of trans people and myself experience that sense of grief when feeling like, “Okay, I’m not a part of those communities of women that I once was.” These are all things that come into play when we talk about trans experiences, which I don’t think people quite understand other than like, “Oh, you’re a man, you’re a woman, or you’re non-binary so you wanna transition and that’s what it is.”But there’s so much more to it than that. And, and in terms of physical body and physical change, like I know for myself I feel somewhat comfortable talking about that, but for many people they don’t feel comfortable talking about that. For many people, they aren’t out. For people who might be transitioning or affirming their gender to male or female, they might decide to do that and then not live openly and sort of, you know, describe that as something in every interaction that they go through. And that’s completely okay and completely valid. I think there’s so many different ways to be trans and I just think, you know, we’ve come so far and we still have so much further to go, but I think until we can get to that point where we see the diversity of trans experiences, we aren’t gonna be able to accurately portray them on screen. And as long as that’s not led by trans people, then we’re not gonna be able to get there either.

Danae: Stevie talks of where they see themselves reflected most accurately,

Stevie: Where I’ve definitely found community and where I’ve definitely been able to relate to people’s experiences the most is online. A lot of stuff on Instagram and on YouTube. Again, not every trans experience is the same, but a lot of trans people and gender diverse people do talk about watching so many other different people’s stories on YouTube, on Instagram and being able to relate to that and being able to use that to be able to sort of explore what their experience is and what they can relate to.

Danae: Stevie talks of many trans communities and the importance of trailblasing actors and activists, Laverne Cox and Kate Bronstein, providing visibility and insight.

Stevie: It’s very great to see so much in in the public eye just because I don’t think people really quite understand the realities of particular communities within the trans community, ‘cos obviously it’s not just the trans community, there are many different trans communities. So I think it’s really great to see because I think it really opens people’s eyes to the, to that diversity of experiences that do exist.

Danae: Stevie says when you experience discrimination on a daily basis, becoming an advocate is inevitable.

Stevie: Being resilient or the, you know, the idea of being resilient or of having a traumatic experience, is in no way inherent to being trans. So, you know, trans people I think are often labeled, “Oh, you’re so resilient.” But the fact of the matter is that, you know, why should they have to be, why should we have to be resilient? I think it’s not in any way reflective of our inherent sense of self, it’s more about how society treats us. And so I think it’s important to acknowledge that and acknowledge that when people do grow up in safe spaces and inclusive spaces where they’re able to explore themself and explore who they are, they actually grew up with a much better and more healthy sense of self because they don’t have to experience those kind of things. And so from that I think it’s easy to sort of catapult from there and say, well actually there is a lot of joy in being trans and gender diverse as well. Like being trans, for myself, is one of my favorite things about myself. I really love that I’m trans and I wanna be able to portray that to people who think that being trans is a horrible thing or that if they think that they are trans, then that is a horrible thing and that they’re gonna have a horrible life, while also sort of showing the realities of the fact that yes, I have struggled, I have had to overcome things, I have had to go through those situations and, and those processes that aren’t obviously ideal, but I’m still able to experience that joy and that that being trans is not inherently a traumatic experience.

Danae: Is burnout avoidable?

Stevie: I mean it’s something that I’ve experienced definitely being in the community and doing advocacy work in this space. And as much as I enjoy doing this work, there is also that sense of yes, I mean what choice do I have? Discrimination on probably a daily basis, being misgendered, like all these, all these kind of things that do happen to me, it’s kind of unavoidable to not be an advocate at the very least for myself. And I think that that sort of for some people becomes their sort of goal in life. And that’s, I think for me, I sort of fit into that category of like, okay, this is, you know, it’s something that I’ve had to do for myself. I’ve had to sort of really advocate for myself and I found that I do enjoy advocating for my communities, and that’s something that I’m really proud of because there is so much to do.

It is very easy to get burnt out because you feel like you have to take everything on your shoulders In that sense, I think I’ve learned a lot in terms of making sure that I am looking after myself first and foremost because without looking after myself, I’m not able to help myself, but also not able to help the communities that I support as well. And also acknowledging that not everything can be done in a day. So it’s okay to take time to do things. Realistically things do take time. I think a lot of things that happen in the community are very grassroots and so things just sort of don’t necessarily have the structure that maybe other things might have or other initiatives and things like that. So we’re very used to just, you know, working, working after work, doing a lot of volunteer stuff because there just, there isn’t funding, there isn’t, you know, there’s such a lack of resources that we’re just used to going above and beyond to be able to get work done. And so I think in that sense it’s, it’s important to reflect on and be realistic about what you can do.

