My Queer History

Social media has become a cesspool that I find it very hard to interact with, especially with the prevalent hate towards queer members of the community. Curiosity, forever being my undoing, causes me to check from time to time and in a recent one of those moments I saw two similar points raised, those being:

While the first belief requires you to ignore quite a bit of history, both medical and cultural, the second in particular is an honest question. Most queer social media accounts, especially large ones, celebrate coming out anniversaries of somewhere between 2 and 10 years.

While this thought echoed around my head I was also been asked by a couple of people what my transition story is. Ever a creature of efficiency I figured that this is a two bird one stone situation, so this account is an attempt to record my own history while also possibly shedding some light on why we might now have so many elders in the community. One quick spoiler to solidify this purpose, depending on what key milestones you want to use I started to socially transition around 23 years ago and took my first pill 17 years ago.

Childhood and the School years (the 90s and early 2000s)

I am not going to bother you with every single small interaction in my childhood, as that feels a little too much like scrabbling in the dirt for evidence. However, there are a handful of key pieces of information that might help shine some light on what my early years were like.

My parents thought I was going to be born a girl for the entire length of the pregnancy, which isn't really a big point other than two notes:

There are photos of me as a newborn wrapped in pink with a giant pink bow on my head. While my parents have never addressed this directly, I know this was only a thing for the first few months of my life with a rapid change in how they approached things.

I was a terrible child, always pushing back against my parents. I distinctly remember being furious that my little sister (who was 2 years younger than me) had these wonderful Polly in my Pockets, Barbie cars, and generally the whole shebang of girl toys. That isn't to say I didn't enjoy my own toys, I had an adoration for anything I could build (which remains to this day).

In the late 90s I have my first memory of gender confusion. I attended an all boys high school, specifically a religious all boys high school¹, and you can imagine what puberty was like in that environment. As I entered the last few years of schooling our year group began to link up with various all girls school around the city, and I started dating for the first time. I never had trouble dating, but the idea of sex and attraction were something my brain absolutely rebelled from, and I couldn't figure out why.

So now, with that wonderful 20/20 hindsight, why was my brain rebelling? Well, to be absolutely honest with you dear reader, I knew that something was wrong deep in my body. That something was not matching what my brain expected. However, while at the time I did have a notion of this situation, there was something stopping me from doing anything with this information. Weirdly it wasn't my rather religious mother or my strict father, it was the old British comedy I adored.

I loved Blackadder, I loved Red Dwarf, I loved The Young Ones, Black Books, Fawlty Tower, The Vicar of Dibley, Father Ted (and later The IT Crowd which is such a large kettle of fish I don't even want to start²). All of these shows had a cultural view of a masculine person in feminine attire, and it was mockery. It was seared in my brain that if I ever put on a dress I was to be pointed and laughed at, and that was the end of it.

I had grown up very British (regardless of living in Brisbane Australia, where my parents had moved) and my extended family lived either in London or Goosnargh³. The values that Brittian held culturally were ingrained in my upbringing, from the media I consumed to what I saw my family approve of. I couldn't face that idea of being a mockery as a child, so I sought other options.

Little did I know, you can't put the meat suit back on the skeleton.

In 1999 I got my first job, working in a Pizza Hut call centre. Here I met two new friends who happily engaged with that late 90s queer culture. Through them I discovered bands with gender ambiguous front runners, goth subculture, gay vampires and the joy of a good frock coat. This one interaction is probably what saved me by letting me see a glimpse of the path I could walk, that let me see the dappled light further down the garden.

In 2000 I told everyone at school I was bi. This felt like I was moving very slightly closer to the truth, bur I was bullied relentlessly for it. I was in a fight at least once a week, but unlike a lot of my peer's stories of growing up and having bullies at school I had two big things going for me: fitness and reaction time. I had begun to play Dance Dance Revolution every single day after school, a love that slowly built up into going competitive with it, and I got a little obsessed with body mechanics. Due to this I would like to think I gave as good as I got, I was quick to throw down and incredibly quick to notice things weren't going my way and hitting the bricks.

Amusingly, it turns out that everyone at school thought I had announced I was bi to get attention and it was wildly considered to be a lie.

In 2001 I met a friend group that I bonded with for a good 5 years, in particular two girls who lived 30 minutes away who I would spend hours on the phone with. I confessed all of my feelings around gender confusion to them, and daydreamed about dressing up and going to the shopping centre with them where no one would recognise the old me and I could start fresh. This was it, I was stepping forward and making strides. I didn't share it with them but I would occasionally try and dress up at home, and in the blossoming space of the internet I went by the name "Rachel" and started making friends.

