Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Green Island

An estuary lay steaming in the early morning sun, the colours of the water in its upper reaches a toffee-brown, but here, close to where a bridge of sand lay between it and the green-blue sea beyond, the water was clear. So clear that the great shovel-headed fish in the channel swimming lazily against the outgoing tide looked suspended in air. The sound of waves, their crashing muffled by the intervening dunes, rose above the cries of sea-birds in the sky. Fish were on the move beyond the line of breakers and the sun-dappled surface was broken, here and there, with the glistening, arced backs of sharp-eyed dolphins.

The outgoing flow of the estuary carved the channel seaward, but in the chaos where ocean met lake, the channel turned gradually to the south. It continued to run parallel to the beach before forking and branching into a broad underwater delta. The sand here rippled and the whiting darted. Out to sea, but to the north, lay an island. More a point of land whose lingering connection to the continent became more and more tenuous with each cycle of tide. The schools of bait fish were driven towards it. The convergence of stony beach, brown-stone reef and long, breaking waves peeling southwards from the island’s east-most point conspired to corral the fish. Here, the hunters waited.

On mats of spongy bark they sat. Bobbing on the swell, spears and nets in hand. Looking south, they shielded their eyes and called to one another in anticipation of the school’s arrival. One young hunter stood on her vessel; its prow tied with string and sealed with blackened-sap. With her hands she paddled back and forth to stay close to that part of the bay where the peeling waves partially blocked any escape for the prey. The current grew stronger as the tide continued to ebb and soon she lost ground; her craft being drawn between reef and sand bank so that, in the moments of calm between waves, she slipped beyond the break.

Floating out here was not new to her, but the direction of the swell and the way it broke and peeled away from the island meant that the barrier they planned to use as a tool for hunting fish now separated her from the group. She could see them beyond the line of breakers and knew that the school had arrived; spears and nets were being thrown and shouts floated across the air.

To return she had to choose; a long paddle down behind the line of waves and then back up to the group, a risky attempt to scamper on to the rocky beach or wait for a break in the waves and paddle as fast as she could directly back to the group. While she thought, a dolphin broke the surface beside her then streaked forward through a wave towards the beach. Needing no further encouragement, and wishing to return before the school broke and ran, she looked behind and scanned the horizon. The waves were grouped and she counted three as they passed under her, a long gap, another three, another gap. She realised her moment had arrived and, whilst kneeling, paddled as hard as she could for the other side. She did not realise, though, that she had been pushed further north than she realised and that what lay on the other side of broken water was reef and rocky beach. With a fright, she steered her craft towards the south to angle away from the hazard, but in doing so, lost time. The gap between waves passed and, looking behind her, she saw the first of the next three waves approach. Paddling fast, she felt her craft get pulled back towards the wave as it sucked up the sea in front of it, but the wave passed her at the last moment, peaking as she rose over its crest.

The offshore breeze blew spray back into her face. Gasping, she looked behind again and saw that the next wave was bigger. In fear, she dug deeper with her hands, willing the craft forward. Her eyes focused on the beach beyond. She could see the group looking towards her, waving and shouting but did not need to turn around to understand why. Still paddling to angle away from the rocky shore to her right, she felt the same sensation of being drawn backwards by the wave. Realising there was no other option but to paddle harder and harder, she stroked the water desperately, knowing her life depended on it.

This time though, something felt different. She felt energy below her and the craft began to slide forward, whilst tilting in a way that she had to lean back to avoid falling. In an instant, the wave began to break; spilling white water and propelling her forward across its face. As her craft skimmed along, she lost her fear and yelped with joy. Not just because she was surviving, but because was there, slicing along the blue arc of rolling water.
She raced down the line of wave until it passed beyond the shallow sand bank and into deeper water. Here she found herself in calm waters not far from the outliers of her group. She paddled towards them, her heart racing, and saw in their eyes something hard to describe; almost as if they were seeing her anew.