Danae: The period leading up to the same sex marriage play site in Australia took its toll on Stevie.

Stevie: So that’s really scary for me to, to be in a period before marriage equality where things like felt like they were progressing to get to just before marriage equality, where with the plebiscite it felt like we went backwards. Something that was really distressing for me in particular was not only that my life could be impacted by marriage equality, but also the fact that a lot of the hate speech that went around in discussions around marriage equality were against trans and gender diverse people, which actually went right around the topic of marriage equality and just started attacking trans and gender diverse people, particularly trans and gender diverse young people. That was also something that was very difficult for me. And I think during, during the discussions around this, I very much was at a point where I kind of tapped out a little bit because I just, it was just too much and I sort of took a step back from that space was still quite, you know, relatively involved in the community, but in terms of my public advocacy and support for others, I just kind of had to take a bit of a step back ‘cos it was really a lot in terms of advocacy.

I think that was a bit of a turning point where I sort of realised how much it is important to look after myself. And I think in that space I really did and, and I look back and I think, “Oh well maybe I could have, you know, done more door knocking or maybe I could have done this, maybe I could have done that.” But realistically I know that, you know, there were people doing that and that’s just not something that I had the mental capacity to do at the time because it was just so horrible. The kind of conversations and the kind of things that people were saying to myself, were saying to the people around me, like there really was a heightened sense of fear I think for myself and for a lot of people because as much as people were having those more progressive conversations and people were outwardly showing their support for me like and being like, “Don’t worry, you know, I’m voting yes.” The fact that people, people even had to say that in the first place is very disturbing. Realistically, the more that I think we pushed for marriage equality, the more unsafe it did become for some of us because then people were actually sort of pushing back and saying, “Well no, this is not something that we do want.” It also made things feel quite unsafe as well. And I do, I do remember on the day that I heard that marriage equality had been passed, I was in Northbridge and it was sort of, you know, on the big screen there when it was announced and it was all really exciting and I went to work that day and really exciting like, you know, it was such a, such a big kind of high that when it got passed and when I finished work that sense of high came down and as I got in public transport, as I went to go home, that’s when I started to think about my safety.

Even though such a big thing had happened, such a positive thing for the community had happened, I was still thinking about my safety. I think it kind of highlights that marriage equality was a really amazing thing to happen, but also there’s so much more to do and I think a lot of people stopped when it came to marriage equality because they thought, “Well you know, everything’s been done now we’ve got equality that’s done.” In the years since marriage equality has been passed, it’s just highlighted to me more and more through my own experiences but also just seeing the experiences and the marginalisation that queer communities face, is that there is so much more to be done. People, you know, need to be able to have access to trans and gender diverse affirming care. So gender affirming care, people need to be able to, you know, have their gender reflected on their legal documentation, to not have to go through so many barriers to change their name, to not need to get a diagnosis of gender dysphoria in order to be able to have that gender affirming care in the first place.

And also not to experience harassment and bullying and things like that, because I think as much as people say, “Oh well you know, the world is getting better now, we’re in a much better space in acknowledging that,” I think we also need to acknowledge that we still have a long way to go. ‘Cos I think when people say, “We’ve come so far”, sometimes that is a reflection of them tapping out in terms of saying, “Well we don’t really have anything else to do.” And I think it’s really important to hold people accountable to saying, “Well yes, we have come far and let’s really acknowledge that, but let’s also look at what we can keep doing because we need to keep progressing.” There’s still so much more to do and it’s important not to leave those marginalised communities behind. Like when I think of the community, I think of bisexual people and all the sort of hate and the marginalisation they experience for being, you know, within the community but also out of the community in many ways, depending on the types of relationships they’re in.

I think about transgender diverse people obviously because it’s a part of my experience, but I think about trans people of color, Aboriginal Torres Strait Islander, people of color, sister girls and brother boys, and the experiences that they have in terms of that connection between culture and gender, and what that looks like for them. And I also think about intersex communities and the fact that intersex people still experience unnecessary surgeries because of this really harmful gender binary that we have that says that people have to be either a girl or a boy and if anything looks different to that, then that must be something that is demonised and we have to be able to fix that straight away.

