8th June 2018:
Lee and Ryan meet Erin (he/him) and his gorgeous cat Tribble (not pictured – that’s Boop!) at his place in St Kilda. Erin is, among other things, writer and producer of the Love and Luck Podcast, Australia’s first LGBT audio drama podcast – which is keeping him pretty busy! He talks about growing up in Goulburn and Canberra, how he’s found home in Melbourne, his experiences of previously identifying as genderqueer, being consistently denied access to medical transition for many years, and reflects on how identity can be produced by external social pressures and constraints. Erin also talks about being polyamorous, how for him being trans, being disabled, and being fat are fundamentally intertwined, and the importance of keeping records and archives of trans experiences.
R: Today’s Friday 8th of June, and we’re sitting here speaking to Erin, today –
R: We’ll just start with a few introductory questions.
R: So what are your preferred pronouns, or your pronouns, and what kind of things do you like to do?
E: My pronouns are he/him, I generally don’t have a problem with they/them, but he/him is pretty much exclusively preferred. Hmm, what things do I like to do? That’s a very broad question [laughs]. I like to make stuff. I like to write stuff. I like my cats, one of which has come to check out the situation now.
L: I’m feeling very blessed –
E: Yes [laughs]. He’s a good boy. We have two cats. We’ve got the one friendly one, who – when people come round and can be, ‘here’s the cat that will talk to you!’ Cos cats are often, y’know, not so great with humans they don’t know. And then scared-y one who will hide unless its been a few hours of quiet, and then he’ll come out, maybe? But he’s still very sensitive. He’s ‘Tribble’ – when we got him, we called him ‘Butthead’ for the first, like 5 hours we owned him, cos we couldn’t think of a name. And eventually we decided on ‘Tribble’ because he’s furry, and he trills, and he makes people happy. And that was literally his job – we actually go him to help with my partner’s depression. Yeah, I dunno, I make stuff! It’s fun. Um, I play a lot of videogames.
L: What kind of videogames do you like?
E: Anything as long as its good. I’m not stuck in a single genre or anything like that. I – so here’s some useful context for the podcast, actually. So I am a very severely disabled, and I spend most of my time on bedrest. I spend about 6 hours a day on bedrest, on average. I have a computer set up over my bed, which I only got set up about 3 or 4 years ago. Changed my whole goddamned life. Made everything easier, including games. And, which is good, because games are one of the per hour of entertainment, games are one of the cheapest hobbies you can have these days. Yeah, I play anything as long as its good.
L: Yeah, what are you playing at the moment?
E: At the moment nothing, cos I’ve been so busy. I’ve just been playing a lot of The Sims, because that’s a good like, drop in play for an hour, don’t have to get involved in a story or anything, kind of game! Yeah
L: What things are you working on at the moment that are keeping you busy?
E: So at the moment the biggest thing in my life is the Love and Luck Podcast, to spruik it is Australia’s first LGBT audio drama podcast –
L: Very exciting –
E: We’re approaching the end of season 1 now, so we’re starting to get a little bit of notice. It’s a weekly podcast, it comes out on Tuesdays. And the whole story is told via voicemails.
E: It’s just a sweet romance story, sweet queer romance story, told via voicemails because I really like epistolary story-telling. And as mentioned, I really like videogames, and one of my favorite things in videogames is picking up audio diaries and letters and stuff like that, and sort of piecing together a story from this fictional primary source. So when I set out to write an audio drama, I knew I wanted to do something like that, and I decided on voicemails because I thought it was one of the more obvious and natural but still interesting sort of mediums for the show. Framing device, I guess? Yeah, and its been going really well. We have like, we’ve been averaging like 500 unique listeners each week? Something like that. Not counting discoveries. We get about 1000 downloads a week at the moment, which is wild because like [laughs] when I started this, I was like I’m going to be super happy if we have an audience of 100. It’s way more popular overseas than it is here in Australia
L: Do you know where it is most popular?
E: America, by far. 6% of our audience is American. Which is cool, but like, I can’t organize a meet-up in America so – yeah, so that’s the thing that keeps me most busy at the moment. I also do spoken word stuff for like curated shows. I’m kinda taking a break from that this year, just because I’ve got so much other shit to do. But yeah I’ve been doing spoken word for about 6 years, I think? And I write zines when I have the time. I write interactive fiction when I have the time. I get bored really easily, so I do a lot of stuff [laughs]
L: What was it about – I might be able to guess – what was it about the medium of a podcast that got you excited?