Monday, 28 December 2015

Happiness and sadness

I recently found a journal I started in mid-2013. In the first entry I attempted to describe the kind of life I thought I would be living in January 2016. In some areas I was off the mark but in others I was more than right. I mostly talked about my transition and how I thought it would impact my life. However, one of the things I wrote stands out to me today more than the others: 'I will have been very sad but I will also have had many moments of happiness'. In this prediction I could not have been more Nostradamus-like. I know, it's not really a prediction. It's kind of like saying that the sun will rise and set each day or the 732 Express to the city will arrive at 8.07 on weekdays but, there is something in that statement which reminds me more about the beauty of life than any of my expectations back on that wintry Canberra day in July 2013. Happiness and sadness live together in me. There are times when I feel so full of joy thinking about the wonder of life that I almost burst and there are times when my sadness seems so deep that I think I'm going to break. Last night I finished binge-watching Season 2 of 'Transparent'. I won't reveal any spoilers but here's the thing, I realised how much loss I have had in my life. More than that, the understanding of my own losses brought a greater understanding of the loss of others in my life. My son lost a father when I transitioned. My father lost a wife from dementia. My mother lost a life from the same illness. My brother lost his belief in family love when he experienced conflict from coming out as gay. My children lost a mother through death. This reflection of loss landed on me like a soft wave. It grabbed my soul and pulled it out of me so that I had no choice to feel the pain, feel the emptiness, the ache, the tears streaming down my cheek. Yet, from within that flood of feeling, I felt myself rising up. I could see the sun above the surface of the water that covered me and I broke through, driven with the desire to write; to somehow capture the wisdom I felt had been passed on to me by the soft-hard sorrowful pain that had worked its way through me and morphed into a feeling of joy at what we, as living beings, are capable of feeling. Somehow, my feelings had built a cathedral of sorrow in my heart and whilst kneeling within it, my heart healed.

Friday, 12 December 2014

Hansard Finally Does Me a Favour

Over time, I have had a professional need to use something called Hansard. Hansard, according to its website ( is "the name given to the edited transcripts of debates in the Australian Senate, House of Representatives, Federation Chamber and parliamentary committees. They are published shortly after the chamber or committee proceedings have concluded". Hansard is pretty much a record of everything said in the Australian Parliament and, considering the state of Australian politics, it's no surprise to know Hansard is not a place to find inspiration for personal change. Funnily enough, I did.

Recently, while using Hansard, I read of an Education References Committee that was looking into the state of education for young Indigenous Australians. The witnesses were educators from Bourke in far north-west NSW. I've been to Bourke a couple of times when I stayed with the families of friends from boarding school during school holidays so I had some context about the place.Anyway, as I began to read through the witness list, the name ELMORE, Father James Godfrey, School Chaplain, St Ignatius Primary School jumps out at me from the page. Why? Well, he, with the help of my Religious Education teacher Ray Logan, indecently assaulted me just after my 14th birthday. 

You may be wondering how this discovery equates to finding inspiration for personal change but, for me, what happened next is what's important. You see, I reported this abuse to the police in 2001. They took my statement and attempted to interview Elmore. Unfortunately, a highly organised wall of legal defence was set up around Elmore and he was simply allowed to respond with a "no comment" to the detective's questions. Because I had no corroborating information, the police dropped the case. A few weeks later, someone claiming to be from Towards Healing contacted me saying the Catholic Church wanted to make a pastoral gesture to me for my troubles. After a protracted period of "negotiation" with Towards Healing, I accepted some shut up money and their promise that Elmore would be taken out of circulation. The whole process was an absolute joke but, I was in a terrible state and totally vulnerable to the overall strategy to protect Elmore and, therefore the Catholic Church, from exposure. I often wonder why the Catholic Church works so hard to protect the "bad eggs" in their clergy ranks but the reason why dawned on me last night. The Catholic Church only cares about protecting Elmore because Elmore, an arch-pedophile, probably knows enough about what's going on pedophile-wise to bring important people down if he is cut loose.

My conviction on this comes from something that preceded me making a statement to the police about the abuse. I can't really remember how this happened, but it might have something to do with an early face book thing like "Find High School Friends" or something but, through that, I was contacted by a former teacher of mine, Tony Young. I had fond memories of Mr Young because, well to start with he didn't seem like a pedophile and secondly, he was pretty cool. Anyway, Mr Young contacts me and tells me that he is now principal at the school I was abused at (Christian Brothers College, Burwood) and is bringing a school excursion to Canberra. We arranged to meet and after a seemingly pleasant visit our conversation turned to how I was going. I told Mr Young that I was not too good because things that happened at school were troubling me badly now. I told him it had something to do with Elmore and that I was thinking about making a statement to the police. Mr Young told me it would be hard to do that because Elmore was dead. I was actually disappointed to hear that but something was wrong about it. My spidey-sense was going off. I needed to confirm that Elmore really was dead. So, I attempted to track him down and I discovered that he had changed from being a Christian Brother - Brother Elmore - to a priest in the Pashionist Order and that he was indeed alive. At that point, I think I just thought Tony Young had made a mistake or thought I was talking about someone else. Because the thought of Elmore disgusts me, I deliberately remained anonymous in my search to figure out whether he was dead. I also never left any contact numbers and rang from a work phone which comes up as a private number. So, you can imagine my surprise when, not long after figuring out he was NOT dead, Elmore starts calling and leaving messages on my work phone. I mean, I didn't really know the guy apart from his grooming tactics and the abuse and all of a sudden I'm getting messages from him like we are friends or something. He rang so many times my boss had to take one of his calls to lie and tell him I was on extended leave and to stop calling. It was the "lie" about Elmore's death and the phone calls that finally drove me to go to the police.