So, I think there’s so much more than just marriage equality and I’m really excited to be in a place where I can marry my partner. I can, I can do that and that’s really exciting. I got engaged last year so I’m really excited to be able to marry my partner and be able to experience that. But there’s still so much more, there’s still so much more. It’s interesting ‘cos I think celebrating is really important. I think both of us are very quiet and introverted people and maybe there’s some of that that’s reflected in the fact that as people we have had to stay quiet about things, you know, in different periods in our life. But I think celebrating particularly for the fact that we have gone through so much just generally as, as any relationship does, as any partnership does, but also the fact that we are and we have this right, which until a few years ago we didn’t have. I think that is really important as well

Danae: For Stevie. The power of language is critical.

Stevie: I think it’s interesting ‘cos I think for myself, my language has evolved in terms of how I refer to myself and part of that is because I wasn’t aware of the language that did exist or even the idea that I could create my own language around what my experience was when it came to being younger and questioning my sexuality. I thought, ‘Well I must be either bisexual or a lesbian.” Like those were the two options. It was one or the other. Eventually I started feeling more and more uncomfortable around the idea of describing myself as a lesbian more so because I didn’t really describe myself as a lesbian. It was just kind of one of those tap-on labels that was, you know, you’re a woman or you’re assumed to be a woman who likes other women, there for you must be a lesbian, kind of thing. And so I didn’t really feel connected to that, but I just thought, well that’s, that’s what it must be. And so when I started to really look at the fact that I didn’t really like that terminology, I could definitely see myself changing to a point where I used to refer to myself as gay. And that’s definitely something that I still refer to myself as.

The issue when it comes to language particularly, I guess I can only speak really for the English language, but for many languages is how restrictive it can be for a term such as lesbian. Not only are you saying I am attracted to women, but you’re also saying I am more so a woman. And I think that can be really restrictive and it’s interesting to see how language is changing where people can identify or have gotten to the point where there’s a lot of people who are much more comfortable identifying both as non-binary and lesbian because they’re like, “Just because I’m non-binary doesn’t mean I can’t be lesbian.” Like why should lesbian define what my gender identity is? But I think that’s like a really clear case example of how our language is so restrictive because it just is like, it just is. So this must be this, must be defined as this. And so I think what’s really interesting and as we see people younger coming up and creating their own language and I think sometimes people get a bit funny about, “Oh you know, you’re just creating your own language,” but it’s like people do, language is like, words are made up, it’s all made up. So I think what’s really exciting is to see younger people come through and saying, “Well actually, you know, having the internal reflection and internal sense of, you know, this word doesn’t describe me. I’m gonna keep searching until I can find something that I think does describe me. And if I can’t find that, I’m gonna put something together that does make sense for me, even if it’s something that doesn’t exist already.” So I think that’s a really exciting thing to see. People are able to look within and identify that something doesn’t necessarily fit with them. Therefore why should I identify with that? Why should I be restricted to one, two or three different types of labels? Why can’t I look further and find something that actually fits me? And I think that’s something that I’ve definitely come to the point where I can understand that now. And I’ve definitely come into my identity as being, trans and non-binary, which are three terms that I used to describe myself. I would’ve loved to have had that when I was younger when I was growing up. I would’ve definitely felt like the, the possibilities were a bit more hopeful and a bit more exciting rather than the restricted labels in terms and stereotypes that people associated with different types of language.

The term “queer” is something that I really identify with because for me means so much more than gender. It means so much more than sexuality. It’s so clear for me in terms of being unclear, and I think I like the sort of ambiguity of it because I’m able to see myself as a queer person without having to openly tell other people around me everything about myself. So I love how it’s specific enough to identify within a particular community, but non-descript enough to be able to have people not actually know every single detail about who I am. So I do, depending on what kind of situation I’m in, I do tend to use different language and so “queer” is one that I feel I think most safe using overall because depending on what people’s perception of “queer” means, I think most people sometimes assume it’s probably something to do with sexuality, but for me it just means so much more than that. So it’s a word I can use without feeling unsafe in certain situations. It’s a word I can use without having to neatly fit myself into a particular box. And I think it’s a really great word to use more broadly to refer to the LGBTQIA+ community because you know, the fact that there is a plus on the end says that there are so many more identities and so many more experiences that exist outside that acronym. So I think is a really great way to really encompass that.

Danae: Stevie reminds us that coming out happens over and over, but we all remember our first time.