E: That’s a really good question actually, because I think this is a really multifaceted answer, so… Part of it is just that I enjoy listening to audio drama podcasts, and sort of wanted to – I wanted to learn more about them. And I’m a learn by doing person, so I was like, I’ll just make one! But I also – podcasting and especially audio drama, in terms of fiction, podcasting has a much lower price of entry than almost any other form of media. Except maybe writing. Like, you can write something and publish it online, and that’s probably the lowest, like the cheapest sort of media expression. But you can do a lot of similar things in audio drama, that you can do with a TV series at a fraction of the cost. Our season 1, which was all volunteer labor, we made for about 1200 dollars. Which is, it’s a lot of money to a person, but in terms of producing a show, its nothing. And like, season 2, we actually got to pay people this year, cos we ran a Kickstarter – and that’s been about 5000 dollars it looks like, I think, at the moment for the show. And hopefully we can continue paying people, cos I like to do that.
L: How many people are involved?
E: So – when the show was conceptualized, the whole, my whole thing was like this is a learning project and I don’t want to rely on too much volunteer labor. Because it just feels kinda weird. So I knew that my partner was interested in voice acting, and I figured I could do some voice acting, so I had two characters I could come up with to use. Which is partially why it’s a romance show, because that lends itself really easily to that kind of scope. There’s a few – I think there’s like 5 bit parts in Season 1. The actors we had in, were only spent like an hour in the studio and then we got our recording engineer – Kermie Breydon– who does the wizardry that makes the sound good. So season 1 was quite small. Season 2: we added more characters and existing characters got more lines – there’s like 13 of us, maybe 15? I don’t know what you would call them, they’re not like core parts of the show, but it wouldn’t exist without them. Like our editor, our cover artist, our marketing consultant, who are all amazing people – Mary Morsellino, Sophia Parsons Cope, and Lauren Clinnick. We have merchandise now that we’re going to start selling in the next couple of months, which is wild –
L: Do you want to tell people where they can get it?
E: I don’t know when it’ll be out, but you can get it via our website, http://www.loveandluckpodcast.com.
R: Can you tell us a bit about where you were born and where you grew up?
E: Lived in Canberra from 5-11, then moved to Goulburn, which is regional town between Canberra and Sydney. Lived there from 11-16, then we moved back to Canberra. Lived there from 16-18. And then moved down to Melbourne and I’ve been here ever since and you’re not getting rid of me [laughs]
I don’t have a lot of emotional anything for Toowoomba, because I don’t remember most of Toowoomba. Canberra was actually a pretty good place to be a kid, it sucks to be a teenager or adult living in Canberra. But when you’re a kid its pretty good. Goulburn was a trial. Depending on your context of what you consider a small country town, its anywhere between regional centre and small country town. And it is not great to be a queer teen in the country, back in, what was it, ‘98, ‘99. So that was kind of terrible. But Canberra, pretty good again for a couple of years. That’s when I first sort of came out, made queer friends, and then made more friends down in Melbourne via the internet, came down to visit them, fell in love while I was down here. Then flew back and forth between Canberra and Melbourne for like 6 months, before my mother was just like, maybe you should just move there. And I was like, yeah okay that makes sense!
So yeah I moved to Melbourne, cos my partners were here. I had 2 at the time, I was in a triad. Yeah, and just stayed here and I really like it here. I don’t know, I feel like, for lack of better phrasing, I feel like I was destined to be here – like nowhere has felt like home like Melbourne has. Particularly St Kilda. My partner and I lived in St Kilda for a while back in 2007-2008. Had to move cos it got expensive. Lived in a bunch of different places around Melbourne, but after leaving St Kilda I’ve suddenly learned what homesickness felt like. And I was like, oh no, oh no! I can’t afford to live there. And that’s the story of my moving around Melbourne actually, is mostly, I lived somewhere and then rich people moved there, and I couldn’t afford to live there anymore. But we got very lucky with this apartment, because we basically, at the time we were living out in Tarneit, which is out near Hoppers Crossing – and I really missed Melbourne, and I was not able to drive anymore, and there’s no public transport out that way. So I was very isolated. And I was like, I’m just going to do some market research, like see if there’s anything we can afford in St Kilda. And this place was like, had an inspection on the day I was looking. And I was like, let’s go look, what’s the worst that can happen? Worst that can happen is that the guy loves you and you love the apartment, and within 28 hours you’ve gone from market research to planning to move. So now we’re here, and I’m not fucking leaving until I absolutely have to.