In 2002 I finished school and in my graduation address book that my school was obsessed with I received a "you always made me laugh with those ridiculous ideas about dressing up" from one of them, so I went back to hiding those thoughts.

Girlrotting before it was cool

4 years I spent hiding from the world.

First it was in a drug haze within the goth subculture.

Then World of Warcraft came out, I ran a 40 person raid group. I went by the name Faye online, I never spoke a word on voice chat.

I didn't leave my room, I would ignore the call to dinner from my parents (I was living in their garage). I lost weight. I lost friends (except the ones online). I generally fell into the deepest depression of my life.

I was in relationships during this whole time, I think in the last 24 years I have only been single for something like 3 of them. Weird to both be an awkward nonbinary egg with social anxiety and near suicidal depression, while also having S tier game.

Finally heading down the path, but not knowing when to stop

In 2006 I started seeing a therapist, and it was just in time. I had this pure fury that was bubbling beneath the surface of the depression, anger at the world that had spawned me in this fashion, angry at politics, angry at everything.

It only took three sessions before the therapist told me it was clear I had gender dysphoria. I came out to my parents (hopefully by the description of my upbringing you can tell this didn't going well) and I moved out of my childhood home. I wanted HRT so badly, but there were a couple of issues with this: I didn't exactly know what HRT was and there were strict laws about it in Australia at the time.

The therapist outlined what my timeline would look like, but basically it all hinged on when I was diagnosed. From that hyper specific date I had the following things to look forward to:

The first year after diagnosis - Socially transition in some way and show proof to the new psychologist I would see at the 1 year mark. If he was ok with my proof I would earn my first pill, Spironolactone, which would block testosterone but not provide Estrogen.

The second and third years after diagnosis - If I had proof of living under my new name for 2 whole years, and the super psychologist (a random man in Sydney who held all the power in the country at the time) approved of my journey I would earn some level of Estrogen.

Can you see a problem with that? I can, in fact with my hindsight I can see two major issues with it.

2 years of brain fog

I spent two years with no sex hormones in my body at all. Two years without Testosterone or Estrogen, and those who have made mistakes with their medication and run out of estrogen can tell you how absolutely horrific that is. It's essentially a forced menopause when I was 22 without any medication to buffer the effects. When I complained about this I was told this is how I 'earnt my HRT'.

3 years of danger

I grew up in Brisbane, which has a lot of regional country ideas of what is acceptable and what isn't. For these first three years I was expected to dress and act feminine with absolutely no buffer from HRT to help me seem femme, while facing hormone deficiencies removing muscle mass and cause vast amounts of brain fog.

While it might seem a bit macabre, I'm proud to say that I never received a beating due to my appearance during these years. That's not to say no one tried, but my time competing at Dance Dance Revolution had ended with me as a proud owner of an arcade machine I was obsessed with, leaving me at the peak of my fitness. I could run from any fight, dodge like the best of them and launch from 0 to 100. There were weekend nights where I would sprint through the valley while half a dozen bogans gave chase, where I would run across train tracks at Dutton Park station to avoid a gang that had seen me and blocked all the exits, fuelled by nothing but way too much nicotine and a heart beating a mile a minute.

While I escaped these years unscathed physically, I do not think my mental health has ever recovered from these years of feeling hideous and having the world back up that mental view. I had not grown up ugly, I came across quite dashing. I had done some modelling, been in the paper a handful of times and had enjoyed the privilege of being considered attractive. These years were the first time I was exposed to people telling me otherwise and boy howdy did it hit like a sack of bricks.

Due to this I tended to avoid anything too girly, I got femme cut jeans and femme cut t-shirts and basically left it at that. This was the minimum I needed to feel like I was ok with my look, but it was still enough to occasionally draw ire, typically by people who assumed I was flamboyantly gay. I could have lived like this and avoided a lot of the attention that was starting to be shown my way if it wasn't for the super psychologist I needed to see at the end of the 3 years.

This super psychologist, the holder of the HRT, the finangular of the femme&ms, the tyrant of the titty skittles, had this one thing he wanted to see to be ok with giving the all clear for my pills. Sundresses. Specifically he wanted to see photos taken at public events with the person pleading for the pills in very feminine attire. Super specifically he wanted long nails, heels and sundresses. The first time I visited him I "didn't have enough proof" for him to be ok and I wasn't wearing a sundress on the flight over to meet him, the second time I did and lied through my teeth the whole time.

