Being transgender: a personal story

Issue 
Alexis Greenwood (left) at a marriage equality rally in Sydney.

“I look at the body I have, which is a male body, and I want a female body”, Alexis Greenwood, a young woman transitioning from male to female, told Green Left Weekly.

Greenwood is speaking up about the barriers she faces because she wants more people to ask questions. She wants more people to be less ignorant about being transgender.

Greenwood said she “always knew something was wrong”. At 16 years old, while performing a monologue in her drama class about a transitioned person, she thought: “This feels right, this is me”.

“I talked to friends and they were 100% behind me. When the feeling got stronger I came out to my mum, dad and step mums. They are all supportive, but wanted me to talk to the professionals.”

The Gender Centre told her she did not need to be “feminine” to be female. “It was the thing I needed to hear.” She said there were three steps: social, medical and legal.

“The biggest one was coming out on Facebook because I didn't know how people were going to react. But everyone was very supportive.

“The second step was medical — going to see a psychiatrist, going onto the hormones and the surgery. The GP gave me a mental health care plan, which is partly subsidised, but if you are not very feminine, it can take longer to prove that you have to transition.

“The psychiatrist also has to determine whether or not you have gender dysphoria to be able to get the hormones on Medicare.

“The final legal step is to change your name and gender on all your IDs. You can only change your birth certificate after you have the surgery.”

One of the biggest difficulties Greenwood said is the cost of the surgery — $34,000 — and on top of that is the private hospital fees.

“I have no idea why it is so expensive. For transgender people this is not 'cosmetic'— it is necessary surgery as is obvious from the high suicide rate of transgender people, especially teens, who feel they cannot talk to anyone for fear of being bullied, ridiculed or kicked out of home.

“Some people even mutilate their genitals to try and have the bodies they feel they are. “You can't say that this is 'cosmetic' surgery.”

Greenwood said it is not before time that the World Health Organisation is removing transgender from its mental illness code.

“I don't think I am ill. I think I have born-in-the-wrong-body syndrome. I don't think other transgender people are ill. If transgender people are considered ill, it is easier to discriminate against us.”

Greenwood said transgender people face discrimination at many levels. That includes being publically shunned, facing the risk of violence, even murder, losing family and friends, being arrested, being imprisoned in an opposite sex jail, difficulty in trying to find a job or losing a job.

“There is next to no positive media representation of transgender or gender diverse people.”
Because Greenwood's family has been supportive, she has had to deal with less transphobia compared to others.

She said there needs to be much more awareness about transgender people, or risk the sort of backlash that is taking place in parts of the US over unisex bathrooms.

“This is another reason why the Safe Schools program is so important. It was helping young people understand more about transgender people, including that they are not mentally ill but are becoming who they are meant to be.

“My message to young people coming out is that while it can be hard and you feel you are alone, you should Google support networks and talk to friends you can trust. There is help, and slowly things are changing.”

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