L: You mentioned coming out in your teen years. I’m just wondering if you remember a time when you first started engaging with ideas about gender?
E: I’m of the generation where the internet happened while I was a teenager. Which means that in some respects, I’ve figured a lot of stuff out very early, and in other respects, I didn’t. Or it was confusing, and stuff like that. I do not actually remember the first time I sort of consciously thought about gender as gender. I remember, I mean I was definitely a tomboy kid. Oh yeah, I’m a trans man – by the way! That’s probably useful information for the show.
I remember sort of questioning gender when I was about 13 or 14. But I didn’t have any kind of language to articulate what I was trying to figure out. When I was 14, I do… the clearest memory I have where things get really clear – is I was 14, and I was on the internet at the library, and I remember using AltaVista to search for, I think the exact wording I used was ‘transsexual but the other way.’ Because back then, y’know I knew about trans women; I didn’t know if transmen existed. Cos yeah, this was in like 98, 99 –
L: I think this has been a common thing that people say, they’re not sure about the ‘other way’ –
E: Yeah. I mean, obviously these days phrasing it that way alone is very incorrect! But again, at the time, that was what language I had. And unfortunately, I didn’t find anything. So I kind of just tried not to think about it? For another year or two? And then finally started, I found like a blog by a trans man in Sydney. And he was the first – I don’t even remember his name, which kinda sucks – but he was the first person I’d seen who, ‘went the other way.’ By that point, I had now spent enough time on trans internet to learn a bit of the language to make searching a little bit easier. Y’know, and that was when I first started finding stuff about like, genderqueer people. And that was actually a lightbulb for me. Cos I did, I identified as genderqueer for many years. That’s sort of the closest thing I have to an awakening, was a very awkward stumbling around the internet looking for information.
Yeah, it’s one of those things, I can look back at my childhood and go, ah, signs! But the first time that I actually consciously noticed anything, was yeah, around when I was sort of in the 14-16 range.
E: I came out as genderqueer, not to my family – but to my friends, when I was 16 I think. And I know its very common for people to use being genderqueer or nonbinary as sort of a stepping-stone. It wasn’t that for me. And I do wanna be clear about that. So here’s the really awkward thing about figuring out gender back then. And probably now too, I imagine. There’s no sudden line. There’s no, like, I was this way and then I realized, and now I’m this way. It was this very gradual organic fluid thing, that took years and years, and is still evolving even now. So it’s really hard to sort of go, this was the awakening and, this was the start of transition, and this was where I felt like I had finished, or, y’know, succeeded in transition. I don’t have any of those lines. Everything was very wibbly wobbly for a very long time. Y’know, like, there were a good few years there where my genderqueer identity was completely – what’s the word – parallel, I guess? To a female identity. I also identified as a girl and a woman at the time. And that is very hard to explain, but that was how it was. And I only started actively disengaging from the female identity, I think when I was about 18? And sort of, was like alright I’m very firmly genderqueer. And this is where things get a little bit weird. I started looking into medical transition when I was 19. At the time, I was still very much genderqueer identified, and I was upfront about that with the gatekeepers that I met with. Which did not go down well back then. And I was like, alright, let’s talk about stuff – and I started, cos I had – at this point I was definitely more masculine identified than feminine, even if I was still genderqueer. And so I started leaning in to the masc side of it, and trying to work with that, to access medical transition. This did not work. So then I tried again, and I think – and this all happened in a relatively short amount of time, like we’re talking this part happened in about a year. Going from this very open genderqueer identity, to oh, I’m a trans man. My actual identity at that time was still not ‘trans man,’ but that was what I used to try and get through the system. So, cool – doing that – except that then, even identifying as a trans man at the time – that did not work. And this is where my story gets very long, all of a sudden.
