22nd May 2018:
Lee and Ryan sit down with Maddie, a 28yr old trans woman who uses she/her pronouns. She talks about growing up in Adelaide, trans representation in the media, live music, visibility, reinvention and living authentically, and how crucial community is. Also included are shout-outs to Fitzroy North and Meetup.com. Lee learns not to put Ryan in charge of the technical side of recording, but they work through it and Ryan is invited back next time.
L: Today’s the 22nd of May, 2018.
M: My name’s Madeline or Maddie, yeah, and I’m 28, trans woman, she/her pronouns.
L: What kind of things do you like to do?
M: That is a very broad question, um yeah, all sorts of things I guess, I really like running, going to live music as well, that’s something I really enjoy. I’m going to answer all the boring sort of online dating profile questions like, you know, hanging out with friends, going to movies, [laughs] but yeah – all pretty regular – I don’t really have that much exciting to say?
L: What kind of bands do you like going to see?
M: I’ve been seeing a lot of Melbourne musicians and, I guess like particularly queer and trans musicians like RVG, and June Jones, and Two Steps on the Water, I went to their last gig which was… excellent and heartbreaking. Yeah. A lot of those sort of bands, which are really really good.
L: Did you grow up around Melbourne, or…?
M: No, I’m from Adelaide. I moved to Melbourne last year in May. Yeah and have not looked back! [laughs] Sorry Adelaide.
L What kind of instigated that move?
M: It was a few different things. Adelaide was quite lonely for me since coming out, and I think, a sort of similar problem for young people generally – not just queer young people in Adelaide, where it seemed like half, more than half of my friends had moved to Melbourne, Sydney, London, all of that sort of stuff – and the people that were still there were very much settling down, and I thought my life was just starting. So yeah, I kind of wanted to move somewhere a bit bigger with a bit more going on [laughs].
L: My partner is from Adelaide and she says the exact same thing.
M: Right, okay cool [laughs]
R: I guess, is there a place in Melbourne that is particularly significant or meaningful for you? I guess its early days maybe –
M: Yeah, it is early days, but… I guess the whole, I walk home down Brunswick street pretty regularly in Fitzroy. And just the whole area – cos I sort of landed and live in this house in Fitzroy North and absolutely adore my housemate. So we pretty quickly became best friends, and… So I wouldn’t really say a place necessarily, but its just kind of being in the area I’ve really found a home, in a way that I haven’t quite felt before. So yeah, I think just generally that whole region – that, you know, the bubble [laughs]. The inner north of Melbourne is pretty special, yeah.
L: I was wondering what kind of movies you like?
M: Oh wow, yeah, hm. All sorts of movies. I’m like a bit, I’m pretty into sci-fi. So definitely a bit of a dork. But yeah, I will generally try and watch just about anything. It’s not a very interesting answer.
I guess, I’ll say, I’ll tell you my favorite movie. My favorite ever movie is this movie called Happy Go Lucky. It’s this excellent Mike Lee film. It’s essentially about a person who approaches life in this way, that the whole movie is set up that you’re supposed to believe that she’s naïve in being happy go lucky, that sort of thing. But spoilers – if you haven’t seen it – essentially the message of the movie is, no actually, her method of approaching life in that way, in an open, warm, kind way, is the best way to, or like a really good way. She doesn’t need to change. So that is my favorite movie. That’s the kind of thing I like: really earnest, like Wachowski movies, sort of stuff.
L: So we just had some technical problems [laughs]. If its ok with you we might go back to when we were talking a little bit about Adelaide, is that okay?
M: Yeah sure, that’s fine.
L: We were just talking about what it’s like to grow up in Adelaide and what kind of relationship you might have with your family?
M: Yeah, no worries. Yeah, so essentially growing up in Adelaide was, it was fine [laughs]. I found it quite difficult at school because well, at the end of year 12 I’m pretty sure, yeah there were no gay people there, none! Which I’m sure still holds true. So yeah I felt very isolated in that respect, cos I was extremely closeted. So that was, yeah, that was quite difficult. It took me a long time, because Adelaide has this – it kind of feels very like a big small town in a lot of ways, and everyone knows everyone. It can be difficult to explore parts of yourself that you might want to, in a way that, in a sort of safe place, because chances are you’re going to run into someone you know. So yeah, it was, that was quite difficult.
