How old are you now?
46 in physical years old, 10 years living full time female
Where did you grow up?
Dunedin, South Island, New Zealand
Many of the readers won’t know the area you were born in so could you describe it, especially the attitudes towards LGBT, if any
Dunedin is an interesting place to visit, some call it the Edinburgh of the south. It is a lot different today compared to when I grew up. Beaches, flat and hill suburbs with a wide range of people from different back grounds. I think today it is more LGBT+ friendly than it used to be. In the 1980’s most LGBT+ Venues were in somewhat of an underground mode, word of mouth was the way to find out where they were.
How do you identify yourself sexuality or otherwise?
Gender fluid, Transgender (Male to Female), Intersex XX (primarily female with a few male characteristics) and Asexual
When did you first discover about yourself?
I knew at a young age that I was different, but did not know the words Transgender and Gender fluid back then. Hard to put an exact age on it, my best guess at when, somewhere between 2 and 4 years old, well before primary school.
Tell us a little about your early adult life?
Too painful to relive in detail. Suffice to say, I was stuck in the closet until I moved city to where I live now.
Who did you tell first, and how did they react?
One of my high school friends, who was out as Gay. I learned a lot from him. He was very accepting of me and introduced me to some of the local venues ( bars and two night clubs). That was in the late 1980’s while I was still a student at Otago Polytechnic, studying Business Computing. At that point in time, the Homosexual Law reform had gone though, but most venues were still in what you might call “Underground mode”, somewhat word of mouth, with the exception of one night club, which was openly LGBT, but open to all. My sister who I was flatting with during my Tertiary days had an some idea that I could be gay, she was a bit surprised when I changed from Gay to Asexual and then later Transgender. I wonder if she ever picked up on my Lesbian side.
The first person I told that I am Transgender to is a now ex Girlfriend. She was very supportive and I learned a lot of skills from her, the kind of things that mothers teach daughters, make up, hair styling, dressing, walking in heals, in a sense “how to pass”. She gave me the confidence to go out in public with her, dressed female. Part of me will always love her for that.
What was the reaction from your family?
Even now, some of the family are still adapting to me living female, while others are happy for me to be me. The first Christmas I wanted to dress as true me(female), I was told to get changed into male wardrobe or no dinner. If there had been somewhere open to go else where, I would have, so I put a male layer over what I had chosen to wear, had dinner and relocated to my accepting brothers house for the remainder of that trip of visiting my family. Upon arriving at my brothers house, I removed the male layer & redid my make up, I was upset, dysphoric and if I had not been so strong, I might not be here today to be doing this interview. Part of me was also quite annoyed at my families inability to grasp this simple truth;” I am me regardless of what I am wearing”.
How did you deal with it?
I drew a line and said this is me, I am still me no matter how my body, orientation or wardrobe changes.
What about work, were they OK, are they aware about the situation?
One employer knew I crossed dressed, and had no issue with it. Another employer called me gay, but also had no issue with it. At a hotel where I became bar Manager for a while, they were phobic and less than politely got rid of me for want of better words. My stock takes were too accurate and showed up “skimming” by other staff members.
So what’s the next step for the future?
At this point, legal name change and reassignment of gender on my birth certificate. I am at my best living female, My fluidity currently means I have “Butch” and “Fem” days, but still identify as being female. After the legal things have been done and I update all my documentation (Drivers license, Lease, bank accounts, Utilities and so on), I will then return to work search. I have tried applying for work before all the legal framework is in place and the results were disappointing, My Identification was deemed not to match who I am. I intend to reapply with the new documentation. My birth name is too dysphoric to be addressed as all week long at work by customers and fellow staff members. It took 9 years and several previous “test driven” names to find a name that felt like a good fit. “Vicki” is who I am today and in the future, I have no doubt of that. My original birth name <Dead Name> has but one use as a “Middle Name”, to avoid the cost of reprinting all my qualifications and getting all my references rewritten in my new name.
What about when people don’t know how to react or speak to you, how do you deal with that?
Somewhere along the line I lost count of how many times people asked “what are you?” My answers have included “offended at the question”, ” a human being” , “female if you are asking how I identify”, “LAFT” (Gender fluid Transitioning Asexual Lesbian) and from time to time “what are you?” as an answer when experiencing dysphoria.
Do you think talking about it in general helps others became more aware, and do you think being visual about yourself actually helps or educates anyone out there?
Yes, talking about my experience and transitional path helps others to understand what have been though. I try to concentrate on the positive side, but I can say that it is not always “plain sailing”. By being my true self in public, I feel somewhat like an ambassador, Showing the positive side of being diverse. Last year I helped with many street appeals including the New Zealand Breast Cancer Foundation and other voluntary work, being the positive face that shows I care about all people equally I also sent submissions to a few Parliamentary Select Committees on various Law Changes in progress, including the Equal Pay Act Amendment Bill. From what I post online in various locations, I hope other people beginning their path can learn from my experience.
Due to the accusations of gay men being transphobic recently, do you have any issues with gay men’s attitudes towards your sexuality and gender?
From my first impressions of the question, I am surprised that it is not pre op trans men that complaining.While over the years I have observed transphobia in many forms; more recently, it is the issue of deadnaming (refering to birth name rather than name that I live as) and used and birth assigned pronouns that comes to mind. Having said that, this is not necessarily transphobia as much as that they met me when I lived male and are still adapting to my name and pronoun change. In order to try to avoid making similar errors in pronouns, unless told other wise, I use other peoples pronouns that they have told me to use, or for a stranger, gender neutral pronouns and best match their gender to how they are presented.
I always like to ask a topical question, what are your thoughts on the political climate in regards to lgbt and the right wing in your country right now?
Life is getting Better Together here, Gender Diverse was added last year to the department of statistics official figures.
Any last thoughts
There is a lot more that I could say about my life. In the last year or so I have done a lot of voluntary work in the form of street appeals, condom packing, Marshal for the Pink star walk, Mock Juror for the New Zealand Law Society and so on. Yes an asexual person helping with condom packing.. not as weird as it sounds; while sex might not be my thing because of the nasty experience I mentioned at the beginning, for those who enjoy it, I have one message for you, “love safely, diseases don’t discrimate”. Thank you for this opportunity to share with you, my inside view of my life.