I went through gatekeepers for many years. And I was – the short version, and then I’ll elaborate. I was denied medical transition for over a decade. Only finally received hormone therapy – I had to fly up to Cairns to get it – and that was in 2012. There was a lot that happened in that 10 years. So first, the problem was that I had previously identified as genderqueer. That was a problem for the gatekeepers. Once we got over that, then the problem was that I did not already pass. Because that was a thing back then, they expected you to already be able to ‘look the part.’ Even before you access medical transition.
The next problem was the, I can’t remember in which order the next couple came, one problem was my chronic illness. They weren’t sure what hormones would do with my chronic illness. And they didn’t want to put me on hormones. The other problem was my weight. I am quite fat, always have been, that’s not a lifestyle thing, that’s a genetics thing. My whole family were like that. My weight was a particular issue for a lot of the gatekeepers I was working with. First, they said we’ll give you transition if you lose weight. And, y’know, I was like alright I’ll fucking jump through your hoops. Tried to, couldn’t lose weight, because that’s not how my body does – and also, I can’t exercise, I’m very very chronically ill. So y’know, losing weight, not a realistic thing for me. So I went back and I told them that. I was then told, well, there are pills you can take for that. And was then put on a drug which – I do not remember the name of the drug – I only remember the brand name: basically, an amphetamine. And it made me very, very unwell. It gave me heart palpitations, it gave me much worse insomnia than I already had, generally increased my anxiety, it did a whole bunch of things. It was a very very bad drug to be on. When I refused to continue taking it, due to the fact of how unwell it was making me, that pretty much secured me as not being able to access medical transition. So those were the big things. But there were a lot of other things through this whole process – at one point, I was basically told that I needed to figure out what orientation I ‘really’ was, because I was out as bisexual. Y’know, that no one is really bisexual, and I needed to figure that out before I could transition. So at one point, I was about 3 years into the gatekeeper process, when my partner at the time and I broke up. And then I was then told after that, that timing is important, and right after a breakup isn’t the right time to transition. Despite the fact that I’d already been in the system for 3 years at this point.
Oh, what else? They hated the fact that I didn’t want to change my first name. My name is Erin and has always been, that’s my birth first name – and I like it. It’s gender neutral, it suits me, didn’t want to change it. That was a huge issue for them. I was going through that system for, I think I was actually actively in the system for maybe 8 years, before I just, I had enough. Y’know, theey were ruining my health, they were making me feel like shit everytime I interacted with them or other people. So I just dropped out of the program. I didn’t believe that – I mean, as I said, this is like 8 years at this point – if they weren’t going to give it to me by then, would they ever? So I just dropped out. I decided to just make peace with the fact that I couldn’t medically transition. Now I did a pretty good job at that, at making peace with that – I really genuinely did. The problem is the rest of society. This is where identity stuff gets complicated. Because certainly by this point, I was definitely still very masculine identified, but still genderqueer. Throughout this process, not just with the gatekeeping process, but with my social life, with being constantly misgendered, with having my gender constantly questioned and denied, both in gatekeeper systems and socially – I found my identity shifting harder and harder to male. Not because it is innately that way, but because this was the way I was protecting myself, psychologically. I could not be genderqueer safely. So I psychologically transitioned myself to male. And that is still where I’m at now. Like, these days I identify as a trans man. I do identify as a man. and have for quite a few years now. But that is not a natural identity. That is an identity that I have consciously cultivated as a way to cope with the reality of my situation. So then, as I said, in 2012 a friend of mine found a doctor up in Cairns who was prescribing hormones based on the informed consent model. I was handed his email address. I emailed him, he couldn’t see any reason why I couldn’t be put on testosterone, so I flew 3000km to be prescribed testosterone. And that was a very very good appointment. He was a very good doctor. Legitimately, I think he saved my life, because while I did the best I could at coping with not being able to medically transition, I was at all times – at best – low level suicidal. Since hormone therapy, I am not suicidal anymore. I have not been suicidal since 2012. So very much so, I believe that doctor very much saved my life.