Anyway, you still may be wondering where the Hansard inspiration is. Well, I couldn't help myself after seeing his name in Hansard so I did another kind of internet tracking of Elmore and Logan. I found that Elmore is still in circulation with schools and Logan is dead but had been found guilty on multiple child abuse charges. Some of Logan's charges pre-date his engagement as a lay teacher at Christian Brothers Burwood. In fact, he was defrocked from the Marist Brothers because of his crimes before I was born. So, I decided to contact the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse and tell them my story. I am hoping they will then ask the Catholic Church two questions:

1. Did they know Logan was a pedophile when they employed him as a future teacher of me at Christian Brothers Burwood? and

2. Did they act to protect children in response to my allegations - which they took seriously enough to make me sign a gag order as a condition of receiving their "shut up money" - by taking Elmore out of circulation in the Catholic Education System?

I know the answers. Yes and no. I just want to see it in writing.

Go me!

Friday, 6 June 2014

Was Gonna Be A Reveal

I was going to do a "nose reveal" post tonight but my blog inspiration has shifted with the circumstances. So, if you're following the nose...stay tuned.

In the meantime, I am going to do a quick entry - more a glorified FB status than anything. I have had some great moments in the last 24 hours. There's been F*Knuckle Thurs - a wonderful German food fest shared with good friends, spending time with the amazing KGirl - a friend I have a great love for or proudly joining the management committee of A Gender Agenda - the ACT's very own sex and gender diverse community service. I suppose what I am trying to say is that, right now, I am really excited. With such great friends and opportunities, I think my future's going to be bright. 

Oh, also just remembered. Had a "Life Changing Moment" today. Went into Payless at Westfield Woden and bought the most amazingly comfortable pair of ballet flats. OMG. Yes, I freely and openly admit the error of my ways for defending certain types of footwear. I put the flats on as soon as I bought them. I still have them on and may even wear them to bed. Those of you who know the disruptive results of me trying to fit into too-small high heels will be pleased to know that perhaps the days of driving AndiMac home midway through a social event so she can change her shoes are numbered - well, may become less frequent.   

Saturday, 31 May 2014

The Shame of Failing To Look Feminine Enough

Yesterday was meant to be a great day but it's funny how little things can change everything so much.

The day started with me meeting my friends KGirl, Dooky, J Rock, KMan, Cath and the lovely DB for lunch before we went to the launch of a book of poetry called Stone Postcard by Paul Magee. The launch was great and I really enjoyed opening my mind to this unfamiliar form of expression. During the launch Paul read some of his poems and one stood out to me more than the others he read. I can't remember the title but it was called "Swimming in..something". Anyway, the poem was about Paul and his friend from Melbourne swimming at St Kilda Beach in winter. The last line of the poem that stood out to me went something along the lines of, "I'm thinking so I must be still alive.". This line stood out to me for two reasons: 1) I have been in situations whilst surfing where I have wiped out during biggish winter waves and, whilst underwater being tossed around by the whitewater, fought the panic of drowning by saying to myself, "OK, I am thinking so I must be alright." and, 2) Whilst feeling total panic about my own life, reigning in the fear of an uncertain future by remembering I was still functioning, i.e., "I know I am scared right now but I am talking to myself in reasonable tones and I have a lot of support so it's likely I can probably get myself back on track.". Whilst hanging with my friends yesterday, little did I know that some winter waves were rolling towards me and were due to break on the beach of my life that night. 

One of the things I have learnt from surfing is where waves come from. The best ones come from storms far out to sea where the ripples from that activity build into ordered sets of swell as they travel from the source of energy. If there's nothing between where the waves form and where you want to surf them these sets arrive as ground swell. In sets of ground swell some waves are bigger than others. We call these bombs. To get a wave you paddle out past where the waves are breaking and wait at a spot where you think they are going to break. This place is called the line up and it's usually easy to find because that's where other surfers will be sitting. You wait for the waves in the line up, which are usually about the same size on any given day and, when it's your turn you paddle towards the beach and hopefully stand up and ride it in. Apparently the bigger waves in the set can be seen coming but because I have really bad eyesight I usually know a bomb is on the way when I see other surfers madly paddling straight out towards the incoming wave. When this happens there are usually no words spoken by the group but there is a tangible sense of communication that comes from this collective movement and the message is clear, "Get the hell out of here!". It's hard to define the deep sense of being alive when you are paddling at a bomb and make it over the top without getting worked. However, when I am surfing by myself I usually get smashed by the big waves - which, in itself is an exhilarating experience.  Little did I know a bomb set was heading towards me last night. 