In terms of relationship to my family, which you asked about. I have a really really good relationship with my family now, I’m especially close with my mom. Um, it did take them a while to sort of process me coming out as trans. Um, I think partially because they really didn’t expect it. But also yeah, I think they – yeah it just was difficult for them probably in the same way that, I don’t know, people never expect it’s going to happen to someone they know, or something like that. But yeah, they made it very clear to me throughout that entire time, which was quite difficult, that they supported me and loved me no matter what. It was just going to take a little bit of their own processing, which is fair, cos I mean, I had 26 years or so to get my head around it. So I could give them a little bit of time. But now, we all have a fantastic relationship. It’s really good.
R: Was there something that prompted you at the age of 26 to tell them, or?
M: To come out?
M: Oh that’s a big question. Yeah, I think it had been looming for a while. I did a lot of the like, I don’t know if these are standards – I was going to say ‘a lot of the standard things’ – but I don’t know that that’s true. But yeah I was pretty in denial for a long time, and sought out any possible way to not be trans. I didn’t know any trans people, I just, I had no idea what that would look like. I assumed that if I came out, I would lose all of my friends and family so yeah, it took me a very long time to even admit to myself that I was. And then once I did, it led to a pretty deep period of I guess depression, because I was sort of stuck in this, well not put in this position, I felt put in a position where I either had to yeah. I essentially like, I knew what I had to do, but I didn’t really feel like I was able to do it. And yeah, I think, a relationship I was in ended around that time. Which led me to essentially be, well there is nothing stopping me, I might as well give this a go, I feel like I have two options at this point, and I’m pretty glad I picked that one. Um yeah, so that’s what led me to transition at that age.
L: You spoke a little about your housemate. But we were wondering, are there people in your life that are really important to you – you mentioned your family, and…?
M: Absolutely. Yeah I have a lot of really really good friends. That are, that I’ve sort of, since coming to Melbourne in particular, I’ve really formed a network of extremely close friends and people that are incredibly supportive of me and, yeah – that I can go to and have in depth, deep and meaningful discussions with and… yeah it is good. I have a lot of good friends [laughs].
R: Do you feel like you’re currently part of a trans and gender diverse community? Would you use those terms, or…?
M: I think I’m more part of a queer community generally. I think, yeah there are trans and gender diverse people that I’m close to, absolutely – but not specifically if that makes sense? And, it is interesting, cos that’s something I think about sometimes where I… you know, you have different friends almost for different reasons. And there are some things that I can, I feel like, I can only really talk to other trans people about, and they’ll really get it. And other people might try to get it, but there’s sort of a deeper level of understanding so I think it is important to have that sort of community and have those people to reach out to.
L: I guess conversely, have you ever felt that there are any struggles in being trans in a queer community or, being around other trans people? Has there been any struggle in that?
M: Um yes. I think one thing that I sort of struggle with, and I know actually quite a few of my friends struggle with this as well, in a weird way not feeling queer enough. And yeah like, I don’t have a sweet undercut or anything like that, so yeah [laughs]. In some really queer spaces…And also in a way, in a weird way, being sort of like a binary trans woman can sometimes feel like – and I’m sure it’s just my perception and insecurity, it’s not actually a real thing – but that can feel like I’m sort of, yeah again, not queer enough if that makes sense? That accepting that binary identity is you know, reductive or something, even if that’s what feels right for me. Yeah I guess, also being bisexual, that carries its own erasure of like, yeah of being in queer communities and, um… yeah if you’re, the classic thing of, if I’m in a relationship with a woman then that’s because I’m actually gay, and if I’m dating a guy then it’s like ah yeah you’re actually straight, so that sort of thing. Yeah I don’t know, I guess there are those sorts of issues that come up, but I think a lot of that is based in my own insecurities rather than anything I’m actually getting from anyone else, and yeah –
L: I think many people have those feelings so I don’t know if it’s all inside you –
M: Yeah [laughs]
R: Yeah we talk about invisibility, or like, you know visibility can be on the one hand, not the safest –
M: Totally –
R: But then feeling like part of your queerness starts to get erased –
M: Absolutely, yeah –
R: And yeah I think that’s a really hard, especially like if you’ve… for me at least, coming out quite ‘late,’ well not late, but like I’m 32 almost 33 and only came out as trans maybe one and half years ago
M: Right, yeah –
R: And so like so much of my teenage years was about like… kind of fighting for a queer identity, and I’ve always identified as queer and then all of a sudden to like – I’ve fought so hard for that and now I feel like I’m losing –
M: Right, yeah –
R: It’s a really, it’s almost like a loss or kind of grief – where that visibility is kind of gone, but I feel more comfortable than I’ve ever felt –
M: yeah [laughs]
R: It’s really weird, and its hard I think, yeah I guess, its something that we’ve talked about a bit. That you can kind of mourn that, while you’re also discovering this awesome thing, you know?