The reason why, I think I mentioned in your form that I wanted to talk about how my identity has been shaped by my situation – and that’s because that’s something that, I don’t know how common it is? It’s not very talked about. But I don’t have a natural, like, gender identity anymore. My gender identity is very much a product of my experiences. And I think sometimes the trans narrative can get very caught up in whether, y’know, our identities are real and innate, or real and conscious, or unreal and something else – y’know. And I think that it’s a lot more complicated than that, I think there’s a lot of ways these identities can be. And I don’t feel like my particular path means that I am less of a man for it. I also don’t think that I’m less of a genderqueer person for it. But these things are ephemeral – in practicality, in my everyday life, I am a trans man now. And I’m actually quite happy and comfortable with that now. But it is noteworthy that I do not think that I would be here naturally, if I had not spent my life in this very transphobic cis-centric world. Or if I had had better medical care. If either of those things were different, my identity as it is now would not be what it is now. But that doesn’t make what it is now less real, or less true. It’s just a product of its situation.
E: That was my long emotional rant [laughs]
R: Thank you for sharing that.
E: It’s not something I talk about a lot. Cos, its an unpopular experience. People don’t like to hear about it. Um, and also people will use it as a reason to misgender me in a variety of ways. Y’know, a lot of people are like, ah well you’re really nonbinary, y’know. And I’m like, not anymore I’m not. But that’s not how it is anymore.
R: Do you see yourself as part of a trans community here in Melbourne?
E: I do, I think the trans community in Melbourne is – and this is wonderful – it is so large now, that I feel like it’s not one community anymore. It’s a lot of smaller communities. And I think that is so good. One of the great things about moving to Melbourne was that there was a trans community here. There were multiple trans events. There were like, okay not tons – especially compared today – but they existed. And so I made a lot of trans friends once I moved here. Being that I can’t go out much, my engagement with the community varies over time. But I do still consider myself part of the trans community.
R: How do you see being trans connected to other aspects of your identity?
E: Yeah, that’s a good question. So the biggest cross-pollination there is being disabled. Because in both situations, I am medicalized in a way that is extremely unpleasant. Often with complete disregard for my autonomy and agency. Um, and also a very strong de-sexualization in both aspects as well. I can’t, for me, so being queer – that I can sort of generally keep…look at my experiences of being queer in a vacuum, compared to my other stuff. Being trans, being disabled, and being fat: these three things are so entwined for me and my life that I honestly cannot tell when something is related to one but not the others, or if that has even ever happened. As I said my weight was a big reason why I was denied transition. My weight is a constant issue with specialists about my chronic illness. My chronic illness is a big thing with my trans identity, y’know, and that I find particularly annoying because… this is anecdotal, I’ve never seen a study on this, but anecdotally trans people seem to have a much higher rate of chronic illness. It’s hard for me to answer that question because I don’t know where one ends and the next one begins. So I don’t necessarily know how they relate, I just know they do somehow. Does that make sense?
L: I was wondering, who are they people in your life that are important to you?
E: Well, obviously my partner. My partner Lee, we’ve been together for 11 years, which is – sounds so much longer than it feels like! [laughs]
Here’s a cute story. I’ve put a lot of depressing shit on this recording already. Here’s a cute story. So here’s how I met Lee. We met, I was 21, he was 22, at a house party. He was at university at the time, and I was just a social butterfly. Who ended up at a lot of uni parties, despite never going to uni. When I met Lee, he was shirtless and handcuffed and had a tally marks on his chest of how many people he’d kissed that night. That was my introduction to lee, which was delightful. At that party, when we met, he asked if he could kiss me. I said no, and he was like, cool. We met again at another party – now I feel the need to stress that at these parties, random making out was part of the culture at these parties. We met at another party, and he asked if we could kiss. And I said no, and he was like, cool. Possibly he asked a third time, at another party. And I said no. And the reason I state that it was normal for the culture for there to be kissing – because when I tell just that part of the story, it sounds like he was hassling me about it – he was not at all. His was a very organic, very gentle, very respectful, uhh repetitive [laughs] asking – like it wasn’t as creepy as it sounds when you summarize it.