It started when I got an email from a former partner that i had lived with for a long time but eventually separated from. We had a tumultuous time together but, 8 years on we are at least able to communicate with each other. I was pleased to get the email so I left the table I was at with my friends at the pub we had gathered in after the book launch and went into to the toilet to sit down and respond. I was away for a little while and when I got back, my friends were all asking me if I was OK because, during my absence, KMan had bumped into an ex-girlfriend of mine. Everyone was a little nervous about telling me but I felt like I was OK. I asked if she looked happy and whether she was with a man and they said yes. Our break-up was rough. I really loved that girl and I was desperate just to see her face from a distance - even if she was happy with a new guy. As much as I said I was OK though, I really wasn't. I tried to fight the feeling of sadness but I just couldn't and that combined with the fact that my shoes were killing me just started to drag me down. I realised I hadn't paddled hard enough to get over the bomb and I was being worked by some pretty harsh metaphysical whitewater. 

Another thing about wiping out is that, once the wave lets you go, you often rise to the surface of the impact zone to be faced with the imminent arrival of the next wave which means you don't have much time to gather yourself before you are under again in that crazy mix of water, bubbles and swirling energy. 

So, when I surfaced from my first "OMG, I really want to see her again" wipe out it wasn't long before the next wave arrived. Like I said, my shoes were killing me and they were negating the effect of the gin and tonics and I was feeling down already so I decided to leave the party. I slunk off from the group with my tail between my legs. I thought, maybe if I go home and change my shoes I can come back in to town and get back into things but, whilst passing a group of men out the front of an adjacent night spot one of them said in a loud voice, "It's a man.". I stopped and went up to him and said something like, "Good observation skills, f***kwit." but because I did not want to get my nose smashed and I had a dress and heels on I quickly departed the scene. Now, I am not a beautiful woman. I am 6'1" with scars from the bumps and knocks of my 47 years as a man and, as much as I try, I obviously do not present a convincing feminine look. Nonetheless, I try to reserve my concerns about how I look as a woman and do my best to be presentable and gregarious, especially when I go out. But, I had just been worked by the first bomb and I didn't have much left in the tank to deal with this guy's comments. I immediately felt the shame of failing to look feminine enough. As i rose to the surface for the second time I was like, "That's it, I'm going back to the beach.". I got in the cab and headed for the safety of home. When I got there, I started having all these crazy thoughts like, "Who am I kidding about this trans stuff?", "Why aren't I normal?" and "If I wasn't trans maybe the ex-GF and I would be still together.". Thankfully, I got lots of support from KGirl but, in the end, I cried myself to sleep. 

This morning, I saw a FB post about Laverne Cox and I started the process of regrouping. I'm better now but that session last night was rough. I'm lucky I have such great friends and family to counteract the negativity which, as hurtful as it is, thankfully doesn't happen too much.

So, here I am on the beach and the swell is settling down. I survived and, because I am thinking, I must still be alive.          

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

About a Nose

I'm in Sydney right now recovering from a septo-rhinoplasty, i.e., a nose job. It's pretty early in the morning the day after surgery. I woke up about 4 am when the pain killers I took before bed wore off. As a result, I have had some time to reflect on the fact that, maybe for the first time in my life, I have a straight nose with an un-deviated septum. I think my nose may have been naturally deviated to the left from birth but a couple of broken noses from playing football plus one caused by a headbutt only made it's non-straightness worse. Anyway, the kink is gone, at least from my nose, and I am looking forward to being more confident about how I look. In the meantime, check out my bandages.

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

No More Lies

OK, I am back. Lot's of water under the bridge since my last - and first - blog entry. Am going to try and be a bit more regular with my postings. That means they'll be shorter (thank god, I heard someone say).

So, to the title. Over the last year I have managed to come out as a transgender woman to most of my family, my close friends, acquaintances, neighbours, shopkeepers...basically anyone that gave me half a chance to share.

However, the one group that I was the most nervous about sharing with were my two children. Last week, I told my eldest (19) and yesterday I told my youngest (17). I should have realised how it would go down....N-O P-R-O-B-L-E-M :)

Today, after telling them, I think I am closer to them than I ever have been. It feels like a massive weight has been lifted from my hormonally-induced feminine shoulders.

I just cannot believe it. I instinctively go to do something to hide my girlishness and realise I do not have to do it anymore.

So happy. OMG, so, so happy.