I dreaded every moment I went outside in those outfits, the chance of being threatened was 100 fold what it was otherwise. I lost a few pairs of heels during those times. I never dressed like this to events I had been invited to, as I couldn't bear facing anyone I knew. I would go to a location where there were people I didn't know, change in a toilet, take the photo and leave.

But I did it, and I got my HRT.

But it was wrong

I'm going to skip forward quite a few years rather quickly (2008 - 2015), but there are six points to note here.

The exact HRT I was given was bad. That's not to say that HRT was wrong for me, but in those days in Australia the HRT that was common to prescribe was Microgynon. You may have never heard of this for HRT, and that's because it's not given to people transitioning, it's a menopause management pill.

I was going too far in the wrong direction. Even when I finally got over my issues with clothes and embraced skirts and dresses I was still not feeling quite right. I had yet to realise I was nonbinary, and simply overcompensating in an attempt to gather enough gender speed to escape the gravitational pull of masculinity.

I spent 6 years in stealth. Due to my interactions previously in life, I went absolute stealth as soon as I could. It was weirdly easier to do back then than it is now, close friends knew 100% but none of my work did (aha, if only we could turn back the clock drum rim shot noise). The idea of someone transitioning was not yet in the public consciousness and I was close enough to passing that everyone just thought I was a bit of an ugly girl I guess.

Sexuality, or lack thereof. Who did I like dating? Anyone to be honest. With the complexity and slow movement of my gender journey I had completely dispatched all preconceived notions of attraction being linked to gender. I liked people for who they were, and that was it.

I met my first other person who had questioned their gender in 2011. It took… 10 years… to find someone else who felt like me from the moment I first vocalised how I felt. I didn't really have many people who helped my journey outside of that either with the first person who sat down to help me with makeup and clothes appearing late 2008. I cannot stress how lonely it was.

I finally got enough relief from depression that I could start living. This is the biggest point here. While I was still not entirely happy, the deep seeded darkness in my chest had lifted enough that I could study and move forward with life. I attended and completed University with a Bachelor of Multimedia (and a devastatingly high GPA) in 2010, I started working at an application development company where I was the only programmer, designer and tester and held the job happily for 5 years. I met new friends; I moved forward in life.

Going Public and Cancelling Gender

And here, dear reader, we reach the final turning point of the journey. The last two twists in the path.

Exiting stealth

I had started studying back in 2007, so everyone on the very small campus saw my initial transition while I also had to deal with all the red tape that the legal system had to throw at me. I had people doing the good old fashioned "It's a trap!" in General Ackbar's voice, I had the most thoughtless questions asked of me that you could expect. I generally faced all kinds of bullshit, but the university had been really kind to me throughout the whole process and been clear that no transphobia (not that the word was really known) was allowed on campus. Now that I was an industry professional, I wanted to give back.

No matter how much I tried to organise coming back as a guest lecturer it was always a "let's organise it" followed by a "whoops it's too close to the end of the trimester, perhaps next tri?". When I saw a job posted on the alumni email group to teach application development at the same campus I applied out of spite and within a month I was a university lecturer.

Finding myself suddenly in a position of relative power, I made a choice to drop from stealth and intentionally spread information about my transition around the campus. This helped to let students know I was someone they could talk to, and over the years I have talked to maybe a dozen people who were questioning their gender expression and helped them figure out what that meant for them. Many of these people are much happier for it now, and I hold that close to my heart.

It's important to note that not every person transitioned, nor did every connection end well. One of my ex students took their own life while another accused me of brainwashing them and threatened violence if they saw me again. But that's kind of the way life goes sometimes, no matter how much it sucks. It's better to have helped those I did and I have no regrets, although I carry quite a bit of trauma from those two results in particular.

Stranger in a strange gender spectrum

There was one last discovery I had to make, and that was my gender identity's true form. I had only been operating at 50% power it turns out, wearing the weighted clothes of binary gender identity restrictions.

What brought this on is a complicated question and I do not have a clear answer, but I can identify four key things that I think helped with this realisation.

Robots are cool. It's just a fact. I got quite obsessed and connected well with a bunch of robotic characters from media. Originally I linked this heavily with my search for gender expression but lately I'm thinking maybe being Autistic had something to do it with. Too bad I didn't know about that part at the time, but no harm no foul.