L: I think the context of the parties – I might be familiar with, so I really – [laughs]
E: Yeah, like yeah – it is not as creepy as it sounds. It was very respectful and very nice. One party he was like, hey do you wanna come to this party it’s at my place tonight. And I was like, ah I can’t. I can’t even remember why I said I couldn’t, I just said I couldn’t – I think it was because we didn’t have a ride to get there? Cos we were living in like, very different areas. Did not have access to a car, so, and yeah. And he was like, that’s cool, would you like me to set up the webcam so you can like teleconference into this party? And I was like, yeah that sounds awesome, let’s do that. Set up the webcam, and I had another partner at the time – and we were watching it and sort of chatting with people who would come and sit at the computer and talk to the strangers on the webcam for a bit.
L: That sounds awesome – sorry I just have to interrupt, that’s so cool-
E: Yeah it was really fun! And, y’know we’d made some jokes about like, my partner and I made some jokes about Lee like stripping for us – because we were all oversexed, like [laughs] early 20s folks. Yeah so anyway, the party was very good and eventually some friends were like, oh we’re going, we’re actually going to that party, do you want us to pick you up on the way? So my partner and I were like yeah, let’s go. So we went to this party but we checked with Lee first, we were like hey we don’t have a way to get home, is it ok if we crash at your place? So we went to the party, had a grand old time, everything wound down, and y’know, we were like cool we’re gonna go to bed. And then we were like, hey what about that striptease? And he was like, oh I did promise that – so we got the striptease, and then three of us all got into bed together. And it was about at this time that I thought, maybe he liked me [laughs].
So that went pretty well! And we woke up, and then we had breakfast and the conversation of, is this a thing? And it’s like, yeah it’s a thing. Are we boyfriends now? Yeah, I think we’re boyfriends now. Alright cool, and that’s how Lee and I got together. And 11 years later, we’re still together! [laughs] And it was really funny, cos it was just meant to be a casual thing, like it’s not gonna get too serious, and now we live together and have two cats, so that worked out about as well as I think most casual queer relationships work out.
I don’t know, Lee is definitely one of the most important things in my life, period. Not just sort of, one of the most important people. We’ve been polyamorous the whole time we’ve been together. I’ve actually never been monogamous as an adult. I was monogamous as a teenager briefly, it was garbage – did not suit me at all. And I only mention that because it hink there’s a lot of narratives out there, that are like, oh y’know, polyamorous people never stay polyamorous, they never, there’s no successful polyamorous relationships, and it’s like – well, 11 years and counting. We’ve both had other partners throughout that 11 years. Its never been an issue. Yeah, so important people in my life. Can I say my cats? [laughs]
Cos I spend most of my time at home, I spend more time with the cats than I spend with any other living being. Other important people to me? So, after that cute story, I get to bring it down again – [laughs] sorry about that! I will say my mother, but my mother passed away 3 years ago. That was – yeah, very very difficult. I had a very very good relationship with my mother, we were very close. She didn’t live in Melbourne, she lived in a whole bunch of different places, but mostly in the country. That was very very hard. We had a tumultuous relationship – nowhere near as tumultuous as I think a lot of people’s can be. But still not smooth sailing. I came out as bisexual to her when I was 14, and she was like, cool what do you want for dinner. So that was easy. Came out as polyamorous at 18, she was like, well I don’t get it, but you’re happy – so awesome.
Came out as trans at 21, that did not go well. Literally – and I actually find this quite darkly funny – when I finally, cos we had a mutual friend at the time who was a trans woman. I said, y’know, how she’s a woman even though, y’know she was born a man and this kind of stuff – y’know, cos that’s how you phrase it to people who don’t get it. And she was like, yep yep. And I said, well that’s me, but the other way, like I’m transgender and all this kind of stuff. And there was this pause on the phone, and then she goes: I disagree. [laughs]. And I remember at the time, it took me a few seconds to respond because like, what do you even say to that? So not smooth sailing. That was, that was a very bad phone call. There was a lot of crying, and did I raise you wrong, and that sort of thing. Having said that, over the years, she got over it. A couple of years before she died, Lee and I went up to visit her and my sister and, she did actually say, like refer to me as a nice young man, and sort of – that was very good conversation that we had.