Stevie: I’m just trying to remember now because it feels like such a long… I feel like I’ve been queer for so long so it feels like such a long time since I have actually told someone that I am queer. And I think because of how I present, I think it’s often assumed that I am queer, which is kind of a nice thing as well because I don’t have to explain myself all that much. My experience the first time telling someone that I was queer was that they also were like, “Yeah, me too.” So I think it was really good to have that first experience with someone who really understood it. That initial time when you tell someone that you are, that you are a part of that community can really be a big thing. And if it does go negatively, that can have a really big and real impact on how you approach the situation moving forward.

We know that when people are not out, they have much higher experiences of mental distress, suicidality and things like that. So anything that people can do to support others to be able to be their authentic self is really important because when you do that, you dramatically reduce their risk of suicide and their risk of any kind of mental distress. The whole concept of coming out is starting to really be deconstructed, ‘cos the idea that we have to be in any kind of closet in the first place is based on the idea that people assume that you are heterosexual, that you are cisgender. And I can really see in the past few years people are really trying to break that down because realistically, why should people need to come out in the first place? And I think we’re a long way away from that being a reality. But I think it’s definitely something that we seem to be getting closer towards, the idea that why should we assume someone is heterosexual or is this gender, why can’t we just not make that assumption? And you know, there just is a natural diversity of human experience, and whatever that that is. I think when it came to coming out as trans and non-binary, the conversation itself was easier to sort of initiate. What I found more difficult though was to explain what being trans and non-binary meant. ‘Cos I think when people talk about sexuality it’s like, “Okay, you’re gray, you’re straight.” Like, you know, there’s very much a very black and white, even though it’s not black and white, there is very much like, okay sexuality, it’s kind of generally understood. But when it comes to trans and gender diversity, people really don’t understand exactly what that means and because it can look so different to what I think stereotypes still are out there. So I think when it came to coming out as trans, I was asking more of other people, which kind of made it more difficult in a sense. I was asking people to address me by a different name, address me by different pronouns, essentially treat me differently in social settings. It was harder I think in a way as well.

Danae: For Stevie 2020 looked very different. It was a year of healing.

Stevie: I think 2020 was an interesting year obviously ‘cos it was very, very different for everyone. And I think we’re really lucky being in WA and that we were probably the least impacted, if I could say, that least impacted by COVID probably around the world. We were probably at the lower end in many ways. COVID looked very different for WA than it did for many other places even within Australia. And I think there’s probably a little bit of guilt when I say this, but to me 2020 looked more like a year of healing and a year of reflection, self-reflection, on my identity overall.

Because in 2020, in February, late Feb, a few weeks before we went into lockdown for the first time and for that long period I’d actually had top surgery, something that I had sort of been wanting for quite some time. Something that I’d been saving up for and something that was really vital to me to be able to affirm my gender and to be able to feel comfortable in the world and with people around me. So to me it was, that was sort of the big step and the big thing that happened right before lockdown happened. It was very much a healing and you know, obviously in terms of the physical sense, like the physical healing from surgery, but then also the mental sense of being able to say, “Okay, I’ve gotten this far, I’ve gotten to this point and this has been a goal for so long and I’ve, I’ve made it.” That sounds very dramatic, but I think, you know, I’m very privileged in that I was able to have the community support, I had a job and I was able to save money. Even though that was a really difficult process as well, like I had so many more supports and so much more privilege than I know a lot of people do have. And again, that’s an, that’s an issue for transgender diverse people when it comes to getting that affirmative care is the fact that it does cost so much money and it’s not accessible for a lot of people. And so for me, I think I was just feeling, feeling really grateful for the support around me and for being able to get to that point where I was able to affirm my gender in that way, feeling like I was, you know, at at a point of just, yeah, self-reflection and healing and being able to focus on things other than that I think was an exciting thing as well to be like, “Okay, this is something that I’ve been working towards for such a long time. Now it’s here, now it’s happening and now I’m healing and now I’m able to focus on other things in my life and this doesn’t have to be the sole end goal. Like I can focus beyond this now.”

During 2020 was the year when I started to get on Instagram a bit more. I was already on there, but I had this old account on there. So I decided to sort of rename it, I renamed it The Queer Advocate and just started putting some posts on there, a few sort of kind of resources, a bit of information. And I started sharing my story a little bit here and there. And it was kind of just like a, a project that I was like, you know, I’m home a bit more, I’ll just do this. I don’t know, like it, there wasn’t really too much thought that went into it other than, “There’s not really much else to do at the moment. We’re kind of stuck at home, so I might as well do something like this.” And it kind of came from a place of just wanting to do something, but it’s turned into so much more than that. It got to a point where it actually did become quite big. I thought I would just get a few likes and a few shares, maybe connect with some people over the internet. But I’ve connected with so many people and through sharing my experience, people have been able to relate to my experience and I to theirs as well. Yeah, it’s gotten to a point where it is quite big and I do have quite a few followers, so I do really feel that sense of responsibility as well now where I didn’t, I didn’t feel like it was gonna be such a big thing, but it kind of has turned into that.