The only femme thing I was connecting with was the clothes. I LOVE the fashion game, it's impossible to over exaggerate how much femme fashion is my jam. In a way I think this is what caused me to stick with she/her pronouns for almost 19 years, and it took me stepping back and looking at it properly to notice that this was the only part of femme expression I connected with.

Gender isn't real. I'm sure you have seen discussions and arguments back and forth around how gender is a social construct, heated arguments which I neither have the grounds to make a judgement call on nor care to. For me however, I can tell you that gender is simply a thing that causes others to make snap judgement calls when they meet me, and I don't care for it. So I denounce it and all its sins, personally.

Therapy part 2. I had been seeing a therapist starting in 2020 (good time to start therapy, not going to lie) who had helped me understand a lot of the trauma and baggage I was carrying around with myself. When I asked him about these previous 3 ideas he had suggested that I do some reading, and provided me with a handful of books that look at different ideas. One of these books was "You and your Gender Identity: A Guide to Discovery", which was essentially a series of questions for you to ask yourself that made you think about how you relate to gender.

Moving through this book at my own speed, I realised very quickly that I sat outside the binary spectrum. I think it was right near the end when it presented a straight line spectrum with a series of points along it from the two binary points (masc to femme), and asked the reader to mark where they thought they sat on this. Being a bit silly I opened a notebook from my bookcase and placed where I sat about halfway through that book, before realising that this was a realistic place to put it.

From what I can gather this 'overcompensation' process isn't that unique, it's something that a lot of non-binary people have to deal with as they find their place in the world. Hopefully as culture moves forward this because less of an issue.

And here we are

If you have read this far, I appreciate the time and patience you have offered me. I hope that my story has given you some ideas, or deeper understanding of what it might have been like going through this process in Australia in the 2000s.

If you are curious and somehow don't know who I am, while teaching I did also take up game development, starting teaching it and then left secondary education to join the games industry. I won't let this dissolve into a rant about the abusive and classist structures of the world that create the way that secondary education makes life hell for those that engage with it, but believe me it's sitting on the tip of my tongue.

Going back to the original question, I believe we don't have many elders around because the soil wasn't right. There was nothing for them to grow in, and this has changed a lot in the last 20 years. They are out there but a lot of them have taken to hiding themselves, stepping back from the light so they don't have to face what they once did. Eventually everyone gets tired of fighting.

With the few elders that do exist in the popular scope of culture, a lot of them do end up leaning a little bit to the centre or even worse to the right. A lot of people ask how they could possibly betray their people like this and to an extent I can see why. When you have no other queer people around you, the only way you can avoid being a target is by blending into the right wing background around you. It's a defence mechanism, and I don't hate those that do it, but I do pity them.

I have never met someone who transitioned before me. I have spent the last 10 years of my life trying to be there for others in a way that no one was there for me. I don't blame any elders for hiding from the spotlight as I have broken down time and time again from trying to be public, I also don't blame any of them for retreating out of trauma as they watch those they help fall while climbing that mountain. Life is harsh, and sometimes you just need time to tend to your own wounds.

Regardless, I hope that there are other out there, and that they are happy.


¹ -Ironically the school's casual name was "Churchie" and for quite a while after I left they had the motto "The making of Men". The alumni program (The Old Boys) do not find this as amusing as I do. -Back to the text-

² -Ok so just super quickly I swear, The IT Crowd trans episode is the perfect example of British culture falling behind the international cultural curve, and the asshole writer is an example of what happens when a comedian gets lazy. -Back to the text-

³ -Think about the term "Small British country village", ok you know exactly what Goosnargh looks like. -Back to the text-

-Can we stop and applaud at the fact I ran a 40 man raid group in vanilla WoW without ever speaking on voice? My typing speed was god levels. -Back to the text-

-We can throw in a seventh here, why not. Ok… I took the name Fae compared to the one I had used online (Faye) because I was fighting with a numerologist who was mocking my name and saying her predictions said I would be a no one. I stole her books, did some maths and found a very small change would end up calculating into "someone of great importance", so fuck her. -Back to the text-

-Yes, it was just me and the boss in the company, he didn't have any skills but was good with 'ideas and finding drinking buddies who needed shit done'. -Back to the text-

-This one person in particular had actually transitioned before starting studying, so I don't know what the fuck they were on about. I guess they realised they had made a wrong choice and needed someone to blame. -Back to the text-

-This is not to say it's not important or real for other people, I simply try to treat others as they want to be treated and expect others to do the same to me. -Back to the text-

-Not because I’m like a big deal or anything, but more because I don’t know how you found this if you don’t know me! -Back to the text-