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An open letter to Sam Newman from a trans sportswoman

Sam, do you know how hard it is growing up, knowing you are trapped in the wrong body where the cognitive wiring upstairs and the plumbing downstairs don’t match and there’s nothing you can do about it?

The fear of being discovered is crippling and the worst case scenario is you could be discarded as you envisage your parents may not want you and you could end up in some sort of mental institution?

At best, you fear the ridicule, shame and being ostracised from family and friends is enough where you make a pact with yourself, where you decide from a young age to keep your secret intact until the day you die, no matter what age that may be and no matter the consequences, because it has to be better than being discovered and open to ridicule like yours, right?

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Some trans women and gay kids weren’t fortunate enough to do this and were immediately marked as being effeminate and couldn’t hide who they were and those kids had quite the difficult time from all angles: as they were bullied, mocked, shamed and called homophobic names for not being masculine enough.

Any talents, of which I knew they had many was not enough to overcome the stigma of being seen as queer, so they were ostracised from a young age.

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There were others, like me, who read the warning signs from a young age and I was lucky enough to be able to adapt.

I still remember the place [Sylvania Waters], the year [1969] and what I was doing [painting the family boat] with my then well known jockey dad [Keith Layt] and as a four-year-old I plucked up the courage to ask him, “Dad, why are girls pretty and why can’t I be pretty like them?”

I hated that sugar and spice and puppy dog’s tail rhyme which used to be recited to me, as I always screwed up my face at the adult or other kids who told me I was a yucky boy, as I knew that’s not who I was or wanted to be … no offence guys!

I always felt deeply at odds with it and thank heavens it appears to have disappeared along with my generation’s childhoods.

Besides that, I could never truly understand why I couldn’t I be a girl like other females, as I knew I wouldn’t be hurting anyone and I wanted the world to know there had been a mistake at birth.

Unfortunately though, what was between my legs told everyone otherwise, even though they couldn’t see it anyway, if you get my drift and it was just hearsay I was a pre-pubescent boy by the cues presented to them – my boy style haircut, the clothes I wore and who I hung out with, etc.

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It wasn’t like I had a choice over any of those decisions by the way. If I could have worn that dress and hung out with the girls, than my life would have proceeded into a much happier space Sam, but thanks to rhetoric and mocking like yours of a marginalised group like we’re still freaks: this is the life I was told I had to live.

My father responded to my question, “Don’t be silly, boys are boys and girls are girls and that’s just the way it is.” He knew no different, maybe like you Sam? He still struggles with my transition, although unlike you, he does try his best and he corrects himself when he stuffs up with my name and gender pronouns on occasion.

From a young age, it made me aware there were boundaries I couldn’t cross, ie the gender divide: a rigid line not to be crossed as my father told me: “boys are boys and girls are girls!”

I knew it was viewed as wrong, so I took my secret underground, although I did find a playmate to dress up with who lived down the road and her parents didn’t seem to mind.

It was just two girls playing dress ups harmlessly. That’s how we saw it and the inconvenient thing between my legs didn’t distinguish who I really was anyway and she didn’t see me that way neither.

As much fun as that was, I was abruptly snapped out of my feminine feelings one day at Taren Point Primary, when I had to muscle up, as much as a five-year-old who had repeated kindergarten could.

Boys being boys, one had sensed a weakness with me being the shy kid and all and he thought he’d have a good old-fashioned crack.

To my absolute astonishment, I put him in his place and beat him in the wrestle and threw a few punches for good measure and no one else picked on me at school after that.

Besides knowing I was a tough girl, I discovered I could run fast and it took me awhile, but by the Under-8s I realised I could play football and that was another gender divide, as girls didn’t play football back then, so it was another reinforcement to the world I was a boy.

As time went on, I was always aware I was different, yet I was a chameleon and hid it so well, as I did indeed force myself to become one of the boys and any dress ups I did was strictly behind closed doors.

I tried so hard to fight my true feelings Sam and yet it was impossible to beat. I don’t expect you to understand, but it was always there tapping away in my brain like some sort of water torture and rhetoric like yours made it even worse, as it made me feel like a sick and twisted imposter.

Why am I like this? What is wrong with me? Why can’t I be like everyone else as I viewed my knowing I was a girl as a sickness?

I developed two personas and could be the meanest of meanies to others, as what I saw in them I hated about myself, so they copped a serve of bullying and I don’t even know why I did it other than take the heat off myself in order to fit in with others’ view of me.

The other part of myself was a very caring and compassionate individual, but I was only caring to those who had earned it. Perceived weakness meant you hadn’t earned my respect, therefore I bully you.

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You would have loved my outward persona back then Sam: a real foot soldier of yours!

By the time I hit puberty that divide in myself was in full swing. At home and on school holidays I would spend as much time by myself, as my parents were divorced by then and I’d head to Glenleigh, where I’d bring out my female self among the many rooms of the old historic family home.