Danae: The cost of transition is difficult to measure.

Stevie: I feel comfortable sharing most of my experience with medical transition, but that’s not necessarily all trans people’s experiences. So I feel quite comfortable doing that, but I think it’s really important for people to know that that’s not necessarily how other people experience that and that’s not necessarily what other people want to do. So I think it’s really important for that to be noted that, you know. Obviously we’ve talked before, obviously I feel very comfortable talking about this, but that’s not everyone’s experience and, and a lot of people wanna be quite private with that.

In terms of my experience with accessing medical transition, it’s a really long process. It’s a matter of not just accessing a GP, but accessing a GP that is trans-inclusive and is somewhat knowledgeable in that area because that can have really, I think, a really horrible impact when you don’t have someone who’s inclusive in that area or more so someone who is specifically against getting that gender affirming care.So that can be really harmful to trans people. So just getting to a GP that is affirming in the first place is a step in and of itself.

Secondly, in terms of wanting to go on any kind of hormones or wanting to get any kind of surgery, it’s really difficult, particularly in WA, because we don’t operate on an informed consent model. So informed consent being: you are an adult and you understand the risks in terms of going on any kind of hormone replacement or any kind of, going through any kind of a surgery like, you know, we’ve gone through what the risks are and you know, we’ve gone through what the benefits are and this is a decision that you make as, as an adult. This is, you know, this is what informed consent is and we don’t really operate on that model in WA unfortunately.

So it very much is that medical model of: you have to prove and you have to perform your transness for us to believe you in order for us to give you a letter that says that yes you are trans. It is starting to get better, at least in the last 10 years. It’s a little bit more affirming for non-binary people I know. I know, you know, in previous years people used to talk about having to still present very binary, and that’s sort of starting to become a little bit more fluid now. That’s, that’s a positive move for me. Thankfully I saw a GP that was very affirming, very inclusive. I was then referred to a psychiatrist. There was a waiting list. They were a sort of a known trans-inclusive specialist in that area. Once I’d seen the psychiatrist, there was then a wait list to be referred on to go and see an endocrinologist. Once I’d finished that wait list and go on and see the endocrinologist, it was going back to the psychiatrist to go on a wait list to see a surgeon. So like it was just a lot of wait lists, a lot of ticking boxes, a lot of being diagnosed, and being treated I think generally respectfully, like not like no one was being horrible to me, but it was still operating in this model that said that I had to prove who I was in order to receive the care that I needed. And essentially I think that’s really taking away the autonomy of trans people because it’s saying that you can identify a certain way, but you still have to prove to me that that is genuine in order for me to tick that box to say that you can access this.

Danae: Waiting, waiting.

Stevie: It’s a difficult process and it definitely needs to be more accessible and I constantly keep going back to that sort of topic of privilege ‘cos I do have a lot of privilege in the sense that I was connected in with the community. I had some knowledge and information from my work within the community as to how these processes looked and, and what the, the best process was to take and, and you know, the inclusive practitioners and, and all that kind of stuff there, I had so much privilege in that and I was able to navigate that system, but that’s not what it’s like for a lot of people. It’s a lot more stressful and a lot more of a struggle because people aren’t necessarily, you know, connected in. They might go to a doctor that’s not inclusive, they, you know, there’s, there’s so much room for error because trans-affirming care is not part of people’s base experience and base knowledge when it comes to becoming a doctor or becoming any kind of practitioner.

So that’s the really difficult thing where it’s kind of trans healthcare is a tap on and like, you know, sort of something that’s sort of just tapped onto the end of people’s knowledge. I think there’s a lot more trans and gender diverse people than I think people realise. There’s not more than there used to be. There always has been trans and gender diverse people, but I think people are feeling more comfortable to be able to access the care and go through particular processes to be who they are. It’s actually interesting ‘cos I think it’s, yeah, one of those, it was a byproduct of something that I was doing that I didn’t really expect. And so I do have quite a few people, not necessarily just young people either, but people, people my age, people older, just reaching out and being like, “Hey, really like what you do. Just wanted to say hey and just wanted to say thanks.” Like, not even, not even necessarily a, you know, needing help or needing support, but just wanting to be like, “Hey, I’m here. Like, thanks,” kind of thing. That’s been really nice.