So y’know, not the smoothest sailing, but overall my mother was absolutely one of the most important people in my life. And she was one of the things I value most as a person, is kindness. I think that its vitally important in making this rubbish world a little less rubbish. And I got that from my mother. Like growing up, I come from a very poor family, we spent a lot of time in poverty. But y’know, she would always find an extra serving of dinner, y’know, someone would come round. It was very normal for me growing up, for there to be folks who were homeless crashing on our living room floor. Like you’d just wake up and there’s a new person there, it’s like cool, hi, I’m Erin. In that – these days, I can’t do it so much anymore, but certainly for most of my adult life, I had the same open-door policy. And that, y’know, it actually kills me a little bit that I can’t do that anymore, cos I’m just not well enough. So she – very big influence on me, very important as to how I interact with the world.
All my other answers are sort of, not single people but sort of groups of people. Like I love the people who work with me on the podcast, they make this incredible thing happen that I love doing. I’m influenced and y’know, some people who are very special to me are like just my friends in general. Like, even when I don’t get to see them that often, they’re still like, thank god for Facebook! Can’t go out much, but still got Facebook. I wouldn’t even know how to single out anyone else. Just I dunno, all people are kind of special to me, a little bit.
R: We’ve got a question about trans or gender diverse representation in the media and the arts. Is that sort of thing important to you, and do you have favorite characters, or – ?
E: Yeah, so – it’s less – okay so this is really interesting. Cos these days, in consuming media with trans characters is less important to me now, but that’s pretty much just cos i’m making it now [laughs]. Also, there is something to be said for being out for long enough, and having your gender affirmed by your friends and family long enough – that eventually you don’t desperately need that the way you do, when you’re like, when I say younger I don’t necessarily mean chronologically, I just mean younger in terms of when you’ve come out or realized – whatever the current lexicon is on that? Yeah, I do still think its really important though. I mean, one of the things like, in our show Love and Luck, we have like huge numbers of trans characters and trans actors, and our recording engineer is trans, and y’know, it is the number one thing – well, actually not the number 1 thing, but it is one of the biggest things we get fan comments about. Having these trans characters that are just existing and having a nice life, y’know – which makes me really sad, but also happy, because we’re getting to give that. But also really sad that its noteworthy.
In terms of my own stuff, my sort of sexual awakening as a child was to Priscilla Queen of the Desert. Which, yes, hugely prob-o film, but like – not back then for starters, and not when you’ve never seen anything like it before. Spent the first part of my life with nothing. Like the first trans man in media I saw was in Boys Don’t Cry, which is not a fantastic experience. I mean, I related to trans women characters in media, when they existed, more than anything – cos there just weren’t trans male characters or nonbinary characters out there. I did always hone in on sci-fi when there were like gender-less aliens and stuff like that, that was always my jam. Also really into every story about girls disguising themselves as men.
L: She’s the Man –
Yeah, yeah and the Joan of Arc story, and like – yeah, very much into that shit. That was, that was a big deal. I mean, even now, even now I can’t think of many trans characters in things that I’m like hugely attached to. Cos like, sometimes even when they exist, I don’t like how they’re treated, or I don’t like the rest of the show, or I just straight up can’t watch it.
L: What do you think are the big issues facing the gender diverse community, trans community, in Melbourne or Australia today?
E: Oh now that’s a very good question. Sadly, I think a lot of them are the same shit that was a problem when I came out – y’know, I think there’s still very little understanding from medical personnel. I mean, there’s basically no training for doctors or nurses or anything. Obviously mental health services are a big one. We have such a ridiculously high rate of suicide and mental illness, and y’know…unfortunately I really do think that health, both physical and mental, is probably the biggest – like that’s the thing that I would like to see focused on, I think for the trans community. And part of that – that feels like a shit answer – because in a way that’s what we’ve been focusing on for decades. But, I mean, we’re still not there. We’re still not, what is it like 1 in 4 trans people – no, its higher than that, something ridiculous – have tried to commit suicide. And our rates of abuse, being abused, are super high. There’s a lot of cool social stuff I would love for us to be able to focus on, but at the end of the day, I think that we’re still not being cared for. We still don’t have the right healthcare. I know a lot of disabled trans folk, whether chronically ill or otherwise, and almost all of them – actually all of them! – every single disabled trans person I know, has at least one story about those two problems. Like, they’re not problems in identity, but they’re presented as problems. Every disabled trans person I know has some shit that they’ve gone through because medical personnel can’t cope with the idea of both disabled and trans. I mean, most of us have even outright been told that disabled people can’t be trans, it’s ridiculous.