It wasn’t like I was short of access to clothes, as mother Sandra Layt owned a fashion label under the same name where she manufactured her own designs and she had six dress shops in all of the fashionable Sydney malls.

I became sloppy and was caught multiple times by my mother dressing up as I’d leave the tell-tale signs such as clothes, high heels and make-up lying around the house, possibly on purpose, so I could tell her once again I was really a girl.

She told me all I could hope to be was a female impersonator and I thought she meant Dame Edna Everidge and I said to myself, “yuck, thanks, but no thanks”.

Years later she told me she meant Carlotta. If I had have known that at the time I would have said “where do I sign up”.

She told me I should aim to be the best male version of myself I could be, so I did, as I masculinised myself.

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I hit the gym and those weights in order to run faster, jump higher and play footy harder than I ever had before. It still didn’t change anything, as that girl was still in there and I was never going to shake her.

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It only delayed the inevitable anyway.

Only problem was I had now been through that masculine puberty and who would mistake this muscle bound jock as a woman anyway?

I can’t help, but feel cheated Sam, due to rhetoric such as yours, as it enforces strict gender roles on people who are trans and they can’t be their true selves without severe ridicule and restrictions on their lives.

What purpose does it serve to ridicule others who are different to you anyway Sam? Does it make you feel any better? Are you so desperately unhappy like I was? Do you seriously have something to tell us Sam? Or is it just an attention seeking purpose Sam, please tell me, as I’d really like to know why?

Besides I’d like to tell you, there are kids out there right now who are struggling with gender issues like I did. Shall we just throw them away? Are they not worthwhile?

They’re struggling mentally and emotionally, as they know they’re not being true to themselves and they may have no one to talk to depending on the environment they’re living in. 

Transgender is one of the most maligned and least understood of all human conditions and when they reach adulthood they may be forced to make a decision or they may kill themselves, maybe even before? A 41 per cent suicide rate tells us this and yet, you can just shrug it off, as it’ll probably never affect you: as it’s just another statistic you’ll never care to read?

What your rhetoric does is tell others it is ok to misunderstand and mistreat their transgender brothers and sisters and beat up on them like the evening’s rugby training back in 2005 when seven of my teammates gunned for me when they found out I was trans.

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And let me tell you, there’s also consequences for a 53-year-old transgender woman like me who lived the first 30 years of her life fighting being who she truly was and then the next 20 hiding her lived-male enforced experience, as there was no acceptance of her there neither.

I put on a brave face to the outside world, but it’s not hard to see the cracks in my persona if you look hard enough and some days are a battle for me more than others.

I laugh and tell others I know well that I’m the best basket case I can be. I now have trouble forming friendships and relationships and I’m suspicious of others, as I’ve been hurt so many times. I wasn’t always like that.

I know trans people like me don’t have a mortgage on suffering: hurt feelings and betrayed trust and I know life can be difficult enough without being trans.

But let me tell you, rhetoric like yours damages people and yes, I do know, because I am one of those damaged people, as hiding your true self to escape persecution over any period of time can be damaging, but for most of your life it really screws with your head.

Above all else, at this age I’m aware (as I ain’t going back into the closet) more than ever there are so many roadblocks which need to be navigated in order to get anywhere in life, due to other people’s prejudices and misconceptions of what a transgender person is. 

If only I wasn’t trans?

No, stuff that, let’s snuff out discrimination and ridicule like yours and make the world a kinder  and better place. 

Besides, not everyone’s a boofhead like you Sam. Please learn to walk outside of yourself and walk in another’s shoes. Who knows, you may even find a better and more enlightened version of yourself along the way?

Transgender people are people too.

 

 

10 comments

  1. Well said Caroline!!
    If that brilliantly constructed letter to Sam doesn’t hit an embarrassed nerve…Then I’m afraid he’s the basket case! !

    Like

  2. It takes a lot of courage to pursue your dreams, lifestyle.
    Congratulations on your attempt to open Sam’s eyes all sorts of problems growing up in the world of yester year.
    Change is slow especially when talking about gender.
    Well done.

    Like

    1. Thank you Lee, I’m glad you liked the article. You travelled some of that road with me as a schoolmate and yes, Ignorance does add to people’s burdens. I’m lucky however to have so many supportive people around me.

      Like

  3. That was a well written article Caroline and I hope that it helps more people understand the struggles that you have been through and still experience.
    Youre an amazing woman and you’re doing amazing things to help other trans gender people. Keep it up.

    Like

    1. Aaaawwww thanks Jodie. I’m glad you liked it and doing my best, but yeah as a journalist I have a platform to use my voice and hopefully help young people who are unfortunately going through confusion during their youthful years.

      Hopefully the don’t have to hide away like I did.

      Like

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