 

And yeah, there’s definitely been lots of young people reaching out as well and engaging with the content, which is really good to see as well. And sometimes really sad though ‘cos I know sometimes people comment with certain things being like, “Oh you know, I wish that was like that where I’m from,” or like, you know, those kind of sort of sentiments. So there’s also sort of a lot of, I think sadness in some of the things that you see come through as well. But I’m at least glad that they can find some kind of safe space online and find accounts that at least online affirm their identity because realistically that’s not the case for a lot of people, particularly people who are isolated physically from, from sort of big cities and things like that as well.

It can be really difficult to find your people. And having online communities I know has been so helpful for all marginalised communities really because it’s a space where you’re able to connect with people even if you’re not physically close to them. Isolation was a concept that I didn’t understand until I was looking back and looking at what my experience was. So I didn’t, I don’t think I realised that I was isolated until I was much older. That’s just because I just was, you know, experiencing life and being a kid. And even though I had sort of internal ideas of feeling different, I think to some extent everyone has that sort of sense of feeling different. So I was like feeling different, but I was like, well, everyone feels different. So, you know, I didn’t really think too much of it, but I think certainly growing up in a small town was, was difficult.

And something again that I don’t think I realised certain things that I missed out on because I grew up out of the city in particular, that sort of small town mentality and that sort of, “We don’t talk about it, we don’t speak about it and when we do hear about it.” It’s usually, you know, offensive words and, and things like that that are used. That was, that was the extent I think, really of my exposure to certain things, to a certain extent. So, I did, yeah, I didn’t know I was isolated I think until I looked back because, that it just was that, that just was my reality. And I say that while also acknowledging that I did have a good, really good childhood and, and enjoyed a lot of things as well and had great friends and all that kind of stuff. So I was, I was isolated in some ways, but not so much in others because I still had people around me that cared about me. You know, there’s a lot that goes for that as well because I think, you know, even though I did internally feel quite isolated, I think I was sort of coming to realise it a bit more in my teen years. I still had friends and I still had connection. I was still involved in things. I was still involved in school. Like there were so many things that were at least keeping me connected to those around me, even if it wasn’t necessarily my authentic self at that point in time. I was still connected until I could be.

Honestly, I think the first time that I have felt completely embraced by others in my life has only been in the last few years. I definitely felt embraced somewhat through my early twenties, but it wasn’t until I got to a spot where I think I was comfortable with myself that I was able to therefore be comfortable talking about myself to other people and to be authentic with other people. And so I think it was just a long journey to get there ‘cos there was so much that I had to unlearn myself that I had learned from other people or I had taught myself just through, again, coming back to that idea of, you know, the heteronormative binary and you knows norms, normativity and things like that. I think there was just so much for me to unlearn about what my experience was. And I think I’m still forever learning about my experience and how that changes and evolves over time because I’m, you know, I’m only 30 and there’s still so many years where it could change and evolve, but I think honestly it’s only been in the last few years really that I’ve felt completely embraced by the people around me.

And I think, I mean, some of that comes from knowing who not to spend my time with as well, I think, who, you know, don’t necessarily validate me, therefore I don’t give them my time and I don’t, I don’t feel as connected with those people obviously because they don’t treat me as who I am. So there’s a sense of, you know, obviously I’m surrounding myself with people that are important to me and that value and respect me. So, I think that helps as well through the years, to make sure that I have my tight knit group of people that do value and respect me for who I am. Well the only way that makes sense for me to explain my relationship is just like my partner and I are sitting on the couch like eating snacks and watching a ridiculous TV show like Kath and Kim or Gavin and Stacy or something. Just something like that. And every now and then we’ll kind of like turn to each other and be like, “Is this just what we get to do for the rest of our life? Like we just get to like watch TV and like cook dinner together and just like hang out with our best friend? Like, is this really what our relationship is like? This is really awesome.”

Danae: This podcast was produced by the Centre for Stories with funding from Lotterywest Centre for Stories is an organisation based on Whadjuk Noongar Western Australia. It believes in storytelling as a way to build more inclusive communities. Head to centreforstories.com to listen to more stories or to make a tax-deductible donation. Special thanks to our storyteller for this episode, Stevie. And to our production team, executive producer Kara Jensen McKinnon, audio engineer Mason Vellios, scripting interviewing and production by Danae Gibson, that’s me.