M: Absolutely yeah. It is. It feels extremely messy sometimes, but I think that’s okay.
R: I guess this a slightly more political question, but what do you think some of the major issues are facing the trans community or gender diverse community today?
M: Well, there’s sort of. God it’s a huge question. I think I honestly think that a lot of it is broader, and it’s sort of you know, cos I could talk about access to medical, you know, access to surgeries, access to medical assistance, that kind of thing is super important definitely. But it’s pretty hard to look away from the 50% suicide attempt rate, and the rate of homelessness and joblessness. Um, it’s just, yeah those social and economic and mental health things are the most important because yeah, I mean, people get kicked out of their homes and they have nowhere to go. It’s incredibly difficult when… I think that’s the biggest thing. Is making sure that, you know, we can take care of people in crisis. And there are lots of trans people in crisis.
L: I know you’ve only been in Melbourne for a year, so I don’t know if this question is relevant, but do you feel like there’s been changes in the queer community around trans stuff, or… what’s your indication of how things are at the moment?
M: Yeah it’s a hard question for me to answer, only having been here for a year. I think particularly I wasn’t really an established, like in a part of much of the queer community in Adelaide at all, so I felt quite lonely there. And then coming here and…finding a million queer people, its like so good! Yeah, so I’m probably very like, still very positive and excited about it and all that sort of stuff, so I’m not really sure… um yeah I probably haven’t noticed many changes in the past year…
R: What was it about the Adelaide queer community that you felt wasn’t –
M: Ah, it was not – I just couldn’t find it! [laughs]
M: Yeah, it was kind of because, as I said, most of my friends were straight and… yeah it was this thing where I felt like I was coming out and that was great, and really exciting, but I also didn’t really have a lot of people around me. I was part of a support group which was really good, for trans and gender diverse people in Adelaide, but it was also mostly, it was mostly older people. So yeah I was sort of the youngest person, and then, yeah a lot of the time I was the youngest person at the meeting and so there was sort of less of a – yeah I just didn’t know where to find the queer community basically, of peers I suppose. Because I found those meetings incredibly valuable but I guess finding peers was the harder thing? Yeah.
L: Did you have links already established in Melbourne, or did you just kind of come to Melbourne and –
M: Just came to Melbourne and, yep, I got very lucky – actually a friend, a very good friend I met at the gender diversity meet up put me in touch with the person who I’m now living with, who, and through her I made a whole bunch of new friends. And also I just got on to Meetup.com, found myself a few groups and just threw myself out there. And yeah, sort of wound up making a whole bunch of friends. Yeah, I had some friends already living here as well, which was helpful….
L: Meetup.com: So good
M: Its so helpful!
L: …any kind of group or activity, it’s on there
R: So yeah we’ve talked briefly about film and stuff, but is trans representation in the arts or in the media important to you? And if so, do you have like particular favorite texts?
