Other Ways of Living
I am a Transgender woman, I have had and continue to have a varied life, however the Trans part is the one that seems to fascinate people the most. I grew up in the 60’s seemingly your typical suburban boy. My inner life started to change around the time of puberty. Growing up in New Zealand back then allowed no scope for being different in almost any way, I felt different but had no idea how to express that and there were no avenues then to even learn. So, what does one do? One hides the most important part of you, your true self. I hid it very well, through my first marriage and several relationships.
It was not until my second marriage that I was able to share my secret and I was pleasantly surprised when I was not met with ridicule but understanding and support. In trying to find out more, as a couple, we established a support group that over time grew into a sizeable organisation and through that and meeting many, many, people I began the journey I still travel. At age 39 I reached the decision that I could no longer live a double life and my 40th birthday present was a visit to the doctors to start the hormone process. It was for me exciting and exhilarating, I was becoming the person I believe I was meant to be. In becoming that person, one cannot expect to travel unscathed, there were losses - my marriage, my daughter and almost my own life.
If one survives those losses one can truly emerge as oneself; scared, yes, but able to face the world as a whole person.
My transition and subsequent life have probably not been typical of other trans people’s lives. I have been lucky; I have had minimal abuse, have never been physically attacked as others have. Perhaps it has been a range of factors. When we started the support group we made a conscious decision to be open and not hide which meant I became a spokesperson, and for a time was prominent in the media. When talking about our issues I spoke from the heart but also with sense and knowledge, and even now, many years later, I think that goodwill that was banked back then has remained. It also helps being tall.
Trans people are like everyone, we age, and our bodies are often no longer capable of doing all the things we did in youth. This is a concern that younger people do not yet have to consider. What will become of me when I am old? Right now, despite a few issues I still work but someday that will end, what becomes of ancient transwomen? Our aged care system has trouble dealing with gay people, and they have no idea about the needs of elderly trans folk. I do not pretend to have the answers, but they will need to start asking the questions.
People wonder about my sexuality which is completely separate from my gender identity. My primary attraction has always been toward women. Every Trans person is different and has their own sexual preferences. However, while mine has been for women, with age comes a relaxing of many aspects of self that one has always taken for granted and so other possibilities can now co-exist.
Work has never been important as a money-making prospect. I spent much of my life as an artist, which was never a path to riches - at least not the monetary kind. For me it has been a portal to a life “I” could understand. I no longer paint. I work as I can and do not stress, I have a roof over my head and food to eat. What more do I need?
Well ... clothes! I want clothes, I love clothes. I have a fridge magnet with a quote from Thomas Fuller: “Good clothes open all doors” which may or may not be true but by god, when you dress well you carry yourself well.
Words of advice
At all times be true to who you are, only fools do anything else.
Claudia is 63 and lives in Lower Hutt, New Zealand