Throughout history all cultures have utilized the act of story telling to pass on critical values, morals and spirituality.
As I share my story I feel that I’m passing something on. That my memories and life experiences are something worthy of being shared. Having hidden as a male for most of my life and now living as a trans-woman I have a unique perspective of the world.
I grew up in a small country town in rural Australia and somehow found myself working at the top of the entertainment field. I lived as an expat in Asia for years before touring all over the globe with Cirque du Soleil and then with the Dora the Explora children’s theater show. To say my life has been interesting is a bit of an understatement.
Despite all this surface success, I have suffered and survived through some pretty horrible things, I have battled drug addiction, suicide, my best friend falling of a cliff and having to save his life, a messy divorce, finding a dead body and balancing a double a life keeping my trans side a secret. That’s pretty much all before I remembered being molested when I was a child and losing my career and my identity.
It’s taken 4 years to unravel and slowly become my true self as Penny Rose.
So far, its been a very interesting ride. One that I am finally happy to take and it’s what I’m losing that I’m most happy about. I can see my old self in other men’s behaviour and it’s been a real insight into how the gender bias defines our relationships and society as a whole. I have read several other articles published by trans academics in the states who have gone through similar experiences. I believe it’s what makes the trans/gender diverse voice so powerful in our society today.
It’s like the veil of how women are really treated in this world has been lifted.
All of a sudden I’m being ignored, I get mansplained, when I interject in an all male conversation my voice just isn’t really heard anymore. What I have to say, seems to have less weight. It’s true, it depends on what groups I’m in but more often than not I now find myself unable to connect with men in the same way. The pheromones have changed and as a result the unseen divide between male and female has been clearly shown to me.
All of these things that I have been experiencing are things I used to unconsciously do as a male. In a way its karmic, in another it’s my journey of evolution, of learning. It’s why I always inwardly struggled as a male, I could always glimpse what I was doing but not really grasp it. Sitting on the other side now has given me this insight and it’s helped me greatly change the way I act and more importantly how I fundamentally think. Learning to be social again in a completely different way is not easy and presents a whole new learning curve. At the beginning I went through a horrendous stage where I recounted and relived my life through the lens of the females I had relationships with in my life. I have a film-like photographic memory, so when I relived these moments from a female lens I was suddenly struck with why none of my female relationships had worked, I could actually see how my “maleness” was so destructive. It left me with a huge amount of guilt and shame at how I used to be. But instead of letting it destroy me, I rose above it. I used it as a tool for change within myself.
I began removing the masks and layers, stripping back to expose the vulnerable core beneath.
It was this vulnerability that I had been hiding from. I had sub-consciously constructed two very intricate and different opposing identities. One that drew attention away from who I really was on the inside. The other inside person (Penny) was kept in the dark and confined to a secretive and shadowy double life.
When I was growing up in rural Australia, the last thing you wanted to be as a young boy, was gay, the idea of the transgender wasn’t even a concept in the 1980’s. Nearly every single jibe from boys at school was trans/homophobic. This still goes on today in Australia in the trades and working class level and within groups of all male friends. Australian, blokey male ribbing almost always consists of Trans/homophobic slurs. I know this because I was an apprentice and a tradesman myself. I know what goes on when certain types of guys get together and there are no strong women around. The amount of racism, sexism and trans/homophobia that goes on at work sites is phenomenal. It was just another reason why I kept my mouth shut. I saw what happened to any type of diversity. I was terrified of it being projected at me. It always comes in the form of jest and if you do say something like “that’s totally inappropriate” it’s always backed up with comments like, “I’m friend’s with some gay people so it’s ok”.
From my perspective no, it’s not. What you sit around and say behind people’s back is a reflection of your real thinking in some way. Your way of dealing with it by making jokes is just your fear of the unknown, trans identity has been suppressed for generations through plain ignorance. Think about what you’re saying for a moment and why you’re saying it.
It’s time for the Australian male to take a stock-take on their attitudes.
No really good comedy is ever found in punching down.
I used to sit back and silently listen when this went on in groups of males. I would smile and pretend I found it funny. But I would remain silent. It always compounded why I was terrified of coming out publicly. I always wanted to fit in. I never wanted to be the butt of everyone’s jokes. I didn’t want everyone making jokes about me when I wasn’t there. I used to justify it to myself that I didn’t need to out myself as it was nobody’s business what I did in my private life, but now I see things very differently.
By staying silent I was passively agreeing. I was perpetuating what I now stand against. Now, just by being who I am, I lead my own way rather than following the groups way.
If being queer or trans/gender diverse was seen as the actual beautiful thing that it is in our society, then the enormous pressure of trying to be something you’re not disappears. Fewer people opt for suicide. less mental health issues, less depression, less pain and suffering within our extended communities. Overall a much happier society.
Personally I came to a point in my life where I no longer cared for what anyone else thought. I rejected my entire life. I became Penny. The anxiety and fear that had ruled my life was gone. They could laugh as much as they want, point and stare and taunt but it no longer has any effect upon me.
I stepped out on the street the first time in women’s clothing and I felt empowered. I have learned that there is a humbling power in just owning who you are. People can see that from afar. It’s a confidence that not too many people have. It takes true courage to turn around against the tide and hold your own in a sea of conformity. Every trans, gender diverse person I meet, I try make sure to tell them how proud I am of them, and how every time they are in public they are representing our people and that to anyone who is still closeted or has those feelings themselves but can’t express it, it can give them hope, to know that it’s o.k to be you, it’s safe to walk out in public and be you. Just through being you, you have this magical power that can empower others. It’s really quite an amazing concept and beautiful part of life.
Basically I’m trying to be the elder that I never had to trans/gender diverse people of any age. Step through the fear, it will be o.k, sure it will be messy and painful but you’ll get through that shit. You’ve been resilient enough to get this far. Be that example of what you want this world to be like. Own who you really are on the inside and let it shine outwardly for all to see. Be authentic, it’s rare in this world of gloss, glamour and superficial reality.
Everyone has got their own journey and path to authenticity and I believe that’s what life is all about.
Find your own path your own way and know that with each step you take you will only make you stronger.