L: I was just wondering, if you were talking to a young trans person – and I like the idea of it not being in chronological age – but when you come out – what would you share with that person today, if they were listening?
E: I mean I think the biggest one is just take your time. You don’t have to have it all figured out immediately. You’re allowed to change, you’re allowed to fucking, just – like, so there’s this phenomenon. And the reason I say young, as in when you come out, is when we come out, we essentially have our childhood all over again. We are suddenly, y’know there’s this running joke that newly out trans people act like teenagers, but that’s because you are a teenager when you’ve just come out. You’re a whole new person again. You’re learning this whole new way about yourself. And I think that that’s good, and that should be encouraged. So I guess, this is going to be a long rambling answer – I think the most important thing is to just take your time.
L: I guess maybe alternatively, what would you say to an older trans person today that’s maybe come before you, or…?
E: That one’s harder. What I would say to an older trans person is just fucking thank you for existing. This is a rubbish world, and just surviving is a huge achievement I think for trans people. It’s comforting and invigorating almost, to see trans people survive and thrive and have good lives. That it’s not a one-off thing. I think in a nutshell, to a younger trans person I would just like to say: hold on. And to an older trans person, I think I would just want to say: thank you.
The reason why I was so excited to learn about this project, is imagine if we had this from 20 years ago. From 50 years ago. From 100 years ago. And what that could mean for – I mean, for pure archival like curiosity, if nothing else. But what that could mean in terms of looking at these time capsules, y’know. I mean, we have some, we have diaries, we have books, we have, things like that. But I mean, we’ve always been here. It’s just, I think its really beautiful and good that we’re at a point with technology where we can take these, these snapshots. And archive them, and a lot of the stuff that I’ve talked about in this last little while, I tell people in person a lot. But, I mean there’s no record of it other than that. Y’know, like I actually, the gatekeepers as mentioned, that treated me like shit – I’ve tried to access my medical files from them a couple of years ago. And half of them are missing. So there’s not even the official documents on this. But like, this shit happens. I don’t know if it still happens, I hope it doesn’t.
L: What you were just saying before, about having some record, I love that we’ve only met like a handful of people, and everybody is such a unique individual. And I think, y’know, throughout, sometimes it gets all thrown together as one trans experience –
E: Yeah – and there’s no one trans experience –
L: And we can say that, but I feel like being able to present this podcast and say – look how unique and wonderful and individual every person we speak to is, I think for me, that’s the really exciting part.
R: I think everyone, yeah, also – thinking about how helpful these sorts of conversations would have been, I mean, podcast aside, just like having these conversations. Because this podcast has also been an opportunity for us to meet people. Which has been beautiful. And to hear people’s experiences and stories, and I think also to have had more of that, y’know, when I was younger, would have been huge. Because I think it’s also, as a young person, as a young person I think you also – I mean I’m not a young person anymore – but it’s very easy to think that there’s only one way to do this. And if you don’t fit that narrative, then you must be mistaken. Or you must be unsure, and this isn’t the right thing for you. And I think hearing and having more of those stories out there, that are completely 100% legitimate obviously, and unique, and I think that’s important and I hope that any young people listening would also find that valuable.
E: It’s important to have all the different like, here are some of the ways it can look like. If you don’t know yet, cool, who cares? Y’know like there’s always this constant handwringing like, what if you’re wrong? So fucking what? I know, I have met multiple people who have changed their gender identity multiple times, in a variety of directions – it doesn’t make it less real. It doesn’t make it less a thing. When I was young and coming out, I couldn’t find anything. Whereas now you can find stuff, but it’s so rigid. It’s well this is what being trans is like. But actually there’s like, as many ways to be trans as there are trans people. Like, there is no one way.
L: Something you said before I thought was so poignant – how you said you were looking, you wanted to find out more information, but you didn’t know the words to type in
E: Right, I didn’t have the language
L: It’s incredibly poignant, and also that idea of trans people having to have this fully packaged, formed identity ready to go. And I just wonder, does anybody have that?
E: Does anyone? No. No one does! No one has this shit figured out [laughs]. We’re all works in progress.