M: Um yes, it is important. Definitely. Because it’s been so bad for so long. Yeah, I just completely yeah absorbed all of those really crap messages about what it means to be a trans person growing up. And so y’know, that’s yeah, all of that stuff. The classic, that you’re either like, what is it – I’m trying to think back to Whipping Girl – um yeah that you’re a pathetic figure or basically like a psychopath or trying to trick straight men into sleeping with you, and like all that sort of stuff, yeah like those are essentially your options. It did a lot of damage definitely, to me, and I’m sure it has to so many other people, and also you can see that even when you’re trying to first explain to someone what being trans means. You actually have to combat decades of crap stereotypes that are just so wrong. So yeah I think it is incredibly important.
In terms of representation, big fan of the show Sense 8 definitely [laughs]. I also, I’m trying to think off the top of my head. Yeah I like Laverne Cox on Orange is the New Black, I think that’s good too. Yeah that’s just I guess in terms of mainstream stuff. But yeah I mean, I don’t know, there’s other books like Nevada and things like that, that are great, that I think more trans people have read than mainstream or cis audiences. So it is, it is something that I think is incredibly important, and has been gotten wrong for so long. And is still getting, yeah, still just wrong.
L: This is a pretty big question, so feel free to …but it’s just about how does being trans relate to other aspects of your identity?
M: That’s a really interesting question. I think, I’m not sure if this is answering the question correctly
L: There’s no correct –
M: I do think that um transitioning kind of, in a lot of ways, gave me a lot of freedom to reinvent myself or really dig deep and question a whole bunch of other aspects of my personality and me as a person, that perhaps I wouldn’t have done otherwise, because – and particularly it was sort of after I’d finished socially transitioning, and that to me was finishing transitioning. Everyone knows about it, everyone knows to treat me in this particular way, and that sort of thing. I just kind of had this huge feeling of like – am I allowed to swear? Sorry. [laughs] Yeah like ‘Oh fuck, what now?’ Because so much of my life had just been about just getting through, cos I was so apathetic. And then after coming out was like, okay transitioning is my mission, that’s what I’m going to do, and afterward I was this big ball of energy and I was just like, oh shit, I have nowhere to point this. So it kind of has given me a real chance to sort of try and figure out, which is still an ongoing process, what’s important to me, what I value, all of that sort of thing, and its yeah, its really good, I’ve made a lot of positive changes in my life I think.
L: It’s so wonderful to hear, there’s so much positivity, it’s really wonderful
M: Oh, thank you
R: Again, you don’t have to answer this question, but – I guess you told us a bit before, but what do you think the idea of coming out is, or what does that mean to you?
M: Yeah I suppose, as I said it was kind of just… you’re put in a position as a trans person, yeah, coming out requires asking other people to treat you differently. So you’re kind of forced to do that. And yeah I’m, I recognize that I am incredibly lucky to be able to be someone who is pretty comfortable being openly trans as well. So I don’t really want to, its not an aspect of my personality I hide, but yeah… I guess coming out was the big thing was, making that really publicly known. And coming out at work, and all of that sort of stuff was… yeah that was, I suppose, its just letting the world know that it needs to treat you in a particular way cos this is who you are. And yeah, that was that experience for me, I suppose.
L: So I imagine quite a few people who will be listening to this, all around the place, all around the world hopefully, if you wanted people to hear one thing from you, what might that be?
L: I feel you’ve already said quite a lot of wonderful things [laughs]
M: Um, oh god… [laughs]
L: I could reframe it?
M: Yeah sure, okay
L: Um, what do you think is the best thing about being trans?
M: Um, I think yeah the best thing about being trans is living authentically, I think. And again I recognize that I’m in an incredibly lucky position to be able to safely do that and not risk my employment and not risk, yeah, not risk a lot of things that can come with being openly trans but also even just being trans, and acknowledging that within yourself, is a huge thing. It is essentially fighting against all of the messages that you’ve absorbed since being a tiny child, that you need to be a particular way, and saying to that, no actually I’m this way, I am me. I am valid, and I am important, and this is how I’m going to be. And that’s, I think, an incredible thing.
And also, you’re not alone. There’s so many of us out there. So yeah. That’s I think, that answers your first question, that’s what I’d like anyone to hear, is you’re not alone. I thought I was incredibly alone and after coming out, that was the biggest thing, finding out I was not alone, and there are so many other people who have been there done that [laughs]. And but share that experience too. It was really powerful. Definitely, yeah.